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Vertex future unclear with new 85dB noise cap

Vertex, Madison House/AEG Live’s new festival in Colorado, has been given a one-year permit extension for 2017 – albeit with a new noise limit of 85dB that will make festivalgoers “feel like [they’re] in a living room, as opposed to a concert experience”, says festival director Michael Sampliner.

The first Vertex took place in August, and drew 8,000 attendees to a ranch near Buena Vista with a bill that included electronic duo Odesza, Grammy-winning alt-rockers Alabama Shakes and Phish’s Trey Anastasio.

Promoter Madison House had sought a three-year permit extension, and Sampliner told commissioners (councillors) for local authority Chaffee County last week the stringent new noise regulations – and an earlier curfew – could kill the festival before it reaches its second birthday.

“If we had to play at 85dBs, you’re taking out the concert experience,” Sampliner said. “It’s a level at which you would feel like you were in a living room, as opposed to a concert experience. It’s really untenable in any kind of way to put on a show at an 85dB limit.

“We are weighing all of the conditions the county placed to see if we can make it work. We are working through those scenarios now.”

“It’s really untenable in any kind of way to put on a show at an 85dB limit”

Local paper The Chaffee County Times reports those in opposition to to Vertex “stated several notorious issues, mostly related to drug use on the festival grounds and multiple drug busts related to the festival, noise and light disturbances and the 1.30am curfew Friday and Saturday night” at a council meeting last Tuesday.

One Buena Vista resident, Morgan Mahala, said the tense exchange brought “the tension and animosity between the old and the new to surface.”

“The relentless arguing and name calling is not Buena Vista,” Mahala said. “To move forward we have to push selfishness aside, we all have to give a little something up and get to know each other better. We need to use this time as an opportunity to come together and honour the values and integrity of a community that’s truly [city slogan] BV Strong.”

A decision by Madison House is expected this week.

 


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Ibis Hotels, Roundhouse launch concert series

Four Roundhouse resident artists will take to the stage at the Ibis London City hotel in Shoreditch, east London, next month for the first ‘Ibis Lates’ session.

The concert series, a joint venture between hotel chain Ibis (owned by French multinational AccorHotels) and 3,300-cap. Camden venue the Roundhouse, will also visit Ibis hotels throughout the UK, including in Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh.

Performing at the Ibis London City (pictured) on Thursday 10 November will be Estée Blu, Jay Johnson, Soma and Nikita Chauhan, all of whom are part of the Roundhouse’s resident artists programme.

“Our partnership with Ibis Hotels gives some of our incredible resident artists the opportunity to perform to audiences beyond the Roundhouse”

Ibis recently became the Roundhouse’s official hotel partner – a partnership “centre[d] on cultivating a collaboration that’s deeply rooted in the brands’ shared passion to provide visitors with the most fulfilling and enjoyable experiences,” says Ibis.

James Wheatcroft, Ibis’s marketing director for budget and economy brands, comments: “We want everyone to feel famous at Ibis, and with Ibis Lates we hope to give everyone a little taste of being VIP backstage with a band. It’s going to be great fun to see our social spaces in Ibis taken over for a late night with some new young talent from The Roundhouse.”

Roundhouse corporate partnerships manager Phil Eacott adds: “Our partnership with Ibis Hotels gives some of our incredible resident artists the opportunity to perform to audiences beyond the Roundhouse. We’re really looking forward to the series of gigs and programming even more of our best young emerging artists.”

 


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Hallowe’en festival shut down after crowd surge

A Hallowe’en-themed music festival in the English city of Nottingham was called off early on Saturday night after fence breaches led to dangerous overcrowding.

Detonate Halloween, at Nottingham Racecourse, ended at around 20.30 – three hours early – on the advice of the festival’s health and safety officer and Nottinghamshire police, cancelling or cutting short sets by Kano, New York Transit Authority, Kurupt FM, Andy C, TQD and The Prototypes and 2Shy. A sister event at the O2 Academy in Sheffield went ahead as planned.

