Live Nation’s CEO Addresses the Impact of Trump’s Immigration Policies

The long, narrow arrival corridor at Los Angeles International Airport (photo: Ralph Hockens CC by 2.0). Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino addresses the impact of Donald Trump's policies.

The long, narrow arrival corridor at Los Angeles International Airport (photo: Ralph Hockens CC by 2.0)

Is Trump putting the kibosh on global tours?  We asked Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino to assess the impact.

It was a hot Texas mess prepared just for SXSW.  In the wake of Trump’s high profile executive orders on immigration, SXSW artists started freaking out over possible deportations.  Or, flat-out imprisonment at the hands of US officials.

The hysteria kept escalating.  One artist unearthed a scary-looking, visa-related clause in SXSW’s boilerplate performance contract, written years ago.  Soon thereafter, scattered reports of detained foreign artists surfaced.  Fear permeated the landscape for artists as they entered customs at airports like JFK or LAX.

SXSW even prepared a legal team to defend foreign performing artists if hassled by the Feds.

It wasn’t pretty, but it felt like the beginning of a broader problem affecting the touring industry.  After all, if foreign artists had trouble getting into the United States, it was only a matter of time before US-based artists experiences similar problems overseas.  All of which would seriously impact the ability to plan elaborate, multi-continental tours.

Except, it isn’t really working out that way.  At least not yet.

“We haven’t seen much impact on global touring,” Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino told Digital Music News at Canadian Music Week on Thursday.

Canadian Music Week: Where the Serious Music Industry Is Heading

In fact, most of the kerfuffle may be behind us.  “There was a lot of discussion after [Trump’s] executive orders, but we haven’t experienced much impact since then.”

“There’s more supply than ever.”

Actually, Rapino’s broader keynote at Canadian Music Week mostly focused on a touring business that’s becoming massively global.  And a number of factors are contributing to that.  “In any business you just need to figure out the supply and demand, and where it’s going,” Rapino said.

“So, let’s talk about the supply.  There are more artists today than ever, in a small club saying, ‘I want to be a live performer.’  So that’s good.  And by the way, thanks to the unlocking of the global world through the internet, you can be in Colombia or South Africa now.  So you have a global 19 year-old, 17 year-old that says I either want to be Calvin Harris or Bono.  I’ve got Pro-Tools and I can make things happen and upload.”

“So we’ve seen the data.  Whether it’s guitar sales are up, or number of bands.  There are more bands than ever, more supply than ever.”

That, according to Rapino, is being complemented by surging demand, as well.   “And then you have more demand than ever.  You now have a global customer.  That 19 year-old in Colombia now knows who Kendrick Lamar is.   She doesn’t have to wait for MTV, MuchMusic, or anyone else.”

… = $ !

As a result, tours that used to be heavily focused around North America and Western Europe are now expanding into South America, Eastern Europe, and Asian countries.  “Rihanna is a global, exportable business.  Now all that’s happened is that the world’s opened up to her.”

“You look at an artist now doing 100 dates.  You’re doing 40 dates North America, 30-40 in Western Europe, you’ve got a full Latin American market that’s fully on fire.  And you’ve got an Asian run that can make you money.”

That said, China is still largely blocked off to artists.  Rapino noted that censorship excludes a large number of artists, especially hip-hop artists.  But, not every artist: “Micheal Bolton does well there,” Rapino said.