After years of decline, sales of recorded music are finally rebounding, driven by growing revenue from subscription streaming services including Spotify and Pandora.
But despite that big ray of hope, “the live ticket business is usually the artist’s bread and butter and the majority of their earnings,” says business manager Lou Taylor, CEO of Tri Star Sports & Entertainment Group. “And touring is a very complex business.”
Tri Star works with the artist’s management, booking agent, attorney, creative director and other key traveling personnel to determine everything required for the tour — from the road equipment and the personnel, to the merchandise sold, to the number of trucks to haul everyone from venue to venue.
Their job has gotten suddenly more complex in the wake of the tragic shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas on Oct. 1 that took the lives of 59 people.
“Nobody anticipated that somebody would go up on the 32nd floor of a hotel and take aim at people from above,” says Taylor, whose clients Big & Rich performed at the event two hours before the shooting. “Now we’re thinking, ‘oh, my gosh, what are we going to do for security challenges? Are we going to be paying for drones to be put up independently to look for stuff like this?’ ”
One of the biggest positive changes for the live-concert business in recent years also came out of Las Vegas: the pop music star residency. Tri Star has been at the forefront of the phenomenon with clients such as Britney Spears, Reba McEntire and Jennifer Lopez, whom it handles solely for residencies.
While the long stays cut down on travel stress for the stars, they present some fiscal challenges for the business management team.
“Normally, 56 shows are played over a few months, not spread out over a year, so it takes a lot of creativity to maintain cast and crew,” says Tri Star services director Robin Greenhill. “Some people schedule shows in between. Some don’t, and they guarantee a minimum, and the cast and crew are able to go out and do other things as long as the residency is first priority.”
Things get vastly more complex when the show hits the road and crosses state and international borders. Not only do the business managers have to sort through the various tax and labor laws, exchange rates and transportation and lodging issues, they to need make sure the venues can handle the size and the weight of the stage, lights and set dressing.
“If you don’t know all the factors subjecting them to risk, the fines and penalties can add up quickly,” says Deedra Carroll, Tri Star’s director of touring.
Through it all, they stay on the hunt for savings.
“One of our newest clients is on a mid-size tour, and just by renegotiating their equipment — their sound, lighting and video package — we saved them significant dollars over the long run,” says Carroll.
Sometimes a business management rep travels with the artist to serve as a tour accountant, and at other times it’s handled by the promoter. The speed at which the venues settle the night’s receipts also varies. For instance, “in Seoul, South Korea, it sometimes takes week or two weeks to fully do a settlement,” Greenhill says.
For top acts, the end-of-tour tallies have been trending downward. With so many artists competing for ticket buyers, there are fewer mega-tours grossing in the $80 million range. The overcrowded market has also led to equipment shortages.
So, now more than ever, business managers must plan ahead.
Says Carroll: “If you don’t have your buses locked in for a summer tour, you’re pretty much out of luck.”