Players from across the concert industry will descend upon New York City this week for the sixth annual Billboard Touring Conference and Awards. The 2009 event will return to its usual Midtown locale at the Roosevelt Hotel on November 4 and 5.
Ray Waddell, the executive director of content and programming for touring and live entertainment at Billboard, has played a major role in programming the conference and awards since the annual event was established in 2004. However, he is quick to share the credit for the event’s growing success.
“It’s been my baby since year one,” said Waddell about the conference in a recent interview with TicketNews. “But we have a great events team that takes on a number of conferences during the year. They really make it happen as far as execution.”
During its two days, the conference will feature eight panels and more than a dozen roundtable discussions that canvas various aspects of the industry, as well as the closing Touring Awards ceremony on the evening of November 5.Rock musician Ozzy Osbourne and festival creator Kevin Lyman are among those receiving special awards at this year’s ceremony.
Apart from the awards, the annual keynote speech remains one of the featured events at the conference. Last year, KISS rock star and merchandising master Gene Simmons delivered the keynote in his typical show-stopping fashion.
This year, the one-hour segment will be shared by four speakers and focus on one of the industry’s biggest and most unexpected stories of the year: Michael Jackson. Waddell will moderate the one-hour keynote, which will feature insight from four men, including AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips, who helped develop — and then salvage — the “This Is It” concerts.
“I feel like our panels and sessions are the strongest thing we have going for us,” Waddell said of the 2009 program. “We not only have some of the greatest innovators and thinkers, but we have the top players in the industry, as well.”
Much of the conference’s programming is filled in with current events and key issues affecting the industry. However, Waddell pointed out that panels on artist development and the ticketing industry are among those that have become recurring segments for the Touring Conference.
The 2009 ticket industry panel, titled “Let ‘Em In,” will go beyond issues on the primary market. In addition to executives from Ticketmaster and Live Nation, secondary market representatives StubHub CEO Chris Tsakalakis, Barry’s Tickets president Barry Rudin and TicketNetwork CEO Don Vaccaro are also among those slated to speak.
Given the number of hot-button topics to be addressed, Waddell expects the ticketing panel to attract a lot of attention this year. Calling the secondary industry “impossible to ignore,” he said that his goal isn’t to take sides in the debate. “I just try to foster an environment where there is a discussion with both sides involved,” Waddell explained.
For Vaccaro, who has served as a Billboard panelist before, the conference is just as important as the conversation it fosters. “The Billboard Touring Conference is even more important after the dissolution of the Concert Industry Consortium,” Vaccaro pointed out. “If you want to be in the live music business, you have to be at the Billboard conference.”
The push to bridge the gap within the industry and its related sectors is reflected across all levels of programming for the Touring Conference. Event promoters, festival organizers, venue operators, artist managers and more are all a part of the two-day discussion.
“We want to be inclusive in terms of the industry,” Waddell explained. “Primary market, secondary market, merchandisers, artist managers, big venues, small venues — they all contribute to this big machine that keeps [the touring industry] rolling.”
Full registration for the conference will be open through November 3 at the regular price of $525. Walk-up registration will also be open through the conference itself for $575.