Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Five Ways the Trump Candidacy Will Impact The Music Industry

Written by Dave Brooks — Elections have never been kind to the concert industry. Presidential candidates swallow up infrastructure needed to stage events, take over venues for days at a time and drive up the cost of advertising. Worst of all, they create uncertainty about the future, especially when it comes to candidate Donald Trump. There’s just something about the idea of Trump having control of the nation’s military and nuclear arsenal that makes folks want to stay indoors.

If he actually gets elected? We’re done. A Trump presidency would be a catastrophic disaster for the live entertainment industry. Travel restrictions would keep out dozens of artists, while thousands more would likely shun the U.S. in fear that Trump might punish dissenters with lawsuits, jail time or worse. Foreign investors would likely pull out of the U.S. stock market, causing a huge drop in the Dow. Worst of all, Trump’s plan to default on our debt would destroy the banking system and make financing new venues and stadium upgrades nearly impossible. Trump is catastrophically bad for business, which is bad for the music business (and just about every other kind of business).

He’s also bad at running for President — he’s starting ten points behind Hillary with a huge demographic disadvantage that he only seems to be making worse by his erratic behavior. Trump will lose and lose big, but even if he’s not in the White House, his campaign this summer could have a major impact on the summer concert season. Here are five ways that having Trump as the GOP nominee will affect the entertainment industry.

5. Uncertainty is bad for business

Elections generally bring a drop in consumer spending, which tends to hit discretionary markets like sports and music particularly hard. When people are unclear about the future, they tend to delay making big purchases — many promoters are worried that fans will opt out of pricey shows for less expensive entertainment options.

“Earlier this year at Spaceland Presents we felt a drop in ticket sales before anyone knew who was going to be the (nominees),” explained promoter Mitchell Frank, who runs a number of venues in LA including the Echo and Regent Theatre.

“We suspect consumers are still hesitant to spend money because of this uncertainty,” he said. “In the lower ticket brackets we don’t see any real issue, but on the larger ticket priced shows we definitely see fall out. Until the uncertainty ends on election day, don’t expect massive ticket sales or much economic growth.”

4. But the protest music will be amazing

Paging Rage Against the Machine.

With Trump at the top of the ticket, expect a return of angry protest music that excoriates Trump’s racism, bullying and existential threat to humanity.

No band is better poised to turn on the Trump-hate than Rage Against the Machine, who many say predicted Trump’s rise to power with their “Sleep Now In The Fire” video back in 1999. Could Rage be planning a live comeback and perform around Cleveland during the Republican National Convention? Is a new album in the cards?

Who knows, but anger at Trump is already inspiring new music. Gangster rap, punk and hard rock are all great platforms to shout one’s disgust at the GOP candidate. So is indie rock — Radiohead’s new track “Burn The Witch” is said to be a swipe at the politics of Trump, while acts like Run the Jewels have already begun incorporating images of Trump into their live show.

The GOP candidate could “bring people together who really oppose the Trump way of thinking,” said promoter Brian Penix with NS2. “What better place to do than at a concert? I wasn’t alive then, but it seems some of the best music came out of the Nixon years.”

3. Venues will get the good and the bad

Trump prefers large rallies over television advertising and is expected to stage dozens (if not hundreds) of events between now and November. That’s gonna mean a lot of venues stay busy this summer hosting political events.

While ugly fights and assaults have occurred at Trump rallies, many say the Secret Service is getting better at controlling crowds. Still — when things go wrong for Trump, they tend to go REALLY wrong. A riot broke out at the Orange County Fairgrounds after anti-Trump protestors assaulted Trump supporters leaving the event. Some protestors even started fires, vandalized a police car and fought with riot cops.

But I digress — most Trump events occur without major incident. Amplify asked Brian Sipe, GM of the Mohegun Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., what it was like to host a Trump rally. His building played host to the GOP nominee on April 25.

“We had about 72 hours to prepare for the event as we weren’t confirmed as a venue until the Friday before,” he said. “It is a true testament to the hard work of our staff to be able to pull something like that off.”

He told Amplify that Trump’s security team was easy to work with and noted that the Secret Service has plenty of experience securing venues.

“I wasn’t worried about protestors,” he said. “We were prepared. We had conversations with Mr. Trump’s staff and the Secret Service and came up with several plans. Our local law enforcement were involved and worked with the Secret Service to make sure everyone was safe. We had a few protestors outside of the venue but nothing to the extent that you’ve seen in Chicago and California.”

2. Advertising markets will be chaotic

Advertising in swing states gets extremely expensive during election cycles — while Democrats will pour billions of dollars into television advertising in 2016, it’s unclear what the GOP has planned. Will the big donors eventually agree to fund Trump’s campaign? Will the GOP establishment run commercials in opposition to Trump? And how much of Trump’s own money will be spent on advertising? After all, Trump relies heavily on earned media (television interviews, coverage of his rallies) — it’s unclear how much he’ll spend on television ads.

The Democrats on the other hand are flush with cash and will be buying up huge blocks of television and newspaper advertising. Many are predicting the ad buys could extend beyond swing states to places where GOP politicians are more vulnerable down ticket. That could push advertising rates up all over the country and make it more difficult to market shows. With advertising on television and in the newspaper is cost-prohibitive, more promoters will likely turn to digital advertisers to make fans aware of their events.

1. Big time executives will continue to drop serious coin on Hillary

Almost across the board, the executives who run the music industry have begun donating to Clinton. Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino has given about $5,400 to Hillary Clinton and employees at Live Nation have kicked in about $36,000 so far, mostly for Hillary and other Democratic candidates (with a few exceptions).

Other big-spending Democrats in the election include Irving Azoff, who has given $45,000 to Hillary and the Democrats, WME agent Marc Geiger who’s spent $3,700 and CAA’s Rob Light who gave $4,700.

While the overwhelming number of executives in the entertainment industry have given money to the Democrats, one major exception exists: AEG owner Phil Anschutz. The Colorado billionaire has given $469,000 to the GOP in the current 2015/2016 election cycle. Most of that money has been given directly to the Republican National Committee, although he has directly funded candidates like Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Colorado representative and Senate candidate Kenneth R Buck.

Anschutz’s spending has gradually ticked upwards — he gave the GOP $234,200 during the 2014 mid-term elections and $103,000 in 2012. Anschutz typically supports Republican Senate candidates — he hasn’t donated directly to any presidential candidate during the current campaign cycle.

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