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ON THE ROAD: MANAGERS TALK TODAY'S TOURING ISSUES

What role does the agency play for you and your artists that still makes their services compelling?
Sarah Stennett: We don’t have a one-policy-fits-all strategy. We always act in accordance with the wishes and aspirations of the artist, informing and educating them, together with the broader business team (of lawyers and accountants) as to the current market conditions. We have great relationships with many agents globally, many of whom have added significant value to our artists’ careers and who are often an integral part of the team. Conversely, we have artists whose careers are less dependent on the work of a specific agent, and that is reflected in the structure of the key team and often in the financial arrangements. 

How big a part do privates play in the revenue stream of your key acts?
Arnold Stiefel: From 30 to 3,000 people and from Hong Kong to Helsinki, privates and corporate dates are a continuing source of appreciated revenue—but not another word about Sir Rod’s privates or mine—and stop staring down there.

Jared Paul: Depends on the act, but we embrace the right opportunities. We do believe that you have to keep your profile high in order to have worth in that market. Some artists we don’t manage choose to spend the majority of their time taking that work. We think it needs to be a healthy balance, and you are more in demand for a higher dollar if the buyer feels they are getting a major act all to themselves.

"I've never been an advocate for reduced commissions or flat fees. When you start with an act in the very beginning, we all basically work for nothing, and when that act hits it big, I feel all parties deserve a full commission—we are a team." -Clarence Spalding

Jonathan Wolfson: Without divulging numbers, privates are very lucrative and a nice way of bringing in additional funds without saturating a market. Meaning, we can accept a private-show offer, then throw in a public show in the same market, as the band/crew will be there anyway. All bands to a certain extent have overhead with fixed expenses, and corporates are a good way to mitigate some of those expenses. You’re basically feeding the machine.



Jordan Feldstein: The term “private” is misleading. Corporately funded shows, parties, club appearances and anything nontraditional have become a huge revenue stream for our artists at a time when revenue from the record labels and publishing continues to diminish. It’s a very big part of the strategy here for our artists as a result.

Bernie Cahill: It depends on the artist—some artists won’t do privates under any circumstance. For those who do, it can definitely play an important role in the artist’s annual revenue mosaic. Privates can be a great way to build brand relationships and gain visibility with institutional players, which can be especially helpful in supporting the artist’s charitable initiatives and/or 501c3. Of course, it’s still crucial that you only associate with cool and ideally socially conscious brands, and even then you should hold out for elevated guarantees.

Jonathan Kalter: They play as tremendous a part as something we have little control over the timing of can play. Privates are amazing. They generally come in the middle of a tour while the artist is on the other side of the world, or on the Wednesday afternoon of the week off that an artist has long since requested. When they work out, they’re either an amazing source of additional income, a really good anchor for a run of shows or a way to keep the lights on during an extended recording period or work-free hiatus. Plus, it’s always fun to receive an email with a suggested lyric change for one of your songs to incorporate Helen’s 40th birthday.

Sarah Stennett: It varies from significant to zero, depending on the interest of the artist in doing private gigs.

Johnny Wright: Privates become an important part of the income structure to my key acts that wish to do them. I have plenty of acts that have no interest in doing privates, so no amount of money will bring them to the table. Then I have acts that might do privates when they are recording or just taking some time off and not in a position to do a full tour. Privates become a great income addition to their cash flow and overall business expenses during recording cycles or down times.

"I don’t give a ‘rating’ to agencies. I have relationships with certain agents. There was a period of 20 years during which I only used one agent for all of my acts up until the day that particular agent decided to leave his agency." -Johnny Wright

Some of the top acts have stopped using agencies for touring, other artists have had commissions reduced while some have gone to paying flat fees. What role does the agency play for you and you artists that still makes their services compelling?
Clarence Spalding: Our agencies have always been an important partner in helping us develop our acts from clubs to theaters to stadiums. Not only working with us in securing the right support situations, the right buildings at the right time, but securing sponsors, TV appearances, movies, books, etc. I’ve never been an advocate for reduced commissions or flat fees. When you start with an act in the very beginning, we all basically work for nothing, and when that act hits it big, I feel all parties deserve a full commission—we are a team.

Arnold Stiefel: Agents do an essential job. For a major artist with international reach, our booking agent plays a vital role. There may be some room at the top-tier for negotiation based on the kind of crazy revenue tours can generate.

Jared Paul: We believe big-time in the agency’s role, and we’re in business with every major agency. We believe they help our clients and tours with added leverage in deal making with the comparable deals they have made—venue deals, far-reaching global opportunities and the added services such as film and TV, brand deals, charity work, privates, etc.

Jonathan Wolfson: I don’t believe in paying a flat fee to an agent. It lessens their incentive to go out to the marketplace and maximize the worth of your band. I work hand-in-hand with the agents, and they are an integral part of the team. In the case of Daryl Hall and John Oates, Peter Pappalardo and Dennis Arfa from Artist Group International have helped me take them to the arena level in the past year, as they’re true believers in the brand and its worth in the marketplace. They also have excellent relationships with promoters.

