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The Flying Dutchmen (& Women) – Netherlands report

Where big festivals, big shows and new talent are concerned, these are high times in the lowlands.

From Golden Earring, Shocking Blue and Herman Brood through the electronic years of Tiësto, Armin van Buuren, Dash Berlin, Hardwell and Afrojack – all five of whom, incidentally, were commemorated on Dutch postage stamps last year – the Netherlands has never ceased to produce music of international significance, even if some years have been better than others. These years, as it happens, are pretty good ones, and the key front is the live one.

“We have been working on it for more than a decade now, so we have a momentum, and the artists are pushing each other to a higher level.”

“It is a good time, yes,” says Ruud Berends of national music export agency Dutch Impact. “We are quite happy with how everything is going. We have a lot of talent in Holland that is breaking. There are lot of acts going out, playing the showcase festivals, touring in other countries. We have been working on it for more than a decade now, so we have a momentum, and the artists are pushing each other to a higher level.”

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High flying Etihad Stadium

Celebrating 15 year of success, Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium has become one of the world’s most iconic, must-play venues for A-listers. But, as Eamonn Forde discovers, the stadium’s flexible configurations make it a viable choice for many other acts…

The turn of the millennium saw the opening of a new stadium in Melbourne that, 15 years on, remains the state-of-the-art leader in the country and a key component in the city’s claim to be both the music and sporting capital of Australia.

The building of the stadium was a catalyst for change in the city, revitalising an old part of town.

Construction started in 1997, under the working title of the Victoria Stadium. It may have gone through different naming partner relationships (Colonial Stadium, Telstra Dome), but the Etihad Stadium Stadium, as it is known today, is the gold standard for major sporting and entertainment events in not just Australia but the southern hemisphere.

The building of the stadium was a catalyst for change in the city, revitalising an old part of town. “The important point here was that the stadium was a new build and it was down in the area known as the Docklands, which was really a rundown area,” explains Paul Sergeant, the CEO of Melbourne Stadiums Limited, who took over running the Etihad in October 2012. “When this place was built, it stood out like a sore thumb. It was here on its own. You wouldn’t recognise [the area] now.”

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The Gaffer 2015 – Arthur Kemish

Having just wrapped the biggest artist tour of the year – Taylor Swift’s 1989 – it’s fitting that veteran production manager Arthur Kemish is the recipient of this year’s Gaffer Award. Gordon Masson caught up with Arthur between tour dates…

As one of the very few production managers who can take on a global stadium tour, Arthur Kemish is at the top of his game. With more than 40 years in live music, Arthur is one of the most experienced production managers in the business but like many of his Gaffer Award predecessors, he confesses that luck played a significant part in his career path. “Working on tours is the only thing I’ve ever known – it’s been my life and I love it,” he says.

“The main difference with the new people coming into production is that they are a lot smarter than we ever were. But they have to be because of the high-tech gear they have to work with. They have to fix the lights or the desk on the fly a lot of the time and it’s not a problem for them. So they aspire to the job, whereas we just stumbled into it.”

“Usually the hardest thing you have to do on tour is when you switch between arenas and stadiums – which is exactly what we’ve been doing on 1989”

Working with a crew of tech-savvy professionals has been crucial to the Taylor Swift tour, which came to its eight month conclusion in Melbourne on 12 December. Talking to IQ from his second home in Maui, just prior to that final Australian leg, Arthur revealed one of the main secrets to the success of the production.

“Usually the hardest thing you have to do on tour is when you switch between arenas and stadiums – which is exactly what we’ve been doing on 1989,” he reports. “But for this tour we put in a sub-deck and then built on that, so essentially we can put on the same show no matter what size of arena or stadium we are in. Stageco builds the sub-deck, which is about a metre high and then we just put Taylor’s stage on top of that. The first time I remember seeing it done was in the 1980s on a Mötley Crüe tour with Jake Berry as production manager. It’s not new, but it’s very smart.”

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Senior execs depart Live Nation UK

Managerial shake-ups at Live Nation UK continue, with two of the company’s senior promoters making their departure.

