Industry Profile: Marsha Vlasic
By Larry LeBlanc (CelebrityAccess)
This week In the Hot Seat with Larry LeBlanc: Marsha Vlasic, president, Artist Group International
As a talent booking agent for more than four decades, Marsha Vlasic has a solid reputation for being a shrewd businesswoman who has done much in shaping the metal genre for the mainstream.
Scrappy, classy, and creatively inventive in her bookings, New York City-based Vlasic is unquestionably an astute judge of both the musical merits and business potential of her clients -- some of which, under her direction, have become music's biggest stars.
In 2014, Vlasic was named president of Artist Group International, one of the top independent booking agencies in the world.
Founded by its CEO Dennis Arfa three decades ago, AGI was acquired in 2012 by Y Entertainment Group, part of Ronald Burkle's investment firm the Yucaipa Companies. Vlasic’s jump to AGI with her clientele added even more industry clout to an already commanding agency.
Vlasic had previously served as the senior VP of Concerts at ICM Partners leaving the firm after a 5-year stint. She had joined ICM in 2008 after the agency acquired her boutique agency MVO (My Very Own) which she launched in 1993 following tenures at American Talent International, ICM, and the William Morris Agency.
She had returned to ICM with the intention to build up its contemporary rock music department.
At AGI, Vlasic represents Neil Young, Elvis Costello, the Strokes, Cyndi Lauper, PJ Harvey, Imelda May, Moby, Band of Horses, Cage The Elephant, Sheppard, the Heavy, Silversun Pickups, Regina Spektor, Moby, Iggy Pop, Romes, Devendra Barnhart, the Breeders, Mariachi el Bronx, and Butch Walker.
After 5 years at ICM Partners, you left in 2014 to join Artist Group International. Why did you decide to leave ICM?
Well, my reason for going back to ICM (in 2008) didn’t pan out. I thought that I was really not going anywhere. So I wanted to make a move.
You have said that you left because you wanted more of a legacy?
I did. I wanted to build a department. To build it strong. My philosophy, unlike some other agents, is not to steal bands from people who have worked really, really hard on a career; but to basically bring in agents. I have a great roster, and I don’t want to take something away from somebody, really. If somebody (an artist) is going to fire their agent, and they want to have a meeting then, of course, I would be one of the first to have a meeting. But, at this stage of my life, I would just like to bring in agents that have great clients and feel responsible for that.
How is this summer shaping up for your roster?
I don’t necessarily have full tours out this summer. A lot of my bands are mainly doing...I shouldn’t really say that. Band of Horses, and Cage The Elephant, they are doing festival dates. A lot of festival dates, and connecting the dots in between. Elvis Costello is doing two legs, which are looking good. And I have Cyndi Lauper with Rod Stewart, and that’s looking very well.
Your personal artist roster is so damn impressive. What does that say about your instinct in finding and developing talent?
I don’t know. I want to say that it’s luck.
Bullshit. You have an ear for talent.
I don’t know. Maybe, I am a well-rounded person. I don’t know what it is. I don’t go out and say, “Today is going to be a singer/songwriter day.” I can watch Band of Horses and just drool. Drool. And then I can watch Cage the Elephant and think, “My gawd.” Maybe, it is just that I like all music. Well, I can’t say all music. There have been people that have said to me, “How many acts do you represent?” I will tell you that I have never counted them. Never, never. And I have never not had time for an act. Not everybody tours at the same time. Not everybody’s demands are the same. I don’t know. I could take on 10 more acts right now.
Watch it, your phone line might start ringing off the hook.
I’m not saying 10 baby bands. The thing about baby bands which really started affecting me personally is that the agent is the first one to take the bullet. So I was like set up to fail. And I don’t like failing. I like failing if it’s my fault for failing. When the record company is not taking the record to radio because they don’t have a tour, and I can’t get a tour, I failed.
You look at a baby band or act, and you have to think, “Where are they going to be in 20 years?”
Exactly. When I used to see a band, I used to try and close my eyes and say, “Can I see this band on the stage of Madison Square Garden?”
Primarily meeting with a manager, and their client, it used to be, “We’re #1 in Akron.”
