Beachside Media

Ethan Levinson of AEG Presents

Our staff at The Beachside Resident have been given the distinct honor to work with the good people at AEG Presents, one of the worlds largest sports and entertainment companies, and we’ve begun the task of leaning in to promote some of the music industry’s leading bands coming in to our area. We asked for a sit-down interview with one of AEG’s top executives and asked him a few questions about what it’s like in his line of work. We asked, and BOY did he answer! 

What is your official title and duties at AEG Presents?

I’m the Senior Talent Buyer for AEG. As a Talent Buyer, we communicate with the agents who represent all the bands and help them raptor artists as they tour through our region. We also work with entities like fairs and festivals in cities, municipalities, colleges, and theme parks; we can assist them in securing ballots for any of their events as well. That would be my specific duty as a promoter. Our company handles all facets of the concerts that we work with. My job, specifically, is to work with the artist and find out when they’re looking to come to our territory and help them decide which venues that we believe would be best for them: what the availabilities are in those venues during that timeframe they want to be there, and then we start negotiating the deal onward; how much the artists are going to get paid. This is a factor, the size of the venue determines the ticket price perceived. Draw. It’s all very comprehensive.

How long did it take you, roughly, to start excelling with your career?

That’s an interesting question. I would say that I started excelling right away as I got started, to age myself a little bit, about 20 years now. But you know, I started off looking at some small clubs and and local fairs and festivals in South Florida. I developed a couple relationships with a few clubs around Florida that enabled me to really reach out and build relationships with agents and with artists.

We’re always looking for big and great shows, but with a given background level. I can start working with artists as they are first coming to our area, or just starting to tour at a national level and be a part of the process as it starts from the bottom and work their way up. Bands like Slightly Stoopid, the first time I brought them through us was at a little 600-cap club and you can see now they’re selling thousands of tickets at each market around Florida. It’s really exciting to watch growing that.

What are some of the biggest mental tools you can obtain to be successful in this field?

I think it really helps to try and be calm and levelheaded throughout the entire process. I plan on perfect, but I have my moments… It can be a very stressful environment because most of the things we deal with are on some kind of a deadline. Whether the tour is looking to announce, so we have to have the deal and our marketing and our ticketing set up in time. You know, the show is going to happen on a certain date, therefore older telemetry actions we need to take have to be done by that. That’s why when we’re working with a large volume of shows or dealing with issues as they come up that are typically very time sensitive, you do your very best to try to keep yourself from getting frustrated is a very big help.

Other than that it’s really about being reliable. Do what you say you’re going to do. Don’t ever try to overextend yourself; although that happens from time to time. There are classes and schools you can go to, but it’s really just the experience of doing it where you learn as you go and if you can prove that you’re reliable, if you prove that you’re motivated and hard working, those are really the most important tools. I would say that’s for anything, really, but especially in this industry. I do try to exercise daily. You know I like to ride my bike. I like to go out with my kids and play any chance that we get. I’d like to say that I could have a better regimen than I do. But just try to make an effort as often as I can.

**Interviewer: If you ever need a yoga class, just give me a ring and I’ll head on down there and give you a workout. I’m a yoga teacher for hire! I even provide my own music!

Have you ever fallen down, so to speak, and had to get back up and get yourself motivated again to continue? What was your inspiration to push on?

I don’t know that I’d have a specific example other than shows that you really believe in and they don’t sell the tickets you want them to sell and you end up losing a lot of money, fighting really hard for a deal that doesn’t happen. You know, that that could definitely get to you and you definitely need to be able to dust yourself off, get right back up and keep moving. The industry is very fluid. There are concerts happening all the time. Even if it’s not one of my shows and I see another show doing well, or if I see people getting excited about a show come to town then that makes me excited because they get to feel the health of it all. But I hate using just industry. Vegas is an easy way to put it. The health of that industry is there, there’s a local community that’s into those shows and that’s what makes it exciting to go to these shows. I think watching a lot of the others around me definitely motivates me to keep going.

If there was one word you could use to explain your experience so far while working as a SENIOR TALENT BUYER, what would it be? 

It sounds cliché, but I’d say “Exhilarating”. You know there are ups and downs in what we do. I’ve felt the lowest of the lows and the highest of the highs. Like I said before, if the show doesn’t turn out as well as you like or, God forbid, there’s a cancellation, weather issues that may prevent the show, that lends to a lot of stress. That can my the job very difficult. Back to what I’ve said about trying to keep a level head, you really get tested to see how much you can handle. Then there are other times where a new artist comes through and does really well, people get very excited and the show happens and it’s all fantastic; you see nothing but smiling faces everywhere you look. If there are issues that happen throughout the day but you’re able to overcome them … those are all really great feelings. So there’s a lot of highs and lows and I think they’re all exhilarating.

Maintaining a successful career takes a lot of work and commitment, how much time do you dedicate towards your work?

