Posts Tagged ‘Michael Rapino’


October 24, 2013

Really why write when Seth does it so much better. Easier just to copy and share. A must read below.

In case you didn’t know, Seth was our guest speaker at Aspen Live in 2004.  Over the last 17-years, we have also welcomed the likes of Malcolm Gladwell (Journalist Researcher), Michael Moore (Film maker), Al Ries (Marketer and first to use the word Branding), Sergio Zyman (first ever CMO, came up with the title while at Coke where one of his claims to fame was “New Coke”), Jon Spoelstra (one of the leading sports marketers and author of Marketing Outrageously), The Innocence Project (CEO + a man who served 17-years for a crime he didn’t commit), Tim Bronsan (VP, Business for Major League Baseball), Steve Martin (President, The Agency Group, NA), Marc Gobe (Leading Packaging expert and author of Emotional Branding), Michael Rapino (CEO, Live Nation), Ian Rogers (now CEO, Beats Music), Chris Sacca (Google, now tech investor), Nic Adler (Owner, The Roxy and CEO, Adler Integrated), Dede Gordon (Leading Trend Researcher), Irving Azoff (CEO, Azoff Music Management), Bob Lefsetz (The Lefsetz Letter), and the list goes on.

Don’t be left in the dark.  Aspen Live 2013 dates are December 12-15 at the St. Regis, Aspen.  Register today at  See you then…again, please read below.

When free collides with powerful

One of the lessons that Microsoft taught Apple and Google is that ubiquity can be incredibly profitable.

By changing file formats, Microsoft forces every person in an organization to upgrade Word to the current state, because one of the reasons to use Word is that everyone else uses it. This isn’t often true for products in the real world–cars and whiskey and apartment buildings inevitably gain variation, whereas software tools are pushed toward a common standard–a new form of monopoly.

The strategy at Microsoft was always to put in power user enhancements, though, so that the power user (the weird one, the one on the edge, the one choosing to care) would hear about the upgrade and insist that everyone else on her team would upgrade as well.

Free, though, turbocharges the movement toward ubiquity at the same time it sabotages the power user. When the ‘upgrade’ is free, when the new version requires everyone to upgrade and is free as well, that’s sort of irresistible. The problem is that free destroys markets even faster than monopoly does, because it’s incredibly difficult for competitors without the other income streams to find a reason to compete.

And so, the new version of Pages from Apple is widely reviled by those that want a powerful tool. And the new version of Keynote, a program I use eight hours a day, is on the same path. It has the same one-way path for data structure (the new version forces all old users to upgrade if they want to collaborate) but it abandons a focus on professionals. Features and the goal of building for a craftsman are exchanged for the cross-platform ease and gimcracks that will please a crowd happy enough with free.

There are few deadends in the software business. When a platform gets dumb, the power users push for someone else to come along and make a better one. And when the monopolist gets greedy (as every dominant word processor vendor has) then the people who care take a leap and move to another tool.

In the meantime, the users who made the platform work in the first place spend a lot of time cursing the darkness that used to be light. Too often, power tools in software turn into entertainment platforms instead. There’s more money in it.



April 8, 2013

Watching last night’s ACM Awards reminded me of a conversation a group of us were having at February’s Pollstar Live Conference.  Everyone was asking what panel to go to.  I said I was headed to the Country Music panel and a member of our group blurted out, “why, to hear Brian O’Connell tell us all how great he is”.  At the same time, myself and a very prominent agent from Nashville said, “He is great”.

Ok so he dresses and travels (a tour bus with more large screen TV’s than your local Best Buy) like a rock star.  If you helped develop the number of superstars he has, you could to.  Let’s name a few…Jason Aldean, Miranda Lambert, Toby Keith, Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan, Rascal Flatts, Brad Paisley, Brooks & Dunn, Tim McGraw, and many more.

Brian created Live Nation’s “Mega-Ticket” which gives country music fans the chance to purchase tickets to all country shows playing their local amphitheatre at a significant discount.  It works great.  Most recently, he has launched The Faster Horses Festival which Brian described to Ray Waddell of Billboard as a “three-day hillbilly sleepover”.  The event takes place July 19-21 in Brooklyn, Michigan and you can find out more at

So you want to be in the country music business, you better know Brian…and Louis Messina @ AEG too, but that’s for another newsletter.


