Wesley Cullen, Oak View Group
Tony Goldring, WME
Georg Leitner, Georg Leitner Productions GmbH
Dr. Frithjof Pils, Eventim Live
Guillermo Parra Riveros, OCESA
Giulia Sagliocco, Live Nation
To kick things off, moderator Wesley Cullen wanted to hear from each panelist, if there were any international markets that recently surprised them in terms of their touring viability and potential.
Goldring picked Europe, because there had been some concerns about the territory post-pandemic: whether markets would open up in time to route a pan-European tour; whether the economy was stable enough; whether the war in Ukraine would stop tours in the East, etc. However, as Goldring put it, 2023 was “a bonanza year,” which virtually everybody operating in Europe reporting a record year.
For Leitner, Saudi Arabia stood out, he highlighted the growing popularity of family entertainment in particular. Other “really interesting markets,” according to Leitner, were countries ending in -stan, like Kazakhstan, or Uzbekistan, and, last but not least, Georgia, which compensated for the loss of Russia as a touring destination.
Gerogia, he said later on the panel, was also a good example of a territory that people usually had no conception of, but actually offered all the infrastructure you needed to include the country when touring East Europe.
To Riveros no specific markets stood out, but rather the whole region of Mexico and South America, which both had their busiest live entertainment years ever.
For Pils, a couple of countries really outperformed in 2023. He highlighted Italy in particular, which “surprised us all a lot,” as the first country in Europe to open up for business post-pandemic.
He added that he had spent a considerable amount of time in Chile, being positively surprised by the infrastructure and actual concert demand in Santiago de Chile, for instance. He pointed out that Santiago’s Movistar Arena came in on second place, right after MSG, on Pollstar’s year-end arena rankings, outperforming even the O2 London.
Sagliocco mentioned iconic Mexican pop group RBD, which sold out eight stadium shows in Sao Paulo, Brazil, achieving the same ticket sales level as Coldplay, for instance. She explained that the huge demand for artists in new markets was driven by fans having more access to more music that ever before.
To which Riveros chimed in, mentioning 180,000 tickets sold for Rammstein at Foro Sol in Mexico City in 2022, despite “nobody speaking German in Mexico.” The band sold 193,990 tickets across three shows, Oct. 1-4, to be precise, and grossed $12,465,446 according to the Pollstar Boxoffice.
While the panel’s focus was on international, Pils emphasized that in many markets 80% – 90% of the live business was still local repertoire. It’s significant business, and part of the reason Eventim Live has been growing so successfully by partnering with local promoters and their networks. The next step will be to utilize these networks and build an international business across countries.
Cullen then guided the conversation towards venues, which we needed a lot more of, according to Goldring, who picked the Middle East as an example that showed how the touring business grew as soon as appropriate buildings opened their doors.
South America’s main appeal at the moment were its many festivals, which are good business for the artists. However, as Goldring explained, not every artist wanted to play the big festivals, or open air events, “so venues will help a lot, certainly in Latin America.”
Looking towards the UK, he pointed to Co-op Live as helping the cause, and picked another English city that deserved a venue in his estimation: “Bristol, because it’s got such a great catchment area.”
“There’s a number of markets with one arena [only],” he said, “and if you route tours, and it’s not available, what do you do?”
Further dates are taken up by sports teams usually tenants in an arena, making the routing even harder, which is why music-first arenas like Co-op Live are such game changers, according to Cullen.
The panel also touched on country cliches, and how some artists needed a little nudge to visit a new country they may be apprehensive about; currencies and exchange rates; and remaining obstacles to international touring.
Of which there weren’t many left, according to the speakers. If you wanted to, Leitner said, you could find a good territory to tour in during any time of the year.
Right now, the rise in transportation/flight expenses in general remained the biggest challenge. As a result, artist had to raise their fees, which affected ticket prices.
As far as finding out about new markets for artists, the panel agreed that, despite all the available data and stats, relying on local promoters to tell you if an artist was hot, was still the safest way to gage actual interest. That, and one’s own gut feeling, according to Riveros.
The session concluded with a look ahead at the next five years. Goldring said that is was finally time to crack China. “The potential is massive,” he said, “it’s going to change the economics completely in that region, when you can suddenly do three, four, five shows around the market.”
Leitner highlighted the importance of securing the future of the business by investing not only in the next generation of talent, but also music professionals. “We hired a new generation of young agents, to find the talent that fill the venues like our artists do today,” he said.
The other part of staying successful in the future was to develop new show formats that sold tickets.
Riveros said he hoped that all the genres that exploded in these past years would continue to explode. He also voiced some concert about finding the next generation of festival headliners.
Sagliocco was sure that the explosion of Latin music in particular was only going to grow. “Latin Artists are touring globally more than ever,” she said, “it’s the right time to keep an eye on them.”
Pils said one of his focuses for the immediate future was to “take good care of our people. We’re always talking about growth, volume, etc, it’s sometimes like good work is being rewarded with more work, so we really need to take care of our people, find them, keep them, and focus on them.”