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Leighton-Pope and Homer named AEG Live UK CEOs

Ex-Live Nation promoters Toby Leighton-Pope and Steve Homer, who departed the company last December, have joined AEG Live UK as co-CEOs.

Based in AEG’s London office, Homer and Leighton-Pope will report to AEG Europe president/CEO Tom Miserendino.

As senior vice-presidents at Live Nation UK, the pair promoted shows for some of the world’s most successful live acts, including Beyoncé, Arcade Fire, Rihanna and Drake. Homer also launched Wireless Festival, while Leighton-Pope booked Hard Rock Calling in Hyde Park.

“Toby and Steve’s record in the live touring business speaks for itself”

As dual CEOs, Leighton-Pope and Homer will oversee AEG’s UK concert business (current touring artists include The Who, Justin Bieber and Rod Stewart), London venues Eventim Apollo and Indigo at The O2 and the British Summer Time festival, which this year celebrated its most successful edition to date.

In a joint statement, they say: “It’s been rumoured for a while, and so we’re pleased to announce our move to AEG Live UK. Together we are excited to work with a great team with the aim of growing AEG Live UK.

Jay Marciano, AEG’s COO, adds: “Toby and Steve’s record in the live touring business speaks for itself. Together they have worked successfully with global stars, nurtured new talent and developed venues and festivals. They are a perfect fit for AEG Live’s growing operation.”

 


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Lieberbergs: LN deal ‘wasn’t about a huge payday’

Marek Lieberberg expanded on his Eurosonic Noorderslag keynote at the International Festival Forum (IFF) in London today, speaking at length on his 44-year festival career, clashing with local authorities over the ill-fated 2016 Rock am Ring, the decline of political rock and roll and leaving his long-running Marek Lieberberg Konzertagentur (MLK) concert promotion outfit to join the newly formed Live Nation Germany, Switzerland and Austria (GSA).

Speaking at IFF during his first joint interview with son and Rock am Ring/Rock im Park booker Andre, Lieberberg said he and Live Nation GSA are an “obvious marriage”: “If you look at the structure of our acts, the major acts I’ve been promoting all this time, you’ll see there are parallels between the former MLK and Live Nation,” he explained to interviewer Greg Parmley (IFF/ILMC).

He emphasised here is “no question of being at odds with CTS Eventim” – which retains the MLK name, assets and Rock Am Ring and Rock im Park festivals, although father and son still promoted this year’s events – “or MLK; the opposite is true. Nor [were we] looking at a huge payday.

“The focus is still on ourselves, and there’s not one artist that’s left us – we’ve actually added to our roster [since the deal]. […] We wanted to stay with the majority of our acts but build a base for the future.”

“We haven’t changed – we’ve added to the culture of Live Nation with our own personal creativity”

André Lieberberg said the reaction from the rest of the industry to their joining Live Nation (LN) ranged from “euphoric to hostile” but that most people were aware of the existing close cooperation between MLK and LN. “On festivals we were already booking via agents in conjunction with Live Nation,” said André. “Every agent has their own view on Live Nation, but because we are who we are, and people know us, there’s been no change on that. So there hasn’t been too much negativity.”

“We don’t look at what other are doing,” added Marek. “We were always our own role model.”

Marek ended with a request to other local Live Nation operations: that they add their own “flavour to it, their own character”.

“Our character is still very much visible,” he said. “We’re still promoting everything from club acts on their first tour to major rock artists.

“So, we haven’t changed: we’ve added to the culture of Live Nation with our own personal creativity. Really we’re still boutique.”

 


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Festivals “more safe” following year of terror

Music festivals “have to see the positives” in the recent wave of terror in Europe, the promoter of Belgium’s Rock Werchter has said, with festivals now better prepared for any future incidents as a result of increased security.

Speaking on the Festival 2020: The Long View panel at the International Festival Forum (IFF) in London, Herman Schueremans said Rock Werchter – which, along with five other Belgian events, implemented bag checks and a raft of other security measures for 2016 – said: “Everything negative has something positive. The bottom line is, we learnt from it. Festivals can say they are more safe now.”

Stephan Thanscheidt, managing director of Hamburg-based FKP Scorpio, was less optimistic, saying that the threat of terror “will remain a problem for us” and revealing that in the wake of four terrorist incidents in Germany in the space of a week in late July, ticket sales to its August festivals “went down to almost zero. The fear of terror was enormous for a while.”

He said there were “huge traffic jams” caused by the beefed-up security (“the things we needed [to implement] were crazy, but necessary”), although Schueremans countered that “extra checks don’t always mean long queues. By anticipating and doing pre-checks, you can even save time.”

“Everything negative has something positive. The bottom line is, we learnt from it”

Former AEG UK director of live music Sam Bush, now director of Global Live, whose portfolio includes Festival №6, Snowbombing and Electric Elephant in Croatia, said it’s important festivalgoers aren’t put off by terror, but that there’s only a certain amount festivals – like any major public gathering – can do: “Our foremost concern is festivalgoers’ safety,” he said. “But the reality is that it’s world we live in today. As long as we’ve got everything covered [from the security side], there’s nothing more we can do.”

