Arts & Entertainment

How Concert Promoter MMI Live Chooses The Artists It Brings to Manila

MMI brought Coldplay, Madonna, Maroon 5, and Jennifer Lopez to the country. Who’s next?
IMAGE Xander Angeles
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Concerts are essentially a way for people to extend their personal connection with their musical heroes. We listen to their music in our bedrooms, in our cars, at restaurants, and clubs, but it’s a different thrill altogether to see and hear the artist perform it live before our very eyes and ears. We may be sharing the space with dozens, or hundreds or even thousands of other people, but a live concert is an intensely personal experience between the audience member in the crowd and the artist onstage. 

Because of this, it’s easy to forget the people behind the scenes who make it all happen in the first place. We get so caught up in the experience of watching our favorite artists we pay no mind to the men and women who toil behind the scenes in order to make the show possible.

Music Management International is one such organization. The concert promoter is one of the biggest and most successful in the country, judging by the number of shows and the star power of the artists it brings in. As the official partner of Live Nation, arguably one of the world’s biggest concert and events companies, MMI produces and promotes the local shows of some of the world’s biggest artists. Just this past year, its slate of live shows has included Paramore, Bruno Mars, Harry Styles, Panic! At the Disco, Dua Lipa, and Maroon 5. In years past, it was also behind the Philippine shows of artists like One Direction, Coldplay, Madonna, Jennifer Lopez, and Rihanna.

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MMI’s president and CEO Rhiza Pascua founded MMI from her home in California in the 1990s. Starting out by producing shows of Filipino artists visiting the U.S., Pascua eventually expanded MMI into an influential concert and events management company. During a time when the world’s biggest artists skipped going to Manila because of safety and security concerns related to terror activities in the country’s south, Pascua says she worked hard trying to convince international promoters to reconsider.

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“What I did was I would go to the offices of all the agents and bring a map to show them that Manila is here and Mindanao is there,” she says.

Today, MMI produces an average of 17 to 25 shows a year, which includes private events, mall shows, midsize shows, and arena shows.

In this candid Q&A, Pascua talks about the challenges the company faces in the midst of a swell in the number of international productions, changing up its offerings for a fickle audience, and what’s next for MMI.

ESQUIRE PHILIPPINES: It can sometimes feel like there's a very short break in between the concerts that you produce, sometimes it's just a few weeks, so there's very little time to prepare and publicize the show. I would assume it may even split some of the concertgoers. Do you ever consider saying no to staging a show here because it's too close to another show? Or is it just another challenge that you welcome and hopefully overcome?

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RHIZA PASCUA: There are a lot of challenges we encounter, most of them, inevitable, such as not being able to pick preferred dates. Of course ideal dates are the ones that fall on a weekend or at least a holiday. Fortunately, our market has adapted to coming to shows even on week nights. Then sometimes, shows happen days apart, sometimes even a day after the other. Last year, we had a few of those. Sadly, we have to marry the artist’s availability and their routing schedule with our venue availability. If we don’t have a choice, we just have to make the most of it and ensure that the announcements and ticket selling dates are paced properly.

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When the genres are similar, it may mean both acts are targeting the same market thus becoming  a major setback.  The key is always pricing the tickets correctly which is another challenge altogether.  Customers may think we pick ticket prices from trees. Little do they know that ticket pricing always depends on the artist’ fee and expenses. 
Date conflict and high ticket prices are just two of the many predicaments that we have embraced and overcome.

ESQ: How does MMI pick the acts compared to other promoters and why do you happen to get the acts that always sell out? What is your criteria?

RP: I think other promoters fall into the “familiarity, similarity & comfort” trap.  “The name sounds familiar, this act must be huge or MMI was successful in doing JoKoy, we should do comedians too, or we’ve done acts like these in the past, they should be okay.”  

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We don’t promote an act because we’ve heard the name before, or others have done them in the past or we’re just comfortable with it.  Before deciding on what shows to do, we have to agree as a team.  Obviously, we go for the relevant and current acts.  However, not all current artists are money makers so we heavily invest on technology and analytics to know how significant the artist is in our territory.  For us, it is crucial to be able to get the right acts as making the wrong choices can translate to huge losses which we can’t afford.


ESQ: I noticed you are doing a co-production with Karpos for the LANY show. How did this happen and can you tell us what it's like to work with another concert production group? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I remember you also did this with Ovation for One Direction, right?

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RP: We don’t mind collaborating with other promoters as long as we share the same goals and that we have a strategic partnership beneficial for both parties. 

ESQ: Previously you mentioned plans of building your own venue for live music events. Can you update us about this? Is this still a goal for the company?

RP:We have a great team because we share the same values and goals. One of our major goals is to create our own ecosystem, which is to build other businesses that will be useful to MMI for purposes of reaching a new market, making our operations easier and more cost-effective and building new products and services among other things. We have already started some of our projects but we are still studying the venue ownership side. Until such time... it remains a goal.  

ESQ: Each time you announce a show in the country, comments on social media typically contain requests for other artists to bring in. Which artists do fans request the most that MMI bring in? 

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RP: It changes all the time but at the moment, we have been getting consistent and frequent requests for Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, Shawn Mendes, BTS, Twenty One Pilots, 5 Seconds Of Summer, Drake, U2, The Jonas Brothers, Pvris, Adele and Beyoncé.  

HINT: 5 of them are already scheduled to be announced.

ESQ: During your downtime, or in-between shows, what are you and the team involved in? What keeps you busy when you're not working on a concert?

RP: Like what I said earlier, whether we have shows or not, we don’t stop working on new projects since our ecosystem is priority.  Therefore, there is really no downtime for our team. We are all extremely hardworking and dedicated.  If we can only stay in the office overnight, we would.  

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Because we work hard without playing hard, I make sure we go on trips every year.  We attend conferences or seminars out of the country so we can do some sightseeing, shopping, team building, etc.  Last year, we all went to London.  This year, I have yet to plan our next company trip. 




ESQ: Last time we spoke you mentioned some of your dream artists that you'd like to bring here—Madonna, Coldplay, and U2. Have you added to the list? Who else would you like to produce a show for here in the Philippines?

RP: My bucket list remains the same—still waiting to tick off U2. Hopefully soon...    

ESQ: What else can you tell us about how MMI is evolving as a company?

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RP: My style of leadership is not typical nor predictable. Because technologies advance, markets shift, and customers (ticket-buyers) become more demanding as they expect more from the shows each time, our team is always ready to adapt to major changes. Transformation and innovation are two things we try to do best.

Photography: Xander Angeles, Hair: Charlie Manapat, Make-up: Kusie Ho, Styling: John Lozano

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About The Author
Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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