So far this year, much of the discussion surrounding the touring business has been about ticket sales, with high-profile tours by the likes of Taylor Swift and Drake putting Live Nation and Ticketmaster in the spotlight. But underlining that bottom line is one undeniable fact: three years after the start of the pandemic that shut down events around the world, the live music business is making a full comeback, with the world’s biggest stars hitting the road for their first outings in years .
This means that all aspects of the tourism business are running at full speed again. Or as a UTA partner and music agent Mike G says: “After the pandemic, the live business took off.”
The longtime agent would know. This year, he’s lined up a series of major tours and concerts for some of the biggest artists in various genres, including Lil Wayne, Romeo Santos, Wizkid and The Kid LAROI, each of which has some meaning: Wayne is planning a leaner game in anticipation of a wider tour around his upcoming album So Carter VI; Santos played stadiums in four cities, nearly a decade after becoming the first solo Latin artist to sell out Yankee Stadium; Wizkid has a headlining arena tour after becoming only the second Nigerian act to sell out Madison Square Garden in November; and The Kid LAROI launched a secondary and tertiary market college tour this week. And all of this activity helped Mike G win the title billboard‘c CEO of the week.
Here, he talks about the strategy behind several of those outings, as well as the challenges and opportunities that have arisen as the pandemic increasingly looks in the rearview mirror. “[The pandemic] it created demand, he says, and the live industry is healthy.
This week, The Kid LAROI kicked off his college tour in Syracuse, New York, one of many major tours you’ve locked down over the past few months. What was the strategy behind this particular one?
The strategy behind touring these college towns was to tap into a significant fan base for LAROI in the secondary and tertiary markets. The idea of going on a high profile college tour has never been done by Jay-Z. So we saw an opportunity to continue to build his live business with this performance and market it in a specific way. Pop-up pep rallies on the day of the show were a special highlight by LAROI to connect with their fans on campus.
You also booked Lil Wayne’s upcoming tour ahead of his next album, which sold out in advance and sold 70,000 tickets with a mix of theaters and venues. What goes into the itinerary of a tour like this for a superstar like Wayne?
The idea behind Lil Wayne was to create an intimate tour for his fans, playing venues such as the Wiltern in Los Angeles and the iconic Apollo Theater in New York. The concept behind playing these rooms was to leave tickets at the door for its wider release in the fall while promoting in advance So Carter VI with this tour as a means of marketing. It’s an understatement to say that it turned out the way we wanted it to. This tour will be a great experience for the fans.
Last November, Wizkid became the second Nigerian artist to sell out Madison Square Garden, and now he’s set for an arena tour later this year. What do you see as the touring market and opportunities for Afrobeat artists in the US?
Opportunities will be arena and amphitheater tours with Afrobeat artists as well as headlining crossover festivals. The potential is limitless in the live space and we’ve seen such incredible success with WizKid leading the way and being one of the few artists leading the movement in the US
In 2020, you signed Romeo Santos, the first time he signed with a major agency. How did you convince him to come on?
The signing of Romeo Santos in 2020 was one of the most significant signings for our department. We’ve introduced the full-service models we live with at the agency. Touring is the most important revenue generator for an artist, but with live, the thought was, “Let’s build other untapped business areas.” Film, TV, digital and brand opportunities should be part of those daily conversations. This piqued Romeo’s interest and eventually got him to sign with us. It’s about everything we can provide, not just tours. He wanted to build a 360 business in all areas of entertainment.
This year, he’s playing stadium concerts in four American cities, a little less than a decade after becoming the first Latin artist to ever sell out Yankee Stadium. What continues to make it so great?
His loyal fan base and consistency in delivering fantastic music and a spectacular live show. Romeo took bachata music to new heights. It revolutionized and modernized the genre.
What goes into booking artists of all sizes in the right venues – especially those artists who may have emerged during the pandemic and don’t have much, if any, touring history?
We study and understand where this artist is in their career. For some artists, we can weigh in and see if playing a 500-cap room is the right step to launch their touring career in major markets. Finding the right tour support slot for other acts can expose the artist to new fans and build a base. Every artist is different, but you have to be strategically aggressive and not afraid to lose to make a career out of it live.
How has the touring business changed as the world emerged from the pandemic? And how has the way you do business changed?
Since the pandemic, the live business has exploded. This created a demand and the live industry is healthy. Business will continue to thrive, but awareness of fares will be critical to our current economy.