Festivals vs Hard Tickets:
How Artists and Promoters
Moderator: Rich Schaefer | LoyalT Management
Evan Harrison | HUKA Entertainment Group
Sam Hunt | Paradigm Talent Agency
Lalo Medina | Monotone
Huston Powell | C3 Presents
Allen Scott | Another Planet Entertainment
Rob Zifarelli | United Talent Agency
There’s an abundance of festivals but festivalgoers only have so many live entertainment dollars to spend. A panel at Pollstar Live! delved into the question of how the current live music landscape affects the decisions of promoters, managers and agents.
Paradigm’s Sam Hunt explained how festivals are an opportunity for artists with no hard ticket history. He used Major Lazer as an example to show that not all acts still rely on classic “cycles,” but rather con-stantly work in building a presence, using all tools available to further their careers, of which playing festivals is just one.
Allen Scott of Another Planet Entertainment added: “We work with the managers and agents to be strategic in how they come to the market. A lot of it depends on the album cycle. Some artists are dependent on the album cycle, some less so.”
Huston Powell of C3 Presents pointed out that there were only so many tier-one events in the United States and that “there’s a lot of pressure from management and the agents and then on to me to get their acts on the biggest shows. We have to book the shows so far in advance now, and everybody wants to play Lollapalooza. So the first question I have is: where are you going to be on your cycle?
“We like the bands to do hard ticket business. We know that they are not going to cycle their entire record release around our show.
But we think that whether it’s an ACL, or Bonnaroo, or Coachella or Hangout or whatever, that the bands should think about whether this play makes sense, and not pound their agents to get this play when it doesn’t. Hopefully they’ll still be around next year and maybe it’ll make more sense then.”
Evan Harrison of HUKA Entertainment Group thought it was good for bands to be able to choose whether to prioritize hard ticket shows or festivals. “Watching an artist coming back two years later and go from the small stage to the main stage is pretty special.”
Rob Zifarelli of United Talent Agency went into the changes that come with festivals announcing their line-ups earlier and earlier.
“This has changed how we bring our touring plan to the release of the records. We used to be able to tour through January, February maybe the middle of March. We’re now out touring in October, November, December to still be attractive enough for the upcoming festival season timeframe.”
Moderator Rich Schaefer of LoyalT Management brought up radius clauses, which prevent artists from playing other shows in a certain catchment area. Scott and Powell said it had to be decided on a case-by-case basis, depending on where the artist was in his career.
Zifarelli said that “it’s gotten ridiculous. I understand why it is done, but for artists at a certain level, who are getting paid $40,000 to $50,000 at a festival, if that radius clause boxes you out of 10 other shows in the market in that 1,000 cap range, that’s $300,000 worth of touring that is instrumental in developing a career. It seems like everybody’s trying to grab more and more land.”
Monotone’s Lalo Medina almost never tells an artist to pass on a festival. “Marketing is very key.
A lot of the time you just want to be on that poster. The money is undeniable. For mid-level and up it’s usually more than market value. There’s something to be said for that. If you can get two or three hits out of that market, you’re doing all right. Twenty years ago that wasn’t possible.”
Added Hunt: “Generally, once a festival is announced you need to stay out of that market. So the earlier the festival is announced, the longer you cannot play the market. So the decision should be: What am I sacrificing to do this festival? Sometimes you look back and think we shouldn’t have done that, we gave up a lot to play that festival.”
The panel also talked about the placement of an artist’s name on a poster, whether the poster placement or the actual festival slot was more important, and the egos that sometimes need massaging when it comes to negotiating the billing. Medina thought “no one outside our industry gives a shit,” to which Scott agreed: “I never had a fan complain about the position of the band on the poster.”
Medina: “If you have a good product, people will buy it.” Zifarelli said the slot was more important than the billing: “the latter causes a lot of friction, and I think it’s unnecessary.”
Harrison explained that artists are trying to build a brand just as the festival was. “So you have a lot of conflicting interests here.” There was also a fine balance between elevating an act to a headliner and not making fans feel underserved, because they might not think the name is big enough.
Said Powell: “I think the billing is absolute hell. When you’re doing multi-genre festivals it becomes tough. Yes, you have more Instagram followers than Paul McCartney, but that doesn’t mean you’re bigger than him.”
– Gideon Gottfried