Published Mar 22, 2013If you've been to a live concert by Madonna, Lady Gaga, U2 or The Police, you've felt the influence of Arthur Fogel, even though you've probably never even heard the man's name. Fogel is the Ottawa-born Chairman of Global Touring for Live Nation and is the mastermind behind 7 the top 10 grossing concerts of all-time. Ron Chapman puts a magnifying glass over Fogel in his documentary, Who the [email protected]#$ is Arthur Fogel? , tracing the Canadian music promoter's rise to superstar status.
Fogel's roots are in the Canadian club scene of the 1970s as the manager of Egerton's, the Toronto music venue that eventually went on to become The Edge. He managed Toronto rock band Martha and the Muffins before joining Concert Productions International (CPI), propelling him from small time local concert promotion to the big leagues.
The film takes a linear biopic approach, chronicling each step of Fogel's life, complete with a plethora of archival footage from all of his major accomplishments over the years; Fogel promotes concerts so there's seemingly never a time where a camera hasn't been filming.
Fogel's make-it-or-break-it moment came in the 1980s when he wanted to promote a band on every single date of its world tour–something unheard of at the time; that band was The Rolling Stones. Fogel's ideas were groundbreaking and changed the concert landscape forever. It also helped that the Stones went on to play for over 3 million fans in 20 countries, grossing $170 million.
Much of Who the [email protected]#$ focuses on U2 and the events leading up to their 360 tour, exposing the logistics that were involved in arranging such a massive concert complete with an exposed stage that would allow the band to perform 'in the round.' Mid-way through, the film seems to drag a bit with its segment on Madonna, which is more preoccupied with Madonna herself than what Fogel's contributions to her success have been.
Despite being mostly hagiographic, the film also highlights some of Fogel's blunders over the years, particularly with the 2002 Guns N' Roses world tour that ended in rioting after Axl didn't bother to show up on time for the first show of the tour. There's also a brief mention of the ill-fated Diana Ross & The Supremes tour, which featured Diana Ross and two women who were clearly not The Supremes. Both of the missteps are quickly glossed over to highlight Fogel's versatility and ability to move on from failure quickly.
For those looking for a bit more substance, the segment on digital piracy and how the Internet decimated the music industry—while a tired notion at this point—is rather interesting in the context of live concerts. While the music industry suffers at the hand of piracy, the one thing thieves can't take away is the concert experience since it can't be reproduced. Artists now have to tour more frequently in order to get their name and music out there, leading to several new platforms for promotion and sales. (U2 tour t-shirt, anyone?)
Overall Who The [email protected]#$ is a broad stroke examination of a man that has made his mark in the world of music. By the end of the film we're left with a vague impression of who Arthur Fogel actually is and can walk away feeling as though we've just witnessed an supplemental piece for big-name touring acts. More contexts (economic, technological or historical) would have painted a clearer portrait of a man that connects culture and business, and how he continues to transform the nature of the music business.
Who the [email protected]#$ is Arthur Fogel screens at the TIFF Bell Lightbox as part of the Canadian Music Week at 7pm on March 22nd 2013. (eOne)