Touring Chiefs Call For Live Industry ‘Reset’


May 25, 2022

The roadmap to rebuilding the live industry back to pre-pandemic levels was up for debate during ILMC’s annual health check on the venue sector.

Co-chaired by ASM Global SVP Marie Lindqvist and Rockhal Luxembourg CEO Olivier Toth, The Venue’s Venue: Reconnect and reopen panel pored over the remaining challenges for venues around the world as they reopen from close to two years of inaction.

Production manager and 2022 Gaffer Award winner Phay Mac Mahon discussed the staffing issues he had experienced when returning to the road for a US tour last September.

“On the production side, we reckoned we were about 30% down on staff, so I think it’s going to be a tough year,” he said. “But let’s face it, we built this industry from nothing. We’re now going to have to redo it. We did it once, we can do it again.”


He added: “The biggest problem is that nobody has toured for two years, so everything got put back. The stuff that didn’t tour in 2020 got put back to this year. And then the stuff that didn’t tour in 2021 has been put back to this year, so we have a supply situation – there are not enough companies out there with equipment.

“There are not enough trucks out there, there’s not enough buses. Smaller acts that can’t get buses and can’t get trucks have to fly and their schedule is too tight. So they’re actually cancelling because they can’t afford to fly to festivals, etc, and that’s becoming a bigger issue. The bigger acts  booked a long time ago, so they have the stuff.”

ATC Live agent Alex Bruford said the overwhelmingly positive response to the return of concerts had demonstrated how important live music was to people, but warned the anticipated boom in ticket sales was yet to materialise.

“There is a lot of talk about the ‘roaring ’20s’ and how, when we reopened, we’d all get back to business super-quickly and other things would be great again immediately. And, as we all have found out, that has not been the case so far,” he said. “There have been some hot shows that have sold a lot of tickets and some festivals that have gone up at the right time and sold a lot of tickets. But on the whole, it’s definitely a mixed bag out there in terms of ticket sales. A lot of shows are underperforming and a lot of artists are wondering why they’re not where they were two or three years ago.

“Chatting to a few other agents about this, it does feel like there’s been a bit of a reset button pushed in the whole touring industry and people are having to be very careful. None of us know exactly how the autumn is going to play out yet… It’s super-busy and it’s great to have people back, but there are definitely a lot of challenges ahead before we rebalance.”


On whether ticket prices would need to increase, Rock Werchter promoter Herman Schueremans, CEO of Live Nation Belgium, expressed caution.

“I feel that there is a limit on ticket prices,” he said. “Don’t push your luck with the audience. They were very loyal to us in the previous two, three years. People stayed extremely loyal by keeping their tickets and those people will say, ‘Look, we’ve already bought X amount of tickets… And we have to pay all of our bills,’ so they will make a choice.

“We have to solve the problems together. I don’t see any other solution. We need to get as strong and be creative and rethink things, instead of just repeating ourselves. But I think it’s a creative process. And it should not only come from the artists, but it should come from all of us.”

Rotterdam Ahoy CEO Jolanda Jansen shared similar sentiments.

“There is no easy solution and there’s also not one solution,” she said. “We survived the crisis together, so we need also to [overcome] these challenges together.”


Mac Mahon warned that artists and management were in for a “wake up call”, due to many still working off budgets from 2020.

“All the costs have gone up,” he said. “There was a time that you a trucking float included fuel; there was a time you got a shipping quote, and it included fuel; if you were chartering an aircraft it was included… So all these things are going to make a huge difference to the bottom line for the artist.

“It’s going to be very interesting when the manager has to sit down with that artist and tells them there was a time that we could ship a sea container from London to Los Angeles door to door for £7,000 but now it’s £20,000.”

Summing up, Bruford made an impassioned plea for the “reset button” to be pressed on transparency across the industry.

“I’d like to see transparent costs across the board,” he said. “I’d like to be having conversations with people where when we’re discussing a show deal, every aspect of the income of that show is discussed and then split fairly between all the stakeholders in that show. I’d like to see no more rebates. I’d like to see ticketing fees kept under control, I’d like to see merch costs kept under control…

“All of these things are taking slices out of the revenue pot, making it harder to make the show actually financially viable, and then pushing up the ticket price. And as the ticket price gets pushed higher and higher, we all collectively sell less tickets, so we’re actually eating our own lunch by doing that.

“I’d like to be in a situation where we can have these open conversations and have all those costs on the table upfront and go, ‘Okay, how are we fairly splitting this?’ I’ve done a couple of tours recently where it has been like that and it is so refreshing. And I think that’s needs to be the way forward.”

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