The Billboard Touring Conference gears itself to the professionals in the music industry, but one panel discussion became the ultimate fly-on-the-wall discussion as moderator Ray Waddell (Billboard) asked Truth or Dare questions of five of rock’s greatest concert promoters.
Here are a few highlights. Forgive me if details are hazy, I was in shock and mostly thinking, “OMG!!!” for an hour.
What was your biggest missed opportunity? Alex Hodges (CEO, Nederlander Concerts): Passed on Al Green and “Tired of Being Alone.” Ron Delsener (Chairman, Music, NY, Live Nation): Spyros Skoros offered to sell him the Academy of Music (renamed the Palladium) for $1.2 million, but he passed. The building was sold to NYU for $4.4 million. Danny Zelisko (President, Danny Zelisko Presents): Had booked Journey to open for Mahavishnu Orchestra, but they cancelled; he was offered Rush as a replacement, but turned them down; he didn’t like what he heard.
What was your most memorable settlement? Danny Zelisko: I hired a girl to show up in a tear-away outfit, at negotiations over $300. She walked in, tore her outfit off and sat there at the table the entire time. [Sidebar on a related subject] Doc McGhee (CEO McGee Entertainment): In the ’80s, we got paid in cash, and one night I wound up on the bus with the band, ten strippers, and a quarter million dollars in a duffel bag.
Describe an incident with the rowdiest fans. Doc McGhee: Axl Rose hit a cop and got arrested. I asked the cop to let him go out and play, and told him, “Then, you can take him out to the parking lot and shoot him. Alex Hodges: One time the band didn’t show, and people started throwing bottles at the stage. I hid my backstage pass, threw a few bottles myself, and got away.
What’s the most bizarre backstage behavior you saw? No one would answer, except to say: “We have to work with these people.” “I’m still in the business, can’t say.” “My best advice: Don’t walk in there.”