We often speak about production, booking, agencies, but we also discover that this part of our sector, which has an important role in the management and creation of an event or tour, often remains in the background. We had the chance to speak to Andrea Pieroni, Managing Director of Live Nation Italia, the Italian promoter, part of the American company Live Nation Entertainment, the biggest and most structured company in the world with regards to the organization of live events and e-commerce, and which is made up of four leading companies of the market: Ticketmaster.com, Live Nation Concerts, Front Line Management Group and Live Nation Network.
We asked Andrea to give us an idea of how promoters work, both generally and, of course, the specific role of Live Nation. During our nice chat, we spoke about the situation of the Italian music business now, also taking a look at the summer agenda for rock music and discussed why big festivals don’t seem to work in Italy. So this is an interview to read in one go guys!
ZioGiorgio.it: What does a promoter, and more specifically Live Nation, do, and how has your job changed in the last 10-15 years?
Andrea Pieroni: Our job is to take care of the production, organization, and promotion of concerts of artists here in Italy, both Italian and international. We are involved in all aspects, from managing the ticket office, right up to logistics, technical issues, transport, hotels, promotion of the event. When we sign up to work with an artist, the artist only needs to focus on going on stage and playing his music. Everything else connected to the organization of a concert, a tour, is our job – 360° of music if we’re speaking about live shows.
ZioGiorgio.it: So we’re not just speaking about the agenda of shows; you offer a “full” service?
Andrea Pieroni: We are producers, not just booking agents, and this means that we don’t just organize the dates. Yes, finding and organizing the dates and agenda are also part of our work and this means that we often set up the calendar for the shows but, of course, it’s just part of our work. Producing an artist in live events means taking care of all organizational aspects: audio and lights, hiring technical personnel to set the show up, scenography, logistics, transport, hotel, everything.
ZioGiorgio.it: Which is the most important aspect of a production as far as cost is concerned?
Andrea Pieroni: It all depends on what type of show we’re speaking about. Obviously, for an indoor concert, and therefore with a limited number of spectators, the biggest cost – apart from the artist’s cachet – is that of technical material, such as audio and lights. On the other hand, there are an incredible number of costs for open air concerts: other than lights and audio, which are obviously in proportion to the size of the venue they will be playing at (the bigger the venue the higher the cost), you also need to consider all the infrastructure for the audience, such as chemical toilets, bars and restaurants, safety, etc. In any case, the best reply to your question is that the fundamental important variables to costs are: cachet of the artist and audio/lights/stage.
ZioGiorgio.it: Some years ago promoters were usually seen as “tag-alongs” of record companies, while now things have changed completely: the record industry is undergoing a crisis and has had to reorganize to enter heavily in the live music business…
Andrea Pieroni: Personally speaking I’ve never felt like a record company tag-along, in fact, when the record business was at a high I always considered records and CDs as a means that artists use to promote their tours. We need to remember that the greatest satisfaction for the maggiority of artists is to be on the stage in front of their fans…
ZioGiorgio.it: In fact, in record contracts, live music has become quite important, the contracts are now more a complete package that includes all aspects.
Andrea Pieroni: I immagine that new record contracts include these aspects, I’m not really involved in that part of the record industry, but maybe for new artists, who knows…
ZioGiorgio.it: So your relationship with the record industry hasn’t changed?
Andrea Pieroni: No, we work every day with all the record companies, and relationships are perfect. Things are good.
ZioGiorgio.it: On the other hand, what effect has internet had, are there any new marketing strategies?
Andrea Pieroni: Internet has really helped marketing and promotions, because it helps to reach large numbers of people in a short time, almost immediately, and with lower costs compared to previous promotional costs used until 10-15 years ago with “traditional” method. We must consider, however, that promotional costs still exist but are now used for other sectors.
I’m a great fan of the internet, and so I prefer to spend the same amount of money I used for posters around Milan for an ad campaign on the internet.