The Aspen Live Conference, 2013 (December 12-15 @ The St. Regis, Aspen) will be going on-sale this Wednesday, April 10th at Noon Eastern / 9am Pacific  Last year’s highlights included talks by festival streaming guru and CEO of Springboard Productions, Hank Neuberger, Andrew Dreskin, CEO of Ticketfly, John Boyle from EDM giant, Insomniac, and Q&A’s with The Lefsetz Letter’s Bob Lefsetz interviewing Live Nation CEO, Michael Rapino while Square Peg Concerts’ Dan Steinberg took us Inside the Agent’s Studio with The Agency Group, NA’s President, Steve Martin.

This year’s line-up is shaping up nicely.  Due to demand, we are capping this year’s attendance at 200.  You can find out more by following us on Twitter: @aspenlive Hashtag #aspenlive, Facebook:, and Instagram: #aspenlive.  To register Wednesday, go to  The site also has information on special hotel rates, ski/snowboard rentals, activities and more.

Don’t miss out, space is limited and prices go up the longer you wait.





November 4, 2011

Concert and event promoting was once an art and can be again.  The money was second to being part of something bigger than ourselves… that made people happy.  Something important.  From a show’s announcement, to where it played, how it was promoted, marketed and produced, every detail became a new adventure.  Just as the mood and vibe of a recording makes a great record, the experience of the fan, entertainer/artist, crew, and producer make a great event. 

We all must draw the line now.  It is time for innovation…for investment and reflection.  The experience…and as Michael Rapino would frequently say when first taking the reins at Clear Channel Entertainment (now Live Nation), the fan’s “value proposition”, must be strong and obvious.  There is a reason why Cirque Du Soleil currently has seven shows running in Las Vegas alone.  It is about innovation…investment in the creative process…art, production, marketing and design coming together.

Last night I met-up 3-buddies from our business.  We discussed an old friend we have worked with for years.  There was a time when this person genuinely seemed to love the job…working for one of the legends that has since retired.  Now, the best words to describe his adopted work style, ass hole!  He cares not about the art, the fan, the experience…only how much money he can squeeze from each date.  Time to retire dude!!!

The line we all need to draw starts with ourselves.  Look at what you are doing.  If your only motivator is money, go into banking where the real money is. 


Weekend Roundup…Late Again

November 3, 2011

Live Nation’s 3rd Quarter – Today Live Nation reported 3rd quarter revenue and earnings didn’t live up to expectations.  Revenue fell 2.5%…with concerts seeing a 7.3% drop due to lowered attendance.  Earnings were flat.  CEO, Michael Rapino said “We believe the stabilization of consumer demand for live events will continue into 2012 and, looking ahead, we are increasingly optimistic about our opportunities. Given the continued fan demand for concerts and a growing supply of artists hitting the road, we are optimistic about the future growth of the global concert industry.”  What do you think?

Billboard Conference – Next Wednesday, November 9th, I will be moderating the Tour and Production manager panel at the Billboard Touring Conference  The panel has some of the biggest names on the road (Richard Coble, Tour Manager, Britney Spears and Mariah Carey, Jake Berry, Production Director, U2, and Walking w/ Dinosaurs, Steve Lopez, Tour Manager, Widespread Panic, Max Loubiere, Tour Director, Billy Joel, Steve Lawler, Live Nation, and Steve Powell, Tour Manager, Jason Mraz and Avril Lavigne).  The question, what do you want to know from these guys?  Please send and questions or idea to

Concert Greening Project The North American Concert Promoters Association (NACPA) has underwritten a report by REVERB on “Concert Greening” with the stipulation that it be shared for free with the rest of the industry.  You can see it now at  Thanks to Ben Liss for sharing!

Steve Jobs Book Lefsetz said Walter Isaacson “missed the target” I don’t agree.  You hear from all sides of Steve’s life, the good, bad and ugly.  I would suggest you read it…and key-in on Job’s obsession with creating art over all else.  His goals were based not just changing the world, but changing the way “the masses” see art in everyday life.  For us lucky enough to work with art and artists, his passion should motivate us to strive harder toward perfection. 