It doesn’t matter.
Today social networking moves faster than word of mouth of the past. Debra Rathwell (senior VP) at AEG Live told me that promoters have to look for a “sticky” factor. That we can look at an act that might have 9 or 10 million hits on YouTube, and it doesn’t mean anything. You can’t sell tickets on them, or put together a tour.
Yes, that’s true.
You have said that nothing was planned in developing your roster. Surely, you have thought, “I need a balance here.”
No. Really, I have always had an incredibly eclectic roster. There were times when I had Bob Dylan, Tracy Chapman, AC/DC, Ozzy Osbourne, and Metallica. Whenever an agent would say to me, “That’s not my niché,” I kind of would get a little angry at that because what does that mean? It’s not your niché. If you are into music, you are into music. Great artists, how could that not be your niché?
You belong to a generation which grew up with multiple styles of popular music. First on television and later in clubs, concert halls, and festivals
We did. I come from the Murray the K shows. I used to beg for money. I used to walk around the streets asking for money so that I could get enough money to buy a ticket because I didn’t have the money. Doo-wop was one of my favorite types of music at the time; the Paragons, and the Jesters. One of the first bands that I took on (as an agent) was Mink DeVille. To me, that was very doo wop-ish. My favorite Mink DeVille song was “Mixed Up Shook Girl.”
Did you fall hard for punk music when it happened?
Oh yeah. It was real punk. Elvis Costello was as punk as you can get. Lene Lovich, Wreckless Eric, Ian Dury, and Rockpile. I loved it all. Elvis and I are very close friends. We speak I would say two, three four times a week.
Many major American booking agencies in the ‘60s and early ‘70s didn’t prioritize their rock clients.
Well, back in the ‘70s is when I started. I went from ATI to ICM and I had one of the strongest rock rosters that there were at that time. I had Rush when Rush was considered a heavy metal band. I had Rush and Styx and I had all of the British Stiff stuff. So I don’t know.
You returned to ICM in 2008 as VP to head up the company's new contemporary rock division, right?
Right. Then I had Elvis, and I had Neil Young. And I had Styx and Rush. I think that I had Metallica then as well. I also had Anthrax and Biohazard. I always had metal.
It’s fitting you came to Artist Group International which has Metallica, Def Leppard, Megadeth, and Linkin Park.
Well, I have no history with Linkin Park and Megadeath.
But AGI’s roster resides on the hard rock side of the music street you have always been working.
These days how do you stay in touch with what’s happening with music on the street?
I don’t know if the street exists as much anymore. It’s sad but I would hesitate in going to see a brand new band at the Mercury Lounge that wasn’t associated with someone that I knew was credible. I don’t know if it can happen from the street.
You do have younger agents who are more street focused.
Oh sure, I have lots of younger agents. They go here, and there. But you do hesitate. What’s the right baby band to take? What is the best baby band to put your efforts into?
I do feel that it’s a good time for discovering new acts.
I don’t know if it’s a good time for new music in terms of rock. We are living in a pop world right now which I have nothing against. I’m sorry that I don’t represent any pop. It wasn’t deliberate, and I would be happy to take on a pop act. Although I did have Craig Bruck, while at ICM, sign Fifth Harmony. I think that we are just going to go through another cycle and see what happens.
How about electronic dance music? You book Moby and pioneered the way for EDM-styled festivals by organizing his Area 1 and Area 2 tours a decade ago.
I did more than Moby. (While the Marsha Vlasic Organization) I was in a partnership (in 2003) with Jimmy Van M (co-founder and president of the Balance Promote Group), in The Collective Agency which had Sasha, (John) Digweed, Sander Kelinenberg, Steve Lawler, and Junkie XL
While EDM may have been underground in the early ‘90s, the genre broke into the international mainstream a decade ago and remains one of the most popular genres anywhere. Still, so many music industry figures predict that the EDM wave has subsided in the U.S. But EDM is not going to go away.
No. I don’t think it’s going to go away. I think what has happened is that it (EDM) doesn’t deliver the same way. It’s hard to put these acts on a regular stage at a festival, and compete with a live band. So I think if it’s an EDM festival then one act outdoes the other in production which is their selling point, but if you put them up on a regular festival, they kind of sound alike.
