Venue calendars are filling up farther out and quicker than ever forcing booking managers to make increasingly tough decisions as holds stack up and the number of clear availabilities shrink.
Add to that the persistent challenges of event staffing, turnovers, continued COVID cancellations, coordinating on-sales and strategic marketing and you have the makings of one of the most anticipated panels of the 2022 VenuesNow Conference: Converting Holds into Sellouts & Navigating Content Through Uncharted Waters.
Moderated by Starr Butler-Jemison, senior vice president of content development and private events for OVG360, the panel includes: Kate Des Enfants McMahon, executive vice president of Messina Touring Group; Matthew Morgan, UTA Nashville agent; Michael Owens, vice president of programming for the Moody Center; Brandon Pankey, vice president of business development and operations for Live Nation Urban; and Aaron Pinkus, agent at Wasserman Music.
“In the past year, we went from 0 to 200mph – and there are speed bumps,” McMahon said. “Some vendors are still not fully staffed so things that took a week, now take two weeks. Planning ahead is imperative – last minute initiatives just aren’t happening.”
McMahon is a 30-year veteran who has helped Messina Touring Group do blockbuster tours with heavy hitters as George Strait, Kenny Chesney, Taylor Swift, Eric Church, Ed Sheeran and Shawn Mendes.
She is looking forward to gaining intel as much as sharing it: “Since I’m squarely in the hillbilly format,” McMahon admitted with affection, “I’d like to learn if other formats are seeing changes in sales patterns – we saw strong closes this summer. Was that true for everyone?”
McMahon said wrapping Chesney’s “Here and Now 2022 Tour,” which sold $1,296,079 tickets, was a recent highlight. “When we kicked it off in April, we had been on sale over 900 days – that kept me up at night – but it also was even better than I could have hoped for.”
Pinkus is a respected music industry executive and also holds the titles of adjunct professor at Drexel University, co-founder of the TOURSTAR app, artist manager for Brianna Cash and executive director of the nonprofit D.A.S.H.
He said the pressing topic for the panel will be “working toward the new normal post-pandemic amidst elevated inflation and the largest content deluge in the history of touring.”
The takeaway for attendees: “Hopefully a reminder that Rome wasn’t built in a day, that our vision has to be long-term and that there will always be setbacks. Being adaptable and avoiding insular thinking is the way forward.”