I think that the results are much better, and you can see it from the number of tickets sold. When we announce a concert – even just on our website – which has about a million of single clicks a month and a newsletter with more 400 thousand subscribers, it’s easy to see how many people we can reach…
ZioGiorgio.it: I suppose that ticketing and logistics are now easier to handle compared to before, when ‘real’ tickets had to be sent out by post.
Andrea Pieroni: It was a real nightmare: printing the tickets, sending them out to the shops, and you never knew if they were going to be sent back, if you were going to get the money for them. Now, with the web ticket office everything is really easy: it only takes one click to find out how many tickets have been sold, the money goes straight into our bank account – simple.
As I was saying, with the newsletter and the website most of the tickets immediately after the announcement of the concert. In my opinion, the idea of posters is obsolete, even if we can still see a great number around Milan announcing concerts.
ZioGiorgio.it: It’s a bit of a pity that real tickets don’t exist any more…
Andrea Pieroni: And that’s the downside but, with ticketone we have created fan tickets so that for certain events, those who buy a ticket can also buy a fan ticket, with a surcharge of course, but you get a real ticket as you say. We realized that these tickets are important and so we decided to provide this extra service. And to demonstrate that I know and appreciate how important real tickets are, I’ve still got mine from the Clash concert in 1981!
ZioGiorgio.it: I was looking at the concert calendar for the next few months on your website, and being a true rocker, I was pleased to see that there are a great number of hard rock concerts in June. How are ticket sales going?
Andrea Pieroni: Fantastic. We expected to sell about 20 thousand tickets for the Aerosmith concert, but we’ve already sod 30 thousand, so I think we should reach sales of about 40 thousand tickets, if we consider that there’s still a month to go before the concert. This is really incredible because it isn’t the first time that we’ve brought Aerosmith to Italy, but we’ve never had these results, we reached figures of about 20 thousand, 22 thousand. The last time they were here was at the Heineken Jammin’ Festival and if I remember right we sold about 22 thousand tickets. Of course, they haven’t had a concert in Milan for quite a while and this may have certainly had an effect on the requests for tickets.
But let’s not forget the rest of the day! We’ve put an important show together because there are some important supporting bands such as Alter Bridge and Extreme, making the event a special one for lovers of first class American hard rock.
ZioGiorgio.it: Speaking about big festivals, I noticed that you are only working with Sonisphere. So it’s true that big festivals don’t work here in Italy, while in the rest of Europe they really do well…
Andrea Pieroni: With regards to Live Nation we’ve been spending and investing for many years…
ZioGiorgio.it: But 30 thousand tickets already sold for Aerosmith is an important figure, I think it’s more or less the same as you got before for festivals..
Andrea Pieroni: Yes. If you want to set up a festival for three or four days with different bands the costs start to get quite high, and so economic payback is also important. It’s always difficult to make a profit. It doesn’t make sense to focus on festivals if it means running at a loss of hundreds of thousands of euros every year.
I’ve realized that maybe Italian people are not interested in seeing the headliner in a mix of 10 to 15 groups all in the same day, and they prefer to see their favourite artist in an individual concert.
Climate could also have an effect. In Italy festivals are obviously held in the summer, in June and July, when it’s really hot in in cities and people are often away on holiday.
ZioGiorgio.it: The crisis is still hitting us, but live events seem to work quite well. And this is quite a curious sociological fact isn’t it?
Andrea Pieroni: In the past three or four years, our ticket sales have been increasing each year, and I think that 2013 was our best year, with regards to ticket sales.
So if we’re speaking about concerts I can honestly say that we haven’t really been affected by the crisis, also because during crisis periods people need to enjoy themselves and can usually find the money to go to a concert, because they really need a couple of hours to take their minds off things, and going to a concert would do this.
ZioGiorgio.it: Interesting because tickets are not so cheap. Productions are becoming more and more complex, and the last concerts I’ve seen were incredible as far as technical, lights, audio and scenography aspects are concerned.