EDM in North America may return more to club and warehouse spaces.
I think it probably will. But I think people will hesitate a moment to do the warehouses just because of the drug situation, and other problems like security, insurance, and all that stuff.
For decades, it was the labels that mandated when an act’s tour would happen, and how many dates it would be. But that’s not the case anymore.
No, that’s not the case. The responsibility...you know everybody passes the buck on responsibility, and it became sad to me. I wasn’t feeling good about myself. Why should I not be feeling good about myself because I couldn’t get a baby band a major tour, and yet the record company didn’t have to get the record on the radio? Didn’t have to get it into the stores. Didn’t have to do anything.
Still, tour planning sessions can be productive.
I love doing that. I love sitting down with the whole team. I think that you have to be in a room together, and looking at each other. This way people aren’t saying, “Well, that’s the agent’s jobs,” or “No, that’s the record company’s job.” No, you sit there and you talk about reality.
You also walk out sometimes knowing that someone is full of crap. They aren’t going to do anything.
Yep. Exactly Been there, done that a lot of times.
How do you first sit down with a manager of a baby band that you might be interested in? Do you ask, “What are you bringing to the table?”
Well, it all starts the same way. “Oh, we totally get it. We understand. We know exactly,” and that lasts about 10 minutes. For me right now, I’d gladly take on a baby band depending on who the team is. That’s how it is for me. I have to be surrounded by people who can do as much as I can.
Professional and responsible people who get it?
With the high profile roster you have, a manager of a baby band might be apprehensive in approaching you. How did you, for example, come to represent the Aussie indie pop band Sheppard?
Michael Chugg (executive chairman of Chugg Enterprises) came to me. I really loved the band, and I’ve known Chuggi forever, as everybody else does. But Steve Strange (co-founder of X-ray Touring in the UK) is going to do it, and he and I are really close, and good friends.
Sheppard is doing mostly Australian dates this summer
They are not coming to the U.S. yet. They have released new music, and the plan is just being rolled out now.
You also do represent your roster internationally, of course.
I have always done Japan, Australia, and South America. I personally don’t do Europe.
You work with other agencies there, including X-ray Touring.
With Barry Dickins (International Talent Booking Agency), X-ray, and with John Giddings (Solo Music Agency). People like that.
Today, it’s harder to develop a baby band or create a buzz around a tour even with mid-level acts. In past decades, radio might have done some of the promotional advance work. Today, you can’t count on radio.
You can’t count on them. It’s about the team. I still want to feel the pride of standing on the side of a stage seeing an act grow and seeing the audience grow. I pride myself in dealing with career artists.
Give me some examples of that growth happening.
I just experienced two amazing situations with two different artists. I started representing PJ Harvey about a year and a half ago. That was an introduction through Jeff Craft at X-ray in the UK. Polly and I hit it off immediately. We really, really did. But I had no guidelines. She hadn’t toured America in 10 years, and when she did the last tour, she had hated it and wound up firing CAA for it. So I had nothing to go by. I had a record (“The Hope Six Demolition Project” which debuted at #1 on the UK Albums Chart) that came out, and not much happened to it (in the U.S.). She did not believe in doing press or anything like that. And yet, I knew that there had to be something out there for her. During our first meetings, it was like, “Oh no, oh no, I don’t want to play beautiful theaters. I just want to play industrial spaces.” I started going out trying to fulfill her dreams, and I couldn’t. I knew that I couldn’t. Those venues didn’t exist, and to have promoters four-wall a venue not knowing what the business is going to be, nobody was going to take that risk. So I sat down with her, and I booked a tour that I felt that she should do. I think I did a great job in choosing the venues that wouldn’t offend her that badly.
What was the outcome?
We wound up having two dates that were not 100% sold out. Two out of 20 something dates. She did the longest tour that she has ever done of America. She loved every moment of it. We had brunch at the last date at the Greek Theatre in L.A. which was her second time back to L.A. on the cycle. She couldn’t thank me enough, and she couldn’t have been more appreciative of how great this was for her to come back to America this way. And I just went on my own instinct.