Schueremans agreed on the importance of festivals in combating fear of terrorism. “Festivals are about uniting people, bringing them together,” he said. “Politics and religion divide people. Festivals unite people.

“And we’re the lucky bastards that can get youngsters together, new generations together, under the banner of music. Isn’t that fantastic?”

 


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Keeping the lights on

But, as Eamonn Forde learns,  like-minded venue owners around the world are staging a battle to preserve music’s grassroots proving grounds

The Beatles at The Cavern and The Star Club; The Rolling Stones at The Crawdaddy Club; pretty much every British punk band at the 100 Club, The Nashville Rooms, the Vortex and The Hope & Anchor; every UK indie or alternative rock band of the past 25 years at The Water Rats, The Dublin Castle, King Tut’s and The Leadmill.

Tuning up
Without these small venues (and thousands like them all around the world), music today might be very different, and might also be nowhere near as diverse and exciting as it is. These are the tiny spaces where acts cut their teeth, learn their craft and build their following. They are, to paraphrase Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers, where bands and artists put their 10,000 hours in. But these venues are seriously under threat, for a multitude of reasons – relating to rising overheads; unsympathetic local councils; gentrification; opportunistic and avaricious landlords; noise complaints; and demographic changes.

There is, however, a vociferous backlash against these oft-iconic spaces closing and becoming little more than a fading memory.

 


Read the rest of this feature in issue 67 of IQ Magazine.

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Lightning claims another festival scalp

The storm-hit 2016 festival season claimed another victim last weekend in the form of metal festival Houston Open Air in Texas.

On Saturday afternoon the festival site, in the 350-acre NRG Park in Houston, was evacuated due to concerts over lightning, with festivalgoers told to take shelter at the nearby NRG Center (80,000-cap.) stadium or in their cars. The festival resumed later, albeit without a number of acts, including Anthrax and Sevendust.

Sunday was called off altogether, with a statement from the festival reading: “The forecast calls for lightning in the immediate area on and off all day, making it unsafe to human life to reopen the festival”.

“If we were fly-by-night promoters and wanted to roll the dice and take our chances, I could have been calling you guys this morning having a completely different conversation”

Due to headline on Sunday were Avenged Sevenfold and Deftones, the former of whom played an indoor show at the White Oak (1,500-cap.) instead:

Festival booker Gary Spivack, of Danny Wimmer Presents, told local radio station 94.5 The Buzz: “We can all handle the rain but when there is lightning and wind it becomes more difficult. […] God forbid there is a lot of electricity rolling around at a festival.

“If we were fly-by-night promoters and wanted to roll the dice and take our chances, I could have been calling you guys this morning having a completely different conversation.”

 


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US Senate committee passes Bots Act

The Bots Act, the bill that would criminalise the use of ticket bots in the United States, has taken another step towards becoming law by passing the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

“This critical bill is now one step closer to cracking down on unfair ticket bots that sweep up tickets and squeeze out fans,” says Connecticut senator Richard Blumenthal, a co-sponsor of the bill with senators Jerry Moran, Chuck Schumer and Deb Fischer. “[T]icket bots devour tickets at high speeds, making it impossible for ordinary consumers to see their favourite band or hometown sports team at a reasonable price.

“By banning certain ticket bots, this bipartisan bill will help ensure consumers have fair access to the events they want to see.”

Should it be made law, the Bots (Better Online Ticket Sales) Act would “prohibit the circumvention of control measures used by internet ticket sellers to ensure equitable consumer access to tickets for any given event, and for other purposes”. It is a sister bill to Representative Bill Pascrell’s Boss Act (Better Oversight of Secondary Sales and Accountability in Concert Ticketing), which was positively received when it went before the House of Representatives in May.

“All that fans want is to be in the room where it happens. And what this bill does is give them fair access to be in that room – whether it is a sports stadium, a music venue or a show like Hamilton

Speaking at a Bots Act hearing in the Senate last weekHamilton producer Jeffrey Seller – who recently increased ticket prices for the musical in response to widespread touting, making it the most expensive Broadway show ever – said: “In one of my favourite shows of all time, Hamilton, my favourite number is called ‘The Room Where it Happens’. All that fans want is to be in the room where it happens. And what this bill does is give them fair access to be in that room – whether it is a sports stadium, a music venue or a show like Hamilton.”

The bill must be passed by the full Senate and approved by the president before it becomes law.

Blumenthal, Moran, Schumer and Fischer’s moves to criminalise the use of bots nationwide mirror similar local efforts by New York’s attorney-general, Eric Schneiderman, who in April fined several bot-using ticket sellers $2.7 million, and Marko Liias, state senator in Washington (where the use of bots is already illegal), who in July called on the state’s attorney-general to investigate if bots were behind the large number of Adele tickets ending up on the secondary market.

 


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BandLab eyes live market with Rolling Stone stake

BandLab Technologies, the Singapore-based start-up which this week acquired a 49% stake in Rolling Stone, plans to turn the storied magazine brand into a Live Nation-style entertainment powerhouse, it has emerged.