In a statement, promoter Detonate says: “We are truly gutted that an event which we’ve been working on for the last six months ended the way it did. We’d like to thank everyone for leaving the site in a calm, orderly way.

“The safety issue was due to the majority of people wanting to be in one tent, which caused large queues. When some of the surrounding fence was breached and crowds surged, action had to be taken to avoid people being injured.

“Closing just one tent wasn’t an option, as it would have caused the same issues at other arenas. We had no choice but to start a phased closure of the site”

“Flow of people is estimated based on capacities of each area; popularity of the acts which are on at the same time in each arena; and dynamic assessments on the day. We surveyed our ticketholders in the lead up to the event by asking them which acts they most wanted to see, and used this data to programme set times. Queuing systems were in place to prevent any one tent becoming overcrowded.

“In the case of The Boneyard [tent], this meant that people inside didn’t leave, even when relatively small acts were on, as they could see it would take a while to get back in. As a result, there was very little flow of people in and out of that arena and long queues of people who were rightfully frustrated by not being allowed inside the tent. When this situation worsened and started to pose a risk to people’s safety, the music was switched off. Closing just one tent wasn’t an option as it would have caused the same issues at other arenas. From then on we had no choice but to start a phased closure of the site.”

Detonate is currently offering refunds on drinks vouchers. Regarding ticket refunds, it says it is “working out how we can compensate people, and will update very soon”.

 


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Gold Coast taskforce bids to create ‘new Austin’

Local authorities in Gold Coast, Queensland, have unveiled plans for a ‘live music taskforce’ they hope will transform the Australian city – home to more than half a million people – into a live music capital.

The taskforce is one of the recommendations of the Live Music Action Plan 2017–2020 – the final version of which will be put before Gold Coast City Council next year – which seeks to build on “signature events” such as the Blues on Broadbeach and Bleach* festivals, “both of which continue to grow, attracting visitors to the city with quality music the key attraction” to boost its music economy in the run-up to its hosting the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

The report, presented to the city’s Economic Development and Major Projects Committee on 27 October, draws a parallel between Gold Coast and Austin, Texas (the ‘live music capital of the world’), both in their “thriving youth demographic” and similar climate. “As evidenced by the Austin, Texas, benchmark,” it reads, “there is an appetite for live music amongst young professionals and 25–39-year-olds.”

Problems currently facing artists, promoters and venues in the city include a “regulatory system […] perceived by stakeholders as prohibitive for venues and performers, and a barrier to the genuine development and well-being of the live music sector on the Gold Coast”, the report says. “This incorporates the liquor licensing regime, sound restrictions, sound measuring methods, complaint handling mechanisms and the nature of interactions with local and state compliance authorities, which are described by stakeholders as discouraging and even intimidating in some cases.”

The taskforce will “review current planning, regulatory and compliance processes and requirements with a view to reducing barriers for the delivery of live music in Gold Coast”

It also highlights a need for more venues; especially larger ones; for increased investment and the creation of ‘evening economy zones’, as in the Sunshine Coast; an overhaul of “archaic, out of date” noise restrictions, which are the same in every venue; and for lifting the city-wide ban on postering. In addition, research by Griffin University suggests Gold Coast “struggles with a ‘bikies’ image and the Gold Coast Cops TV show”, while the effect of Queensland’s controversial lock-out laws on “the delivery of live music on the Gold Coast are yet to be determined”.

The finalised Live Music Action Plan will be presented to the council in May 2017 following an audit of the city’s music venues and the establishment of a ‘live music regulatory taskforce’ to “review current planning, regulatory and compliance processes and requirements, with a view to reducing barriers for the delivery of live music on the Gold Coast”.

While Gold Coast’s efforts may be successful in increasing the number of Australian musicians playing in the city, there could be little effect on foreign ones: Live Performance Australia warned earlier this month that an increase of up to 600% in visas fees would act as a “major disincentive for international artists” to tour Australia.