[Fresh off a Grammy nomination for Best Alternative Music Album, PJ Harvey embarked on her most extensive North American tour in over a decade to showcase her album, “The Hope Six Demolition Project.” Harvey's tour kicked off April 13, 2017, at Toronto's Massey Hall then trekked westward-- including an April 20th stop at New York's new Brooklyn Steel venue – until concluding May 12th at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. In August 2016 Harvey had played a pair of shows in Los Angeles, and New York, her first American shows in five years.]
Who is the other artist?
Regina Spektor. She had been off the road for over four years. She had had a child. She did a new record (“Remember Us To Life” in 2016). Changed management. I had to figure out, “Where do I put her? Is her audience still there? What do I do?” She had a 100% sell out tour including Radio City Music Hall (in New York City), and the Chicago Theatre.
So, to me, these are careers. These are careers that have been built.
How about handling booking for both a group and a group member who has a solo career? Like you did with the Strokes and its frontman Julian Casablancas, who has had a very successful solo career.
Well, that did not work, and I don’t do it anymore. The solo part. Because the band never felt like I was working for them.
Any opportunities for Julian, the band would be going, “How come we didn’t get that?”
No, it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work at all. Even when you sit there, and you couldn’t be more honest, and more open with all of them. I mean, the last meeting I had with the boys, they said that they didn’t want to use Julian’s name (laughing). If they are not accepting their lead singer as the reason why...
Are you still representing the group?
The Strokes, yes. Oh my God, yes.
The role of a talent agent has evolved from booking live dates and introducing artists to labels and, maybe, overseeing a film contract. Managers today are looking to agencies to help them explore and exploit other areas of the artist’s career.
We don’t have a 100% full-service agency. All the years that I was at ICM and William Morris (now William Morris Endeavor), full-service agencies, in those years bands didn’t necessarily require it, but I think that the hip-hop and pop worlds kind of changed all that. Those artists really do want a full-service agency. The clients that I personally represent, like the Strokes, don’t want to know from film. Don’t want to know from other things like sponsors, and things like that. Neil (Young) certainly doesn’t want to know about sponsorships or film for that matter. So it’s different. I think that it all has to do with each artist.
Artists in hip-hop and pop have largely embraced commercialism at the highest level.
Well, my son Mathew (Mat Vlasic, CEO of the Universal Music Group-owned merchandising company Bravado) did all of Kanye’s pop-up stuff (pop-up stores), and he did all of the Justin Bieber things, and Lady Gaga. He has been written about as being the one that is taking fashion and coupling it with merch but making it far more interesting than tour merch.
[A global, 360, full-service merchandising company, Bravado designs, manufactures and distributes merchandise. Founded in 1997 by brothers Keith and Barry Drinkwater, and acquired by Universal Music Group in 2007, Bravado has produced merchandising for the Rolling Stones, Guns N’ Roses, Eminem, Lady Gaga, Kanye West, and Justin Bieber.]
With dwindling music sales, artists to have had to make up the income from other sources. It has to come from somewhere.
Your other son Franco is a musician?
Franco had a band called the Sexy Magazines, and the High Class Elite. He’s now a DJ, and he’s opening a barbeque restaurant in Tribeca called Holy Ground in the Fall.
One of the things Chris Silbermann (a founding partner of ICM Partners) has said about you is that you are a good mentor.
One of the things (laughing).
A lot of people in entertainment won’t always help others. You are widely known for helping promising agents, and managers.
It could be the Jewish mother in me, whatever. The mother. The grandmother.
It’s a good business strategy as well. A way to build up relationships that could pay off down the road.
Well, yes. But it’s about who you are, and that is your personality. People accused me, for many, many years, of being that bitch. Being hard-nosed. Yeah, I’d fight hard for my clients, but I still had ethics, and you couldn’t take that away from me.
I didn’t want to play the “female card” with you, but I’m going to bring it up.
Yeah. It’s hard to avoid.
It is hard to avoid because while developing as an agent in the business you came up against a lot of chauvinism. Also around the time you started as an agent, the only two woman I knew about as agents were yourself, and Barbara Skydel, who began her career in 1968 as the assistant to Frank Barsalona at the Premier Talent Agency in New York.
