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Use of MDMA, designer drugs on the rise in Europe

The use of MDMA – the drug of choice for many ravers and one frequently blamed for the spate of deaths currently plaguing the dance music scene – is on the rise in Europe, reflecting a resurgence in popularity for a drug whose prevalence had previously been on the decline from peak levels in the early-to-mid-2000s.

According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA)’s 2016 European Drug Report, 2.1 million European Union (EU) citizens aged between 15 and 34 used MDMA (ecstasy) in 2014: an increase of 300,000 on the previous year.

The Netherlands, long Europe’s leading manufacturer of MDMA, seized 2.4m ecstasy tablets in 2012, and although there is no data available for 2014, “if a similar figure is assumed for 2014” EMCDDA estimates that “around 6.1m MDMA tablets were seized in the European Union in that year” – more than double the amount of seizures in 2009.

EMCDDA MDMA map, Europe, 2014

The EU is also seeing a rise in the number of high-potency ecstasy pills “after a period when reports suggested that the majority of tablets sold as ecstasy in Europe contained low doses of MDMA or none at all,” the report says. “Reports indicate an increased availability both of high-dose MDMA tablets and of MDMA in powder and crystal forms.”

EMCDDA expressed concern about MDMA producers’ “use of sophisticated and targeted marketing” and production of “high-dose powders, crystals and tablets with a range of logos, colours and shapes” to give the impression of quality “after a lengthy period in which poor drug quality and adulteration had resulted in a decline in use”.

Use of new designer drugs, such as those responsible for the deaths at Time Warp festival, is also on the rise as their numbers continue to grow

“There are signals that this may be achieving some success,” it said, “with indications that MDMA is becoming more popular, both with established stimulant consumers and with a new generation of young users.”

Many recent festival deaths, such as those at Time Warp in Argentina in April, came after victims ingested MDMA laced with an unregulated designer drug, or ‘new psychoactive substance’ (NPS). Use of NPSes, many of them legal, is also on the rise as their numbers continue to grow (although legislation such as the UK’s new Psychoactive Substances Act – a blanket ban on any psychoactive drugs that aren’t “food, alcohol, tobacco, nicotine, caffeine and medical products” – should bring the numbers down in 2016): In 2015, 98 new substances were detected for the first time, reports EMCDDA, bringing the number of new substances monitored to more than 560, of which 70% were detected in the last five years.

Mint Group pulls out of Koko

The Mint Group – the bar, nightclub and restaurant operator which had run Koko since its launch in 2004 – has terminated its management agreement with the Camden venue, effective as of 21 May.

Mint, which also operates nightclubs Mary Janes and Infernos, bars Elk and the Bison and Bird and Latin-Japanese restaurant Mommi, will have no further involvement with the 1,410-capacity venue as it “focus[es] our efforts on these other business interests at this time”, the company’s operations director, Larry Seymour, tells IQ.

Clapham-headquartered Mint had been running Koko (pictured) under a management services agreement since a share sale, explains Seymour. The venue was also owned by Mint until November 2012, when it was demerged.

“We own and operate a number of other businesses, and, after a long and successful spell with the team at Koko, it makes sense for us to focus our efforts on these other business interests at this time”

Koko’s management team now report directly to venue founder Oliver Bengough, who has a 50% personal interest in Koko (the remaining shares are held by outside investors).

“I’m very proud of the management team we have assembled, which has been the bedrock of our success,” says Bengough, “and 2016 is looking to be an even better year for Koko [as] we continue to move forward and work with the finest artists and musicians in the business.”

Koko posted a 2.4% increase in turnover in the last financial year (31 March 2015–31 March 2016), with an EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation) increase of 7.2%.

Upcoming shows include the Melvins, Tegan and Sara, Jeremih, Gogol Bordello and Logic.

Call for UK’s best live act 2016

Voting opens today for the 2016 Silver Clef Awards’ best live act category.

The Ticketmaster UK-sponsored award is the only category that can be voted on by the general public and is composed of 10 acts “handpicked by a panel of music industry experts, who sifted through Ticketmaster’s most searched artists who performed in the UK between March 2015 and March 2016”.

The nominees are AdeleLittle MixMuseThe 1975Ed SheeranBring Me the HorizonFlorence + the MachineCatfish and the BottlemenOne Direction and Rudimental.

