Interviews

“Everyone is seeing things from a new lens this year.”

Lisa Lugo, Vice President of Marketing Solutions, Live Nation UK on the role of perspective, connection, service and celebration in the wake of the crisis.

Nicola Kemp

Editorial Director

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It is difficult to overestimate the economic and emotional impact of the Coronavirus Crisis on the live events industry. In the midst of lockdown, live music was placed on indefinite hold. As Vice President of Marketing Solutions at Live Nation UK, Lisa Lugo was on the sharp end of the crisis.  

Yet as experience-deprived consumers embrace the return of shared experience, Lugo is now at the forefront of ushering in a new era for live events. For in the wake of the pandemic the power of shared experience is being re-appraised by consumers and brands alike. As Lugo explains: “Whilst the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of livestreams, it is not a replacement for the energy and passion felt when experiencing live music.”

Lugo, who picked up the Change Maker Award (Brand) at the Global Women in Marketing Awards, is speaking as the awards extend their deadline for entry to 15th October. To apply and see the categories click here.

In this uplifting and wide-ranging interview, Lugo shares her thoughts for post-pandemic events and addresses this once in a generation moment of reflection that comes in the midst of both our collective and deeply personal experiences of grief.

Q: What are the opportunities for brands to get involved with live events in an experience-deprived role? Do brands have a role to play in supporting the industry recovery?

A: Whenever I speak to anyone – regardless of age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, etc. – they mention live music as one of the things they most missed during the pandemic. The live experience is what unites us and builds bridges and connections – something we need now more than ever.

Across sectors, festivals and venues the opportunity for brands to get involved with live music is immense and will be for years to come. Our fans have always viewed brands as part of the fabric of events – our research shows 91% of fans believe brands enhance their live music experiences. After months of lockdown, companies finally have a moment to show fans their appreciation and support of live music and the power and potency of physically being together. Music culture was paused for so long – now it’s time to push the culture forward, together.

There were new categories of companies that blossomed during the pandemic due to changes in behaviours. Many start-ups that catered to the digital consumer experiences of lockdown are now exploring how to bridge their online presence with the physical world and are looking to show new audiences who they are and what they stand for. Companies like online car marketplace cinch and rapid grocery delivery service Zapp have recently partnered with us as headline sponsors across festivals to help bring their brands to life in the physical world. By having a presence at festivals, they’re opening themselves up to new communities full of influential and forward-thinking audiences, in turn building up their brand awareness.

In parallel to working with our new and existing partners, we learned a lot this year by conducting fan research, in exploring what fans want and expect from brands post lockdown. Perhaps unsurprisingly we learned the pandemic surfaced a shift in priorities for people. Two key categories that surfaced as playing an increasingly important role in people’s lives are wellness and food.

It has been a year and a half of heartache and learning for the world and for our industry. Whilst so much has changed in the past 18 months, some things have remained the same. The most impactful and beloved partnerships are still based on the convergence of cracking a creative solution for a brand.

Lisa Lugo, Vice President of Marketing Solutions, Live Nation UK

While we’ve always known live music is inherently linked to our feeling of wellbeing, our research shows that 98% of music fans surveyed said music plays a great role in their happiness – and that two-thirds of respondents say they plan to incorporate live music into their mental wellness plan going forward. We also learned there are physical, mental and social implications from a fan journey perspective with opportunities for brands along the way. Fans make health goals when buying tickets to look and feel their best, they incorporate live music events into their mental wellness plans and they attend live music events to boost their mental wellbeing through social connections. For brands with a wellness message to share, extending their presence into the fan journey could be a thoughtful way to make meaningful and effective connections at scale.

Food is another area that we’re exploring. Live music and food go hand in hand. They’re both highly sensory experiences, centred around community and shared passions. And both have the rare and unique power to create unparalleled energy and emotional links with people. Gen Z and Millennial expectations and affection for curated festival food experiences are at their peak. Food has become a festival headliner in its own way. We’re excited about bringing brands into the centre of the convergence of music and food culture through our programming and social enterprise initiatives designed to drive diversity into the food scene at festivals and beyond.

It has been a year and a half of heartache and learning for the world and for our industry. Whilst so much has changed in the past 18 months, some things have remained the same. The most impactful and beloved partnerships are still based on the convergence of cracking a creative solution for a brand, thinking like a fan and understanding how to be genuinely additive to the fan experience; what my team focuses on every day. All that matters is how we bridge those connections along the way.