There also was Jane Garrity (also at the Premier Talent Agency) There were three of us. Unfortunately, Barbara and Jane have not survived. But you know, I was just recently at a conference and there was this young girl who said to me, “So being a woman, you know, it is really hard,” and I said, “Hold on, this is 2017. How dare you say that. Who are you talking to? Is that like a stock thing you have been told to say? There are more women in our business than ever. There are woman agents, woman record company executives, woman publishers. No, you can’t use that (issue) as an excuse. That’s pathetic.” I got so angry at her.
When you started as a booking agent in the early ‘70s being a woman really was an issue.
It was true. It was definitely true.
At the same time, you were married with children and trying to prove that you could represent Deep Purple, Uriah Heap, and Rod Stewart. That wasn’t the type of thing that was readily accepted in the male-dominated entertainment world.
No. It was not. It absolutely was not. I had a great opportunity. I was incredibly blessed and I am thankful for the opportunity given to me at ATI to become an agent. Bruce Payne was leaving to manage Deep Purple. He thought that I was going with him as his assistant. I was told that I could stay, and be an agent.
How did you come to work at ATI?
I was a secretary. I worked for three agents. I worked for Wally Meyrowitz, who is no longer with us, Greg McCutcheon, and Bruce Payne.
Was that your first agency job?
No. I had worked for a small, little middle agency. I had befriended this go-go dancer who said, “My manager/agent really needs help, and you could come in and really run their office.” So I went and I met with them, and it was a trip. They were really like out of a storybook. They wheeled and dealed, bought and sold, and they did a lot of go-go dancers and things like that. One of the go-go dancers was Goldie Hawn.
[Goldie Hawn, interviewed by her daughter Kate Hudson in Interview (May 2017 issue) talked about her life when she moved to New York to start her career. She remembered one of her first jobs in the city being a go-go dancer. Hawn said she made $25 a night and used it to pay rent, but every night wasn’t a success.
“When I went to go-go dance at the Peppermint Box in New Jersey, I took a Greyhound bus,” Hawn said. “I was slow dancing on a table to ‘Everybody Loves Somebody’ by Dean Martin with my little outfit on. But when some guy in a suit showed me his penis, I said, ‘I need to get home.’ The bartender was like, ‘You won’t get a Greyhound now. It’s too late.’ And then I went to every guy at the bar — it was a truck stop — until finally, two guys said, ‘Okay, we’ll take you home.’ And I went home in an 18-wheeler.”]
What was the name of the agency?
Oceanic Productions or something like that. They changed it (the name) often because they had to hide some of the things that they were doing. It was crazy. So I got my footing that way. So that’s how I started. Then I started meeting other people and I got offered a job at ATI.
Brooklyn’s fantasy back then was that there was no need to ever go to Manhattan. Your avowed intention was to escape Brooklyn for New York City and make a better life.
I was determined to get there.
What was the allure of New York City?
Because we were so close. The city was the city like it is for a kid who lives outside of New York and wants to feel the excitement and pace of New York City.
New York wasn’t too expensive in to live in the late ‘60s.
It was pretty bad.
You came from substantial poverty in Brooklyn.
I did. An apartment in a tenement and we all shared one bathroom.
You are credited on Rush’s self-named, debut album in 1974 as Marsha Weiss. Vlasic isn’t your maiden name?
No, it’s my married name. My maiden name is Weisenholtz. My mother in business used Weiss. So I became Marsha Weiss when I started working. Then it got too confusing having three names. So when I got married, I switched to my husband’s name. It’s a Croatian name.
You and Peter have been married over 40 years.
I think it’s 42 years, but we’ve stopped counting.
How did you come to represent Neil Young who you have worked with for over 40 years?
Well, that was more through Jeff Franklin who was one of the owners of ATI. I was a bit of a protegé for him. He kind of gave Neil to me. (Neil’s manager) Elliot Roberts and myself, we really hit it off. We started working together, and we are still working together. We became very close.
Elliot came from the booking agency world.
