On the Scene at Pollstar’s Impact 50 Party With Agents for Billy Joel, Ed Sheeran, More

Roy Trakin

Oak View Group co-founders Tim Leiweke and Irving Azoff were among the luminaries on hand to mark Pollstar’s inaugural Impact 50 list recognizing the executives shaping the present and future of the live concert industry. Live Nation president/CEO Michael Rapino was named “Most Impactful” on the list. The event was held on May 16 high above the Sunset Strip at Harriet’s, the rooftop lounge at West Hollywood’s 1 Hotel.

OVG acquired Pollstar, the long-running Fresno-based trade magazine, in July 2017 along with its companion monthly Venues Now, and moved the operations to Los Angeles. Indeed, if an asteroid landed on the rooftop, the live concert touring business would cease to exist as we know it, with the likes of longtime agents Louis Messina, Arthur Fogel, Denis Arfa, Marsha Vlasic, Rob Prinz and others circulating and schmoozing.

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“We’re definitely looking to put a flag in the ground as far as the whole live concert business goes,” said Oak View Group President Media & Conferences and trade magazine veteran Ray Waddell, who oversees editorial from his hometown of Nashville. “Live entertainment is the most important part of the entire music business right now.  This is the launch of what will become an ongoing franchise.”

The list, which can be read here, features nine categories like “The Influencers,” “The Visionaries,” “The Deciders,” “The Builders,” “The Disruptors,” “The Caretakers,” “The Engagers,” “The Negotiators” and “The Maestros.” A true sign of how the industry has changed can be found in the list’s 16 women honorees, among them pioneer Marsha Vlasic along with WME’s Michele Bernstein, Live Nation’s Ali Harnell and Kelly Strickland, Cara Lewis, CAA’s Allison McGregor and Marlene Tsuchii, Messina Touring Group’s Kate McMahon, UTA’s Natalia Nastaskin, AEG’s Debra Rathwell and Goldenvoice’s Stagecoach booker Stacy Vee to name just a few.

“I feel very fortunate to be a female who was able to walk through the door and achieve what I have in my career,” said Vlasic, a legendary agent whose clients include Elvis Costello, Neil Young, Iggy Pop, The Strokes and current tout Cage the Elephant. “It’s no longer a boys’ club! I paved the way in the ‘70s for today’s generation – women like Corrie Christopher Martin, Cara Lewis, Stacy Vee. I love seeing my women succeed.”

“This is an incredible honor,” echoed Goldenvoice’s Vee nearby. “Just look around at everyone who’s here.  It’s a real community of people I consider my friends.”

“It’s fun because I get to see so many colleagues I grew up in the business with,” added Rob Prinz, ICM Partners Co-Head of Worldwide Concerts. “Who knew 20, 30, 40 years go we’d all be in the same place with all these incredible people who have had such an impact. I’m just happy to be here.”

Dennis Arfa, in the midst of a victory lap with his longtime client Billy Joel’s record-chattering Madison Square Garden residency, joked, “I’d rather be among the 50 richest people in the touring business,” when asked about the Pollstar Impact honor. “I don’t really pay attention to awards. I appreciate the accolades, but what really gets me off is selling out stadiums. There’s nothing like it. When my artist is getting those ovations, I’m right there feeling it, too.”

With the concert business booming, and the likes of Live Nation’s Rapino and AEG’s Jay Marciano leading the way, Oak View Group’s Waddell insists a trade magazine can still provide a vital resource for the industry it covers. “We’re all about giving people the tools to help them,” he told Variety. “Ticket sales, rather than streams, are the truest barometer of fan passion and commitment.”

Paradigm Talent Agency’s head of global music Marty Diamond was also making the rounds, excited about an upcoming tour by David Gray, his very first artist at Little Big Man, marking the 20th anniversary of the release of his breakthrough album, “White Ladder.”

“The way time passes blows my mind,” said Diamond, also pumped about Sara Bareilles’ upcoming shows at Madison Square Garden and Hollywood Bowl next fall, and how Ed Sheeran continues to “conquer the world.”

Still, even with all the OG agents and promoters in the room, it is the youngbloods who enthrall Diamond, citing Paradigm’s Sara Bollwinkel for her work with Billie Eilish (with partner Tom Windish) and Carrie Christopher Martin, who brought in Imagine Dragons. “We have a great team,” added Diamond. “I’m thrilled about the young people who work in our office and continue to find amazing new things.”

As for the live concert business, the outlook seemed pretty bullish among those celebrating. “If you look at how humans have experience music over the course of history, recorded content is just a blip on the radar screen,” said Waddell. “Live has always been there since one caveman beat on a stone better than another.”

(Pictured, from left: Paradigm’s Marty Diamond, Oak View Group/Pollstar’s Ray Waddell; Paradigm’s Corrie Christopher Martin, CAA’s Allison McGregor, Concerts West’s John Meglen, Live Nation’s Arthur Fogel, AGI’s Marsha Vlasic and Keri Meglen)

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