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Backbeat: Here's What You Missed On Day 2 Of Billboard's Touring Conference And Awards

Billboard, November 05, 2010

By Billboard Staff

The 7th Annual Billboard Touring Conference & Awards, presented by ShowClix and in association with Music Networx, took place in NYC on November 3rd and 4th. Day 2 of the event featured even more informative panels, controversial discussions, invaluable networking opportunities, and our Touring Awards reception, which honored the year’s biggest promoters, agents, managers, venues, sponsors, and production professionals.

Corporate America has shown that it wants to capture the eyes and ears of music fans, and growth in the experiential music marketing space is outpacing general sponsorship spending. Panelists on the “BRANDING AND SPONSORSHIPS IN LIVE EVENTS” panel discussed successful branding and sponsorship initiatives and how to turn deals into true partnerships that raise the profile of artists and companies and provide added value to fans. Panel participants included Alex Suarez, Artist, Cobra Starship; Geoff McMurdo, VP of Marketing, North America, RIM; Marcie Allen, President, MAC Presents; moderator, Bill Chipps, Senior Editor, IEG Sponsorship Report; Laura Hutfless, Sponsorship Agent, Creative Artists Agency; Jim Stabile, Vice President of Strategic Marketing, Vector Management; and Russell Wallach, President of National Alliances, Live Nation.

Social media is desired by more and more brands, said Allen, and they’re asking which artists have the broadest social networks. For example, she explained, Lady Antebellum’s deal with Brita was built around a social media campaign that turned into an endorsement deal. Brita was able to increase their “likes” and the partnership ended up being extended into a second year.

Suarez says his band is happy to give content in order to work with brands. “We’ll take what we can get, so they can have all the content they want.” Even a low-key piece of content can have surprising results. In one instance, he said, Cobra Starship did exclusive acoustic performance of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” for AOL that got a lot of YouTube traffic.

On "A BOTTOM LINE LOOK AT VIPs, BUNDLING, PREMIUMS AND THE ART OF THE UPSELL (AND THE DISCOUNT)" attendees learned that the VIP experience is holding up well during this tough economic period. This year AEG is on track to have its best year in terms of VIP sales, said Marc Feinberg, Sr. Director, Premium Ticketing, AEG.

Shelley Lazar, President, SLO VIP Ticket Services, says her company is seeing “great numbers.” In South America, for example, SLO sold out all VIP packages for Paul McCartney’s five shows in South America. When panelists were asked how VIP ticketing can be doing well while the concert industry is struggling, Lazar spoke only for her corner of the market. “My packages are successful for the concerts I’m working.” But Lazar says SLO is a bit down in the U.K. and Europe. “There are a lot more economic pressures we’re not reading about in the States.”

It’s hard enough for established headlining acts to make money on the road, much less mid-level acts and baby bands. More artists are adopting a DIY model and seeking to control their own destiny. "HOW TO TOUR AND MAKE MONEY (EVEN IF NOBODY KNOWS WHO YOU ARE)" panelists included John Chavez, Agent, Ground Control Touring; Gerri Leonard, President, Leonard Business Management; Steve Gerstman, President, CutMerch; singer/songwriter Laura Warshauer; Panos Panay, Founder/CEO, Sonicbids; Andrew Mains, VP of Artist Relations and Marketing, Topspin Media; and moderator, Cortney Harding, Billboard's Music Editor.

Billboard's "Keynote Case Study with Sugarland" took an in-depth look at one of music’s best recent artist development stories. Moderator, Billboard Editorial Director, Bill Werde explored the career moves that helped propel this hit-making duo to platinum success.

Despite strong sales and a dedicated fan base, Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush say they are still dealing with a perception problem when it comes to branding. The band said that while most country artists can strike deals with brands like WalMart, branding deals with the likes of Blackberry and Apple are harder to come by.

Nettles said Sugarland has never has a sponsor because, "nothing ever fit." The duo added that their audience is very hard to define, and trusts them, and could tell if they were to take a sponsorship simply for the money. The pair did add that if Apple or Blackberry were to call, they would take a meeting.

During "A 20/20 VIEW OF THE CONCERT BUSINESS", panelists discussed the volatile, cyclical business the touring industry is and weighed in on the current lay of the land, what happened this year and what the next decade may hold. Moderator, Billboard's Executive Director of Content & Programming For Touring and Live Entertainment Ray Waddell engaged panelists Troy Carter, Manager, Atom Factory (Lady GaGa) and Paul McGuinness, Director, Principle Management (U2).

The biggest problem the touring industry faces is the lack of artist development, according to the panelists. They argued that the fragmentation of music means that there might not be another Billy Joel or Fleetwood Mac type artist in terms of mass appeal and longevity. John Meglen, Co-President if Concerts West/AEG Live and Jerry Mickelson, Partner at Jam Productions discussed the challenges they face daily.

McGuinness added that established bands on the road should be careful when picking opening acts, if for no other reason than that fans will come early to see a good band, have time to kill between acts, and purchase more merch during the set changes. The panelists also said that record labels can hinder growth by focusing too much on quarterly profits and not realizing that many artists need more than a quarter to develop a career.

The afternoon came to an end with intimate round table discussions that examined the unique touring challenges and opportunities for specific genres. Attendees were given the opportunity to pick the genre of their choice and sit down with a top member of that community. Morgan Margolis, CEO/President, Knitting Factory Entertainment led a discussion about the challenges and opportunities of operating smaller venues in this climate.

Reporting By Glenn Peoples and Cortney Harding