After eight months of hard work, the Billboard Touring Conference kicks off next week in Beverly Hills.
What’s the biggest difference over previous years? Well…it’s me. I joined Billboard as Senior Correspondent for Touring and Live Entertainment in March. Since then, I have been working with Liz Ehrlich, Mary Rooney and our Events Team as well as our Publisher, Lynne Segall, to build on the past success of the touring conference and to create an event that capitalizes on the Billboard brand and crystalizes our two great strengths — breaking big news stories and connecting artists and tastemakers with today’s top promoters, agents and concert professionals.
The Billboard Touring Conference isn’t the biggest gathering in the space, but it’s hands down the best value and our attendees repeatedly tell us it’s the number one conference for doing business and connecting with key decision makers. This year’s Billboard Touring Conference is a snapshot of where we are as an industry, right at this moment in time. Our two days of programming are so much more than a collection of panels and talking heads — this year’s conference is a catalyst moment for the touring industry at a time when it finds itself at a crossroads over concerns about event safety, ticket sales and the future of live music. It’s a chance to be part of a personal, engaged discussion that will shape the future of live entertainment.
But before we dive into programming, I need to say something about this year’s location (which is not New York City.) I understand that the move out west in 2016 earned mix reviews and last year’s hotel was not everyone’s favorite. Here’s what you need to know — this year we moved to arguably the best hotel in Los Angeles, the Montage in Beverly Hills. Not only is it an absolutely gorgeous property with a huge outdoor plaza to enjoy the LA sunshine (next week is scheduled to be sunny and 75), but we are located in the heart of LA’s music industry. The offices of WME, APA and Paradigm are a short walk, while Live Nation, CAA and UTA‘s HQs are a five-minute cab or Lyft ride. The hotel is blocks away from Rodeo Drive and walkable to dozens of incredible restaurants, bars and retail stores. I’ve lived in LA for 15 years and I have yet to find a hotel that beats the Montage (and yes Dan Steinberg, the hotel bar is totally on fleek and will make for an incredible hang).
Back to programming and our incredible interviews and Q&A sessions. I’ll be sitting down with AEG Live Chairman Jay Marciano for an intimate conversation that is sure to generate headlines as we discuss the future of marquee events like Desert Trip and Coachella, AEG’s plans for New York and of course Marciano’s take on the hyper-competitive landscape in the era of the #VenueWars.
We’re also excited to announce the first joint interview with LiveStyle’s Randy Phillips and Gary Richards by Billboard’s own President John Amato, and conversations with Airbnb’s Chip Conley, Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment’s Brett Yormark and Friends at Work’s Ty Stiklorius, who is sitting down with Billboard’s News Editor Hannah Karp to discuss her long career in music and her passion for activism.
It’s also important to me to have some of the top artists in music and live entertainment participating in this year’s conference and there’s really no bigger name in dance music right now than producer and artist Diplo, who joins Billboard Dance Founder Matt Medved to discuss Major Lazer’s film Give Me Future about the group’s historic 2016 concert in Cuba. We’re also going to have intimate discussions with Lil Dicky led by Dan Berkowitz from CID, and Billboard’s very own Chelsea Briggs is closing out this year’s conference with an artist development panel featuring rising EDM star Matoma. That’s not all — we are thrilled this year to host comedian and musician Reggie Watts, as well as Hasan Minhaj from the Daily Show with Trevor Noah, who is hosting this year’s Billboard Touring Awards.
There is not a weak point in our two days of programming — this year we’re hosting panels that tackle both the rise of Latin music and the incredible staying power of Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, who will participate in a lively interview with promoter Louis Messina and Billboard’s new West Coast editor Melinda Newman.
And for the first time ever, we’re organizing a Hip-Hop Power panel led by Billboard’s Gail Mitchell that features Brent Smith from WME, Cheryl Paglierani from UTA, Omar Al Joulani from Live Nation, Robert Gibbs from ICM, Erin Larsen from Paradigm and London Entertainment’s Dre London.
And of course we have educational panels like Dina LaPolt and Lou Taylor‘s highly entertaining “Your Tour Wasn’t Profitable: Why the *Bleep* Should You Get a Commission,” as well deep dive sessions on ticketing led by WME’s Michele Bernstein and featuring Ticketmaster’s David Marcus, an International Touring panel led by AEG/ConcertsWest’s John Meglen, our festival panel led by Lee Anderson with Paradigm and our branding panel led by former Billboard staffer Andrew Hampp who now works with MAC Presents. No touring conference would be complete without promoter and agent panels and this year’s speakers include Jim Cressman with Invictus, Darin Lashinsky from NS2, Eric Milhouse with Nederlander Concerts, Darren Pfeffer from MSG, Don Strasburg from AEG Presents, Danielle Madeira with Another Planet Entertainment, Andy Somers from APA, David Zedeck with UTA, Jay Williams from WME, Mitch Rose with CAA, Rob Prinz from ICM and Tom Windish with Paradigm.
We’re also excited to be partnering with Everytown for Gun Safety, the largest gun violence prevention advocacy group in the country, to bring together top touring-industry professionals to talk about how fans can stay safe, plan for emergencies and empower themselves and others to take actionable steps toward a political solution to gun violence. Our panel includes Sarah Tofte, Director of Research and Implementation at Everytown for Gun Safety, along with Tour Manager Lalo Medina, X Ambassadors lead singer Sam Harris, Kevin Lyman from 4fini Presents & Warped Tour and Cory Meredith of Staff Pro.
Plus we’ll continue to have our TRAX sessions, Agency Forum and Awards show, as well as networking opportunities to connect our attendees. I’ve worked so hard to put this thing together and am really proud of the programming we’ve come up with this year. I want to thank everyone who has already registered for this year’s conference and supported me in my move over to Billboard — I am forever grateful.
See you in Los Angeles!
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