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Jay Marciano and Paul Tollett: Masterminds behind Eras tour, Coachella

Jay Marciano, left, and Paul Tollett
Jay Marciano, left, the head of AEG Presents, and Paul Tollett, who runs Goldenvoice, make a powerhouse duo in the live music world.
(Zipeng Zhu / For The Times)
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It is strange to think of Jay Marciano as David to someone’s Goliath.

After all, the chief executive of AEG Presents — the live-events arm of billionaire Philip Anschutz’s sprawling empire — helped bring you Taylor Swift’s Eras tour, gave Elton John his U.S. sendoff, and put the Rolling Stones on stage once again, among other blockbuster shows over the last two years.

But Marciano exists in a music world dominated by Michael Rapino, who runs Live Nation Entertainment, which includes Ticketmaster.

For the record:

2:13 p.m. July 7, 2024An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Louis Messina, Taylor Swift’s booker, as Jim Messina.

Marciano, 70, has kept AEG in the ring against its significantly larger nemesis with some notable coups, including partnering with Swift’s booker, Louis Messina, for the Eras tour. He’s more than doubled the company’s venue portfolio, which includes flagship properties such as the Crypto.com Arena in downtown Los Angeles and the new T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, and runs acclaimed regional events such as the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. More recently, he partnered with the major Latin music promoter Cárdenas Marketing Network.

Discover the changemakers who are shaping every cultural corner of Los Angeles. L.A. Influential brings you the moguls, politicians, artists and others telling the story of a city constantly in flux.

Marciano’s future moves will determine if the business of live music can stay (at least) a competitive duopoly.

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A move AEG made long ago gives him a fighting chance.

For the last two decades, AEG’s portfolio has included Goldenvoice, the festival and concert promotion company.

Paul Tollett, Goldenvoice’s chief executive, is the all-seeing eye of the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, the most glamorous, musically tasteful, visually iconic and profitable music festival in the country. In 2016, he outdid himself with Desert Trip, which brought six titans of classic rock in a slim festival format, yielding the highest-grossing box office for a concert in American history (a metal version, Power Trip, debuted last year).

The first Coachella in 1999 gave Tollett, 58, an instant national reputation. Tollett’s signature event became cultural shorthand for bohemian desert aesthetics and must-see acts across rock, electronic and hip-hop music. Your placement on the poster is still the definitive metric of how big your band is.

As Coachella grew, it expanded to two weekends with nearly 250,000 fans, added a country-music spin-off, Stagecoach, and fully adapted to millennial and Gen Z pop tastes and luxury appetites while keeping its music-biz cachet. What happens on its stages — like Frank Ocean’s divisive one-night comeback set in 2023 — becomes international news. To have your festivals become the industry’s biggest cash-spinners, while staying its most creative and ambitious musically, is a towering achievement.

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