Madonna's virgin territory

Opening act for Cohl's LN unit

Nashville — Live Nation president and CEO Michael Rapino confirmed Tuesday that Madonna has entered a 10-year global partnership with Live Nation. She will become the founding artist in LN's new Artist Nation division, headed by veteran Rolling Stones tour producer Michael Cohl.

"The idea that an iconic artist like Madonna would pick a promoter to be a long-term partner with truly validates our business model," Rapino said.

"We put a lot of time and effort into what kind of deals we're going to do (and) how we're going to do them, with certainty that we can execute and maximize on those deals," LN global music chairman Arthur Fogel said. "We are 100% committed, confident and ecstatic about this deal and about our ability to deliver on the economic model for both her and us as partners."

The deal encompasses all of Madonna's future music and music-related businesses, including the exploitation of the Madonna brand, new studio albums, touring, merchandising, fan club/Web site, DVDs, music-related television and film projects and associated sponsorship agreements. the 360-degree business model will address all of Madonna's music ventures as a total entity for the first time in her career.

"The real story here is while everyone's talking 360, we were quietly building the services to do it right," Rapino said. "We have spent a considerable amount of resources building this Artist Nation division first and then going after artists second. Madonna would not have done a 360 deal with us just because of our touring capability; we had to prove to her and others that we have been working on and built a very good execution capacity at Artist Nation."

The Madonna deal, which has been valued at $120 million in published reports, and its potential upside has not been without its detractors. But Rapino said Wall Street still needs to be educated on new music business models, particularly the global scale of a deal like Madonna's.

"We have been consistent for two years talking about taking our global concert business of 10,000 shows and 1,000 artists (annually) and extending them to the fan, through our online ticketing, and (forming) longer and deeper relationships with the artist," Rapino said.

"When you do one show in Cleveland for four hours, your risk and reward is limited," he said. "When you do a tour, it gets better; when you do a global tour, it gets better; when you do a global tour plus T-shirts, it gets better. Now add global tours, plus product lines plus time: dream. If I could take all of my thousand artists and turn them into longer, deeper relationships, we would be on rocket fuel. And this is the start of it."

A key broker in the Madonna deal was Fogel, producer of Madonna's past three worldwide tours. Asked what contractual obligations Madonna might have to tour and record, Fogel said: "We can't get into that other than to say the history of Madonna is very clear. She is incredibly hardworking, determined, competitive and creative, and her entire career has been consistently about delivering on all levels, whether it's live or on her records. That's who she is, and that's who she will be going forward."

Meanwhile, Cohl moves forward as chairman and CEO of Artist Nation, a multifaceted one-stop shop overseeing what he calls "unified rights."

"Between CPI and Live Nation, at various stages we've been developing the unified rights model for almost 20 years," Cohl said.

He added that while much has changed, "It's still about artists, it's still about music; it's about what they write, it's their babies, their songs and how they perform them. And we're going to do a better job, we believe, of connecting them to a broader audience."

Ray Waddell is an executive director at Billboard.