From Celebrity Access - 3/23/01
By Bob Grossweiner and Jane Cohen
Julie Lokin entered the music industry after a few other jobs, first in management working for Peter Leeds, where one client was Winds in the Willows (Deborah Harry's first group) and later for Gerard W. Purcell, who handled Eddie Arnold and Al Hirt. He then left the music industry for MGM (the film company, not the fledgling record label) working in publicity. While at MGM, the concert promotion bug (which started in college) hit again as he and his original New Audiences partner Art Weiner freelanced a few concerts.
New Audiences mainly promotes in New York (Beacon Theatre, Town Hall, Carnegie Hall, and Avery Fisher Hall) as well as a few shows in New Jersey (State Theatre in New Brunswick). Although New Audiences has never promoted in a cluba rarity for concert promotersLokin has copromoted Indigo Girls at Madison Square Garden, and for five years a couple decades ago, a popular music cruise series of shows on the Hudson River Dayliner. Lokin has also managed a few artists, most notably Claude Bolling for 15 years. Since 1998 Lokin has been a volunteer fireman in Fair Harbor on Fire Island in Long Island, where he and his wife Deborah have a summer home.
How did you get into the concert promotion business?
My former partner Art Weiner and I met at Hunter College through the jazz society. We did quite a few concerts on campus and got bitten by the bug. Several years later we tried our first real public concert with Charles Mingus at Philharmonic Hall, now Avery Fisher. The show sold out and was recorded by Columbia. We booked two more shows with Miles Davis and later Phil Ochs, Doc Watson and David Bromberg. All three were sellouts so we quit our day jobs and became full concert promoters.
How did New Audiences come to specialize in roots music, jazz, blues and folk?
For many years no one was doing those shows in New York. Even back in the '70s it was hard to book mainstream rock concerts. Ron Delsener and Howard Stein seemed to have that all locked up. Besides, we loved the music we did and really had fun putting interesting combinations together.
Why did you avoid the more prestigious and lucrative rock?
I didn't avoid the music, most agents avoided us. We did do shows early on with bands such as Little Feat, Dire Straits, Stephen Stills and Bonnie Raitt.
What is it like promoting in the No. 1 concert market with such heavy competition?
Right now pretty tough. There are lots of clubs paying high guarantees as well as many competing promoters. SFX is only part of the story.
Is it hard to promote in New York/New Jersey area without owning a venue?
You bet. Not only is it hard to get the acts but when you do, the hall has to be available as well.
How do you feel about the consolidation of concert promoters?
It's not good for anyone. It's a no-win situation for the act, agents, and public. For a while the acts will earn bigger fees. As competitors fall away, competing bidders will disappear and the acts will be at the mercy of the one or two remaining megapromoters.
What is the status of jazz touring today vs. the past 10 to 20 years?
The audience is definitely decreasing. The young players do not fill the shoes of the greats who have passed on.
What is your feeling about radio stations entering the field of concert promotion?
I clearly feel that its unfair competition. Artists are afraid of losing airplay if they pass on radio station concert bookings. Each station has virtually unlimited airtime to promote their concerts. The promoter who perhaps built an artist in a particular market may lose the act because of radio station pressure.
Is there still loyalty between agents, managers and promoters?
Rarely. Money seems to be the prevailing force. The concept of promoter of record needs to be redefined. Agents say most acts want the money, and there is less concern for a promoter who took the chance when no one knew who the act was.
Where are ticket prices going?
It depends on the economy. I suspect ticket prices are headed downward.
Have you ever turned down a show because the manager and agent insisted on a too high or a too low ticket price?
I do my best to convince them that they are aiming too high and usually make my point.
How did you get involved teaching a course in concert promotion?
Carl Freed at Metropolitan Entertainment recommended me to NYU when he decided to leave. It's been four years now and I really enjoy teaching Concert Management in the Music Business program at NYU.
Who have some of your guest speakers been?
Marty Diamond of Little Big Man Booking; Michel Vega of William Morris and a graduate of the NYU program; Mario Tirado and Joe Brauner of Monterey Peninsula Artists; and Jim McDonald, director of marketing at Metropolitan Entertainment.
Do any of the students come from the music industry?
Some of the students work in various areas within the industry such as record companies, radio, publishing, and the Internet as well as summer internships with promoters. Some of the fulltime students go on to industry positions, mostly at record companies.
How did you get into the advertising business and who have you placed ads for?
Like many promoters we have been doing our own concert advertising. About six years ago, George Wein, one of my mentors in the business, asked me to handle his ads for the JVC Jazz Festival in New York, one of the most prestigious festivals in the country. Other accounts have come our way as a result.
Who are some of the people who have worked at New Audiences over the years and have gone on in the industry?
Steve Martin of the Agency Group; Jim Grant, who managed Living Colour; Michel Vega of William Morris and Peter Berkowitz, head of pay-for-view at WWF. When my partner Art Weiner was at New Audiences, he went to law school and later became vice president of business affairs at GRP, and is now in private practice.
Knowing what you have learned over the past two years, would you become a concert promoter today?
It's real hard to enter the industry as an independent promoter. It's too hard to compete with the big companies. That doesn't mean that a young person entering the field cant get a good job at SFX or House of Blues. The industry needs young people with new ideas.
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