Hope to see you in New York!



October 20, 2011

The other day there was a great comparison made between Live Nation and AEG.  To paraphrase; “Live Nation is a concert promoter who happens to own facilities while AEG is a facility owner that happens to own a concert promoter”.  Oversimplification, probably…yet it has merit. 

Michael Rapino and company didn’t collect the assets of Live Nation; they inherited them…or at least most of them.  Part of Live Nation’s strength is also its weakness, real estate.  Specifically the under-performing amphitheatres they seem stuck with through long-term contracts with municipalities, sponsors, vendors, and/or a combination.  Although Live Nation did shed (pun intended) a few of these venues like Nashville and Columbus, the problem persists in Florida, California, the Carolinas, and the like.  The company’s profits seem to be tied to touring which would explain why the venues can be even more troublesome. 

As a concert promoter, Live Nation uses its facilities’ income (ticket rebates, parking, facility charges, F&B, rent, sponsorship, etc) to entice more shows to go their way (concert promoter over facility owner).  Meanwhile (w/ exceptions of course) Tim Leiweke runs AEG and AEG Live as separate entities.  Randy Philips’ organization makes offers to tours and shows based on revenues those events can produce.  They can’t (under most circumstances anyway) pay over 100% of the show’s gross to an act without the ancillary revenue.

Maybe another oversimplification, but Live Nation’s business model seems very similar to 6 Flags Amusement Parks.  Both based on volume over the individual sale.  6 Flags keeps attendance up with season passes costing a similar price to a single-day entry, along with constant discounting and couponing (maybe they make $ from the $.05 they can redeem from their Coke can coupons), with the goal to make their money on parking, F&B, merchandise, upgrades, sponsorship, etc.  Same look at Live Nation, although in their case, they are giving much of the ancillary income back in guarantees to the performer (s). 

What’s the best model, it depends on what business you’re in.  Public companies have the advantage of Wall Street capital to fund operating expenses.  The problem of course, they do eventually have to make a profit (something Live Nation has yet to do).  Since AEG is a private company, it is hard to say how much money they make.  At the same time, no one would believe that a billionaire like Phil Anschutz would stand-by and watch money hemorrhage for too long.  I would also argue that Tim Leiweke is one of the most capable executives in our business and would have a similar view as Phil. 

No one really knows what the future holds, but if Irving and Rapino’s plan is to take Live Nation private, it looks like a good one from the outside.  Hopefully then, the playing field will be more level…or at least look that way.


September 30, 2009

Every news outlet reported today on GM’s announcement to kill another of their brands, Saturn.  It seemed by everything I’ve read that Penske buying Saturn was a “sure thing”, but seems they’ve had second thoughts.  Now the brand that pulled-off one of the marketing coups of the century, by turning a car recall into a party with their first “Saturn Homecoming”, is closing after 23-years in business.  Guess GM had to make the move, but doesn’t it make you wonder why they were running so much advertising for the brand knowing they could be scuttling it any minute?  That’s what free government money gets you.  No accountability!  Maybe we are seeing a little of that in our business too.

One of the lessons they teach in the military is to “Prioritize Long-Term Over Short-Term Goals”.  They preach the same lessons in most MBA programs I’m sure, although it would seem that the folks on Wall Streethave a little trouble keeping those straight.  Anyway as an example in LT. CMDR. Jon Cannon’s book, “Leadership Lessons of the Navy Seals”, he talks about tracking a dozen terrorists in a particular region of the world.  If the terrorists knew the Seals were watching, they would pull up stakes and move.  If you take out only one or just a few of them by moving too quickly, the troops risk of missing the others and giving them a chance to re-group.  The solution of course is to wait for the opportunity to take out all 12 terrorists simultaneously.

In our business today, we are seeing a lot of short-term versus long-term thinking and this is no way to succeed!  To go back to the military for a second, sure there are times when short-term is all you can think about.  Trying to survive in a fox hole surrounded by enemy troops during the Tet Offensive would probably be one of those times.  But once that enemy has been pushed back past a safe perimeter, it is time for a long-term plan to win the battle…then the war.  That was probably our problem in Vietnam, and now.  The U.S. didn’t understand the loses Ho Chi Minh was willing to take.  They didn’t really calculate how many years the Vietnamese people had been at war, how extensive their tunnels, supply lines and fortifications were.  Instead we just had what we believed was a long-term strategy, “Stop Communism”.   The American people really didn’t understand what that meant. 

