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ALL THE WAY LIVE


In a word, the live business is booming. Category leader Live Nation is up in attendance, ticketing and, perhaps most importantly, stock price; CAA has had its biggest year ever in revenue; WME saw huge growth; and UTA went on a hiring spree, expanding in Nashville and internationally, while hiring Live Nation’s David Zedeck to lead its music operation in July.

Live Nation’s stock price is up to the $43/share ballpark from $27.40 at the start of the year. The company staged about 29k shows in 40 countries this year, attended by approximately 85m fans, a rise from 71m in 2016. Its November bid on the world’s largest venue-management company, SMG, would, if successful, catapult the concert promoter to #1 in the field.

CEO Michael Rapino noted in a recent call with investors that the explosion of acts moving up the food chain in terms of venues they can fill has helped bulk up LN’s coffers.

Marc Geiger, longtime Head of Music at WME, recently told talent buyers: “Business is spectacular. Anyone in live entertainment—no matter what role you play—is probably having the best year of their career.” 

CAA continues to dominate the live space among agencies. Rob Light’s roster includes superstars Lady GagaKanye WestBeyoncéHarry Styles and Niall Horan, and in the coming year they’re looking to break Judah and the LionCatfish and the BottlemenThe Naked and FamousChristine and the QueensRainbow Kitten Surprise and others. Recent signings include HAIMLogicGlass AnimalsA$AP Rocky, The Head & the HeartCardi BMetricLykke Li and Maggie Rogers.

There were a fair number of shake-ups. Scott Clayton, Matthew Morgan and Buster Phillips departed CAA Nashville for WME. Buddy Lee Attractions CEO Joey Lee and Jay Williams joined Rob Beckham and Greg Oswald as co-heads of WME’s Nashville office. Paradigm Talent Agency brought partners Windish and AM Only fully under its banner and established a JV with Ron Burkle’s Yucaipa and Steve Strange’s U.K. powerhouse X-ray Touring.

Zedeck joined United Talent Agency in July as Global Head of Music from Live Nation, where he had been EVP and President of Global Talent and Artist Development since 2012. UTA had bulked up in March with former Chris Brown manager Mike “Mike G” Guirguis, Bex Majors, who had been with CAA in the U.K., and London-based Billy Wood. Their client roster includes Guns N’ RosesDJ Khaled21 Savage and Post Malone.

That’s not to say everyone played nice in the live-music business. A turf battle developed in early summer between Azoff-MSG Entertainment and AEG as the two played block-booking games over their venues in L.A., New York and London. Azoff-MSG would not grant Madison Square Garden dates to acts that played AEG’s Staples Center instead of The Forum; AEG blocked any act that picked The Forum over Staples from playing O2 in London.

The spat was fueled partially by AEG venues moving away from Ticketmaster. AEG Live Chairman/CEO Jay Marciano has said publicly they’re still engaged in block-booking Staples and 02. The Forum and Garden, which are promoter-agnostic, have denied any block-booking set-up, saying only they prefer to book “friends” of the company.

One concern that unites the entire sector: Security. Lethal attacks at concerts in Paris, Manchester and Las Vegas have underscored the need to redouble efforts to keep people safe at these large gatherings, a goal that has commanded the utmost consideration throughout this tumultuous year.

Heading into 2018, a question mark for the big two promoters is how to get their recent investments in festivals to pay off. Yes, Coachella and Lollapalooza sell out before the lineups are announced, but there is a growing concern that a homogenous quality is taking over the festival circuit—even a stalwart like Bonnaroo has suffered at the gate. Kevin Lyman announced the Vans Warped Tour would make its 24th—and final—cross-country run next year. 

At least none of them experienced the clusterfuck that was the Fyre Festival, a Caribbean fantasy that devolved into cold cheese sammies in FEMA tents before being postponed; promoter Billy McFarland was arrested on fraud charges, and approximately eight lawsuits ensued. Hey, they can’t all be winners.

Speaking of winners, look what’s on tap for 2018: Taylor Swift in stadiums from 5/8 to 10/6; Foo Fighters in stadiums and arenas from April through July, with more in September; Kenny Chesney and Thomas Rhett in stadiums from late April into August; U2 in arenas in May and June; Harry Styles in arenas in June and July; Ed Sheeran in stadiums from mid-August to early November; The Killers in arenas in January and February; and Katy Perry wraps her 2017-18 tour 2/6 in Vancouver, B.C. before heading overseas. And with an extension through June, Bruce Springsteen is looking at a final B.O. tally of close to $100m at the Walter Kerr Theatre on Broadway. On with the show. 

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