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Las Vegas, February 2000

I attended the Concert Industry Consortium 2000, organized by PollStar Magazine, which was held at Bellagio in Las Vegas in early February.

SIN CITY: It was pretty much what I expected; which is to say, a lotta flash but not exactly my cup of cappuccino. The flat desert, hemmed by distant mountains all around, has an allure and beauty not unlike the showgirls: striking yet somehow unreal. The Strip is a remarkable site.

HOTEL: This property is latest and greatest in Vegas, at least until the next one is completed. Owned by the undisputed King of over-the-top, Steve Wynn, it had to outdo in every way his previous endeavors, and it does. It's a very nice hotel by nearly any standard. Design savvy is everywhere. It was not endlessly expanded and/or patched together, it was conceived and built as a giant whole. 3500 rooms, a casino big enough to hold more than two super-Wal-Marts, convention and show facilities, multiple pools, and a shopping arcade to rival Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.

The first (but not only) attention grabber is an 8-acre lake fronting on the Strip that offers a spectacular fountain show, with water rising as high as 200' feet in stunning patterns, computer-synchronized to music and using laser lighting and other special effects that are truly mesmerizing. These shows go off every 15 or 30 minutes, and there are many different shows. I hated myself for thinking of this, but I'm sure the planners did: it reminded me of a human-created version of Old Faithful. It was that level of attraction. As a traffic-stopper, it works.

Also interesting about Bellagio is the way it heralds its offerings. Next door at Caesar's Palace, a sign bigger than my house promotes an upcoming title fight. The Mirage (another Steve Wynn creation) has a huge video sign trumpeting Siegfried & Roy. Across the way, a sign for George Carlin. Down a bit, Wayne Newton, and so on. At Bellagio, the lighted signs read: "Monet" "Cezanne" "Degas" "Picasso". And inside, a marble-walled gallery emulating the famed Uffizzi in Florence features major original works by the artists listed on the marquis.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to see the resident stage show, "O" by Cirque du Soleil which I'm told is absolutely astonishing. It incorporates a huge stage and large pool, high-wires, gymnastics, and costumes and production of Broadway quality.

EVENT: This was the eleventh annual CIC. All previous conventions had been held in Los Angeles. It is the premier annual gathering of live-music industry senior executives. PollStar (Poll=promoters on-line) Magazine is the primary trade publication for the concert industry. A weekly magazine, it provides current box office results for shows of all sizes, plus routing information for most touring acts, industry news, etc.

It was certainly appropriate for this gathering to take place in Las Vegas. Guaranteeing an artist $1000.00 or $250,000.00 isn't all that different than dropping bucks at the craps table.

ATTENDEES: The people who attend each year are the top promoters from around the country, plus agents, artist managers, record companies, and talent buyers. In recent years, the concert industry has seen heretofore unimaginable consolidation. This led to a certain camaraderie and a sense of exciting challenge. And as at all insider confabs, there was a lot of grousing about one's lot in life. There were many legitimate issues and a few real off-the-wall complaints.

WORKSHOPS & PANELS: There were separate meetings for Record Company execs, Arena Managers, Artist managers, and the like. Workshops were offered on subjects such as "Indie Promoter Survival Strategies," "Country Music Touring," "Latin Music goes Mainstream," "The role of colleges in Artist Development," "Club Tours: Beyond the Bar," "International touring perspectives," "Record Company Tour Support in the new century," and "Casino and hotel Talent-buying Strategies."
I participated in a panel about "Creating a Special Event" and attended one on advanced internet strategies. Panel discussions took place on "Consolidation" and a very lively one entitled, "Introduction to Whine Appreciation." A fascinating session was about "The Art and Pain of Settlements" and featured 3 CPA's, a promoter and a talent buyer. To give you a sense of the participants, the CPA's involved were the business manager for the band U2; and the tour accountants for Phish and The BackStreet Boys.

KEYNOTE: Last year, this speech was given by Bob Sillerman, head of SFX, the mega-conglomerate that is eating up all the major promoters, venues, and ticketing companies in all the major markets (for instance, he bought Don Law Presents, Boston.Com, NeXT Ticketing, Great Woods, Harbor Lights, Tea Party Productions, etc. for $90 million). SFX' actions were -and still are-making major tremors in the way music business is done. This year, the keynoter was a guy most of us didn't know: the upstart manager of Korn, BackStreet Boys, Limp Bizkit, and Ice Cube. His message was that despite temptation, we should be leaving money on the table so that there's still an industry to support us in five years. To me, it seemed very obvious; but it's a message that clearly needed to be heard in that room full of industry bigwigs.

INDUSTRY AWARDS PARTY: This was held at the House of Blues/Las Vegas which is part of the Mandalay Bay Hotel. The awards ceremony was hosted by HOB founder Dan Aykroyd and his Blues Brother partner, Jim Belushi. It featured several hilarious video segments written and produced by comic Elayne Boosler. Surprise award presenters included Mr. Las Vegas himself, Wayne Newton. Examples of awards included "Club Tour of the Year," "Most Creative Stage Production," "Theatre of the Year," "Talent Buyer of the Year," "Small Arena Tour," "Large Arena," "Best New Venue," "Artist Development Executive of the Year" and so on. After the awards presentation, we enjoyed a buffet dinner and a terrific show by the Blues Brothers.

It was a great experience to take part in the CIC again: to connect in person with my counterparts at the top level of the business, make new contacts, and share experience with those at my level from other parts of the country and world. I found the sessions confirmed what I knew, more than they taught me, but there's a value to that, too, especially when you work in an out-of-the-way corner of this big land.
As always when I travel, I was glad to come home.


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