Live Nation Entertainment, the world’s dominant concert promotions, ticketing and artist management company, faces hurdles on several fronts in the near future, as it seeks to regain its footing following an eventful 2010.
In a letter this week to investors, Stifel, Nicolaus & Company analyst Ben Mogil outlined five areas where Live Nation could be challenged in the coming months, in part due to the conflicts the company could experience as it tries to negotiate lower guarantees to artists whose tours it promotes.
Mogil wrote, “The following risks are more specific to Live Nation: 1) Ability to obtain the promotional rights for key artists on economically viable terms for concert promotion in major markets. 2) Sponsorship availability 3) Continued ticketing contracts with new venue owners/operators. 4) Renewal of long-term leases Live Nation has for venues which it operates but does not own 5) Accurate assessment of an artists’ appeal in the marketplace.”
The last point could be particularly tricky for Live Nation, which has leaned heavily on established acts that may not hold the same appeal they did 10, or maybe even five, years ago. Last week at an investors meeting hosted by Liberty Media Corp., which owns nearly 15 percent of Live Nation, Executive Chairman Irving Azoff said that among the tours the company is counting on for strong ticket sales in 2011 include Christina Aguilera, Van Halen and Fleetwood Mac, among others. In the case of Aguilera, whose 2010 tour was abruptly postponed this past spring, Azoff has posted several messages on his Twitter account in an effort to boost interest in the singer and hype her upcoming movie, “Burlesque.”
“With Live Nation offering financial guarantees or minimums to many of the artists it promotes, a miscalculation in terms of the appeal of an artist can lead to financial losses,” Mogil wrote.
At the same Liberty Media event, John Malone, chairman of Liberty Media, gave his support for the management team at Live Nation, but also said internal conflicts since the merger played a role in Barry Diller’s decision to resign his chairmanship of Live Nation’s board of directors. A new chairman has not yet been named, but Azoff is considered a possibility for the post. Diller will remain on the board.
Azoff, a legendary and occasionally controversial figure in the music industry, added to his accomplishments this week when he was named to the board of radio and billboard advertising company Clear Channel Communications. Azoff is taking over a position on the board vacated by Kent Weldon, a partner in the equity firm THL Partners which co-owns Clear Channel. Weldon reportedly stepped down from the board to make room for Azoff.
“The Board of Directors has not yet determined which Committees of the Board, if any, to which Mr. Azoff will be appointed,” Clear Channel said in an Securities and Exchange Commission filing. “Mr. Azoff will not be compensated for his service as a member of the Board of Directors, but will be reimbursed for expenses incurred in connection with such service.”
The move could further help Live Nation with advertising and sponsorship opportunities, which is a key area of growth for the company in 2011, according to President and CEO Michael Rapino.
“The company believes that music sponsorship at $900mn is underweight compared to other live events: Sports is at $10bn (to be fair the latter includes venue sponsorship and equipment sponsorship for consumer awareness),” Mogil wrote.