Yes, working with David Geffen at William Morris.
With his background and with the acts he has represented, Elliot would have quite specific ideas of how to represent Neil. You must give him what he wants.
We are in it thick and thin. I adore him and, after a certain amount of time, he has just become like family. I know what makes him tick, and I know what I tell him and what I don’t tell him. It’s like having two artists.
For three decades, you and Elliot worked together on the programming of the annual Bridge School Benefit Concerts connected to Neil, as well as Pegi Young who co-founded the school.
Elliot and I literally did it together for 30 years. Every day of our lives. He’d have an idea; I’d have an idea. I get two acts. He’d get one act. We’d lose one act. We’d gain two acts. We worked on it hand and hand together, just the two of us for 30 years. We said that we were done after 30 (years). We are done. It was a labor of love every year. Every year.
When you represent an artist for 40 years, obviously the relationship with their manager becomes more than business?
Well, Elliot knows my family, I know his family. He was just honored at the Personal Managers Hall of Fame in Las Vegas. The last thing I wanted to do was to get on a plane, and fly into Las Vegas Thursday morning, and out Friday morning. But I was there for Elliot and his family, and his children. I feel part of his family.
[Sponsored by the National Conference of Personal Managers (NCOPM), the 2017 Induction Ceremony held May 18, 2017, in Las Vegas, honored Elliot Roberts along with 11 other entertainment managers. Over the years, Roberts has managed not only Neil Young but also the Cars, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Graham Nash, and Stephen Stills.]
Are you still representing Pegi Young?
No. I have resigned from that. I love Pegi with all my heart, and I think she’s very talented as well.
When you were approached two years ago by Paul Tollett, C.E.O. of Goldenvoice, about booking Neil for Desert Trip you were at first skeptical. You told him, “There is no way that this is going to happen.” How do you take such an implausible proposal like that to Elliot?
Well, Paul first came to me because I kept saying to Paul, “How come you don’t make me any Neil Young Coachella offers?" Neil really, really, really should play Coachella.” He said, “I have an idea. I can’t fully tell you about it yet, but I have a great idea which is going to be so amazing for Neil.” I was like, “Oh, I hope I hear about it soon.” Then he came to me in October or November a year before. This was going on for a very long time. He said, “Okay, “This is my idea,” and he specifically named each act. We all knew that this wasn’t going to come together unless the Rolling Stones were in. At the time that he made the financial offer—I think it was right before Christmas—I shared it with Elliot. I didn’t want to share it with him beforehand because if all these pieces of the puzzle didn’t fit, there was nothing to be discussed, and I hesitated to share it with Neil until I had more of a commitment. So once (Paul) McCartney was in, and once the Who and Roger Waters were in, Dylan was not--considering it, but not officially—and I knew that Paul was in the midst of trying to get the Rolling Stones done—it looked like it was coming together. Then things went quiet for awhile. I negotiated the money, and the deals were really strong. The beautiful point of what Paul was offering was that it was just the live performance. No filming. Nothing else other than that they (the artists) come. They could have as much of a guest list as they wanted. They would have a compound that they keep all weekend. And they play. “And, we don’t want anything else (but the performance).”
[Desert Trip--the three-day October extravaganza Oct. 7-9, 2016 at the Empire Polo Grounds in Indio, California brought together several of the biggest box-office attractions of all time, the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Roger Waters, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and the Who.]
With its headliners, Desert Trip may forever be regarded as the ultimate nostalgia-driven event. I’m unsure if Desert Trip could happen again along the same lines.
Well, I think that Paul has a definite idea as to what would make it happen again.
Few people consider Neil Young nostalgia. He’s stayed current all these years. Most certainly, he wouldn’t want to be considered a heritage or oldies’ act.
No, he wouldn’t. The acts that were being proposed were his peers. He loves Paul McCartney. He used to close (shows) with (the Beatles’) “Day In The Life.” I will never forget in Hyde Park (on June 27, 2009). I was standing on the side of the stage and Neil was out there, and he was coming up to “A Day In The Life,” and Paul was on the side of the stage, and Neil didn’t know. As Neil started the song, Paul walked out onto the stage (actually at the 2:46 minute mark). Paul has been to The Bridge School benefit a few times. So that relationship is strong. The Who relationship is strong with Neil. Neil respects Bob Dylan. Elliot used to manage both of them. This wasn’t an oldies’ package.
