The sudden resignation of the artist manager came days after Live Nation's CEO Michael Rapino, whose background is in promotions, extended his contract with the company until 2019 and has raised questions over the future direction of one of the music industry's biggest global players.
Azoff's departure came as he expressed frustration at working for a public company and at not being able to reduce ticket prices following the Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger, which he described to Billboard as both the highlight and biggest disappointment of his tenure.
“The sad part is I would have preferred to have purchased all of [his management company] Front Line and kept the whole team together, because I dearly love all the artists and other managers at Front Line,” he said. “I ended up in a situation where I had to break up Front Line because I merged with a public company and now I can't figure out a way to buy it back. If you ask me what my biggest disappointment was, it's that I made a decision to merge with Ticketmaster. I really wish we would have kept it a pure management play. That's my biggest regret.”
The 65-year-old Azoff will continue to be a manager through Azoff Music Management and – along with millions in bonuses and salary pay-outs – leaves Live Nation with a core stable of artists, believed to number ten, which include Eagles and Christina Aguilera. The remainder of the 250-odd acts signed to Front Line – now owned by Live Nation and now called Artist Nation – will remain with the business.
A two-year non-compete agreement will stop the veteran competing directly against his former employer, and the Securities and Exchange Commission filings indicate that he'll give Live Nation right of last refusal on tours, but he will almost certainly work on new projects. He is allowed to work in music recording and publishing as well as visual media not related to the music business. The LA Times suggest that he may move into a TV project as music lifestyle programming is allowed.
Whatever his moves, there are more immediate questions over the future of Live Nation. Rolling Stone write that, “Some predict the company will struggle without a veteran 'closer' to sign major tours in a heated competition with its top rival, AEG Live” and argue that “Rapino's promoters will begin to seize power within Live Nation from Front Line's management team.”
Their source said that with Azoff, artists usually had the upper hand on financial negotiations.
The source said, “The balance of power, which was steeped in the management side, has now shifted, with the loss of Irving, to Rapino, who comes from the promotion side. Who gets hurt? The artist.”
Speaking to Billboard, Rapino admitted that you “can't replace” Azoff but said, “underneath that division is a powerhouse of individual experienced managers, who have over 200 artists on their rosters, experienced pros who have been running their own businesses for years.”
He said that the next two years would be aimed at implementing the business model of the Live Nation and Ticketmaster model to “finish the play”.
“When we set out to merge these businesses, the biggest revolution we wanted to accomplish was, could we re-invest and turn Ticketmaster around and launch some new technology and products to enhance the experience, etc.” Rapino said. “I'm 50 percent into that right now, and I want to see the mission finished. I want to see us launch our new platform and products in '13 and '14, which are really going to be the biggest growth behind this whole new business model. I want to see that come in to place and get those new products on the table.”
He denied that would be any more big moves or 'surprises' from the company.
“No, we're done. '13 is about putting new Ticketmaster stuff on the table, which is rolling out in June and July, that's our focus. The year looks good, our on-sales are tracking way ahead of last year both internationally and in America.”
Locally, a representative of Live Nation Entertainment directed theMusic.com.au to the official statements. After launching in 2011, the company acquired Michael Coppel Presents in April last year, with Coppel becoming the Australian President and CEO.
In the second half of 2012 they pushed into comedy tours, evident by the appointment of Bec Sutherland and Director Of Comedy. They have tours from Neil Finn & Paul Kelly, Birdy, The Presets, P!nk, Alan Davies, Black Sabbath, Tracy Morgan and Carole King lined up for 2013.
This week's new sets include the return of UK's Foals plus local acts Last Dinosaurs, The Snowdroppers and The Paper Kites.