With his passion for the arts, love of music, and seasoned IT leadership experience, Jon Michel Greenwood—former SVP of global business & IT systems for Live Nation—believes in championing new technologies, but never at the cost of business goals or, more importantly, creativity. Sync sat down with Greenwood to hear more about music, IT, and what gigs he plans on next.
IT and the arts: not a combination you often come across. Where did you first realize your passion for the arts?
Greenwood: Art was my favorite subject in school. I won a lot of art awards. My father was an artist by trade and a musician. Like him, I was involved heavily in music in and out of school. When I was fifteen, I purchased an old Fender guitar amp and a microphone. My best friend and I started a band, then later joined a group with some older guys who were serious about trying to make it. Our groups were popular in the area—southeast Missouri—and we were able to open for big bands passing through, like Blue Öyster Cult. I’ve always been driven by entertainment.
“You need to always strive to support the business by being the technology champion and ensure that creativity isn’t stifled.”
How did you take this drive for entertainment and merge it with your interest in technology?
Greenwood: In 1986, still in southeast Missouri, an opportunity presented itself that would allow me to work for a company as an artist. I quit the band and headed for Dallas to work for Micrografx, creator of the first drawing program for the IBM PC. They also shipped the first commercially available Microsoft Windows application. We actually created the graphics library foundation class for Windows 1.0. I quickly engaged with other creative types, including software developers.
I saw immediately that these guys were artists in their own realm, so I changed paths and moved into the technology group. The big change for me came in 1992, when there was a split at Micrografx, and I moved to a newly formed company, 7th Level, creating interactive titles. This was my sweet spot, and we went on to create titles with top-tier talent, like Monty Python, Pink Floyd, Disney, and Quincy Jones.
Your career found a steady progression after this, too, including a stint with Sony. When you arrived at Live Nation in 2007, were you where you wanted to be?
Greenwood: Before Live Nation, I’d worked at different divisions at Sony—Sony Music, Sony Pictures Digital—and it seemed like a natural progression to join Live Nation. I actually had four offers at the time, but chose Live Nation because it was exactly in the space I wanted to be. In my early days we worked relentlessly to redesign the Live Nation website, revamp the event booking system, and even launch our own ticketing system. I moved to the Global IT group after the 2010 Ticketmaster merger. Faced with an influx of new website requests, we created a custom platform, ensuring PCI compliance, and housed them all in the cloud, which was new for Live Nation at the time. There are currently over ninety sites on the platform, including House of Blues and VIP ticketing.
You’ve worked with IT across a few industries. What makes the entertainment industry different?
Greenwood: One thing that’s somewhat unique is the strong personalities. That can be tough. If you keep a level head and surround yourself with super intelligent people—which I’ve always done—you’ll accomplish some phenomenal things. You need to always strive to support the business by being the technology champion and ensure that creativity isn’t stifled.
In recent years, there’s been a big administrative push across IT organizations to outsource. The entertainment business is no exception. The thought is that outsourcing streamlines the workforce and saves the company money, and in some cases, it does just that. But do your due diligence; don’t be reactive. Many of these cloud companies have simplified their value proposition for a broader range of applications. However, the entertainment industry has some extremely specialized cases that make it difficult to quickly and seamlessly move to an outsourced model. When intellectual capital is lost, it can hurt a company’s ability to respond to new business conditions.
You left Live Nation in August 2015—so what’s next for you?
Greenwood: Eight years is a long time to be at any company. I know I contributed significantly to the value chain while I was there, but felt like the gig had run its course. I loved working there, but I was ready for the next logical step in my career. I’ve always lived comfortably at the intersection of entertainment, leisure, and technology, and I’m keeping my eye open for more opportunities to continue on that path.