As one of Australia’s foremost concert promoters, a veteran of the industry, and falling just outside the Top 10 of BRW’s influential rich list for his continued efforts, Michael Coppel is undoubtedly a key part of the Australian Music scene, which Live Performance Australia predicts will grow to an $830 million industry in three years time.
Following Live Nation’s acquisition of his titular, Melbourne-based company, Michael Coppel Presents, in April 2012, the Australian has since risen to become th President and CEO of Live Nation Australasia, and in a recent interview with Billboard, Coppel opens up about the crowded market, the state of music festivals in Australia, and Live Nation’s future plans.
Live Nation Australasia have big business on their hands with a long-awaited return from Black Sabbath for a string of arena shows, as well as The Presets, Carole King, and Linkin Park. But the first order of business is bringing pop star Pink to Australia in June for her Truth About Love tour, and the 42-date stint is already doing blockbuster business.
Kicking off June 25, 2013 at the new Perth Arena, Pink has already sold more than 450,000 tickets, including a staggering 16 dates at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena due to fans stampeding the box office.
As Coppel himself points out, for the size of Australia’s 22 million population, that’s some staggering figures for a single tour. “We’ve only got 22 million people and if you count New Zealand, we’re under 30 million,” Coppel tells Billboard. “Every other big market in the world, whether it’s Germany or the U.K, certainly the U.S. and Japan, are at least two times that number.”
“But because we’ve got a very high level of ticket prices and a very strong dollar,” he continues “we’re extremely attractive to acts touring here because they can make as much money here at the top level as they can in North America and more than they can make in Europe. As a touring market, Australia bats very high financially and on enjoyment. We rank very highly.”
Coppel adds that while the “triple-A” acts are doing great business touring Australia, many of the “‘B’ and ‘C’ tours are struggling because people are being really selective,” says Coppel. “Promoters realise if they don’t have a Pink, Radiohead or Coldplay, or acts at that level, or a Soundwave or Stereosonic on the festival side of things, you’re really not going to see (sales) you would have counted on 12 months or two years ago.”
The market has certainly changed, and with the increase of the Australian dollar compared to the rest of the world’s financial mire, the increasing demand for international acts wanting to tour Australia and profit is high. But along with those demands comes increasing risks and pressures for Australian promoters, who are wary of unnecessarily inflating the prices and starting a bidding war.
It was a major theme at a panel at the Brisbane BIGSOUND conference last year, where Splendour In The Grass co-founder/new Falls Festival partner Jess Ducrou, Aly Ehlinger of international promoters C3 Presents, and Big Day Out’s Ken West (to name a few) all chewed the fat over the high-rolling prices of booking acts, and the economy game of the music fold. West in particular poignantly noting “I don’t want to risk my house every year.”
Coppel seems to agree. “With promoters, you get pushed to [for example] buy 12 shows, because that’s the only way an act will come down here and make it work. Well, probably six or eight might be the ones you want to buy. The artist might be worth 2,000 or 4,000 (tickets) in a market, not 6,000 or 8,000. That’s a mistake a lot of us are making.”
But a mistake made for the value of “holding onto relationships,” says Coppel, “you don’t want to give in to competitors. Usually, if you don’t agree with what’s put forward, the agent or manager will look somewhere else and find someone who does say ‘yes’ and tour-up even if it doesn’t make sense ultimately for the band to come down here.”
The Live Nation Australiana CEO also discussed the saturated festival market, where even the big players like Falls Festival, Homebake, and Big Day Out have felt the squeeze of a fiercely competitive market, hoping to avoid repeating the heavy festival death toll of 2011.
The latest victim being Peats Ridge Festival, which despite a successful 2012 showing and nearly a decade’s experience, fell over after its finances collapsed; with the MEAA accusing the organisers of owing “hundreds of professional musicians, performers and production crew” thousands in unpaid debts.
“We’ve so many festivals and they’re all dependent on a competitive lineup, even acts who aren’t traditional festival acts are being drawn into that world,” says Coppel. (A good example being Splendour In The Grass’ Jess Ducrou saying that Coldplay were “not a festival band” after their name failed to help sell out last year’s festival.)
“That creates an issue about longevity for artists. Artists can’t keep coming back and playing festivals, they have to build their audience,” Coppel explains. “The money that’s available in the festival market keeps driving the prices up, which keeps ticket prices high. That’s a big factor. In general though if the economic things could work themselves out, you’d have to argue it’s a strong market.”
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