RAY ON PRODUCTION: Oak View Group Media & Conferences President Ray Waddell kicks off the annual Pollstar Live! conference. (OVG photo)

With 2,000 attendees, Pollstar Live! had largest attendance ever

Pollstar Live! kicked off Tuesday at the Fairmont Century Plaza hotel in Los Angeles with its annual Production Live! day of panel discussions, networking opportunities and an opening-night reception.

“We have weather like this at home,” said Oak View Group Media & Conferences President and Tennessee native Ray Waddell about inclement weather that drenched Southern California in recent days. “We just call it rain.”

The precipitation may have slowed attendee arrivals, but by the afternoon the main ballroom where panel discussions were held was near full. Close to 2,000 attendees were expected to attend the conference, which concludes today.

Slotted between the Grammy Awards and the Super Bowl,  the conference marks the world’s largest gathering of global live entertainment professionals and the 35th annual Pollstar Awards, held Wednesday night at a packed Wiltern Theatre. They are the only peer-voted awards in the live entertainment industry.

This year’s Feb. 6-8 conference had increased capacity at its new venue the Fairmont Century Plaza in Los Angeles and rode the general wave of success for the live entertainment industry at large.

“I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Gary Smith. He was a driving force behind Pollstar and Production Live,” said Waddell, referring the longtime Pollstar exec who died Jan. 20, 2024. “We sort of dedicated this week to him. He had the foresight to have a day about production and I’ve jumped on as it’s been a passion of mine.”

Waddell said in the more than 30 years he spent at Billboard, he developed the live touring beat, which had been treated like “the stepchild of the business when compared to the record business.”

“But now touring drives the train. It’s the most important part of it and kind of the most important people I think are the production folks that get, in my opinion, the least amount of credit and do the hardest work.”

Waddell said one of his aims for this year’s confab was facilitating more efficient communication between the touring artists side and the production people who make the artists’ magic happen.

“What I hear is that the people on the artists’ team in the offices dream up these great plans, and then the working folks who have to actually go out and do it and they don’t really talk,” he said. “So, we got a panel about that. And then another thing I wanted to do, was have an artist and tour manager Q&A, which we’ve with with Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks.”

Waddell and later panelists noted that post-pandemic turnover on the production side of touring has created opportunities for new entrants with passion for the business and an eagerness to learn and do anything necessary to make a show come off well.

“It’s created some opportunities for this whole new group of leadership and growth,” he said. “I’ve watched it happen and it’s great to have this young blood and I really believe in this new generation of leadership. You can’t be on the road, doing what y’all do, without working your ass off. Word travels fast and is a small business in a lot of ways. Reputation is everything. If you’re not good, you’re not gonna last. So, they work hard; they have new ideas. They’re not set in their ways of doing things. They’re open minded, and it’s way more diverse in a lot of ways. I’d rather have a lot of great people that look all kinds of different ways. God bless them. I’m glad they’re out here.”