Jordan Feldstein: The agencies play a much broader role today than just booking dates. They’re now responsible for a wealth of opportunities that are very compelling to our artists including endorsements, modeling, acting roles and much more. Agencies can service all income streams and be great partners because, like managers, they have a career-minded approach.

Johnny Wright: I still believe that an agent is always important, based on the volume of deals that they make with different promoters and venues across the world. It gives me a point of reference to the best deals that are being structured for other clients out there. This helps me make sure that I am delivering the best value for my artist in deciding what we are going to do for touring. It is also helpful that some of these agents have strong relationships with corporate sponsorship dollars, which have always been important if you have an artist who wants to have a corporate sponsor underwrite the tour. I view an agent as an extension of management and an important part of the team who helps us achieve success for our client.

How do you rate the various agencies?
Jordan Feldstein: All have their positives and negatives. In general, I tend to prefer to work with an agency that can service our clients, who all similarly share a broad range of interests outside of their music careers. We need a team for clients, and we use the agencies that can fulfill that.

Marc Pollack: For me, it’s never really been about the agency but about the agent. Most agencies provide the same experience for your artist, but there are certainly agents who are better than others. Without getting into detail, you can tell the ones I work best with—most of my clients are always with the same three or four.

Jonathan Kalter: It’s hard to rate the agencies and much easier to rate the agents. There are some great agents spread across the agencies, but I’m generally interested in some combination of great agent, quality human being and a reasonable level of accountability. CAA does an amazing job for Pentatonix, and their digital agents and tour marketing departments are unmatched, in my opinion. I think UTA’s acquisition of The Agency Group, was an excellent—and necessary—move for both companies. Truthfully, I could be very happy having artists at any of these companies—inclusive of Paradigm and WME—but there is a growing list of agents who’ve been brought into signing and strategy meetings and presented as a part of my artist’s team before dropping off the face of the earth. (List available upon request.)

Sarah Stennett: We don’t rate the top agencies in that way. We rate the individual agents and their fit to the requirements of a particular client.

Johnny Wright: I don’t give a “rating” to agencies. I have relationships with certain agents. There was a period of 20 years during which I only used one agent for all of my acts up until the day that particular agent decided to leave his agency. The agents I currently work with are an extension of management—people I highly look up to. They are part of the “team” to help give me advice in guiding the career of my artist when it comes to touring—the right time to tour, as well as what the value of the artist might be in the touring market. So for me it’s not so much about the agency as it is about the individual agent.

On occasion, you come across a standalone promoter who really has his/her finger on the pulse with respect to their audience and has some incredible outside-the-box idea that only someone who eats, sleeps and breathes their prospective territory could dream up." -Adam Leber

For superstar acts, what are the pros and cons of going with a single promoter—Live Nation or AEG—on U.S. tour? Any recent examples of where that worked well and what made those tours stand out?
Adam Leber: I have found that partnering with a single promoter like Live Nation has nothing but upside versus varied promoters in different territories. The artist and manager are getting in bed with a long-term partner that has significant skin in the game on a global scale both financially and personally. That bigger relationship pushes both sides. They have a common goal to deliver a great show and make a lot of money doing so, and the bigger the win for the artist, the bigger the win for the promoter. I had an incredible experience with Michael Rapino and Brad Wavra from Live Nation on Miley’s Bangerz tour. Miley had a real vision on how she wanted to connect with her audience to sell tickets to her show. She knew exactly how to market to her fans because she identifies so well with them, but her ideas were very different and completely outside of the box, and the only way someone could digest those ideas and back that vision was to get in the trenches with her and go around the world. We sold over a million tickets on that tour.

John Peets: I think the ability to look at a tour from a holistic viewpoint is an advantage. The strategic picture from ticket price to announce and onsales can be managed in a coordinated way. From there, the marketing and execution can be observed, critiqued and adjusted wholly. There are also some efficiencies of having everything under one roof that allow some financial benefits for the artist. We have done this with both Eric Church and The Black Keys.

Johnny Wright: The pros: You only have to deal with one entity and your money is guaranteed, and you’re not chasing a bunch of local promoters. The cons: You’re subject to a one-time deal across the board, and you have less opportunity to make individual venue deals from city to city. Your artist may be stronger in some cities than in others, and ultimately it’s a discussion between the manager and the artist on what they want to do.

And how about the opposite, where you had a success by going with individual promoters in each market? What's the advantage there?
Adam Leber: On occasion, you come across a standalone promoter who really has his/her finger on the pulse with respect to their audience and has some incredible outside-the-box idea that only someone who eats, sleeps and breathes their prospective territory could dream up. I can’t recall the specific promoter, but on one of Britney’s tours, the local promoter in Paris knew of a local French act that was about to explode, so we had the artist open and had them show up to a specific nightclub together, and the whole city exploded. It was very cool and something you could only know if you lived in the market.

John Peets: I’m a big fan of local promoters. Local promoters can bring a finesse game. They will know the subtleties of a particular market. They tend to bring a lot of common sense to the team. 

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