Voting is either via www.ticketmaster.co.uk/best-live-act or by tweeting to the event’s organiser, music charity Nordoff Robbins (@NordoffRobbins1), using the hashtag #BLAartistname (for example #BLAadele).

The winners in the other categories have already been revealed: Lionel Richie will take home the O2 Silver Clef award, with Florence Welch picking up best female artist, Olly Murs best male artist, Jess Glynne best newcomer and André Rieu the PPL classical award.

Past best live act winners include Arctic Monkeys (2015), Justin Timberlake (2014), One Direction (2013), McFly (2012) and Sir Paul McCartney (2011).

Andrew Parsons, managing director of Ticketmaster UK, says: “We love working with Nordoff Robbins and are very proud to team up again in the hunt for the best live act act of 2016. Being the only award at the Silver Clefs voted for by the fans makes it a very special one, and with this shortlist it’s going to be a tight race. Good luck to all of the nominees.”

Voting closes on Friday 17 June. The awards, which raise money for Nordoff Robbins’s music therapy work, take place at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London on 1 July.

18 women sexually assaulted at German festival

Eighteen women have been sexually assaulted at a music festival in Hesse.

Police in the city of Darmstadt have arrested three men, all of whom are asylum-seekers from Pakistan, after the women reported that they had been inappropriately touched at Schlossgrabenfest in the early hours of Sunday morning.

According to police, the assaults echoed the events of New Year’s Eve in Cologne as small groups of men “from the South Asian region” surrounded women attending the festival and groped them in the crowds in front of the main stage.

Two or three more men are reportedly still being sought by police, and the victims are receiving counselling.

Around 400,000 people attended Schlossgrabenfest, which was headlined by Die Prinzen, Stefanie Heinzmann, Namika and Miss Platnum, Feine Sahne Fischfilet and Seven.

Glastonbury 2016 ‘most connected festival ever’

This year’s Glastonbury Festival will feature the UK’s largest-ever temporary 4G mobile data network.

BT-owned EE (Everything Everywhere), which will install the festival’s 4G network, says it will make Glastonbury “the most connected [open-air] music festival in the world” and expects festivalgoers to use 15TB of data – 20 times more than in 2011, the last time Coldplay headlined.

The network, which is Glastonbury’s technology and communications partner and also co-develops the festival’s app, will install a sixth temporary mobile antenna at Worthy Farm  and implement ‘4G Calling’-branded voice-over-LTE technology to allow phone calls to be made over the 4G network.

“People in the UK are using their mobiles more than ever before to share cherished experiences,” says EE’s director of brand, Spencer McHugh. “2016 has already seen 4G data usage increase by at least 40% at other major events year on year, and this trend shows no sign of slowing down. Each year social media feeds all over the world are flooded with images and videos of Glastonbury Festival, so, in anticipation of the huge demand we expect to see at Worthy Farm this June, we’ve tripled our 4G capacity thanks to a number of new innovative network technologies.”

Glastonbury today confirmed the full line-up – which includes new additions Tame Impala, Tom Odell, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Disclosure, Damon Albarn and the Orchestra of Syrian Musicians, Highasakite and and more (was that Radiohead rumour a dud?) – and stage timings for the 2016 festival, which takes from 22 to 26 June in Pilton in Somerset. Here’s the poster:

Glastonbury 2016 final line-up poster, EE

A hologram is selling out venues across America

Hatsune Miku, a Japanese singing synthesiser (or vocaloid) embodied by a hologram of a Sailor Moon-esque 16-year-old girl, last weekend completed the US leg of her first headlining tour of North America with two sold-out shows at the 2,200-capacity Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan.

Since late April Miku (pictured) has, backed by Brookyln chiptune act Anamanaguchi, played the WaMu Theater in Seattle (cap. 7,200), two shows at The Warfield in San Francisco (cap. 2,300), the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles (cap. 7,100), The Bomb Factory in Dallas (cap. 4,300), the NRG Arena in Houston (cap. 8,000), the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto (cap. 3,200) and The Chicago Theatre (cap. 3,880), culminating with an afternoon and an evening performance at the Hammerstein on Saturday.

She will continue on to Mexico, sans Anamanaguchi, on Wednesday for a show at the 8,000-capacity Auditorio Banamex, and wrap up the tour on Saturday 4 and Sunday 5 June with four concerts at the 1,900-capacity El Plaza Condesa in Mexico City.

