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Circles introduces ‘one-click’ ticket refunds

Luxembourg-based insurance company Circles Group, whose clients include Tomorrowland, Arcadia, Clockenflap and Bruce Springsteen (for The River tour), has introduced Circles Ticketing, a specialist insurance plan for ticketing companies that aims to streamline the refund process.

“Recent event cancellations” – such as those in Germany and the US this summer – “have prompted organisers and event managers to reconsider the potential repercussions,” comments Circle CEO Olivier Heger (pictured). “With this new ticketing insurance we offer an API hub designed to be flexible and easy to integrate.”

Customers of an online ticket agency with Circles Ticketing cover will receive the option to buy insurance when purchasing their tickets. Following their purchase, they are then supplied with a QR code that allows them to access Circles’ cancellation interface directly, without the need to contact the promoter.

“With Circle Ticketing, the client will be able to get a refund of the ticket in one click”

Claims are paid automatically “without exclusions, except for malicious acts, fraud, war, cyber and financial risks and nuclear damages”, says Heger, meaning they are “able to get a refund of the ticket in one click” and eliminate lengthy discussions “with the insurer for only the value of a ticket”.

A spokesman for the company tells IQ promoters will still need to have their own cover, “for no-shows, for example, but Circles Group can manage [the entire] insurance coverage process in order to have only one full coverage and only one insurer”.

More information is available in the Circles Ticketing brochure.


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DEAG ‘on course for record Q4’

Deutsche Entertainment AG (DEAG) is on course for its best financial quarter in five years, it said today, as it returns to profitability following a €23 million loss in 2015 incurred by the launch of three new festivals.

The German promoter lost €6.8m in the first nine months of 2016 – affected by a “low event density and […] negative effect from exchange rate conversions” as a result of the post-Brexit slump in the pound sterling, according to its third-quarter (Q3) financial results – compared to -€11.6m in the same period of 2015 (a 41.6% increase).

Echoing comments made in August by chairman Peter LH Schwenkow, who praised the company’s “very well-filled event pipeline”, the DEAG board says it “expects the financial year 2016 to finish with a clearly positive adjusted operating result after depreciation and amortisation”, pointing to Christmas family events Christmas at Kew, Christmas at Blenheim and Christmas Garden Berlin, family shows Disney on Ice and Marvel Universe Live! and “many great tours, like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Böhse Onkelz [and] David Garrett” as fourth-quarter highlights.

It also hailed “disproportionate organic growth in the UK [from subsidiaries Kilimanjaro Live and Raymond Gubbay] thanks to sold-out events, inter alia at the Royal Albert Hall”.

Despite the improved profit margins, sales revenues have so far declined, from €27.6m to €19.1m, hit by the weak pound, legal fees and the cost of the expansion of its ticketing subsidiary, MyTicket, into Austria.


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“I thought it was a joke”: Brussels taxes dancing

A Brussels venue has been hit with an unexpected tax bill this month – for a little-known levy on dancing.

The tax, on “dancing parties” (parties de danse), has been on the city’s books since 2014 but is apparently only now being enforced.

Nicolas Boochie, of the 170-cap. Bonnefooi, tells local magazine Bruzz the tax is based on the number of people dancing: 40¢ per person per night. “At first I thought it was a joke, but it is apparently real,” he says. “The city has several times sent people round incognito to count the number of dancers.”

“I would prefer to spend the money on  artists who come to perform for us”

Bonnefooi says the inspectors found an average of 50 people dancing per night at weekends. “That means €20 per night and €160 per month,” he explains. “So, per year, we have to pay almost €2,000 in this tax – money I would personally prefer to spend on the artists who come to perform for us.

“I would assume that there is a good reason [for the tax] to exist, but I have no idea what it would be.”

According to the city of Brussels, events involving dancing “entail additional expenditure [for city authorities], in particular on safety, public peace and public order”.


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China bans K-pop amid missile row

Amid a diplomatic spat sparked by the decision to deploy a US missile battery in South Korea, the People’s Republic of China has reportedly instituted a nationwide prohibition on performances by Korean musicians.