Q: What is the challenge that lies ahead for the events industry and what do you see as the opportunity for hybrid events? Or conversely, do you believe there is a desire to escape the screens (and the Zoom Doom!)

A: There’s both a desire to escape screens combined with an openness and awareness to explore the opportunities around streaming and hybrid events. What’s special about the rise of streaming is how much smaller it makes the world. And how much more access fans have to new music and emerging artists. It widens the scope of artists we wouldn’t necessarily have access to see perform. 

Live Nation promotes 40,000 concerts and 100+ festivals in a typical year, and its network of physical shows provide a unique opportunity for live streaming. In April, we acquired a majority stake in Veeps, the artist-first live-stream platform run by co-founders Joel and Benji Madden of the band Good Charlotte. Since the announcement, they've started equipping 60+ concert venues across the United States to offer turnkey live streaming. This new Veeps setup gives any artist playing at one of these venues the ability to live-stream their event with the flip of a switch to fans across the world.

Personally, I’ve been tuning into DJ sets around the world since the pandemic – like the song goes ‘Last Night a DJ Saved my Life”! From D-Nice’s Club Quarantine to Latin music sets with DJ Tony Touch out of NYC to DJ Ken-Bo out of Japan and British-based Gilles Peterson’s incredible set during Questlove’s 24-hour Stevie Wonder marathon for his 70th birthday. It’s become a part of daily life and I’ve made new connections with like-minded music fans globally. It’s been really fun and inspiring – and not something I would have had the opportunity to explore at such scale and frequency before.

That being said, whilst the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of live-streams, it is not a replacement for the energy and passion felt when experiencing live music. There's a baseline level of human understanding that live only happens once. Each performance is unique, special, and unduplicatable. The energy exchange between the artist and the fans is crucial. They fuel each other and it’s that energy that makes live so special. We cannot duplicate that experience through screens. 

And big picture, fans want to make up for lost time. Research shows two-thirds of fans plan to attend more live music events than they did before and we’ve seen that excitement translate into massive ticket sales over the course of the summer. So many of our UK festivals sold out in record time this year which was incredible to see. The energy stemming from fans has truly been off the charts.

Q: What are you most looking forward to with the return of live events?

A: It’s no secret the live music industry took a massive hit because of the pandemic – lost jobs, revenue, creativity and memories. Live is a cultural force and needs to be respected and treated as such. But this is an industry that cares. We look after each other and are coming together to push live forward.

Putting on events is a massive task involving tons of talented people across Live Nation who have not had a chance to do what we do best for so long. Everyone was so excited and worked harder than ever with a renewed focus and enthusiasm to deliver an incredible festival season for fans.

I’ve been so looking forward to that euphoric feeling of live and the power of togetherness. Being on-site at festivals this summer has been incredible. It’s been a massive reunion of our fans, teams, partners and all of the people who make our events happen from the bar operators, stagehands, caterers, etc. There have been so many smiles, so much energy, and an even greater commitment to make events amazing for the fans.

I love the moments before the gate opens to the fans – the commitment of those working behind the scenes always blows me away and you can literally feel the buzz and excitement. All of the prep and details come with huge smiles as big as the smiles on the faces of the fans upon arrival. It’s a reminder of how lucky we are to work in an industry that makes people happy and provides the ultimate creative outlet for talented artists, both homegrown and global.

It was especially fun to get stuck in with the fans again. The observations and conversations we have with fans, plus our formal fan research is what drives the insights we bring to brands to develop impactful programmes that reach their goals. We love being on-site – those surprises and fan nuggets we walk away with are often magic dust. Plus…after a year off, the fan fashion has been off the charts!

We’ve all missed that feeling, the energy exchange between the artists and fans en masse. And safe to say we’re all tired of dancing at home. Alone. I sure am!  

Q: What is the opportunity for the events industry in terms of building back with inclusivity and sustainability at the core?

A: Many organisations have used this time to recalibrate what they stand for in the world, rethinking how to build genuine solutions for a more inclusive and sustainable society.

As a business, we think of diversity and inclusion as important movements, not just moments. It remains massively important to me personally and professionally, as a Latina and as a woman. I’m an executive sponsor of EMBRACE Nation, Live Nation’s employee resource group driving racial awareness, equity and cultural exchange.  We have continued to drive conversation, education and action around social causes, from last year’s Black Lives Matter events to an employee-led Stop Asian Hate panel this spring that we led globally. We’re putting energy into future events featuring cultural programming that celebrates the fabric of diversity across our team. We are committed to building teams that truly reflect our fans and artists to ensure we have diverse points of view at all levels. This will happen only if we hold each other and the companies we work and partner with accountable.

