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The value of a strategic mindset

Music management qualifications are not a guaranteed road to success in the music industry. With dozens of young creatives entering an already saturated jobs market each year, it takes the perfect combination of (academic) knowledge, insight and entrepreneurship to get a foot in the door of the music industry for any graduate.

At 22 years old, I am fortunate enough to work with and represent amazing talent from all over the world. How? The key word is ‘strategy’.

Walking through the doors of the Utrecht School of the Arts for the first time, in the autumn of 2013, I saw many of my peers immediately finding bands from the local scene to work with. Naturally, I did the same. However, I soon felt my work didn’t do the band justice. The network I was creating consisted solely of bars and amateur festivals, and therefore would never earn the band or I a living. This needed to change. But how?

The answer came to me at Sziget 2014 in Budapest when I saw New Zealand-born singer-songwriter Thomas Oliver play his first-ever European show. On the hunt for a physical copy of Thomas’s music, I ended up talking to his manager at the time, Cushla Aston (Aston Road), and something clicked. I introduced myself as a booking agent – which I definitely wasn’t yet. And this was something she definitely knew.  I told her that if they had any plans to tour the Netherlands I was happy to get involved. Long story short: in early 2015, Thomas Oliver was the artist for whom I booked my first ever tour.

So, I had to book a tour for a still unknown musician from the other side of the world with basically no valuable connections – let’s go! Looking at the tour schedules of similar artists, I quickly generated a list of venues to approach. However, many turned out to be a little too ambitious, so I came up with an alternative plan: I figured that by booking shows in irregular venues, like churches and factory halls, the atmosphere would add promotional value to the shows. This especially turned out to be true outside of cities – in villages where not many international artists pass through – resulting in a full house at almost all of his shows.

“Figure out what part of the industry fascinates you most, analyse the necessary steps to get involved and take the risk”

Treetop Agency was founded a month later, and from then on I kept an eye out for international artists whose music I enjoyed but who had not yet toured the Netherlands, hoping to add a couple of dates to their schedules. Earning the trust of experienced artists, managers and agents early in my career, I quickly introduced myself to the country’s top venues, too, while avoiding the bar scene mentioned earlier. This way, I managed to put on hundreds of shows while still in school, the revenues of which I reinvested by visiting showcase festivals to keep the ball rolling.

Having received my bachelor’s degree in June 2017, I now represent 20 artists from ten countries. My interest in finding ways to add promotional value to shows has slightly shifted to a fascination for the promotional spiral in which recorded and live music can catalyse each other. The combination of live shows being the main source of income for most artists and the promotion of live shows being strongly dependent on the results of the recorded music industry (and vice versa) inspired me to investigate the best possible balance and timing to create a solid foundation for success. Working closely with artists’ management, I now focus on creating elaborate development plans for Treetop artists to gain momentum in the Netherlands and beyond.

With the network and reputation of Treetop Agency in the Netherlands still growing steadily, more artists are asking me to get involved in the coordination of their European tours and promotion. The future will see a focus on not just expanding the network of promoters, but also of booking agencies and record labels throughout the continent, hopefully turning my passion for live music into a career as an international agent.

With an estimated 50 years to go before retirement, there’s plenty of time for me to dream big. This is my personal advice to anyone starting in music management, school or no school: figure out what part of the industry fascinates you most, analyse the necessary steps to get involved in it and take the
risk.

With a clear strategy and just a little bit of courage, you might just secure your spot in the market.

 


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Israeli civil rights group sues over Lorde cancellation

An Israeli NGO is suing two New Zealanders for allegedly influencing Lorde to cancel a planned show in Tel Aviv in June, in what is believed to be first lawsuit filed under Israel’s new anti-boycott law.

Shurat HaDin is representing three teenagers who had bought tickets to the concert, which was called off in December under pressure from the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. The two defendants, Palestinian Arab Nadia Abu-Shanab and Jew Justine Sachs, both BDS activists, wrote an open letter to Lorde (pictured) prior to the cancellation saying that if the New Zealand singer played the show it “would be seen as giving support to the policies of the Israeli government, even if you make no comment on the political situation”.

Israeli’s anti-boycott law (in full, the Law for Prevention of Damage to State of Israel through Boycott), introduced in 2011, makes it a civil offence to call for an economic, cultural or academic boycott against a person or entity because of any perceived affiliation to Israel, and is intended to apply to anyone, regardless of nationality.

“This lawsuit is an effort to give real consequences to those who selectively target Israel”

The three plaintiffs are seeking ₪15,000 (US$4,400) each in damages.