[Neil Young’s performance at the Hard Rock Calling festival in Hyde Park in London was the final date of a two-year world tour in which he closed many of his concerts with “Day In The Life,” including his headline set on the Pyramid stage at the Glastonbury Festival the night before. After coming back on stage for an encore, Young then began playing “Day In The Life,” and McCartney joined him singing the rest of the song:
During his set at Desert Trip, McCartney welcomed Young to the stage to join him for a performance of “A Day in the Life,” which eventually morphed into the Plastic Ono Band’s “Give Peace a Chance.” They also performed the Beatles’ “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road.”]
Desert Trip's talent budget alone was said to have exceeded $35 million US. The event reportedly grossed a record-breaking $160 million US. Despite the gross, the fee for talent was a scary number.
It wasn’t my scare. The money was coming from a good source. I try to really watch out for my artists, certainly the more that you start reading about bankruptcies of these festivals, especially Pemberton. I have thousands of emails with (festival) offers for Iggy Pop, Neil Young, and Cage The Elephant. Iggy didn’t want to travel to Pemberton. That was the only thing that stopped him from confirming. He doesn’t drive three or four hours in a car. His body just won’t let him sit that long.
Pemberton Music Festival in Pemberton was just north of Whistler, British Columbia.
Right, right. We were deep into negotiations. We were trying to figure out helicopters to get Iggy in and out. But the helicopters there don’t fly after certain times. So we were still trying to figure out the slot. That’s how deep the negotiations had developed. So when I saw the acts that were getting stiffed, I was like “Oh, my God.”
[The Vancouver Sun has reported that the Pemberton Music Festival may owe ticketholders and other creditors more than $16.7 million. There are 120 unsecured creditors. The organizers are being accused of fraud after filing for bankruptcy and announcing that automatic ticket refunds for the canceled July 13-16, 2017 event would not be issued. The festival had reportedly collected $8.2 million in ticket revenue this year in contrast to the budgeted expenses of $22 million, according to a fact sheet posted by the bankruptcy trustee. Among the artists booked were Alesso, Big Sean, Tegan and Sara, Slightly Stoopid, Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, and Eagles Of Death Metal.]
Barry Dickins’ wife once told him, “I’m too old to stand in a field. I don’t care where the field is. I’m not standing in a field. I’ve done all that for years. I’m not doing that anymore.”
Well, she doesn’t have to do that. I go in fields. I do.
How about your involvement in developing Ozzfest that was launched in 1996 with a bill that included Ozzy Osbourne, Slayer, Danzig, Sepultura, Biohazard, Earth Crisis, Powerman 5000 and others?
You know, Sharon (Osbourne) had a vision. Sharon had a dream. I loved the Osbournes. I was the guardian of their children. That’s how close we were. I put my heart and soul into Ozzfest, as she did. Sharon really worked hard. This meant everything to her. You worked on Ozzfest all year. There never was a period that there was a down time for Ozzfest.
Ozzfest was fascinating in that you could put a festival together around someone who was a cult figure to some degree.
I also thought of Ozzy as...
Bigger than life?
The following year you became involved with the annual H.O.R.D.E. tour.
My involvement with H.O.R.D.E. was because Neil Young did it (in 1997). That year was a tough year. It was a terrible year. It was not a pleasant experience.
Larry LeBlanc is widely recognized as one of the leading music industry journalists in the world. Before joining CelebrityAccess in 2008 as senior editor, he was the Canadian bureau chief of Billboard from 1991-2007 and Canadian editor of Record World from 1970-89. He was also a co-founder of the late Canadian music trade, The Record. He has been quoted on music industry issues in hundreds of publications including Time, Forbes, and the London Times. He is co-author of the book “Music From Far And Wide.”
Larry is the recipient of the 2013 Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award, recognizing individuals who have made an impact on the Canadian music industry. He is a board member of the Mariposa Folk Festival in Orillia, Ontario.