 


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#KeepMusicLive: MU to picket Dirty Dancing shows

The UK’s Musicians’ Union (MU) is to lead demonstrations against touring stage musical Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage, claiming the current production “features more recorded music and fewer live musicians than previous tours”, despite “ticket prices remain[ing] comparable with all previous tours of Dirty Dancing“.

The union will picket performances at the Derngate theatre (1,500-cap.) in Northampton tonight, the Regent (1,600-cap.) in Stoke-on-Trent on 7 November and the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre (1,200-cap.) on 28 November.

Says the MU: “An unauthorised recording, made outside of the UK, is being used in this show instead of the live band of ten or eight musicians used in previous productions. This show features only five actor-musicians and, whilst there is some live music, the majority of what is heard ‘out front’ is a pre-recorded soundtrack.

“This is not clear to the audience, who might expect the music in a theatre production to be played live. Despite this scaled-back production, ticket prices remain comparable with all previous tours of Dirty Dancing.”

“The MU believes that live theatre should be just that: live”

Horace Trubridge, the MU’s assistant general secretary, comments: “In a musical, live musicians are a fundamental part of the show – for quality, audience enjoyment and value for money. The MU fought for more live music in the current production of Dirty Dancing, but the producer refused and therefore we believe the all-important musical element of the show is compromised.

“Returning fans keen to see this show based on their enjoyment of previous tours may be disappointed to witness the apparent cost-cutting changes that have been made. The MU believes that live theatre should be just that: live.”

One of the show’s producers, Paul Elliott, disputes the claims and accuses the MU of blackmail, saying he can not see a problem with using a “fully-licensed backing track from Italy in the UK”.

“Many other shows have used tracks on tour – many without employing any live musicians – without their producers suffering any of the current actions of the Musicians’ Union towards Dirty Dancing,” he told the BBC in August.

 


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Live biz-backed Rock Radio to return

Rock Radio Glasgow, the Scottish live industry’s choice for the vacant 96.3 FM frequency in west-central Scotland, has won its bid and will return to the airwaves in early 2017.

Rock Radio Glasgow, which beat rival bids by Bauer, Original and Go, claims lineage from the original Rock Radio, which became Real XS in 2011 and, later, XFM Scotland. The station is the brainchild of concert promoter/venue owner Donald MacLeod, radio veteran Ciaran O’Toole and Music Industries Association chief executive Paul McManus, and has won the support of Live Nation, DF Concerts and a host of musicians, including Eagles of Death Metal, Alice Cooper, Thin Lizzy and Black Stone Cherry (pictured), with its promise of an output “reflect[ing] Glasgow’s thriving live music scene”.

In an emoji-heavy Facebook post last Wednesday, the station said: “Shit just got real!! ⚡️ Just incase you’ve not heard the news… WE WON!!!!!!! [sic]

“We’re gonna be back on the airwaves folks, we’ve just won the goddamn license for 96.3FM!  A huge thanks to everyone that has shown their support for the #bringbackroackradio campaign these past few months!

We salute you!!! ”

 


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Radiohead announce more 2017 festival dates

Radiohead’s 2017 is fast starting to take shape.

Following their confirmation last week for Glastonbury Festival, Belgium’s biggest rock festival, Rock Werchter, has announced the band – whose ninth studio album, A Moon Shaped Pool, was released in May – will perform on Friday 30 June, presumably as headliners.

Radiohead last played Rock Werchter, promoted by Live Nation Belgium’s Herman Schueremans, in 2008, and the festival says it’s “going to be going to be great to see this band again”.

Some 145,000 people attended Rock Werchter 2016 – down 4,500 on 2015, but still the festival’s third-best attendance since its founding in 1976.

In addition to Rock Werchter, Radiohead will also play FKP Scorpio’s Northside in Denmark; Best Kept Secret in the Netherlands, Open’er in Poland and Live Nation France’s Main Square.

 


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WME-IMG appoints NBA exec to head up China office

William Morris Endeavor (WME) has hired Michael Ma, formerly vice-president of the National Basketball Association (NBA), to head its new WME-IMG China subsidiary.