Shurat HaDin head Nitsana Darshan-Leitner tells the Associated Press: “This lawsuit is an effort to give real consequences to those who selectively target Israel and seek to impose an unjust and illegal boycott against the Jewish state.

“They must be held to compensate Israeli citizens for the moral and emotional injury and the indignity caused by their discriminatory actions.”

After being made aware of the lawsuit, Sachs declined to comment, but did later tweet: “Israel [is] the only ‘democracy’ in the Middle East where New Zealanders get sued for exercising their freedom of speech… in New Zealand.”

 


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Lovebox, Citadel to relocate to Gunnersbury Park

Despite both festivals confirming last November they would be moving to Brockwell Park in Brixton for 2018, Ealing and Hounslow councils today jointly announced they have reached an agreement with Mama parent Live Nation/Festival Republic for Lovebox and Citadel to instead relocate to Gunnersbury Park in west London.

Lovebox will take place on Friday 13 and Saturday 14 July, with Citadel following on Sunday 15 July 2018. Initial line-up announcements for both events are due next month.

The festivals’ planned move to Brockwell Park, first reported by IQ last October, was met with fierce opposition from locals, with residents’ association Friends of Brockwell Park complaining that the “small, urban park” does “not have not have the capacity to host such gigantic events. We oppose them utterly.”

Many local residents are also opposed to Eat Your Own Ears’ Field Day festival moving to Brockwell Park, as is planned.

All three events previously took place in Victoria Park, in east London, but were forced to move after AEG agreed a five-year contract with Tower Hamlets council for exclusive use of the park.

“I have no doubt that this move for Lovebox and Citadel 2018 will be a great success”

Commenting on today’s news, Julian Bell, leader of Ealing council, says: “I am delighted to welcome the Lovebox and Citadel festivals to the borough this summer. Rightly recognised as among the very best anywhere across the capital and beyond, these festivals will boast acclaimed, international artists and a vibrant atmosphere for the many thousands of fans attending. It is a venue with an excellent record of hosting large public events, including the London Mela, which has attracted over 90,000 visitors in the past.

“Gunnersbury Park is currently undergoing a hugely positive transition which will see brand-new sports facilities and wonderful historical buildings opening their doors in the near future. Hosting these festivals is another huge boost for the park and it also underlines our reputation as a place to see great live events.”

“Gunnersbury Park has undergone a phenomenal transformation in recent years,” adds Festival Republic MD Melvin Benn, “and I have no doubt that this move for Lovebox and Citadel 2018 will be a great success.”

 


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Ticketmaster Canada hit with drip pricing class action

Following last week’s complaint by Canada’s Competition Bureau over the “deceptive” practice of drip pricing tickets, Ticketmaster and Live Nation have been hit with a class-action lawsuit that seeks damages and repayment for those affected by “improperly collected fees”.

The lawsuit was initiated by ‘class-action king’ Tony Merchant on behalf of a proposed class “consisting of all persons, corporations or other entities who purchased tickets subject to inflated prices” during a specific period. The lead plaintiff, Micheal Lindenbach, estimates he has paid more than C$1,000 in ‘drip fees’ over the past five years, according to Marchant.

According to the Competition Bureau, Canadian law requires all mandatory additional costs to be included in the price of the ticket. Conversely, said its commissioner, John Pecman, “Ticketmaster’s mandatory fees often inflate the advertised price by more than 20% and, in some cases, by over 65%”, through the check-out process.

“On Friday, Merchant Law Group launched a class action litigation which seeks compensation and repayment to affected Canadian residents for all improperly collected fees due to drip pricing techniques used by Ticketmaster and Live Nation,” says Merchant.

“Canadians always expect to pay the price advertised, whether it’s for buying groceries or tickets to a concert”

“Canadians always expect to pay the price advertised, whether it’s for buying groceries or tickets to a concert. Ticketmaster and Live Nation collected these fees by advertising a much lower price for tickets, then jacking up the price.

“This case is particularly egregious given the dominant position which these companies hold over online ticket sales. When you consider the millions of sales transactions done by Ticketmaster in Canada each year, the magnitude of this class action becomes clear.”

In addition to Canada, drip pricing has also recently come under scrutiny in several European countries, including France and the Netherlands. The latter’s competition watchdog, the Authority for Consumers and Markets, said in October it was satisfied the ticketing sector had “turned a corner” after a majority of companies agreed to list all additional unavoidable costs up front.

Live Nation declined to comment on pending litigation.