The ban – which also extends to South Korean TV programming, news about Korean celebrities and the use of Korean actors in Chinese advertisements – has led to plunging shares in several Korean entertainment companies popular in China, which has become one of the largest export markets for Korean pop (K-pop) music, second only to Japan.

Although China’s communist government denies the existence of any ban, The Korea Times reports “no Korean entertainer has obtained Beijing’s permission to perform in the neighbouring country since October”.

No Korean entertainer has obtained Beijing’s permission to perform … since October

The growth of South Korean pop culture (known as the Korean Wave or Hallyu) has been heavily subsidised by the country’s government. In addition to China and Japan, the number of K-pop shows is growing in the Americas, Europe and south-east Asia.

China argues the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense [sic] anti-ballistic missile system in South Korea could upset the balance of power in the region. Geng Shaung, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, said on 16 November: “We again urge all sides to face up to China’s reasonable concerns and stop the deployment process.”


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Metropolis Studios to grow live presence

Metropolis – the Chiswick recording studios, not the V Festival promoter rumoured to be the target over a takeover bid by Live Nation – has announced the launch of Metropolis Live, a series of free monthly concerts co-promoted with Clash magazine.

The launch of Metropolis Live coincides with the hiring of a new event and content director. Gavin Newman, most recently head of online and music at London private members’ club the Hospital Club, will “oversee Metropolis’s event and content strategy to drive new commercial and content partnerships”, including “amplifying Metropolis Studios’ position as a world-class music venue”.

“Metropolis Studios has an unprecedented heritage and incredible facilities,” comments Newman. “It will be an extremely exciting challenge to tap into this infrastructure and start building their live music presence as one of London’s most exclusive and intimate venues for music fans, the record industry and brands.”

“Metropolis Studios has an unprecedented heritage and incredible facilities. It will be an extremely exciting challenge to … start building their live music presence”

Metropolis CEO Ian Brenchley adds: “We are all absolutely enraptured to have someone of Gavin’s experience come on board and work across the whole business. Gavin’s passion and vision for the business is entirely complimentary to the ‘Motown’ analogy we constantly talk about and are working towards.”

The first Metropolis Live show, all of which will take place at Metropolis Studios in Chiswick, south-west London, is Saint Leonard’s Horses on 8 December. Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis to Clash readers.

Metropolis was established in 1989. Artists who have recorded at its facilities include The Verve (Urban Hymns), The Stone Roses (Second Coming), Amy Winehouse (Back to Black), Lauryn Hill (The Miseducation of…), Lady Gaga, The Libertines and Robbie Williams.


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Italy set to outlaw secondary ticketing

An amendment to Italy’s 2017 budget law that would criminalise ticket touting has been approved by the country’s Chamber of Deputies, clearing the last major hurdle towards being written into law.

The amendment, introduced earlier this month by culture minister Dario Franceschini, prohibits the “sale, or any other form of placement [on the secondary market], of tickets” by anyone other than the issuer, and provides for fines of between €5,000 and €180,000 for those caught doing so – both on- and offline.

In addition, secondary ticketing sites will themselves be held responsible if found to be facilitating the illegal resale of tickets, and subject to “removal of the [tickets] or, in severe cases, the blocking of the website through which the infringement has taken place”, with no possibility for damage claims.

While professional touting is officially out, the amendment does, however, allow for the sale of the occasional unwanted ticket, which is “not sanctioned when carried out by a physical person on an occasional basis, provided there is no commercial purpose”.

Once written into the budget law, the amendment still needs to be approved within 30 days by the justice, culture and economic ministries, although a source close to the situation tells IQ it will “definitely be approved by [all] parties”.

The passage of the act could, however, be complicated by the looming referendum on overhauling the Italian constitution – to which a ‘no’ vote could, analysts believe, trigger the resignation of prime minister Matteo Renzi.

“With this measure, the government has taken a clear step towards addressing the problem, including serious financial penalties”

The move to outlaw secondary ticketing in Italy comes after controversy in the market following an admission by Live Nation Italy’s managing director, Roberto de Luca, that his company had been passing inventory directly to Viagogo, leading to several artists, including stadium-filler Vasco Rossi, severing their ties with Live Nation.