WME-IMG China was formed with private-equity backing in June to facilitate the booking agency group’s “new forays into Chinese sports and entertainment”.

Ma had most recently served NBA’s special assistant to the CEO in Beijing (pictured), where he will be based for his new role.

“Michael brings not only a deep knowledge of the Chinese market, but also incredible experience in cultivating brands within China through his work with the NBA”

“Michael brings not only a deep knowledge of the Chinese market, but also incredible experience in cultivating brands within China through his work with the NBA,” say WME-IMG co-CEOs Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell in a joint statement. “We’re looking forward to working alongside Michael to expand our current business in China while creating new opportunities for our clients and partners in one of our fastest growing markets.”

WME-IMG was formed in late 2013 after music and media agency William Morris Endeavor and its corporate parent, Silver Lake Partners, bought sports agency International Management Group (IMG) for US$2.3 billion.

 


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Why the future of wireless is digital

As the amount of spectrum available for use by wireless mic operators continues to shrink, most microphone manufacturers (including Shure) are drawn increasingly towards digital wireless technology as part of the solution. But why exactly are digital wireless systems such a hot topic? How do they compare to traditional analogue systems? And what benefits, if any, do they bring to us as professionals? Throughout this article, we will try to shed some light on what’s driving digital wireless tech.

Firstly, let’s uncover some of the back story. It’s a well-known fact throughout the professional audio industry that clean spectrum available to wireless microphones and in-ear monitors is shrinking. In the years following the digital TV switchover (DSO), we’ve seen the amount of spectrum available to our industry reduce significantly. First to go was the 800MHz band (790–862MHz), which made way for next generation mobile broadband (4G) back in 2012. Then, in quick succession, Ofcom announced its plan to clear the 700MHz band within the coming years. On 17 October 2016 Ofcom announced that PMSE users need to vacate the 700MHz band by May 2020. In a short space of time, we will have lost access to nearly 50% of usable spectrum. To further compound the situation, additional announcements included granting so-called white-space devices permission to operate as secondary users in the UHF space – effectively introducing unlicensed, less predictable sources of potential interference. In short, the airwaves are becoming increasingly crowded with wireless tech as industries bid for more resource to feed our digital lives.

This growth in demand for wireless spectrum and the subsequent congestion has put significant pressure on wireless manufacturers to develop new technology able to maintain performance levels under progressively challenging circumstances.

“The airwaves are becoming increasingly crowded with wireless tech as industries bid for more resource to feed our digital lives”

Enter digital wireless systems…
Quite simply, the technology available to design professional-quality digital wireless systems has now advanced to a level where we can now run much higher channel counts in reduced clear spectrum. The improved efficiency is down to more predictable deviation of digital wireless signals when compared to a frequency-modulated analogue signal; this, in turn, allows for tighter channel-to-channel frequency spacing. In many cases, digital systems can deliver nearly twice the channel count in the same slice of spectrum as their analogue cousins. But at the same time, we shouldn’t be as simplistic to think that just because a system is digital it is more efficient. A critical criteria in determining spectral efficiency is the linearity of the transmitter and robustness of the filters in the receiver. The more the system costs, the better the performance in most cases. And lastly, good RF coordination and practise will also ensure that the deployment of large wireless system is a success.

With clean RF spectrum continuing to shrink — and demand for wireless mics and in-ears increasing each day — digital wireless technology will play a critical role in securing the future of wireless microphones at major events. The spectrum argument is clear, but what about the audio? How do digital systems sound when compared to their analogue counterparts?

Analogue vs digital audio is one of the most emotive topics in the business, and while the conclusion is mostly subjective across most devices (mixers, outboard processing, hi-fi, etc.), wireless systems are, in fact, a little different. For wireless microphones, the main difference between analogue and digital is how we modulate the RF carrier. Most analogue wireless system use frequency modulation (FM), and while this has proven to be a very robust and ultimately successful way of transmitting wireless audio, there are certain limitations to FM. Digital systems, for instance, have the ability to operate in far worse carrier-to-noise environments, meaning that even in ugly RF environments we get clean audio.