 


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Britpop to return to Knebworth with Cool Britannia

Knebworth House will this summer host a large-scale rock festival for first time since 2014 with Cool Britannia, a new three-day Britpop-centred event promoted by David Heartfield’s Heartfield Entertainment.

Twenty-two years after 250,000 people descended on Knebworth for Britpop’s high watermark – Oasis, with support from the Charlatans, Cast, the Prodigy, Kula Shaker, Manic Street Preachers and the Chemical Brothers – a who’s who of Britpop greats, including Happy Mondays, Ocean Colour Scene, the Lightning Seeds, New Order’s Peter Hook, Dodgy and a returning Cast, will help transform ‘Britain’s biggest venue’ into a ’90s time capsule in the last weekend of August.

The 250-acre Knebworth Park last hosted a major rock show in 2014, when Iron Maiden and Metallica headlined the final UK edition of Kilimanjaro Live’s Sonisphere.

“This will surely be a great addition to our 44-year history of hosting some truly memorable events”

Martha Lytton Cobbold, managing director of Knebworth owner Lytton Enterprises, tells local paper the Welwyn Hatfield Times: “We are delighted to welcome Cool Britannia to Knebworth Park. With such a fantastic line-up of era-defining acts, this will surely be a great addition to our 44-year history of hosting some truly memorable events.

“We are looking forward to working with the Heartfield Entertainment team over the coming months to bring you a spectacular fun-filled weekend of music.”

Heartfield’s Impresario Festivals previously promoted South West Four, Field Day, Boardmasters and ’80s festival Rewind, which were acquired by Global in October 2016.

Tickets for Cool Britannia go on sale on 2 February. A full line-up is pictured below:

Cool Britannia 2018 line-up

 


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New Fall Fest to continue after preliminary bankruptcy

Hamed Shahi-Moghanni, managing director of Germany’s SSC Group, has confirmed all future New Fall Festivals will go ahead as planned, after its SSC Festivals GmbH subsidiary was put into preliminary bankruptcy.

New Fall Festival has taken place in Dusseldorf since 2011, with a successful spin-off event in Stuttgart launching in 2016. Speaking to the Stuttgarter Zeitung last week, Shahi-Moghanni explained that the 2017 editions of the festivals failed to meet expectations and that SSC Festivals, the company behind the event, had been forced to file for preliminary bankruptcy.

Speaking to IQ, Shahi-Moghanni explains that after a strong 2016, SSC took the decision to increase the festivals’ capacity for 2017. “We put the capacity higher than the previous year’s, and we actually sold more tickets,” he says, but that the boost in sales didn’t meet the increase in capacity. “The target was to sell 15,000–16,000 [tickets] and we didn’t reach that.

“Basically, we took a chance and it bit us in the ass!”

Despite the preliminary bankruptcy, Shahi-Moghanni emphasises that New Fall Festival will be unaffected, and that he plans to announce the line-up for October 2018 this March. No SSC staff were let go, with just the SSC Festivals company being temporarily wound up.

Shahi-Moghanni emphasises that New Fall Festival will be unaffected, and that he plans to announce the line-up for October 2018 this March

“It was such a huge story in German press,” he continues. “In the US everyone closes companies all the time, but in Germany it’s not so common – it’s a cultural thing.

Shahi-Moghanni says SSC Festivals has two to three months of preliminary bankruptcy before the real deal – German law required him to approach the state of Dusseldorf and say, “I have trouble and I need to manage this”, he explains – but even if the company is wound up, there is “no question” of the festival ending.

“The question is what you do with this kind of situation,” he says. “If it leads you to you making it [the festival] better, it’s a good thing.

“Whatever happens – whether I go forward with this company or not – we’re going to create an even better festival for the future.”

New Fall Festival 2018 will take place in Dusseldorf and Stuttgart from 25 to 28 October.

 


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IEA: Have to accept some people will miss out on big shows

The secondary market is a natural consequence of demand for concert tickets outstripping the supply, and any kind of cap on resale prices is both unworkable and contrary to the “basic realities of economics”.

That’s the view of Mark Littlewood, director-general of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), who has argued that the growing movement to curb ticket resale in the UK is the result of failure to properly grasp the economic concepts of scarcity and value.

Writing in the Times, Littlewood (pictured), who has led the influential free-market think tank since 2009, says anti-touting campaigners “have to accept that popular live events will always involve disappointed people missing out”. Using the example of Ed Sheeran’s latest album, ÷, which was streamed more than 200 million times in its first week of release, Littlewood says if 200m people wanted to see Sheeran live, “he would have to perform at Wembley Stadium every night for more than seven and a half years. Sheeran’s already hectic schedule is unlikely to make this feasible.”

