Features

ASM’s John Boyle: “Fasten your seatbelts!”

2022 is all set to be the year when the amps return to full blast for the live events scene.

That’s the view of John Boyle, one of the industry’s most celebrated leaders who now holds the position of Chief Content Officer at ASM Global. Previously, he was Chief Growth Officer and interim CFO of Insomniac Events, best known as the organiser of the Electronic Daisy Carnival.

Boyle – once president of Live Nation Japan – has spearheaded EDC expansion around the world, launching festivals in Mexico City, London, São Paulo, New Delhi, Shanghai and Tokyo.

With his global experience and decades in the sector, Boyle is the perfect person to ask as to how live can find its way to a brighter future…

Firstly, could you give us a rundown of some of the standout tours that ASM Global is involved with during 2022?

John Boyle: “The biggest of the summer stadium tours appears to be the Coldplay ‘Music of the Spheres’ tour, which is absolutely massive and doing multiple nights in some markets. The Elton John ‘Farewell Yellow Brick Road’ tour is very important for all the obvious reasons.

“Other big ones include Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kenny Chesney and maybe, most interestingly, Rammstein – who are much bigger than most people know.

“And of course, maybe one of the most anticipated, and most re-scheduled, is the Mötley Crüe, Def Leppard, Poison and Joan Jett package. I think the excitement for this one has only grown with all the rescheduling during Covid.

“A relatively late add to this mix is Bad Bunny. This Bad Bunny stadium tour is going to be huge and interestingly comes only a few months after his arena tour. The explosive growth of Bad Bunny is really remarkable.

“Lastly, there are quite a few notable one-off plays out there. Metallica and Billy Joel back-to-back at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas is big. Grupo Firme at SoFi in LA is big. I think we will see a couple more of these types of one-offs play out this summer and fall.”

Motley Crue tour

How do you expect 2022 to compare to, let’s say, 2019 – the last year before COVID hit?

JB: “It feels like 2022 is going to be a special year for stadium shows. I’m not certain about the volume of shows relative to 2019, but maybe more importantly, there is a lot more excitement.

“A big, great stadium show is a mass gathering, a shared, passionate experience. More than ever, we need that now.  Stadium shows bring us together in a way like nothing else does. I think that is what makes stadium shows in 2022 so important.”

Will there be regional variance in recovery?

JB: “Everywhere is looking good for this summer, but it does seem to be more localised. Big international acts will be doing shows in Europe and in some cases down under in Australia and New Zealand. But at this point, Asia is mainly going to be Asian acts. I think that will change in summer of 2023 as many big international acts will tour Asia.”

How is touring changing?

JB: “Touring is changing in that, generally speaking, the entire concert ecosystem is being more thoughtful.  And by thoughtful, I mean there is a lot more communication about the issues and challenges coming out of COVID. Everyone wants to work, and we all need the business. So, regardless of one’s politics or stance on vaccinations, we all want to see shows play off.

“Everyone on the supply side – agents, promoters, buildings and even the artists – are doing everything they can to make it work. And again, generally speaking, it is working. The bigger challenges are more systemic and not specific to the concert business. The demand side is being challenged with a high no show rate and some on-sales not as strong as they used to be. That being said, there are many tours that are still blowing out, just not as many as pre-pandemic.

“Of course, staffing continues to be an issue across the board. At ASM we spend a lot of time ensuring that our venues are well-staffed, safe and that the customer experience is excellent. But that doesn’t mean it is easy. Combine the demand challenge with the staffing challenge with the incremental costs that come with COVID, along with our general, economic supply chain issues and inflation, costs are significantly higher.

“I do think our entire concert ecosystem is cognisant of this, and I do believe that we are working together to make things work.

What would be your advice for artists, venues and anyone involved in the live events ecosystem as they plan for 2022?

JB: “My advice for 2022 is to be conservative and smart in Q1, do your best to open up widely and play off in Q2, and be ready for an onslaught of business in Q3 and Q4.

“We, as a business, need to instil confidence in the market that concerts are safe, a good experience, and important to our collective well-being. We need to welcome everyone back with open arms and respect. The consumer wants it and needs it. Nothing is better for the soul than a great show. We are in the business of delivering happiness. Let’s not forget that, and let’s deliver on that!

“And fasten your seat belts for 2023 and 2024!  The roaring 20’s are coming, just a few years later than hoped!”