Darren Pfeffer says the key to MSG Live’s robust 2019 is constant innovation in how the company books its venues.
Pfeffer spoke in an on-stage interview at the VenuesNow Conference on Tuesday,
MSG Live operates the 5,600-seat Hulu Theater at MSG, the 2,894-seat Beacon Theatre; the 3,000-seat Chicago Theatre; 5,8000-seat Radio City Music Hall; LA’s Fabulous Forum, which holds almost 18,000 people; and the 20,789-seat mothership, Madison Square Garden.
When Pfeffer joined MSG Live, the company was booking the venues together. Pfeffer split them up so that one team is responsible for one venue, another team responsible for another.
“It’s been a great success,” he said. “We make more calls this way instead of waiting for our phone to ring.”
There is still synergy between the teams, and no one is working in the dark. “When it works to book an act in several of our venues, we try to make that happen, but we never want to get into a situation where we say a venue is a must play,” he said.
Pfeffer is happy with the continued sellouts from resident artist Billy Joel. He cited Joel’s ties to New York City as one reason that Joel can play so often in the arena, as well as guests that Joel brings in, such as Bruce Springsteen. Springsteen showed up for Joel’s 100th show at the Garden unannounced, and they turned “Born to Run” into a duet.
He’s just as pleased with Jerry Seinfeld’s residency at The Beacon Theatre, which as grown from 12 dates in 2016 to 24 dates in 2017 to 44 dates in 2019 (Seinfeld took 2018 off).
Pfeffer is also happy to do one-offs, with artists like Brandi Carlile and Vulfpeck, both of whom are playing MSG for the first time this month.
Social media plays a big part in MSG’s success. Pfeffer spoke about how camera crews will follow Carlile from her hotel to the venue and said it will be posted online.
Being physically nimble in the venues and being able to think outside the box also play a part. Pfeffer described how his team turned the Hulu Theater into a merch shop for Travis Scott, who is known for his heavy merch sales.
He said that the most challenging part of his job was the calendar. “We book over 300 nights a year,” he said. “Finding spots for everything we want to book can be difficult.”
Pfeffer reported that business is up significantly in almost every MSG venue so far this year.
“We’ve had an amazing run over the past 12 months,” he said.