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Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino joins Dave Stewart to discuss creativity -- and innovations in bathroom technology

July 23, 2010 |  3:04 pm

Rapinostewart Thursday night at Live Nation Enterainment headquarters in Beverly Hills, musician/producer/Eurythmic/renaissance man Dave Stewart and branding expert/author/ "marketing guru" Mark Simmons held a media event to introduce their new book, "The Business Playground: Where Creativity and Commerce Collide." It's a playful, genre-busting tome that discusses ways in which creativity can be used in the business world.

The pair discussed the ideas in the book, which has chapter titles such as "Idea Spaghetti," "Mr. Left Brain, Meet Mr. Right" and "Far Out," for about half an hour. Then Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino, who's had a rough few weeks, sat down beside Stewart to have a one-on-one conversation about how Rapino and his company employs creativity to sell tickets to the 22,000 concerts that the conglomerate promotes worldwide each year.

Stewart asked Rapino how Live Nation harnesses their collective imagination in the service of filling seats, and Rapino acknowledged that at times it's a struggle: "The irony in our business is, we're kind of considered a sexy business because we're in the music business, but what we've really struggled with is that the band is really the creative front, and they're on the stage." Live Nation, he continued, is the conduit through which the professional creatives -- musicians -- must travel to reach the ears of the audience.

Artists, he said, have been struggling to adjust their business model as concerts have become the major means by which they earn their livings. "The band has been reinventing itself for 20 years. I was at the Rihanna show last night at the Staples Center, and it's a spectacular show. The band has done their job. The band has elevated the show, the song, the performance, and us handlers kind of got lazy along the way, and whether it was the record guy or the ticket guy."

Over the years, continued Rapino, the music business in general and Live Nation in particular (referring to Stewart), "started to forget along the way that our job in the value chain is to kind of connect Dave and his fan, and make sure that experience and product is good. And I think what's happening in the music business on the concert side -- this is the first year in 20 years in which the industry is starting to feel kind of a push-back from the consumer. And it's all about what you would think: We're charging too much at the door; we're charging too much for a service fee; we're not being creative along the process in the delivery of the product. We're letting you do all the creativity and then kind of wrapping it up in a noncreative way."

Of all of Live Nation's divisions around the world, Rapino explained, one group stands above the rest: "I find my Europeans at an absolutely other level of creativity. One, because they're smaller units. My Italian division versus the German versus the Belgian -- they're creative in a different way in our business. They're not trying to hit the home run that gets them rich [and] solves world peace."

Rapino then offered what he called "a silly example" that he noticed when he was at a concert in the Netherlands. "We have a division that makes great festivals, and I was walking through the festival, and in a corner were a bunch of women standing up peeing. And I couldn't believe it. And I looked for a second, and they were so proud that they'd created a way for a woman at a festival -- and going to the washroom is always the hardest part -- to pee, and move people through, and quicker. Now, that might sound horrible, but they take such pride with the small creativity along the way that's spectacular. I find in America we spend a lot of time thinking how someone will be Facebook [and] make a billion that we miss a lot of the creativity in the middle."

Rapino didn't say whether this innovation in female urination technology will make its way across the ocean and into Live Nation's American festival experience.

-- Randall Roberts

Photo: Musician Dave Stewart, from left, Live Nation president of artist services Steve Herman and Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino. Credit: Weapons of Mass Entertainment