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THE AZOFF ANALYSIS

Now that the concert market has been back in action for a few weeks, legendary mogul/manager Irving Azoff follows up our conversation from earlier this month with some new remarks on the state of play. We’re told this interview pairs well with a Hickoryburger from The Apple Pan.

When last we spoke, everyone was crystal-balling that when on-sales began in June, it was going to be the most massive ticket rush ever and that consumers would be hungry for tickets to virtually every event. What’s your assessment now that we have a few weeks of actual data?
To give you an example, Austin City Limits to my knowledge had never sold out both weekends. They sold out immediately. They could have done a third weekend. That's how big it was. Coachella, same thing. So those festivals, the ones that are institutions, are just going crazy. Dead & Company went up: biggest business of their career, multiple-day sell-outs in stadiums. Just crazy.

But the amphitheater season, with a ton of country tours, has been challenged. There are, like, 10 of them. My theory is that normally, country music fans would have six, seven months to go see five acts, then suddenly there were 10 tours up at the same time. And because the season was starting late, they had something like nine weeks of a total season to do 10 tours, as opposed to seven months to do 10 tours.

So it’s a glut.
Yeah. But the Springsteen Broadway great ticketing thing continues. Residencies in Vegas this fall for classic rock acts: huge. Record numbers. People like Chicago and Earth, Wind & Fire: biggest numbers ever.

It’s the Roaring Twenties.
Definitely, but everybody's becoming more cautious because this year and next are going to be massively crowded. There is going to be a massive stadium season in summer 2022, a ton of stadium shows next year. We're all involved in supply and demand, and people are thinking the newness of going to concerts may wear off a little by first quarter next year.

And do you think some of those dates, however enticing the tours may be, are just too far off for people to think about? Are concertgoers more focused on the immediate?
It's been pretty well documented that people aren't ready to go back to work. Once they got the government money and the unemployment… and they didn't have to spend much during the pandemic. I hope it isn't permanent, but maybe people got used to staying home and aren't going to want to go to a bunch of events next year. I don't know.

So even with all the pent-up demand for entertainment and activity, what you’re saying applies to the whole economy and all the things people can do aside from concerts. There are only so many nights in the week, especially if you're newly going out again.
I think you're right. Though one thing I’m seeing is that weekends appear to have expanded to Thursday through Sunday.

But again, there are going to be massive tour dates next year, and logic would cause one to wonder if there’s going to be enough purchasing power and enough fans. I do think there are people going, "I like being at home and maybe there's a variant; maybe some people aren't vaccinated and maybe I don't want to go." You are getting some of that.

It didn’t even occur to me until, like, last week that there is a difficult transition going on to go back into the world; I was only thinking about how excited I was to get back.
Habits don't change quickly. Every time I walk indoors I want to reach into my pocket to grab a mask just out of habit.

So are you revising your assessment of the Roaring Twenties?
No, I think it is the Roaring Twenties, but there's more supply than I expected. I still think there's going to be a ton of tickets; there may just be more acts dividing it up. But since I talked to you, the Eagles’ U.K. dates went away because the U.K. extended their travel bans and other restrictions. And these variants... Do I think it's going to lead to another lockdown? I haven't heard that, but there clearly is some concern. But you have to maintain your optimism.

Do you have a quick word about demographics, assuming the festival part skews a lot younger and the country tour is older?
It does feel like younger and older are good. If there is a little less enthusiasm, it seems to be in the middle. So it sounds like the older, vaccinated people are great and they have buying power, and the young kids don't give a fuck.


Photo of Swirv with Lenny Beer and Simon Glickman by Larry Solters

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