We are, truthfully, always on call. I say we’re like doctors except nobody really gives a shit about what we do. Just kidding.

If the show happens at night, for the most part, you do find yourself needing to be available even if I am not physically at the show; not covering that day of show. If there is an issue that comes up and someone’s going to need to reach me at night, well I need to be available. If there is a question, as I mentioned before, things can be incredibly time sensitive. So, if those things come up late at night, or early in the morning, you really need to always be available. At least I think that you should be, because the people you work with want you to be available. You want to show that you’re there and you’re motivated to be that man or woman that can handle everything. There are other times that I can take a little more time and sort of shut off, which I recommend too from time to time, but I feel that it’s very important for people to think that I’m reliable; to know that I’m accessible. Often times, is if there’s an issue and I have to be that person to make the decision, or maybe the only person with certain specific information that can help alleviate what that situation is, I definitely always need to be on call. But I wouldn’t say that I’m sitting at my computer working 24/7.

How do you find new artists?

Everywhere I can! I try to read a lot of blogs and look online to hear what some of the trades are mentioning. I spend a lot of time talking with my friends and some of the people that come to our shows; it really is organic. Especially with the access that everybody has, there’s no one or two specific ways you can receive the music. It comes from everywhere. Maybe I hear a song in a commercial while I’m just browsing through YouTube or Spotify and something pops up; it really does comes from everywhere.

A lot of times agents or managers will reach out to me with an artist they’re working with. I can be at a show and see what T-shirts or hats some of the kids are wearing. If it’s an artist I haven’t heard of yet, I’ll definitely want to check and see who they are.

What trade publications did you use to keep you on top of your craft?

Oh, there’s so many. Billboard and Polestar are two of the bigger industry publications. Rolling Stones, the magazine, as well. There are online blogs like Pitchfork.com and GorillavsBear.com; there are so many different blogs. There are reggae blogs, there’s indie music blogs, there are blogs that kind of specify country music; so I really try to at least pay attention to as much as I can. Also taking a look at the local weekly magazine such as “This Video” or maybe “The New Times” in south Florida or the “Creative Loafing” in Tampa. They give a good gauge on what some people are focusing on from community to community. Sometimes I may hear of a band that nobody’s heard of, or maybe everybody’s heard of a band that I haven’t heard of. So it’s good to see which acts end up getting on other people’s radar.

What genre of music do you lean towards, personally? Does it have an effect on you finding talent?

Well I guess there’s a little difference, the truth is, I like all kinds of music from jazz, to blues, to heavy metal, electronica, reggae; if it’s good it’s good. You know that that’s kind of the way that I look at it. I like to try to focus on on acts that I see are selling tickets or that have something going on, but there’s a bit of a separation between what I may be a personal fan of and what I’m booking. Because I am booking everything in multiple genres of entertainment, so I don’t limit what I work with to just what I like … although I do like most of what I book.

Last but not least, what advice you can give someone to help along the way to a successful career in the music industry?

I actually love that question. I think that it’s all about getting out there and getting involved. Yeah! There are TONS of events in EVERY community across the country, whether it’s a city event or a local beer fest and they have talent… if there’s a little dive bar that brings in rock bands or any kind of band, sometimes from out of state or even out of the country, go!  Even if there’s 10 people there, those are 10 people who are into music – whether it’s about that artist or whatever it may be – you know, there’s a community there. 

I don’t think studying alone could get you a job or give you a success in this industry. I think you have to be out there, and it’s a bit cliche to say that you have to network, but it’s about getting out there and meeting people, going to a local band show and hang out at the merch table. Talk to the people who are there! Go to a national concert or a big club or even an arena, talk to the merch person. There’s merch, there’s publishing, there’s touring, there’s recording, there’s live music, there’s the technical side… There are so many facets of the industry that you can get involved in and have direct contact with those artists, that puts you right in there with the music. It’s all worth it! You know, there’s usually a person selling merch for the band, as I mentioned before, and they’re on a bus going from city to city with the band as well. 

The tour manager, the production manager, the artist, the guitar tech; don’t feel like you have to jump right in to being a booker or run a club or a venue or things like that to get you in the industry. It’s you talking to me right now, it’s this interview where we’re getting to know more about each other. We’re not working… maybe there is some reason that I need something from you guys or we’re doing something media related. It’s like “I just spoke to that person and we did this… and they’re in this market and their specialty is ‘this’.” It’s not just that black and white. So if you’re willing to really just get out there and go do it and go meet people and show that you’re out there, that you’re excited, that you’re motivated to to work, that you’re willing to do it…. well, you’re going to get noticed.

JULY 23th 2019

Wise words from a man who’s had his finger on the pulse of the music industry for two decades. I know I’ve got some friends reading this… sit up straight and pay attention – this is GOLD! 

By Sharon Lacy

@lime_and_a_coconut

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