Arthur Fogel is the biggest player in live music who doesn’t sing, dance or strum a guitar.

The Canadian-born impresario has been characterised by Bono as “clearly the most important guy in live music.” Madonna called him a promoting “genius.” All with good reason.

As Chairman of Global Music and CEO of Global Touring, Live Nation, Fogel guides the concerts giant’s music division in the acquisition of musical shows around the globe.  He’s the go-to promoter for the world’s leading acts including U2, Lady Gaga and Madonna, the mastermind behind most of the top-10 biggest box office tours of all time.

An inductee into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame, the entrepreneur was the subject of the 2013 film ‘Who The F*** Is Arthur Fogel,’ which documented his move away from the drumkit and into the live scene, through to the Rolling Stones’ ‘Steel Wheels’ tour which revolutionised the global touring business and his mega-tours for the likes of Pink Floyd, David Bowie, The Police and Neil Young and many others.

Fogel is currently in Australia for U2’s ‘The Joshua Tree Tour,’ the band’s first visit to these parts since 2010’s 360° stadium jaunt.

TIO interviewed the industry legend at the Live Nation Partner Summit last week in Brisbane, where LN’s brand partners gathered at the Fortitude Music Hall.

Speakers on the day included Live Nation Australasia CEO Roger Field, artist Mojo Juju, MTV Vice President and head of MTV for Asia-Pacific Simon Bates and Jaddan Comerford, CEO and founder of UNIFIED.

Here are some of the highlights of Fogel’s Q&A:

On U2 taking its ‘Joshua Tree’ tour Down Under

This region of the world is the most logistically challenging in terms of moving a show. It’s complicated and its expensive but it’s important…the band hasn’t been here for nine years, 14 years to Japan and they’ve never been to South-East Asia in a 40-plus year career.

It’s important for artists to properly touch all regions of the world. It’s very easy for people to move on and forget about you if you don’t show them love. That was one of the reasons why it was important to get down here at this time. But it is challenging, there’s no question.

U2 joshua tree tour live puc
U2’s ‘Joshua Tree Tour’

David Bowie

He was the greatest artist that I ever worked with. One of the greatest ever. He was unbelievably talented, ahead of the curve. Trend setter. If you asked many big-time artists who their influence was, it’s him. He was an incredible live performer and he was a great person. It was quite sad when he passed away, of course, but he did leave us with a great gift. That’s for sure.

Madonna

She is a master of promoting. She’s always had very good instincts of how to be seen and how to make news and how to create a story about herself. That’s served her very well for a long time. She’s a very talented and astute woman, for sure. I’ve worked with her for about 20 years. It’s been quite a remarkable experience.

On the growth of LN and the touring industry

When we formed Live Nation in 2005, there were a number of priorities for us in terms of what kind of company we wanted to shape. One of the top, if not the top item was, global. To build a try global footprint for the company, to expand our touring capability and volume, with artists taking to new places and really expanding the company globally.

When I started the global tours on that 1989 Rolling Stones (‘Steel Wheels’) tour, there were maybe 18-20 countries in terms of an itinerary for a tour. Now there are 60-plus. You look at Latin America, Eastern Europe, Middle East, South Africa, South-East Asia. It’s a real place to do shows, to do business.

People want to see shows. It is such a driver of our company now, the international segment of what we do. Fortunately we were able to make some serious financial investment to be able to build that footprint and put ourselves in business with some really incredible people.

Roger Field, Arthur Fogel and Lars Brandle at the 2019 Live Nation Partner Summit
Roger Field, Arthur Fogel and Lars Brandle at the 2019 Live Nation Partner Summit

The business of touring

The business itself has exploded in terms of people wanting to go to shows. When I started, touring was about selling records. You toured to sell records. Now it’s gone 180-degrees, where the live part of the business is the driver and the distribution of music is a different subset. It’s about exposure and people knowing your music. The revenue generating is through touring.

Lessons to learn from Canada

The relative smallness of Canada was a huge motivator and driver to build our business outside of Canada. It was not a popular strategy at all. It was very challenging and difficult and everyone wanted us to fail. It was absolutely the right strategy.

If I had one observation, I do think the level of competition and fragmentation in the Australian marketplace can very much work against the industry as a whole at times.

It’s a 20,000-foot observation of how a relatively small market in terms of population which Australia is, it can be complicated with the number of shows and tours and competition for the dollar. That at times can be very challenging.

Australia is a very vibrant marketplace for live entertainment. It’s going to want to continue to grow and flourish if done somewhat carefully.

Madonna and Arthur Fogel
Madonna and Arthur Fogel

The growth of Asia’s live market and its impact on Australia

There’s no question. It all fits together in terms of making things more efficient, cost effective. To borrow a phrase, it’s about giving people what they want. (Music) is such an important aspect in peoples’ lives. Now people all over the world are getting the opportunity to participate.