“I like the idea that it’s a hologram. A lot of people judge you for the fact that it’s not a real person, but I feel like that’s the coolest part”

Miku’s repertoire is entirely crowdsourced: her songs are created by her fans using Crypton Future Media’s Piapro software, and if a song becomes popular enough among Miku’s fanbase it can become part of her onstage act.

“I like the idea that it’s a hologram, and a lot of people judge you for the fact that it’s not a real person — but I feel like that’s the coolest part,” Eunice, an 18-year-old woman who was at the Hammerstein, told Women’s Wear Daily. “I’m a tech fan so I feel like I’m seeing what’s going to be new for the future.

“All the songs playing are made by normal people who bought the software and got famous online because they’re talented. For the most part you don’t know what they look like or who they are — anyone can do it. [Miku] is the manifestation of a whole community rather than just one person’s work.”

Watch Miku in action below:

Live-streamer LiveXLive lands MTV distribution

Live music streaming service LiveXLive has entered into a strategic partnership for marketing and distribution with MTV.

MTV International carried LiveXLive’s stream of the closing night of Rock in Rio Lisbon on Sunday (29 May) and created a number of live segments and editorial features in the run-up to the broadcast.

“We are thrilled to partner with MTV to share our cutting-edge content with their global audience of music fans,” says chief revenue officer Schuyler Hoversten. “As we continue to aggressively pursue live content creation and acquisition, having a partner like MTV will be critical to ensuring that we reach the broadest audiences possible while simultaneously building the LiveXLive brand.”

Loton, Corp.-owned LiveXLive, which launched last July, is positioning itself as the “ESPN of premium live music experience” with its aim to create a 24-hour network of live music broadcasting digitally and on mobile.

Sziget festival’s international relations director, András Berti, gave IQ Magazine a crash course in the challenges of live streaming music events in issue 64.

DHP Family buys London Live Nation venues [updated]

DHP Family has acquired London venues The Borderline and The Garage from Live Nation.

The Nottingham-based promoter and venue owner took possession of The Borderline, in Soho, on Friday (27 May), with the deal to acquire The Garage, in Highbury, subject to completion but expected to “fall in place very shortly”.

Both venues were formerly part of the MAMA & Company portfolio before the company’s acquisition in August 2015 by Live Nation and Gaiety Investments. Three MAMA venues, The Ritz in Manchester, The Forum in Kentish Town and The Institute in Birmingham, have since been rebranded by Live Nation as the O2 Ritz Manchester, O2 Forum Kentish Town and O2 Institute Birmingham, respectively.

DHP Family currently operates one other venue in London (the 375-capacity Oslo in Hackney), as well as Rock City, Rescue Rooms, Stealth and The Bodega in Nottingham and Thekla in Bristol.

It also runs Manchester Cathedral’s music programme, promotes over 1,500 tours a year, manages three bands and organises three festivals: Splendour in Wollaton Park, Nottingham, the multi-city DotToDot and multi-venue Nottingham event Everywhere.

It originally put in a bid for the two venues when they put up for sale by MAMA but was outbid by Live Nation.

Both the 300-capacity Borderline (notably alumni: REM, Rage Against the Machine, The Verve, PJ Harvey) and 600-capacity Garage (Arctic Monkeys, Oasis, Franz Ferdinand) will be refurbished by their new owner: the former will close from 23 December 2016 to 15 March 2017, while The Garage will receive an “extensive refresh taking place over several months” without the need for closure.

“It’s about making them places where people actually want to go rather than just, ‘Oh, that’s where the band’s playing, that’s where you have to go to see them'”

“Using its expertise as a both a concert promoter and venue operator”, DHP Family says it’s “confident of developing both into successful late-night venues integral to the live music scene in London”.

DHP Family’s operations director, Anton Lockwood, tells IQ the reaction to the acquisitions has been “hugely positive”, with artists, agents, promoters and managers “delighted that DHP is taking over the venues”.

“I think we’re approachable and I think we’re seen as someone who actually cares about making the venues great rather than just showing up with bands, getting them in and getting them out,” he explains. “It’s about making them places where people actually want to go rather than just, ‘Oh, that’s where the band’s playing, that’s where you have to go to see them.'”

