HITS Daily Double
"There’s nothing like the Greek. It’s not all about the dollars… it’s also about the ambience, the environment, the open air."


A Dialogue with Nederlander Concerts CEO Alex Hodges

Veteran music exec and chapeau-wearing southern gentleman, Nederlander Concerts CEO Alex Hodges’ 40-year career has seen him serve as President/CEO of House of Blues Concerts and its predecessors, Universal Concerts and MCA Concerts. As an agent, he represented soul legends Otis Redding, Sam & Dave and Percy Sledge. He founded the Paragon and Empire agencies, where he worked with several legendary artists like the Allman Brothers Band, Atlanta Rhythm Section, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Police and the Charlie Daniels Band. In 1984, after moving from Georgia, he became SVP in charge of the West Coast music and live performance departments of ICM. In the ’80s, Alex was the personal manager for Gregg Allman and Stevie Ray Vaughan, whom he represented until the guitar legend’s untimely death in 1990. In his current post—and second stint—at Nederlander Concerts (he was also there as VP from 1988-‘94), he presides over L.A.’s Greek Theatre, celebrating its 80th anniversary, the Santa Barbara Bowl, the San Jose Civic, City National Grove of Anaheim, the Pantages Theater, Sacramento's Raley Field and RIMAC Arena & Field at UCSD; each is among the greatest venues in the world for seeing music. On the other hand, talking to HITSRoy Trakin is about the least you could do.

After 80 years, the Greek is still one of the best places anywhere to see a show.
It’s pretty incredible to think, just over 80 years ago, Col. Griffith J. Griffith gave the land to the city. Then the Nederlanders got involved, and now we do pop, rock and everything else. The original study showed, acoustically, the Greek’s as good as it gets anywhere in the world. We invest in a new system every year strategically placed to assure everyone gets the same great sound, no matter where they’re sitting.

It seems like the concert business rebounded this summer after last year’s disaster.
In our world, it’s substantially better. The Santa Barbara Bowl is having a record year. The business is better at the City National Grove of Anaheim and, at the Greek, sales are up 38%. The economy took its toll in 2009 and 2010. This year has just been outstanding for us, even with the new venue in town, the Nokia Theatre at L.A. Live.

What issues do you see facing concert promotion moving forward?
With the Greek (5,900) and the Santa Barbara Bowl (4,500), we feel those capacities are the sweet spot in the industry. Although arena tours get more publicity, there’s really sustainable and repeatable business if you’ve got a great mid-sized venue. But you need a venue large enough to do multiples on big shows, which gives you flexibility in ticket prices. The record companies and audiences have to find those new bands. But more are breaking through, like Katy Perry, Adele and Florence + the Machine.

You provide the next step after the 1,000-2,000 club dates.
Even after they graduate to arenas, there’s always the chance to come back and work with us, like Dave Matthews Band did a couple of years ago, playing two dates. That works for us as a business model and I believe it works creatively for the bands. This year, we have more doubles than last, which is great news.

You have some deep-pocketed competition in AEG and Live Nation.
Every venue in all the companies competes with one another. But you also have the uniqueness that comes with the right venue, and the relationship with people who believe you’re going to do a great job. There’s nothing like the Greek. It’s not all about the dollars… it’s also about the ambience, the environment, the open air. We want to be in the game on everything, even if we’re not going to get everything.

What is it like working with Ticketmaster since the merger with Live Nation?
Ticketmaster services us very well. We are very happy with them. They are good partners for us. What happens in the future is anybody’s guess. But we don’t see an issue. We survey our consumers all the time, so we can respond to any issues. Ticketmaster has always cooperated in providing us with that data. We feel the “all-in” transparency on ticket prices is helping. We’re trying to work with the agents, managers and acts to establish the right prices.

How do you feel about supply-and-demand pricing or paperless ticketing?
There’s a lot of thought and action toward reducing the secondary market, but it’s almost impossible. If a fan buys four tickets and only wants two, what do they do with the other pair? It’s not StubHub, it’s thousands of fans who buy and sell online. Can you legislate it? Probably not. And with a photo ID, what if someone you bought a ticket for can’t go that night? What then?

How has your experience as an agent and artist manager as well as a promoter and booker helped in your career?
I like the fact that some of the talent buyers here have had experience as agents and managers because it gives us a little extra ability to understand those other roles. We can offer a better day-to-day service, dealing with ticketing, routing or what time the show starts.

Are artists getting more realistic about how much they’re getting paid?
Everybody’s aware that ticket pricing has been an issue. I’ll give offers with different top tiers. We try to work together to come up with the right price. Things are a lot better now than they were. We do comps on similar acts to figure out what should be charged. The real question is, how do you scale the house? Over the last two years, we’ve been working towards one-price houses, and have seen success with it.

As Otis Redding’s onetime manager, what is it like hearing Jay-Z and Kanye riff over “Try a Little Tenderness”?
What’s not to like? If you’re watching a TV show or movie and hear an Otis Redding song, you just go, that’s so cool. It’s a thrill today to hear Otis, and to think back when Phil Walden and I were working with him while we were at school, when he played a fraternity party with a band we put together.

Greatest show you’ve ever seen at the Greek?
Every show Stevie Ray Vaughan played there has a distinct memory. We brought in Frank Sinatra. That was memorable, to see the Chairman of the Board there. When Rod Stewart and Sade did multiple night runs, they were both amazing. I also saw Miles Davis. I didn’t see Neil Diamond’s shows, but the videos looked great.