The last show Arthur Fogel attended prior to the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown was the finale of U2’s Joshua Tree 30th anniversary tour in Mumbai. It was 12/15/2019, the first time U2 had played India in their 43 years of being together and the 67th—and most likely the last—time they would play their 1987 landmark album in full.

Having committed to be present at every U2 show he could since he started working with the band in 1997, Fogel estimated he was closing in on 700 concerts that night at Patil Stadium.

“Years ago, just the thought of playing Mumbai on a massive tour like this was pie in the sky,” recalls Fogel, the executive who has had the greatest impact on global touring over the last 30 years. “It was just one of those moments where you go, ‘You know, the world really has opened up to do real business on a high level.’

“I remembered having a conversation on the last date of the PopMart tour in Johannesburg, South Africa, about how globalization was on the move. That was 1998. It became my obsession.”

For most of his 40 years in concert promotion with CPI (short for Concert Productions International), The Next Adventure, SFX, Clear Channel and Live Nation, Fogel has been at the forefront of global touring, revolutionizing the business as it ventured from regional fiefdoms to worldwide enterprise. Live Nation Entertainment’s Chairman of Global Touring and Talent since 2005, Fogel has transitioned from rock drummer to Toronto club manager to selling Madonna on a 360 deal with Live Nation and presenting artists such as David Bowie, Sting and Beyoncé around the world.

“I think performing live really is its own art form,” says the Beverly Hills-based Ottawa native. “There are certainly lots of people who make great music and great records that sound great on the radio, but to be an incredible live performer and develop that craft—keep people wanting to come back because it was such a great experience—that’s a large part of what sustains careers.

“I absolutely have had the opportunity to work with some great live performers, and that’s probably why I’ve stayed engaged and excited right through to today.”

Fogel has been associated with some of the biggest global tours during the last 32 years, beginning with The Rolling Stones’ groundbreaking Steel Wheels tour. His résumé includes Madonna’s 2008-09 Sticky & Sweet Tour, which hit 32 countries and became the highest-grossing tour by a female artist, collecting $408 million; three Beyoncé solo tours, including a 2016 run of 49 sold-out stadiums that grossed $256 million; both of Justin Timberlake’s tours; and every outing by Lady Gaga since 2010.

U2’s box office since affiliating with Fogel has hit $2 billion, with $736.4 million of it coming from 2009-2011’s 360° Tour, comprising 110 shows in 30 countries

As Bono said in the 2013 documentary Who the F**k Is Arthur Fogel, “He’s clearly the most important person in live music in the world, a unique dude. There’s no one like him out there.”

“Generally, artists need to have a vision of a show on a particular tour; then it becomes an exercise of processing that idea,” Fogel explains. “Once you’ve discussed what the tour could look like in terms of venues and different territories, you present some options in terms of a routing layout. A dialogue is taking place, and ultimately you settle on what the artist is comfortable with. Because if you’re in for the long play, and you’re there to support an artist’s long-term career and sustainability, you want to be in a position where you have a clear view of what’s down the road so that you don’t mess it up in the short term. Of course, I’ve got to deliver what I say I’m going to deliver—that’s #1. Supporting the artist’s vision is what it’s all about; to work to their agenda and never veer off that.”

Looking ahead to a post-COVID world, Fogel reflects, “I’ve always been an optimist about our business. If you think back to 10, 12 years ago, the economy was in terrible shape. People were thinking the business was over. But the business has a way of regenerating artists and audience.

“There’s no question, 2022 and ’23 are going to be gangbusters. It’s the pent-up demand, but also the pent-up earnest desire to get out there and work. It’s not just the financial part of it, which is certainly a factor for some, but they’re artists—they perform live, and it’s like a memory muscle they’ve gotta use.”

Read the full Q&A