Details about the exits are sketchy, but it is understood that vice-president Steve Homer and senior vice-president Toby Leighton-Pope severed ties with Live Nation in early December. They follow former COO John Probyn after he left the company for pastures new in September.

Homer and Leighton-Pope are among the best known promoters in the UK and were both heavily involved in the Wireless Festival, which made its debut in Birmingham last year, twinned with the longstanding London event. However, the Birmingham festival did not have a second year.

Live Nation declined to comment.

Gdansk Stadium secures new naming-rights sponsor

The PGE Arena in Gdańsk, Poland, has secured a new naming-rights sponsor and will now be called the Stadion Energa Gdańsk.

The 44,000-capacity building was constructed between 2008-11 as one of the host stadia for the UEFA European Championships in 2012, but it has also staged concerts by the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Bon Jovi and Justin Timberlake.

Financial details were not disclosed, but electricity provider Energa Group has agreed a five-year contract with the stadium administrator, Arena Gdańsk Operator, and has committed to transferring a number of sporting, educational and cultural events to the arena. Since it opened in 2011, Stadion Energa Gdańsk has been visited by more than two million people.

Putting musicians in the picture

Again and again you hear from musicians that they feel they have been screwed by the music business – much like Sinead O’Connor published on Facebook in August. If you listen to all the complaints you might think that everyone working in the music business is a crook. That’s of course far from the truth. Whilst all those people who make up the business team of a musician (manager, agent, A&R manager) have their own financial interests in the success of the musician, who is defending the interests of the musician?

The only independent adviser for a musician is his or her lawyer. In some countries you have musicians’ unions that offer similar services but in general, the music business doesn’t meet the needs of musicians needing non-legal, independent advice. Three years ago I started a blog Compass for Creatives to fill this gap. This blog provides free empowerment advice to musicians in order to help them strengthen their position.

The blog has received more than 150,000 views so far. When musicians feel screwed by the business, it’s either because they really have been, or because they wrongly believe they have been. The latter is often caused by a lack of understanding of how the music business works. In both cases, empowerment offers a solution.

Even if most of us aren’t crooks, there are ‘sharks’ operating in the music business. We have all heard the stories about promoters selling a band to a venue and keeping 50% of the fee for him or herself, or when the band doesn’t get paid because they accepted drugs from the promoter that were allegedly worth the amount of the fee.

Empowerment can help musicians in two ways. Firstly, empowering musicians makes them more aware of what power they have and that helps them develop the strength of personality needed to deal with people. Secondly, they become more alert of everything that’s going on around them. Therefore, they will hopefully realise that they are getting screwed by a business partner quite early, maybe even in time to prevent it. Empowered musicians are also better equipped to defend their own interests when they were unable to prevent getting screwed in the first place.

Musicians need to know that the fee is dependent on the ticket sales. They don’t have to know all the details, but they do need to know the basics in order to set out the direction the whole team is heading.

When musicians wrongly feel they’ve been screwed, it’s often because they don’t understand how the music business works. And the music business has a long tradition of preventing musicians from understanding how the industry works. Two years ago, I participated in a panel at Go-North in Inverness, Scotland, that explained how the international music business works. One of my co-panelists, that worked at a major record company, mentioned openly that she prefers young musicians, aged 20 or less, because they don’t yet have their own opinion and don’t know how the business works.

There are also musicians who don’t want to be informed. Sinead O’Connor admits in the Facebook discussion mentioned above, that she wants to make music and leave the business side to others. But empowered musicians are able to lead their business team. Musicians need to know that the fee is dependent on the ticket sales. They don’t have to know all the details, but they do need to know the basics in order to set out the direction the whole team is heading. It’s not only about their career, it’s about their life too!

As a European agent I prefer to work with informed musicians. In September 2001, I celebrated my 20th anniversary at Paperclip Agency. I work as the European agent and Dutch promoter for bands from all over the world. Acts on my roster include(d) John Watts (from Fischer-Z), I Muvrini, Balkan Beat Box, Chloe Charles, and many others.

