Dan & Luke bow out with the final live installment of their Promoter 101 podcast. Since its launch in 2016, Promoter 101 has hosted more than 150 podcasts and interviewed such industry luminaries as Michael Rapino, Marc Geiger, Marsha Vlasic, and Bob Roux — whose live episode from IEBA 2017 was a conference highlight.
The guys return to IEBA this year to spend time with AEG’s Debra Rathwell. Rathwell is SVP of Global Touring and founder of AEG’s New York office. One of the most influential executives in touring today, nothing in Rathwell’s childhood hints at the industry powerhouse she would become. She was raised in an isolated Canadian village of 300 citizens, where her father worked at the local power plant and traded Indian furs. She always knew she would go to college, and it was there that Rathwell rented a room from a singer/poet. Through this woman’s grapevine, she met the man who owned the local radio station, record store, and concert promotions company. His assistant was leaving after 13 years and Rathwell wanted the job. She cinched the interview and ended up in the concert division, co-promoting shows with the great touring impresarios Donald K. Donald and Michael Cohl. When her boss moved to Buffalo, Donald and Cohl decided that “a girl can be a concert manager” and Rathwell’s fate was sealed. At age 27, Donald lured her to his company with a VP title, money, and a car, and she began promoting the entire country from Vancouver to Halifax.
Tango Argentino brought her to NYC in the 1980s. After an incredible run in theater, she moved back to music. As DKD was selling the company to Cohl, Rathwell joined John Scher’s Metropolitan Entertainment in Mont Claire, New Jersey. Nine years of wishing for an opportunity in Manhattan ended when Scherer sold to Mitch Slater then to Live Nation. She called Randy Phillips at AEG in Los Angeles and asked if he’d like to open a New York office. She hired eight of the terminated employees and opened in January 2003.
American Idol changed the course of Rathwell’s career. The success of that touring property was, in essence, the seed money for AEG’s NY office. She became an expert in TV-to-live with Dancing with the Stars, America’s Got Talent, and So You Think You Can Dance. Through Idol, she found Carrie Underwood, who’s been a client for 12 years. With Jeff Frasco, she also worked on High School Musical, Cheetah Girls, and Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana. A seasoned pro and true believer in “kids’ stuff,” she seems to possess a sixth sense for what’s next and that includes taking JoJo Siwa from Nickelodeon star to an arena headliner.
Her “you’re all buying with me” mantra includes her entire team: production, ticketing, marketing, accounting, and legal. For Rathwell, touring is as simple this: how many people are coming and what will they pay? “If you can answer that question honestly,” she says, “and apply the right expenses, you’ll be fine.”