Andrea Pieroni: Yes, productions are becoming really important, above all for open-air concerts in stadiums, where costs are really important.
I must say that on average, ticket prices here in Italy are higher than in the rest of Europe. In any case, going to a live concert of artists such as Metallica, Robbie Williams, One Direction, Aerosmith, is more expensive than football matches for example. Why complain about 60 euro for the Aerosmith concert with the important music history they represent and the productions they set up, and not be surprised to pay 150 euro to see a football match such as Milan-Inter at San Siro. I honestly think the price of a ticket for a football match is more scandalous than 60 euro for the Aerosmith concert.
ZioGiorgio.it: I think that you agree that we are losing the ‘average’ touring range that used to be more present…
Andrea Pieroni: The average to low range is suffering a little due to the crisis with regards to figures, in my opinion because if people have to spend their money on a single concert, or just a few each year,they prefer to spend for these important artists that they have been dreaming about seeing for a long time.
I think that this is more evident however in the summer because during the winter, in venues and clubs such as Alcatraz, with concerts for 2,000 to 2,500 people, the results are good.
ZioGiorgio.it: I get the idea that you are also a hard rock and metal fan. Reading names such as Metallica, Aerosmith, Black Sabbath I realized that the groups that attract the biggest audiences are always the same, the ‘dinosaurs’ of rock/metal who will, sooner or later, become extinct.
Andrea Pieroni: Well, Metallica are still quite young – about 50 – and have more years still left, while in fact, Black Sabbath and Aerosmith are starting to age a bit. (laughing)
ZioGiorgio.it: Who do you think will take their place? How do you decide to bring a new top act to Italy?
Andrea Pieroni: It’s difficult for us to decide whether an artist is a top act or not, because it’s up to the market. We can assess if Italy is a good market for the artists, but we can’t push them on the market. When the ‘older’ bands stop playing, the public will automatically look for something else, because live music will never die or lose its attraction. Alongside the bands we have already mentioned, there are others such as System of a Down, Slipknot and Rammstein, these are just three bands that are not so young either, that could take the places of the ‘dinosaurs’.
But I don’t just want to speak about the old dinosaurs of metal and hard rock, the same can be said for all types of music. If we look at pop, a lot of artists and bands who fill stadiums for concerts come from the 1980s, such as U2, Depeche Mode, Roger Waters, so there are no big changes in pop or mainstream either. With the exception of Muse, for example, there are no ‘young’ names that come to mind that can take the place of artists from the 1980s.
ZioGiorgio.it: So what about One Direction?
Andrea Pieroni: OK, but this is an example of generational phenomena that will last for a year or two, I don’t think it will last much longer than that, just like for Take That, Spice Girls, phenomenon for a few years…
ZioGiorgio.it: What do you expect for the future? What do you see for Live Nation and the music business in general?
Andrea Pieroni: The music business, just like all industry sectors, tends to move towards globalization. For music artist concerts have become a priority – since it’s obvious that they are selling fewer records – and so they want to be paid more and more in terms of cachet, production and promotion. It’s also clear that we need companies that can deal with this type of economic costs, well-structured and with capital to invest.
We’re all in it for the money, but in the events sector it’s not difficult to lose money, even big amounts. This means that if the company that does this type of work is a multinational with branches and reps all over the world it’s one thing, but if it’s a single promoter – even a good one – who’s losing the money from his own pocket, well that’s different…
But I think that what we’ve just said is part of everybody’s life, not just in the music world, globalization is now in every single sector and small artisans in any type of work are starting to disappear, so I think that the future for the music business is looking better for agencies like Live Nation.
As far as concerts are specifically concerned, I really don’t see the possibility of going back to independent promoters, ‘self-men’ who organize concerts. There is still and probably will always be a small niche market, but you need important backing to be able to deal with large numbers for stadiums or you won’t be able to carry things off.