In Compass for Creatives, I combine my experience in the live music business with my master’s degree in cultural psychology and my interest in personal management. As part of my blog, I offer online workshops as well as individual coaching. I’m regularly invited to guest lecturer at universities and colleges on the topic of music management.

Everything at Compass for Creatives is about the empowerment of artists. Inspired by research from the McKinsey Institute into the ‘secret’ of the successful women who made it to the Fortunes500, I developed five empowerment tools for musicians. These five tools have proven very useful in coaching both male and female musicians. Right now, the second edition of the ‘Online Workshop 5 Empowerment Tools For Musicians – Learn in 6 weeks how to move from insecurity to an upward spiral towards success’ is running. The first edition attracted plenty of enthusiastic feedback, including: “This workshop engages the ‘higher’ forms of business. It’s more a personal development rather than a ‘how to’ workshop yet it connects directly to business. Would I recommend it? Definitely!” The third workshop starts 16 November.

Edge’s £40m boost to UK’s creative economy

Edge Investments has raised £40million (€55.4m) in funding, with UK Government support, to invest in high-growth companies in the creative industries.

The company’s new Edge Creative Enterprise Fund brings together private sector finances from leading institutions and high net-worth individuals, with a significant investment from the Government’s British Business Bank.

Edge will use the money to nurture and assist creative businesses. By their nature, many of these companies start with a small number of employees, and a high degree of entrepreneurial flair. Edge says it will provide the crucial capital and mentoring skills to stimulate growth and innovation at these firms. In this way, it will create growth and returns for both the management teams of its portfolio companies and its investors.

“The creative industries are one of the UK’s great success stories, an area where Britain excels,” notes Edge Investments CEO, David Glick. “Our view is that a high degree of sector knowledge mitigates risk and also allows us to assess the most promising opportunities and most talented executives.”

The creative and cultural economy is an important part of the global economy, and Britain’s creative industries sector is thriving – accounting for approximately 10% of the entire UK economy and providing 2.55 million jobs. Indeed, in terms of employment, the sector is growing four times faster than the economy as a whole.

Edge has already had a great deal of success in the live entertainment sector and it’s likely that a proportion of the £40m will be invested in the music business. The company’s previous investments have included live events featuring Jennifer Lopez, Eric Clapton, Leonard Cohen and the Rolling Stones.

The fund is targeting a minimum three times return for its private investors over its seven- to ten-year life. “There are nearly 160,000 creative industries businesses in Britain, yet despite being in this high-growth sector, many of them find it difficult to attract adequate capital to maximise their potential. Our new Edge Creative Enterprise Fund aims to fill that funding gap,” says Glick. “[It] will bring much-needed growth capital to smaller businesses in the creative industries, and we are grateful to the British Business Bank and all the fund’s investors for their support.”

Ken Cooper, MD of venture capital solutions at British Business Bank, adds, “This is the first fund specifically focused on the creative industries backed by the British Business Bank. We look forward to working with Edge Investments, which has extensive experience in this sector and a proven track record. The creative industry is of increasing importance to the wider UK economy and we are particularly pleased that this fund will ensure these high-growth businesses have access to the finance they need to scale.”

PRS live music tariff review continues

PRS for Music is aiming to present a revised tariff for UK live music events in spring 2016 following a consultation period in which it found itself the subject of criticism.

In December, the collection society published a summary of responses from its consultation on the terms of its Popular Music Concerts Tariff that is applied to ticketed live popular music events. That tariff has been set at 3% of gross concert receipts since 1988.

The consultation commenced in April 2015 for an initial eight-week response period. However, the deadline was subsequently extended, following a request from the Concert Promoters Association expressed interest in carrying out its own research as a response to the findings outlined in the consultation documentation.

The consultation received a total of 111 direct responses from across the industry, covering the majority of the live market. And people did not hold back in their criticism of the PRS strategy, with a number of responses voicing suspicions that PRS was aiming to extract more money from the live sector and one suggesting any tariff changes would ultimately be made in an attempt to offset PRS revenue declines in other areas, such as recorded music.