Back in the day, record labels let artists take time to develop.  An act wasn’t expected to break until their third or fourth album.  Promoters, managers, and agents used to look at a band and say “in 10-years they will be playing arenas.”  Now we expect that by an artist’s second tour.  Jazz Fest, Coachella, Warped Tour, all great businesses that we admire.  All lost money for their first few years.  Sure we all get lucky sometimes as Tom Petty once said, but mapping out your long-term goals with those you work with will give everyone a sense of purpose and direction.  Bump in the road, you can change course but the long-term plan is still the mission.  There is nothing worse for moral than your team hearing about your company’s plans, directions, new products, etc, from someone other than you.  How many times lately have you heard from employees at certain companies, “what do I know, I only work here?”

Quarterly earnings are for chumps.  Sure leaders have to pay attention to them, especially at a publically held company.  But for a second think about the beginning of Jack Welch’s tenure at General Electric.  Forget whether you think he did a good job, whether he cooked the books, whatever.  At first, Welch was far from the shoe-in for the job.  Once he got the job, he was going to take GE in places it had never been before and at the same time sell-off parts of the company that made them who they were (such as small appliances).  Selling Wall Street on Welch’s long-term plans for GE wasn’t easy.  You can imagine the look on investor’s faces the first time they heard the words “GE Capital”.  Making investors and Wall Street believe in his long-term plan is exactly what Welch did.  He showed how with investment (we won’t call in sacrifice) in the future… and education to his team, the street, investors, the press, and anyone who would listen, the long-term goals of transforming GE could be achieved thereby making it more profitable for years to come.   

No reason why you can’t try that today.  Instead of the accounting person in your office asking for your yearly or quarterly numbers…how about a 5-year plan?  And not just the numbers, but how you plan on achieving those numbers?  When Michael Rapino first took over what is now Live Nation he spoke a lot about “value proposition”.  Michael told us how he was going to re-invest in the customer experience.  Then Wall Street and quarterly numbers got in the way and the new message became…”well everyone has at least one or two artists they want to see in a year”.  I don’t know about you, but the Value Proposition stuff sounds better to me. 

Speak with you soon…



March 2, 2009

Many of you have emailed regarding the positive spin I tried to put on the TicketMaster / Live Nation merger in the newsletter a few weeks ago  If the notes I received were actually from SEC regulators, the deal would never happen.  But of course they aren’t.  The hearings on Capital Hill are a near formality in my humble opinion.  The two companies would have never announced the deal if their lawyers didn’t think the merger would pass the “sniff test” both hear and in the EU.  Might they have to sell-off a few businesses to make everyone happy, sure…but this deal is happening and will close, so we might as well move forward.  You know that Irving and Rapino are….Tim and Randy at AEG too. 

It is interesting the way others view our business.  For instance, pick-up the March 2009 issue of Fast Company.  In it are “The World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies”.  As you would expect, the usual suspects are there; Apple, Google, Amazon, Zappos, Disney, Warner Music Group, CAA…wait, WARNER MUSIC GROUP and CAA!!!!  And not just WMG and CAA, both AEG and Live Nation are listed as “Companies to Watch”.  Are we all missing something?  Are we too busy playing armchair quarterbacks to see that the time of innovation is passing us by? 

Truth is there are a lot of good things we can talk about.  WMG now has a merchandising company that makes a profit not only for them, but for their artists too.  CAA teamed clients Will Ferrell and Tony Hawk with Sequoia Capital to create web brands and  AEG continues to invest in our business by building state-of-the-art facilities and Live Nation is about to pull-off one hell of a merger (too bad it probably won’t do anything for my stock). 

The time for innovation is now.  Just think about how many companies were started during the Great Depression.  Banks are going to be put under more pressure to give out business loans.  Have an idea, it is time to Move Forward!

Talk with you soon…