The direct links between several national promoters and the secondary market were made public by national TV programme Le Iene (mirroring similar revelations about the UK market made public by Channel 4’s Dispatches programme in February 2012) earlier this month. While many Italian promoters have exclusive ticketing contracts with primary ticketing company Ticketone, the programme alleged that primary tickets are sold directly to secondary platforms at face value, with 90% of the uplift then passed back to certain promoters.

Live Nation Italy, which said the collusion related to a “small number of tickets for a handful of international artists” and that it has “never been asked to list any tickets on secondary markets by Italian artists”, has since voluntarily withdrawn from promoters’ association Assomusica.

It was followed closely by rival promoter Barley Arts, whose managing director, Claudio Trotta, said in an open letter the association had, by allegedly failing to take a decisive stand on the issue, ceased to “represent me properly”.

Assomusica counters that it “had tried to put an end to the phenomenon [of secondary ticketing]” and fully supports Franceschini’s amendment.

“With this measure, the government has taken a clear step towards addressing the problem,” it said in a statement today, “including serious financial penalties for those who practice this activity. […] A big thank you … for taking such substantial action.”


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IQTV: Andy Copping, Live Nation

Welcome to the second episode of IQTV, IQ’s new YouTube video series featuring revealing interviews and insights from some of the biggest players in the international live music business.

Following last week’s inaugural episode with Live Nation’s chairman of international music, Thomas Johansson, we continue our series of interviews commemorating the company’s 10th year in the business with Download festival booker and president of UK touring Andy Copping.

In an interview filmed at ILMC 28 in March, Copping talks advancing from regional to national promotion, the genesis of Download, the rise of social media marketing and and the “roll of the dice” that led to AC/DC’s return to the festival circuit…


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The taming of the queue

Attempting to unravel the ‘curse of the queue’ at arenas has led me into broader territory, questioning a culture that treats customers like a herd, regarding long lines and customer disempowerment as a necessary evil, rather than a problem to be dealt with urgently. Service gamechangers Uber, Airbnb and Spotify have left the concert experience standing. I’m not talking about apps – there are plenty of those to go around – lack of a holistic approach to the customer experience journey sets us apart in a changing world, to our detriment.

Venues should participate in a co-created entertainment experience way beyond the generic provision of goods and services. Think of the airport experience: concertgoers merely submit in order to gain access to the thing they have actually paid for; the transformative experience that the ticket promises. Given the passion with which customers follow an artist (or yearn to lie on a Mediterranean beach), organisations should be strategically managing the experience, or risk losing repeat business for their territory. Sectors including banking, grocery and technology are successfully embracing service design thinking in order to reinvent the way people access goods and services, and it all begins with empathy for the user and a holistic approach to human-centred design.

In my opinion, the scale and fragmented nature of the customer journey is largely to blame, where management are disconnected and disempowered from playing out their true role as host. Reminiscing about our best concert experiences (and I’m not referring to the performance – we have little or no say in that sphere!), there was a vibe and anticipation in arriving at a truly cool music venue, be it bar, club or theatre. Usually, there would be a host character, a manager; the driving force behind the culture of the place. Contrast that to the soulless entertainment arenas we expect our audiences to embrace with similar passion. Such buildings have largely been created for sports or “entertainment” events, lacking the architectural features that allow for truly visceral pleasure and identity of purpose.

Combine that with the fragmented ticketing market and clamour of communication from artist, ticket agencies, promoter and media, and the customer is left wondering whose customer they are. In these days of naming rights deals, the true essence of the venue is trickier to demonstrate with any authenticity. Who has the duty of care? Who is the actual host? And what kind of host are they?

Step up to the plate, strip away your preconceptions and walk in customers’ shoes again, something those of us at the top-end of the venue profession may have not had to do for a long, long time

Concert arenas are typified by harsh lighting, industrial barricades, institutional-grade signage and subcontracted staffing with no real connection to the venue’s core purpose. There are a few notable exceptions, but generally our audiences are left to navigate their journey much as they would that airport. They are on their own. Addressing isolated issues is not the answer: I am calling for a multidisciplinary, human-centred and strategic approach to what is known in academic circles as a “wicked problem”.