One group response noted that PRS holds a monopoly position that it is abusing, and is acting in an anti-competitive manner. Other responses noted rising costs from PRS’s financial summaries in areas such as personnel; legal and professional fees; employee bonuses and pensions; and the salary of PRS’s highest paid executive.

Responding to IQ’s question about whether there is a ‘them’ and ‘us’ disconnect between PRS and the live music business, the organisation replied, “PRS works closely with the entire live music business on a day-to-day basis. This consultation was designed in order for us to work even more closely with this part of the industry and better understand the sector to find a tariff that is fit for purpose and to simplify the process for licensees and members.”

Denying accusations that PRS will not consider tariff cuts for festivals who spend large parts of their budget on non-music elements, the society says, “The inference that the tariff only looks upwards is wildly speculative. This has been a thorough, robust and detailed consultation process where we gave every opportunity for the industry to comment and contribute, prior to commencing negotiations in the New Year.”

Adele 2016 tour smashes records

Demand for tickets for next year’s international tour by Adele is breaking records around the world after her latest album, 25, also smashed sales records in multiple territories. And the team behind the 27-year-old has worked tirelessly to ensure that tickets for the tour do not fall into the wrong hands by identifying and banning touts, and cancelling tickets that appear on resale platforms.

At press time, 56 dates at arenas across North America are on sale, while her entire 49-show tour of Europe sold out, often within minutes of tickets going on sale.

Adele Live 2016 marks the singer’s first tour in five years. And among the highlights of the 660,000+ tickets sold across UK and Europe will be six March shows in The O2 arena in London.

Adele is booked by Kirk Sommer at William Morris Endeavor in North America, while her agent for the rest of the world is ITB’s Lucy Dickins, whose brother, Jonathan, is the artist’s manager. The tour dates have been placed with numerous promoters rather than a global buy-out. “We wanted to work with promoters who we thought were right for the artist,” says Lucy.

At September Management, Jonathan Dickins discloses that registration details were carefully monitored and anything suspicious was dealt with. As a result, more than 18,000 ‘known or likely touts’ were eliminated from the ticket sale process. Indeed, research by Media Insight found that £4.2million (€5.8m) worth of tickets were saved from secondary markets.

“This is a show for fans who’ve waited years for Adele to perform,” says Jonathan. “Everyone working on it just wants the best outcome for those fans.”

Promoter discounts questioned at PRS meetings

A meeting involving the CEO of German collection society GEMA descended into a surprise debate over “widespread” promoter discounts given by some European societies.

GEMA boss Harald Heker was a guest of honour at one of PRS For Music’s regular writer representative meetings in London, on 14 December, when prominent live music executives confronted him about how his society, and others in Europe, can justify giving substantial discounts, of 20% and more to certain promoters.

“This is money that is being taken out of the show settlements as PRS income, and given back to promoters in the form of a rebate,” says agent Carl Leighton-Pope who raised the topic at the meeting. “We need some clarity about how much money is being left on the table. Mr Heker was very informative, but none of our questions were answered properly.”

The point was made that many agents and managers were unaware that such deductions from show settlements appear to be the norm in many European countries. “The issue of promoter discounts was first brought to our attention in 1992 by U2’s lawyer Amanda Harcourt, so this is nothing new,” says artist manager Paul Crockford, who was also in attendance. “But a lot of people are unaware of how widespread this is. For instance, there is a 20% discount enshrined in German law, but GEMA gives certain promoters a further 20% discount on top of that and then charges a 15% admin fee itself, so by the time PRS sees any money, 55% might already have been deducted. And it’s not just Germany – it’s Holland, Belgium, Austria and Switzerland as well, and many more.”

Crockford has been pushing for PRS For Music to take a more proactive role in finding a solution to the discounts controversy for some time and IQ understands that PRS representatives will attend a January meeting with GEMA in Munich to discuss the situation.