The venues war between Madison Square Garden Company (MSG) and AEG, heightened security and rising artiste fees, were among the key topics discussed as the International Live Music Conference (ILMC) marked its 30th edition.
Held in London’s Royal Garden Hotel, the event’s first main session The Open Forum: The Big Round Up, featured United Talent Agency’s Neil Warnock, AEG Live’s John Meglen, X-ray Touring’s Steve Strange and Wildlife Entertainment’s Ian McAndrew.
It wasn’t long before conversation turned to the rivalry between MSG and AEG, in which the two companies are effectively attempting to force artistes into playing their venues and not their respective rival’s (see Audience issue 210).
“It’s a bad situation and we didn’t start it,” said Meglen. “Any time you start compromising on what’s right for your artiste it’s just wrong. It has probably hurt me a little, as we were going on tour with Roger Waters and he didn’t get to play the Madison Square Garden [cap. 19,000].”
McAndrew, who manages acts including Arctic Monkeys and Royal Blood, branded the policy as “bonkers”.
“You are having to rethink what you do in LA, because of plans in the UK,” he said.
The panel also touched upon the terrorist attack at Manchester Arena (21,000), which killed 22 people.
“The first thing that happened was I lost two major tours, just because of nervousness,” said Warnock, who is UTA’s worldwide head of music. “Artistes don’t want people to be killed coming to their shows.”
In the Security: Rock and a hard place session, delegates heard from Mark Logan of Showsec about the approach following attacks at Le Bataclan (1,500) in France and Manchester.
“We threw the kitchen sink at events to show ticket-buyers they’re safe,” said Logan. “But I’m not sure how sustainable it is because of the financial element and customer comfort.
“Promoters need to show customers it’s safe but don’t want to go over the top and frighten people.”
Andy Smith of West Midlands Police Counter Terrorism Unit said it was evitable further attacks would take place and the industry needed to have strategies in place.
“The main thing is to know your staff and have a safety plan,” said Coralie Berael, venue manager at the Forest National (10,000) in Brussels. “There needs to be a good relationship with the police and security.”
Elsewhere during the Business Ethics: Why do we alienate each other? session panellists debated the problem of rebates and promoter kick-backs.
“The key word is transparency,” said Keith Harris, who manages Stevie Wonder in Europe. “If people know, it is much better, but if it’s a dirty secret then it’s not ethical.”
Adam Tudhope, of Everybody’s Management, which has a roster including Mumford & Sons and Laura Marling, had similar thoughts.
“Everything should be on the table to be discussed,” he added.
The issue of secondary ticketing arose during Ticketing: Paying the price, with discussions taking on a lively edge, particularly with the input of Italian promoter Claudio Trotta of Barley Arts Production from the audience.
“Secondary ticketing is a crime,” said Trotta. “You can’t be in the middle, you are either for it or against it. It is squeezing people, squeezing money out of them and it is going to kill the industry.”
While Ticketmaster’s head of music in North America David Marcus explained the benefits of the company’s VerifiedFan technology, which allows it to separate bots (robotic software) from real fans.
“Our future is not in resale, we are against harvesting of tickets and bots,” said Marcus.
Festival Summit: Artist Fees saw Michal Kascak of Slovakia’s Pohoda Festival (30,000) explain the impact of rising fees.
“We used to spend a third of our budget on headliners, now it is more like 70 per cent for two or three acts and the rest on the 100 or more other acts,” said Kascak.
“Artiste fees are the villain, it is like jumping on a trampoline. What was €100,000 [$123,019] is now €500,000 [$615,098]. Sometimes we have had to put what was booked as the co-headliner as headliner.”
Rounding off the ILMC as part of the Breakfast Meeting was Peter Mensch of Q Prime, who has managed acts including Def Leppard and The Smashing Pumpkins and whose current roster features Metallica, Muse and Red Hot Chili Peppers. In a brutally honest interview, Mensch revealed the starting point for working with acts always began with the quality of the music. He also discussed his notorious temper.
“If you manage bands, at all levels, you are the mommy bird and they are the baby birds,” he said. “If you get in my way of feeding them I’m going to roll over you.”
Mensch also said the advantage of working with Live Nation Entertainment as a tour promoter, rather than local promoters was “about the money”.
“They also own Ticketmaster and that makes things easier,” he added.
ILMC organisers say more than 1,000 delegates from over 60 countries attended the conference.