Begin with empathy. Step up to the plate, strip away your preconceptions and walk in their shoes again; quite possibly something those of us at the top-end of the venue profession have not had to do for a long, long time.

Take your pass off; take public transport or try to park nearby; submit to processes over which you have no control; don’t pull favours, wait your turn; wonder what time the band starts; line up under fluorescent lighting to buy drinks in a queue that seems to be stationary; and try to have a great night out with your mates while you’re at it.

Work a few shifts on your own bar and door. Go incognito, wear the uniform… is it fun to work in your venue? If not, why not? Often these low-paid casual staff comprise the only human-to-human encounter in the customer experience journey, so it’s important. You might even enjoy it and remember why you came into this business in the first place!

Only then will you gain the true insights needed to foster the right culture within your organisation, and proactively design for the kind of future scenario and relationships we need to survive as an industry.

Solving queuing issues and associated disgruntlement are not simply a way of selling more beer; but a way of selling more concerts, and a means to business sustainability for us all. Let’s get some real results.


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Peter Shapiro’s Fans.com debuts venue timelines

Fans, a social network for live music enthusiasts founded by veteran New York promoter/venue owner Peter Shapiro, is targeting venue partners with the launch of a new ‘venues timeline’ platform.

The site, which lets users build profiles based on concerts they have attended, will be rolling out a “series of updates […] to support venues in the coming months”, beginning with the venues timeline feature, which allows partner venues to “catalogue their entire concert history in an interactive way, featuring photos, videos and memories from past shows”.

The first partners are the Shapiro-owned Capitol Theatre (1,800-cap.) and Brooklyn Bowl (3,000-cap.), both in New York.

“The Cap is a veteran concert hall that’s seen countless iconic shows in its tenure, from the Grateful Dead to the Stones, My Morning Jacket to the Strokes,” says Shapiro. “Fans is proud to provide means for venues like it and the Bowl to keep these important memories alive for fans. Nostalgia is a powerful part of the fan experience, and there’s no other place for music lovers to dig into these mementos.

“Where else can you see Pink Floyd opened the Capitol Theatre back in 1970 with ‘Grantchester Meadows’ and closed with ‘Interstellar Overdrive’?”

“Where else can you see that Pink Floyd opened the Capitol Theatre back in 1970 with ‘Grantchester Meadows’ and closed with ‘Interstellar Overdrive’?”

The timelines will be embedded on both the venues’ websites and their Fans pages.

Shapiro adds that “more Fans-powered venue timelines will be rolling out in the coming weeks”.

Fans launched in August after more than two years of development. “There is no platform for being a fan,” Shapiro told The New York Times at the time. “Facebook was meant to be a connector to friends and family. But if you are a Slayer fan, you might not want to post about that if you work at Chase Bank or if your grandma is on your Facebook page.”

Crowdmix, a similar platform based in the UK, filed for bankruptcy in July after burning through over £14 million in funding.


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Celebration 2017 festival set for Paisley Park

Prince’s Paisley Park estate, which IQ last month revealed would be hosting concerts and live events following its reopening as a museum, has announced details of the first such event: Celebration 2017, which will “celebrate the life and legacy” of the late singer with panels, presentations and performances by his former backing musicians.

Performers at the event, which runs from 20 to 23 April, include The Revolution, Morris Day and The Time and members of The New Power Generation and 3rdeyegirl, with tickets starting at an eye-watering US$499 for general admission – $100 more than Desert Trip – or $999 for VIP passes.

Paisley Park – Prince’s 65,000sqft private estate and recording complex in Chanhassen, Minnesota, now operated by PPark Manamagent – recently opened permanently to public tours, just over six months after his death.

Prince, born Prince Rogers Nelson, died from an accidental fentanyl overdose at Paisley Park on 21 April. Read IQ’s tribute here.