Powerline Entertainment’s Dave Hart started off the Pollstar Live! panel by telling an anecdote about Todd Rundgren’s response to an interview question about why he was recording a lot of EDM music – “Well, my audience is dropping like flies.” 

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Photo: Barry Brecheisen

Classic Rock

Hart said, “It was a little scary to read that and realize that, here’s Todd, a major classic rock artist, and he’s worried about his audience going away. My concern, representing Ringo, is how do you keep people who love classic rock coming to the shows?”

Encouraging artists to make a connection with fans goes a long way. APA’s Steve Martin talked about how Leon Russell revived his career by recording an album and touring with Elton John in 2010.

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“When you get [Russell] relaxed he tells these amazing stories about how he met Bob Dylan … and when he was a session player for the Wrecking Crew,” Martin said. “I said to him, ‘It’s important to convey some of those [stories], talk to the audience and make that connection. You play this set like the bus is double parked and you’re going to get a ticket. You don’t say hello, goodbye, thanks, anything. We’ll do all these agent tricks and we’ll double your audience and double your money, but you have to get them to come back.’

"He started telling these great stories. People loved it. They came back to hear the stories as much as the music.”

Performing with Elton didn’t hurt either. A lot was said during the panel about attracting ticketbuyers with great tour packages.

“I think that you need a one-plus-one-equals-three,” AEG Live’s John Valentino said. “And sometimes one plus one just equals two. Journey is an excellent one. They always come up with a new package. … Even when I see these bands for the umpteenth time, I’m more of a fan now.”

If a classic rock artist gets the chance to perform with a contemporary act, they can’t forget to play the hits.

ArenaNetwork’s Tina Suca reminisced about seeing Cheap Trick open for Foo Fighters last summer.

She said, “That was the wrong audience to play deep tracks. … Then at the end people went crazy when [Cheap Trick] played a few of their hits. It was their opportunity to remind people how great they are.”

Hart asked the panelists how far classic rock bands can go with lineup changes, noting that fans have continued to embrace Journey after Arnel Pineda took over as lead vocalist. Martin brought up Foreigner, whose only original member is Mick Jones, and Live Nation’s Jason Stone talked about the success of John Mayer teaming up with members of the Grateful Dead as Dead & Company. Not all bands can go on without their original frontmen.

Hart noted, “ELO tried to go out without Jeff Lynn and it was a disaster. … So that’s one way to keep them coming,­ go away for 20 years.”

Once you get classic fans to come out to your venue, make sure that it has comfortable amenities, including upscale F&B, nice bathrooms and close parking.

Stone said it’s important to realize that classic rock fans aren’t the same people that they were 25 years ago.

He said, “You need to cater to that and allow for the comfort factor..”

What about attracting new fans? “You reinvent yourself,” Valentino said. “Artists with film scores … And look at what Hall & Oates has done with ‘Live from Daryl’s House.’”

Or sometimes you just need to give people what they want. One example is Brian Wilson’s Pet Sounds tour, where “tickets are flying out the door.” 

Martin said that doing soundtracks and commercials helps. He noted that Scorpions’ hit “Rock You Like A Hurricane” was featured in a cookie commercial in 2014 and that the band’s tour is doing the best business they’ve done in years.

Suca added that offering affordable tickets means people can afford to bring their families.

Oh, and one more tip – TourDesign Creative’s Bill Kittle stresses that artists need to have current photos and videos.

“Getting new content will do you a great service,” Kittle said. “Spend a little to make a lot.” Later in the conversation he again recommended up­-to­-date content and said, “Your local promoter will love you.”