Marshall Ruminates on Ticket Prices and Arena Amenities

30 Aug

Barrie Marshall, Rachel Thomas and Terry Pouchain backstage in the Paul McCartney camp at the Consol Energy Center (VT Photo).

REPORTING FROM PITTBURGH — Venues Today sat down with Barrie Marshall, Marshall Arts, at the last booking of Paul McCartney’s 15-truck, eight-bus Up & Coming Tour Aug. 18 and 19 at the grand opening of the Consol Energy Center. Marshall, who sold 49 percent of his company to AEG, is a veteran of the industry and a free thinker, working with all promoters and several artists, chief among them being McCartney.

This is the last of Paul McCartney’s dates for this tour. How has it gone?

He played two Hollywood Bowls, Miami, Puerto Rico…25 shows since the beginning of the year, drawing 600,000 attendance. We work with all promoters. A promoter has to take great pride in what he or she does and live in the community. I think the independent promoter, who lives in the community, will come back. It will come with fresh music, different loyalties. Artists are very loyal to those who are with them when they are not successful.

The climate for touring is not good. Have you had to make any adjustments this year?

It’s not good, no. I think we all had a wakeup call. We’ve got to remember we’re in this business because we’re lucky enough to serve brilliant and talented artists and people are kind enough to pay quite a lot of money to see them. Music is memories, in my opinion. We have to remind ourselves we’re in an economic recession and most people have had a realignment of employment and revenues. Agents, artists, managers and promoters have to look at the ticket price and what’s affordable and readjust their thinking about the income that can be made. It’s an interesting problem because all artists try to achieve a better show than they played last time. They therefore usually look to high definition video and production levels to make it better for the audience, which is admirable. However, when you strip away the lights and the LED screens and all that, it’s all about the artist’s music. I think people go to see concerts to physically enjoy being in the same room with the artist. That’s what concerts are about, a pure relationship between the person and their artist.

How can we improve that relationship on tour?

One is to be clear what we charge for tickets and what the add-on charges are. Irving Azoff has put the Eagles out in an all-inclusive ticket like the old days. That’s not a bad idea. I did that in the old days and I’m certainly looking at it now. The issue is not necessarily the price of the ticket…it’s making it clear how much you’ve got to pay as a face value. This one is $250 down to $59.50, but that’s without the service fees. The facility fee here is five percent. I think it will be all inclusive in the future where I can make it work by sitting down with the people in charge and deciding what that number and what that fee are and then incorporating it into the ticket, hopefully using an economy of scale.

Has Paul cut back in any way on this tour?

Not really, yet. He’s very conscious of the downturn, but it hasn’t honestly affected his business. We’re proud to say he does give a great show, two and a half hours long every night and four decades of music. He is an event. He doesn’t play repetitively in the same markets. His main instruction is “Barrie, I want to go to new markets and new buildings I haven’t played before.” And here we are in Pittsburgh.

What are the pros of playing in a new building?

It’s exciting because people who go to concerts or sports events are being given a much better experience for the money. It’s great to open new buildings or be in early because in the last 15 years, new buildings have been designed not just for sports, but for music and sports, for entertainment in general, which has been a terrific change. Arenas are a challenge because they are trying to compete with theaters. In a theater, it’s an occasion. All arenas have lots of physical similarities, which is why production costs money – you are creating a theater inside the arena. One of Paul’s big things is, “I want the people in the nosebleed seats up in the back of the building to see me like I’m right next door to them.” Hence he has very large screens, larger than most, on his new show.

Are arenas themselves different and is your philosophy in touring different in different parts of the world?

Absolutely. When record companies were making a lot of money, they spent a decent proportion of it experimenting on new bands and made it back on the ones that made it. Now, music is sold on the Internet. The consumer makes up his own album. So when you promote a record or new body of work you have to take each country separately and work each country according to their culture, the way their music is portrayed on radio and television. The record companies used to put out albums internationally. Today, most records come out on different dates, often because the artist can make appearances live or with the media. It’s like movies, which require the major film stars to turn up for certain premieres. And France, for example, has a policy of only playing a certain amount of foreign music on their radio stations to protect their own culture. I think it’s maybe 60/40 in favor of their own artists. It’s allowed the local artists to prevail. When you go to China and some other countries, they don’t necessarily know the Beatles. It was a long time ago.

Has Paul played China?

No, but we’re looking at it; we’re looking at going. It’s up to Paul. He makes all his own decisions. It will be nice to go if the time is right and hopefully he may go.

What are the future plans for Paul?

This is the last show of the summer. There may be more dates. I’m going to stand below his window and see if he’ll come out and play some more. I’m sure there will be. He loves playing. This band is so harmonious, it’s a joy. He’s having a great time. And the other thing, and he’s always wanted this, he’s gaining a younger audience as well, which is great. — Linda Deckard

Contact: Barrie Marshall, +44-20-7586-3831

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