Artists are no longer waiting around for labels to help them get into buildings at this year's International Entertainment Buyers Association conference (IEAB), according to House of Blues vp Jim Mallonee
"Labels are not necessarily the most important thing. It is getting out and playing in front of people and you can do it on your own," said Mallonee on the question of whether or not artists need labels to make a living in the music industry on Oct. 27 in Nashville.
"For us it is a numbers game. If people come out and see an act, that will be an indicator that they like something," Mallonee said, adding that he has worked with artists who are going label-less.
At the Award Winners Power Panel at the J.W. Marriott, moderator Jim Cressman of Invictus Entertainment inquired whether it was up to clubs and theaters now to bring new artists into the spotlight.
"It is not on us," Mallonee explained. "We are reactionary to how many people come and see the show."
In Mallonee’s territory of America’s southeastern region, they have also seen an influx of larger acts returning to the same clubs and theaters. The House of Blues has seen an influx in larger acts playing multiple shows at smaller venues rather than playing large arenas or stadiums.
"Bands seem now to prefer that, especially if they are trying to calculate a market in lieu of taking the big dive,” said Mallonne, who added that Shinedown’s three-night residency in Florida landed them a comparable pay out to a larger show since the band didn’t need to bring 12 trucks worth of set-up. “The bands have a better time when they are closer. They get to sling their sweat directly on the audience.”
Across the country, Greek Theatre gm Becky Colwell is gearing up for another round of million-dollar improvements to the iconic Los Angeles venue.
“This coming off season, they're going to be spending several million dollars replacing the roof, which is very necessary to keep the place going,” said Colwell on the panel. “When we came on board four years ago, the city had allocated several million dollars to upgrade. They redid all the dressing rooms, painted the place, a lot of cosmetic things that just kind of brought back the life and the look of the venue when he was built originally 90 years ago.”
In addition to cosmetic perks, SMG who ran the Greek Theatre recently merged with AEG Facilities to create new operations entity ASM Global. The Greek’s new affiliation with AEG raised some concerns about with promoters about whether or not the venue would abandon its open booking policy in favor of an exclusive booking agreement with AEG.
“The Greek Theater is owned by the city of Los Angeles. It is not owned by ASM Global or Live Nation or AEG. The city definitely sets the pace and the plan for the booking of a venue and four years ago they mandated that it would be an open venue,” said Colwell. “Everyone has a fair shot and we're proud of the partnerships that we have with all the promoters on the West side of the country.”
The opening IEBA panel was stacked with executives who have won awards over the course of the conference’s 49 years. Promoter of the Year and panelist Ali Harnell switched gears in March and moved from promoting for AEG to running Live Nation’s new initiative Women Nation.
“Women Nation is a developing thing. There is no template. There is no guidebook,” Harnell told the audience of helping to mold the new division. “It's how are we going to advance and support the women in the company, which was hard for me initially because I'd spent 15 years at another company and Live Nation was the enemy, the competition. Coming and saying, I'm going to help the women here, it's taken me a minute. That's just in full transparency.”
Women Nation has already selected three female-led businesses for its first round of funding since it’s inception in 2018 including Tina Farris Tours, Conscious City Guide and Kingdom of Mind.
“It's also policy and initiative driven on figuring out how Live Nation can be the coolest company it can be, a place where women can thrive and work,” said Harnell. “So we can be a corporation that’s leading in this industry in terms of culture.”
Cressman also broached the subject of the 2020 election and how it has impacted the live entertainment world.
According to Mallonee, placing radio ads in a state like Florida becomes nearly impossible for the four months leading up a presidential election. For fellow panelist Roger LeBlanc of Madison Entertainment, the political divide has caused friction with booking as well.
“I think we could all agree that it is certainly a divided time right now and we have had challenges,” said LeBlanc. “We did a festival in Dallas, Texas at AT&T Stadium and I had challenges with artists who didn’t want to play in that particular venue. I'm not going to name any artists, but that's where we've gotten.”
LeBlanc added: “We do all different acts from every side of the spectrum. We'll do one act and one group complains about them and then we'll do a different act and a different group complains. It's okay to have different views. We could do a better job with having better dialogue.”