Compared to previous operators Live Nation and MAMA, Lockwood says, the company will “try to think [more] about what band suits what venue” (“I’m not going to say ‘curate’, jokes Lockwood – “it’s such a knobby word!”), although he notes that he expects that Live Nation, along with “SJM, Metropolis, Crosstown, Kili[manjaro] and all the rest of them are going to be major clients” for the venues.

Although Lockwood won’t go into specifics of the refurbishment, he says The Borderline will be “significantly upgraded”: “It definitely needs a big refresh,” he comments. “It’s been around for ages and it’s got a bit tired, and we want to improve the environment massively”. The Garage will be less majorly overhauled, but Lockwood says DHP, although not “able to do as much” to the Highbury venue, will “definitely be improving it”.

With three London properties now part of its growing portfolio, Lockwood says DHP is still actively looking for new venues, both in London and the rest of the UK, but makes it clear that “they have to be right”. “We’re not having to add new venues to keep our shareholders happy,” he says. “We add venues because we think it adds significant value to what we do. If a great opportunity comes up in London, then we’ll look to take it – but we won’t do something for the sake of doing it.”

CTS Eventim posts 21% drop in live income for Q1

After a record-breaking 2015 which saw CTS Eventim end the year with a 20.8% increase in revenue to €834.2 million, the German ticketing giant has entered 2016 with a significant decline in net income in its live entertainment division.

The 21.2% fall in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) reported by the company in its first-quarter (Q1) results, released today, was however, in line with expectations, says CEO Klaus-Peter Schulenberg, who writes in his letter to shareholders and employees: “With record earnings in 2015 on account of an unusually large number of major tours as a basis, business development was more moderate in the first quarter of the new financial year, as expected.”

CTS Eventim was last year behind high-profile tours by AC/DC, Simply Red, Lionel Richie, Roxette, Helene Fischer, Peter Maffay and Deichkind.

Despite the decline in EBITDA, gross revenue from live shows in Q1 increased by 3.0% to €79.6 million.

“With record earnings in 2015 on account of an unusually large number of major tours as a basis, business development was more moderate in the first quarter of the new financial year, as expected”

CTS Eventim’s ticketing division remained its biggest growth driver, recording a significant (11.6%) increase in revenue from €76m to €84.8m, with normalised EBITDA up 12.4% to €32.8m (from €29.2m).

Overall ticket sales were boosted by the ever-larger volumes of tickets being sold online, which increased 20.2% compared to Q1 2015.

Revenue for the company as a whole was up 7.6% in the first three months of 2016 compared to the same period last year, increasing to €163.2 million. Normalised EBITDA grew by 5.5% to €38.8 million in the same period.

In his letter, Schulenberg also praised the company’s expansion into Scandinavia (“tremendous growth potential”) and “market of the future” South America, where it is the official ticketer of the Rio Olympics and has partnered with Sony Music (and its roster of Hispanic stars Shakira, Enrique Iglesias and Ricky Martin) for a local ticketing subsidiary.

“The good start to 2016 financial year puts us in optimistic spirits for the challenges of the months ahead,” says Schulenberg. “I would especially like to thank our employees, who will continue to drive CTS Eventim’s growth with their outstanding dedication and commitment in the current financial year.”

Int’l tie-up for US and UK event suppliers

Two veteran live event industry suppliers, the UK’s Wrist Marketing/Global Barcode and Brolly Event Solutions of Denver, Colorado, entered into a strategic partnership earlier this month.

As part of the agreement Brolly will integrate Wrist/Global’s RFID attendee-tracking technology into its own platform, under the name ‘Brolly Live’, while in return Wrist/Global will expand its product offering the UK to include Brolly’s registration, lead capture and event commerce solutions.

Wrist/Global, itself a partnership between Wrist Marketing and Global Auto ID, designs and develops radio-frequency identification (RFID) wristbands for access control, cashless payments, social media integration, accredited staff management and monitoring and more.

Brolly is a division of Centennial, Colorado-based Data Connect Corporation that supplies technology to analyse, monetise and optimise its clients’ events. It has since its founding in 1999 generated a reported US$3.1 billion in customer revenue and registered over 2.5 million eventgoers.

Rory Musker, Wrist’s head of sales, says the two companies will, in the coming months, “work to bring their services into markets in the US, Canada and the UK”.