Rolling Stone, founded in November 1967 by current publisher Jann Wenner (pictured), has resisted outside investment for close to 50 years, but faced with declining advertising income – it lost over US$50 million in ad revenues between 2006 and 2013 – now appears to be seeking to diversify its product offering.

Bloomberg Gadfly’s Tim Culpan writes that BandLab “plans to take on the likes of Live Nation by leveraging the Rolling Stone brand for a move into events, merchandising and hospitality throughout Asia.

BandLab will not have any editorial input, but instead oversee a Rolling Stone International subsidiary focused on live events, merch and hospitality

“While revenue at Pearson, Gannett and News Corp. has declined over the past few years, that of Live Nation has risen steadily, driven by growing concert revenue that’s helped lure more sponsorship dollars. Concerts and events are hard to pirate, and while readers can easily replace one title with another, a Katy Perry concert is no substitute for a Taylor Swift concert.”

BandLab, whose core business is a cloud-based platform for music creation and sharing, is the creation of Kuok Meng Ru, the 28-year-old son of billionaire Singaporean tycoon Kuok Khoon Hong. The company has not acquired a stake in the magazine’s publisher, Wenner Media, and will not, says Rolling Stone, have any editorial input, but oversee a Rolling Stone International subsidiary focused on live events, merch and hospitality.

“I look forward to working closely with Gus [Wenner’s son and Rolling Stone’s digital director] to take the brand bravely into the future and to realise its global potential,” says Kuok.

 


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Live Nation begins selling tickets on Snapchat

Building on the existing partnership between the two brands, Live Nation has begun selling concert tickets on Snapchat in the US.

As discovered by Digiday, Live Nation – which in July signed a deal to package footage from four of its European festivals as ‘Live Stories’ on the social video-sharing app, which has over 150 million active users – over the weekend launched a Snapchat ad campaign for Grande’s upcoming North American Dangerous Woman tour.

The adverts, which appear for users browsing Snapchat’s sponsored Discover channel, link to a Ticketmaster page to buy tickets for the Little Mix-supported tour, which begins on 2 February at the 18,422-cap. Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona.

IQ reported in May that movie ticketing platform Fandango was, similarly, selling tickets for superhero blockbuster X-Men: Apocalypse within the app. AEG Live also has a multi-year agreement with Snapchat to promote its festivals, although it has yet to introduce in-app ticket sales.

 


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Festivals ‘losing their connection to the young’

Many music festivals are alienating their traditional audiences by focusing on “middle-aged, middle-class” attendees at the expense of young people, the founder of Slovakia’s largest festival has said.

Speaking on Reeperbahn Festival’s Festival Season 2016/17 panel, Michal Kaščák, who promotes the 30,000-cap./day Pohoda, expressed his concern that western European and North Americans events are “focusing on as rich audiences as possible”. By pricing so highly, he said, “we [festivals] are losing our connection to younger people”.

“Audiences are becoming middle-aged and middle-class,” said Kaščák, whose festival is priced at €89 for a three-day ticket. “You can’t do it if you’re 18, 19 any more.”

Stuart Galbraith, CEO of Kilimanjaro Live, said young audiences (albeit it slightly younger than the 18- and 19-year-olds highlighted by Kaščák) are instead flocking to eSports events and live shows by YouTubers.

“By the time people get to 10, 12, 14” – when they’re too old for family entertainment events but too young for increasingly expensive major festivals – “there’s a gap in the market,” said Galbraith. “We’ve promoted events [by YouTube stars] attended by over 30,000 people, all of whom are 13–14 and not interested in going to festivals because they’re bedroom geeks.”

“Audiences are becoming middle-aged and middle-class. You can’t do them if you’re 18, 19 any more”

Roskilde Festival’s head of programming, Anders Wahrén, agreed that such events “cater to people who would never go to a [traditional music] festival”.

On the Help the Aged panel, however, veteran artist manager Simon Napier-Bell (The Yardbirds, Japan, Wham!) offered a different perspective, arguing that expensive, ‘prestige’ act-heavy events such as “Oldchella” (Desert Trip) are a natural consequence of the end of the post-war generation gap between parents and children.

“There’s very little generation gap now,” Napier-Bell said. “Everyone hated their parents back then. What made The Rolling Stones popular is that [their manager] Andrew Loog Oldham made it so that adults would hate them!”

Author and journalist Katja Kullman agreed: “Culture has democratised,” she said. “Now, everyone can pick and choose and create their own cultural identity.”

 


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Scammers target Taiwanese gig-goers

The National Theater and Concert Hall (NTCH) in Taipei – Asia’s oldest purpose-built music/performing arts venue – has warned customers against disclosing their personal information after scammers targeted those who’d used its online booking system.

According to a pop-up on the NTCH website, fraudsters claiming to be from the venue have been phoning ticket-buyers and asking them to repeat their payment details because the payment ‘failed’ the first time. Victims are then directed them to a cash machine, where they are tricked into transferring funds to the criminals.

“Please do not listen to [them], provide any information or go to an ATM,” says the venue, which adds that genuine NTCH staff would not ask customers to repeat their bank details.

Online ticket fraud increased by 55% in the UK in 2015, with live music accounting for 15% of all scams.

 


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