“With clean RF spectrum continuing to shrink, digital wireless technology will play a critical role in securing the future of wireless microphones at major events”

In order to maintain high dynamic range, analogue systems also use a process called companding — whereby the audio signal is compressed in the transmitter to accommodate the limited dynamic range of FM radio and then expanded at the receiver. This process, while almost undetectable in most high-quality analogue systems, can still lead to audible artefacts like “pumping” and “breathing”. Digital wireless systems convert analogue audio to a digital signal that modulates the radio carrier in discrete steps (think binary code: ones and zeroes). Since the transmission of a digital audio signal doesn’t require companding, it is possible to achieve audio with a wider, flatter frequency response. In other words, the digital audio signal arrives at the receiver unaffected by the radio link.

Spectral efficiency and audio transparency are the principle advantages of digital wireless systems, but the positives certainly don’t end there. Digital wireless operators can also expect greater battery life, as well as enhanced privacy through encryption — perfect for information-sensitive events such as corporate conferencing.

The bottom line
The long and short of it is, digital wireless technology has reached a point where we can now leverage the many advantages to address the challenge of our modern RF environment. And, while analogue systems will not have inherent signal latency, even this minor drawback (less than three milliseconds in Shure digital systems) isn’t enough to ignore the huge gains in spectral efficiency. After all, the situation isn’t going to get any better. Wireless communication (particularly mobile) is entrenched into our daily lives and will continue to develop at a fast pace. Consumers will continue to expect increasing amounts of wireless tech — with relatively plug-and-play usability — all of which need to operate in the limited amount of spectrum available. Continuing to develop spectrally efficient digital wireless systems is one of the key ways we can continue to operate at the level audiences expect under progressively challenging conditions.

 


Tuomo Tolonen is pro-audio group manager at Shure Distribution UK. This article originally oppeared on the Shure UK blog.

Wickerman hopeful of return, despite rising costs

The promoter of the long-running Wickerman Festival has said it is still hopeful the event will return in 2017 following this year’s cancellation, despite losing close to £200,000 in 2015.

The Wickerman Festival Ltd’s 2015 accounts, filed this month with the UK’s Companies House, show a working capital deficiency of £196,377 – down from a £105,087 surplus in 2014.

When asked by the Daily Record if the loss was the reason for Wickerman 2016 not going ahead, festival director Patsy Gilroy – who took over the running of the festival with daughter Jennie Camm following the death of its founder, Jamie Gilroy, in late 2014 – said: “It is partly down to that and partly down to Jennie being back in Africa. We also felt the festival just needed a rest.

“The festival industry is quite volatile at the moment. The costs have gone up so much and you can’t put up the ticket prices any more.”

“Unreasonable policing requirements [are] depriving our area of hundreds of thousands of pounds of income”

The issue of rising policing costs for music festivals was recently discussed in the Scottish parliament, with Finlay Carson, the member of the Scottish parliament (MSP) for Galloway and West Dumfries, using Wickerman as a specific example. “Rising policing costs have placed a huge burden on popular local festivals and events,” he said. “I raised this very issue in parliament during a recent debate where I cited the example of the Wickerman Festival, which did not go ahead this year, due in no small part to unreasonable policing requirements, depriving our area of hundreds of thousands of pounds of income.”

In the same debate, Colin Smyth, MSP for south Scotland, added: “In 2015, the policing bill for [boutique Raehills Meadows event] Eden festival was £12,000 for a licensed audience of 8,000. This year it is £38,000 – an increase of more than 300 per cent.

“Notwithstanding the perception of overpolicing, the charges by Police Scotland are well above those in England, undermining and risking events in rural areas and putting Scotland at a competitive disadvantage with our near neighbours. […] Events and festivals are [vital] to the region, both culturally and to the local economy. However, it’s clear that the spiralling costs of policing such events is a threat to their future, and the government must take immediate action to put a halt to the soaring costs being demanded by Police Scotland before long-term damage is done.”

 


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