Continuing to work with the Women in Marketing community led by the incredible Ade Onilude is high on my agenda. Her message of hope, humanity and healing is crucial to our field. I’m specifically looking forward to extending a very warm welcome to the next class of 2021 WiM Award nominees and winners.

Lisa Lugo, Vice President of Marketing Solutions, Live Nation UK

On the sustainability front, we laid out our sustainability commitments via our Green Nation Sustainability Charter in 2019. This past April, we announced our Green Nation Touring Program to develop industry-leading guidance and best practices to enhance the sustainability of concert tours. The programme will allow us to help artists adopt and scale sustainable touring practices that prioritise people and the planet while focusing on driving impact across all areas of the tour, including planning, production, sourcing and community. The touring program expands on the Green Nation sustainability charter, which focuses on climate action and decarbonization of venue energy & transportation; protection and regeneration of nature through responsible sourcing and consumption practices; as well as community engagement across artists, fans, employees, sponsors, vendors, and local communities.

There’s a unique opportunity for brands to integrate into the live experience to demonstrate their sustainability initiatives and products to educate fans. There are big gains to be had in the sustainability space and brands that do it well will be rewarded for it.

Everyone is seeing things from a new lens this year. I sure am. I lost my Dad last year. He was my number one fan - I am me because of him. I’m still learning how to mourn and how to be transparent about it.

Lisa Lugo, Vice President of Marketing Solutions, Live Nation UK

Q: What does this reset moment mean to you personally looking back on 2020 and ahead to the future for live events?

A: Everyone is seeing things from a new lens this year. I sure am. I lost my Dad last year. He was my number one fan - I am me because of him. I’m still learning how to mourn and how to be transparent about it; the ongoing process has taught me a lot of lessons. And whilst I miss my Dad every day, I’m more committed than ever to continue his legacy of excellence and mentorship. Below are a few things I’ve reflected on over the past 18 months and how I’d like to bring them into the future, both for myself and for my team.

Perspective: It was a year of loss on so many levels – everyone lost something during the pandemic, but needless to say we’re now ready for the gains. We’re all ready to focus on what truly matters and what makes us happy, both personally and professionally.

Connection: I leaned on personal values at work heavily in 2020 – empathy, resilience, honesty, excellence. Making sure my team feels supported and connected, it was about people first. We’ve been in the trenches together and I am truly proud of their focus and commitment. I’m really looking forward to expanding the team this year by making new connections and adding new talent and disruptive thinkers to our team.

Fun: This year also reminded us that it’s not just about the hours worked; it’s how you spend those hours. Sometimes we’re so focused on achieving and winning that we fail to pause to celebrate and recognize each other. I’ve always focused on collaboration and creativity with my team but also leaving room for fun. It’s OK to have fun at work – we work in a fun industry!

Service/Giving Back: I’d like to think that last year reinforced the importance of giving back, volunteering and contributing to the world around us. Mentorship has been one of the cornerstones of my own career trajectory, especially having grown up in a socio-economically disadvantaged background, relying on pure hustle and drive. In addition to the mentorship and coaching programmes I participate in at Live Nation and beyond, I recently joined the Creative Mentor Network x Soho House mentorship programme. CMN is an incredible resource for the creative industry – its mission is to drive diversity and inclusion by supporting young people from low socio-economic backgrounds into careers in creative through mentoring and by training its mentors to be more inclusive industry leaders. Being a mentor is an opportunity to ‘pay it forward’ and share my knowledge and experience, whilst also gaining new perspectives and ideas from younger generations. Be a mentor!

Dream: It’s hugely important that we are all leaving room for dreams. I had the pleasure of moderating Live Nation’s Global International Women’s Day event this year with panellists from around the world. It was a rare moment to engage phenomenal women across the company and led to an enthusiastic exchange about the importance of dreaming at any career level. I’ll be reminding myself and encouraging my team to not lose sight of their vision.

Celebrate: Speaking of celebrating, continuing to work with the Women in Marketing community led by the incredible Ade Onilude is high on my agenda. Her message of hope, humanity and healing is crucial to our field. I’m specifically looking forward to extending a very warm welcome to the next class of 2021 WiM Award nominees and winners.

This past year has shaped us in so many ways. It’s been hard, but there are many things to look forward to. Reconnecting, dreaming, feeling the euphoria of live together again…I’ll just be maximising moments of joy, no matter how small.


The deadline for this year’s Women in Marketing Awards has been extended to the 15th October; apply here.

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