I’m sure it was meant to be a compliment.
“Amplify should become LNN — the Leiweke News Network,” a friend told me at a recent music industry event. “You’ve become the go-to mouth piece for the Oak View Group.”
Uhhhh….thanks?! It’s true that our readers simply can’t get enough Tim Leiweke; that every story we do on the Oak View Group generates double the page views of most other stories. I’ve even come up with a Leiweke writing style — it’s a short and punchy pacing system that mixes inevitable success and matter-of-fact righteousness. Leiweke likes to make bold, definitive (and sometimes off-the-wall) statements. As a writer, it’s my job to queue them up in order of shock-value, dish them out individually and then move on to the next proclamation without every fully vetting the first. Just trust me guys….better yet, trust Leiweke. He’s got this.
Take his latest security initiative, Prevent Advisors. Leiweke has hired two former Green Berets and ex-NYPD Police Commissioner Bill Bratton to protect venues and entertainment districts from the next generation of threats, which now includes bomb-wielding drones. Yes, deadly drones, controlled by terrorists, equipped with explosives and ready to kill. If anyone else were to spend so much time talking about drones you would laugh them off, but when Leiweke says it, you can’t help but look up into the sky and think “Oh my God, death is coming from above!”
I saw it happen when he was interviewed by Billboard Senior Editor Jem Aswad. Leiweke brought up the drone threat, and Aswad seemed a bit shaken. Leiweke senses Aswad’s nervousness and amplifies it to a 10 in front of the audience and just owns the guy. The rest of the interview belongs to Leiweke, Aswad is just there to serve up softballs. That’s the challenge of writing about Leiweke — how to you objectively report on someone who always seems to be the smartest man in the room? How do you challenge him without having your ass handed back to you?
I don’t know. Nobody knows, that’s the problem! For starters most people can’t even wrap their head around what the Oak View Group actually is. Trying to put OVG into a box seems like a bad idea — the whole point is that Leiweke sees inefficiencies and opportunities that others don’t, so trying to “figure it out” is a trip down an inescapable rabbit hole.
More importantly, I have no idea of what he’s using to determine success and failure. What does it mean for the Arena Alliance to be a success and worthwhile in 2017? How many sponsorships does Dan Griffis have to sell at Narrative for it to be considered worthwhile? I have no idea!
Throughout the year, Leiweke has been making all of these announcements about the Oak View Group, and all we can do is nod our heads and say “Wow. I have no idea why he is doing that, but wow.” The latest wow moment was his hiring of veteran journalist Ray Waddell, who left Billboard after 30 years to work for Leiweke.
Yes, it’s quite impressive that Leiweke has lured away Waddell, but what are they up to? I’m in the media space and I can’t figure out what he’s seeing that I don’t. That segues to the other challenge of covering Leiweke — if I ignore his progress, I might miss out on some opportunity that I’m not aware of now, but might present itself down the road.
That’s how Leiweke keeps us all hooked. He dangles shiny things in front of us and says “I bet you want to be part of this too” and “Wouldn’t it be great if we could accomplish big things together?!” He leaves you holding on to something you don’t fully grasp — you just know that he believes in you. And if the world’s greatest confidence man believes in you, then you sure as hell should believe in yourself. Besides, what if it comes true? What if, man! It’s Leiweke for Christ’s Sakes!
As I’ve said before, having Leiweke back in the U.S. is a net positive for the entire entertainment industry — we need dynamic and vocal leaders to stand up and champion the work we do. Perhaps that’s the challenge — Leiweke is the person most responsible for teaching me to believe in the power of live entertainment. And having covered him for a decade, I’ve come to realize that much of my world view is shaped by observing him and taking notes.
Bottom line — covering Leiweke is difficult because I tend to agree with his world view, and more importantly, I’m not so subtly cheering him on. And I’m definitely a bit intimidated/star struck by the guy, who is much smarter than I and knows far more people. Instead of challenging or scrutinizing him, I am more comfortable observing him, writing down what he says, and then serving it up to the hungry masses. It’s my job to relay his message to my readers so they too can come to understand him and make their own judgments. And while it might not happen in 2017 or even 2018, eventually, it will become apparent if the great Oak View Group experiment is a success or a failure.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Leiweke, it’s always to take the long view. What’s confusing today will eventually make sense in the future. And more importantly, don’t take everything Leiweke says literally. He’s just working the room. Watch how he does it — you could learn something.