Leadership / 01.21.20
Linda Deckard: One Year After Receiving the Inaugural INTIX IMPACT Award
This story is brought to you by the INTIX Women in Entertainment Technology Program.
It’s been one year since Linda Deckard was honored with the first ever INTIX IMPACT award, an tribute that will be given out each year — chosen by the INTIX Board Chair — to a person or organization that has provided ongoing support and made a lasting impact on INTIX. A journalist and entrepreneur of the highest caliber, Deckard is the founder of Amusement Business, Venues Today/Venues Now and the Based on Truth blog.
“I never considered myself an entrepreneur,” she says. “I was a journalist first and foremost, reporting on other people’s events, successes and failures. Early on, shy as I was, I realized you can talk to anyone. Just ask them about themselves. Having majored in journalism in the dark ages — when it was still called journalism — at Indiana University in Bloomington, I am one of the rare birds that chose a career and stuck to it.”
Her early experience was as a reporter for the consumer press. She was eventually hired by Billboard Publications to write for Amusement Business. “AB, as it became known, reported on what we called ‘mass entertainment,’ incorporating amusement parks, state and county fairs, carnivals, auditoriums and arenas,” she says. “My area of expertise became auditoriums and arenas and all things that pertain to them. I attended early INTIX meetings when it was known as Box Office Managers International (BOMI) at the invitation and urging of the great Pat Spira. She taught me how important ticketing was and still is.”
Deckard would spend 26 years at AB (1976-2002) in various roles in the Nashville and Los Angeles offices. Billboard Publications eventually decided to take the arenas and concerts coverage out of AB and reinsert it — and Deckard — in Billboard. “That left a big void because Billboard’s focus was all things related to music, and we know venues and ticketing is so much more. In 2002, I founded Venues Today and ran that trade publication as publisher and editor in chief until I sold it to Tim Leiweke and Irving Azoff’s Oak View Group in 2016. I left the re-established VenuesNow at the end of 2018, and I launched Deckard & Associates, publisher/author of books and blogs about the industry. I graduated college 50 years ago, and I’m still just a writer!”
Of course, Deckard is so much. She recalled those days in the early 2000s when she decided to go it on our own. At that point in her life, it was not in her nature to be the boss. She knew she needed some good counsel.
“When I began the process of founding Venues Today, I turned to Mike McGee for advice,” she says. “I had been covering Mike’s career from his start at the Monroe (La.) Civic Center to founding Leisure Management International and had developed a strong relationship. He gave me lots of advice, but the one thing that tipped the boat was his answer to my worry that I would fail, giving up a secure job at Billboard, complete with a 401k, and launching a new publication based simply on my institutional knowledge and contacts. ‘Have you ever been without a job?’ he asked. ‘Not for long,’ I answered. ‘Then if it fails, you’ll just get another job. Better that you try.’ I would have regretted not taking that risk.”
As a result, Deckard has since been one of the biggest proponents of the “If you have a dream, act on it” philosophy. It’s one of the reasons she received the inaugural INTIX IMPACT honor. Even one year removed from earning it, she describes the award as “a complete surprise.”
Interestingly, it was bestowed at the same luncheon where, for nearly a decade, she had been giving out the Venues Today Ticketing Stars Awards. “I don’t like surprises, but I loved that one,” she says. “Having bestowed awards on industry luminaries for years, it’s very different being on the recipient side.”
And apparently awards precipitate awards. This past year, Deckard has traveled to Toronto to receive the Event & Arena Marketing Association’s Gigi Award; to Chicago to receive the International Association of Venue Managers’ (IAVM’s) Joe Anzivino Award; and to Columbia, South Carolina, for the Sport, Entertainment & Venues Tomorrow Lifetime Achievement Award. “Look what INTIX started!” she exclaimed, with a laugh.
As further expression of her gratitude, Deckard says, “I will be attending INTIX going forward until no one knows me anymore, because I know you and what you bring to the table. Without ticketing, there is no live event.”
Now, Deckard finds herself in position to give others advice. She is especially supportive of young women in the ticketing, venues and journalism fields. One of her initiatives when she published Venues Today was the annual Women of Influence Awards. “I chose that category because live entertainment was male-dominated and women in management were rare,” she says. “That is changing, slowly, but never will truly change until women take that risk and make that move into management. It’s a different kind of relationship, a different kind of nurturing that women bring to the table, and it makes business better. Opportunities for women are everywhere, but the main ingredient is an appetite for risk and breaking with tradition. In ticketing and marketing, I see more women in management than I do in venues and promotion and operations. But opportunities are there to grow, especially as the business becomes more corporate and global. And you don’t have to golf anymore!”
She is especially hopeful when she sees the diversity of young people entering the workforce today. “The best part of starting out is limitless opportunity,” she says. “I would guess you have no idea what you want to do or how many choices you have. Whether you’re an intern or a receptionist or an assistant, volunteer for every job that comes along. So many have to do so much to make live entertainment a good experience. Be that person who says, ‘I’ll do it!’ Eventually, you will develop a much broader understanding of the opportunities you have, the roles you might fill and the jobs you like best. And you will develop relationships that matter down the line. Everyone you encounter, every job you do well, will add to your skill set and important relationships.”
So, what does the future hold for Deckard? A lot as it turns out. Besides the Based on Truth blog, she is currently writing two books. “The first, and most difficult to capture well, is to tell the story of Mother Hubbard — a legend in this industry,” Deckard says. “She is now 92, and I have known her for 40 years. She ran the Pan Am Center at New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, and had to fill in around athletics. She became a booker and promoter bringing shows to venues and colleges coast to coast, and she founded American Collegiate Talent Showcase (ACTS) to showcase collegiate talent and to provide scholarships for students pursuing a career in live entertainment. She’s still very active in the business with ACTS, with promoting and with building new venues.”
Her second project is a textbook, tentatively titled “The Circle of Live,” which she is co-authoring with Mike Garcia, Chair of the Music Industry Program at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music, and Pam Matthews, Executive Director of the International Entertainment Buyers Association. “We are writing an experiential treatise on how you make money in the music business. It’s all about live.”
Finally, Deckard is helping to edit a handbook on terminology and data metrics for (IAVM) related to the arena business. “Each project informs the other,” she says. “People say I keep reinventing myself, but it’s all the same foundation. The building blocks in my life and career are people in this industry. That foundation is solid, and those relationships hold me up.”
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Tags: INTIX 2019 , Women in Ticketing , INTIX 2020