He also argues that it is “folly” to believe a ticket’s face value “somehow reflects its intrinsic, objective value”. “As with all other goods and services, a ticket is worth whatever someone will legally pay for it,” he writes. “A rare chance to see my beloved Southampton FC play at Wembley may not be worth the £90 asking price to the overwhelming majority of people, but it is worth it many times over to me.”

“It is folly to believe a ticket’s face value somehow reflects its intrinsic, objective value”

This, he says, “highlights the absurdity” of a proposal by Labour MP Sharon Hodgson to cap resale prices at 10% above face value. “Why would we apply a legal cap on the mark-up of ticket prices, but not on other things?” Littlewood asks. “If in 1938 you purchased the first issue of Action Comics, featuring the debut of Superman, for 10¢, you could now sell it for more than $3 million. Presumably, Ms Hodgson believes you should only be allowed to sell it for 11¢ – or, if she is willing to take account of inflation, for a maximum price of $1.84.”

The secondary market, then, is necessary to allow those who can afford to buy access to shows they otherwise would have no chance of attending, Littlewood concludes.

“The reason that you can get into some events – if you have the cash and are willing to spend it – but may be unable attend others, irrespective of the financial sacrifice you are willing to make, hinges on whether an effective secondary market in ticket sales is allowed to operate,” he writes.

“Secondary markets in tickets are not a modern phenomenon. In ancient Rome, tickets for gladiatorial games or chariot races were typically given away. This led to the swift growth of the locarii – a profession dedicated to the purchase and resale of these tickets, which were made of shards of pottery. With modern technologies, today’s resale market is rather more sophisticated, but the principle remains the same: to get things into the hands of people who want them more than the people who currently own them.”

 


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Symphotech rolls out live music signing solutions

UK event safety company Symphotech has introduced two new signing solutions to help concert promoters comply with equality legislation.

The launch of the two technologies, produced in collaboration with TV production company Blue Multimedia, follows a recent lawsuit filed against LHG Live after the promoter failed to provide an interpreter for support acts for a September Little Mix show. It is a requirement under the Equality Act 2010 for companies to ensure disabled people’s experiences are as close as possible to those without disabilities.

Symphotech’s first method involves using an autocue operator to overlay live text onto video screens for the song lyrics. The second uses a live signing presenter, situated off-stage in front of a green screen, whose signing is ‘floated’ over the live show and placed into the corner of the video screens. This option provides the presenter with a live feed of the performance and lyrics sheets to enable them to be reactive throughout the show.

“We’re proud to offer these services to help ensure everyone is able to enjoy the pleasure of live music under the guidance of the 2010 Equality Act”

After consulting with disability support organisations, Symphotech says the live signing method has been identified as the preferred option.

Symphotech’s Will Hodgson says: “At Symphotech, we’re committed to ensuring everyone can attend safe and inclusive events. It’s vital that organisers take measures to ensure all attendees are offered the best possible experience while making certain their events are compliant with the disability access legislation.

“We’re proud to offer these services to help ensure everyone is able to enjoy the pleasure of live music under the guidance of the 2010 Equality Act.”

 


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NEC Group hires arena sales manager

Ben Sharman has joined NEC Group Arenas as venue sales manager.

Sharman – whose background in commercial marketing has seen him work on naming-rights agreements for both NEC arenas (the 16,000-cap. Genting Arena and 15,800-cap. Arena Birmingham, formerly Barclaycard Arena), as well as for Aston Villa Football Club and British Athletics – is tasked both with working with the arenas’ existing client base and bringing new business and event concepts to market.

Sharman comments: “This is a fantastic opportunity to take what I’ve learnt in my three years with the [NEC] Group, and support the arena venue sales team to drive sales and deliver the best service possible. I’m eager to join such an established and unique team that can offer the full package – not just event space, but a wealth of additional services through other NEC Group brands including ticket sales via The Ticket Factory, Amplify hospitality and in-house marketing support.”

“I’m eager to join such an established and unique team that can offer the full package”

“Ben will be a great addition to the team,” adds NEC Group Arenas head of sales Ian Congdon. “He’s already had exposure to the arenas industry in his previous group role, and I have no doubt that his enthusiasm and ambition will shine through in the quality of business he will deliver to our venues.

“I’m delighted we are expanding our team to support the successful management of two arena venues in one city. Our ability to do this relies on the strength of Birmingham’s market, with demand from both ticket buyers and promoters at an all-time high. As a team, we strive to exceed the expectations of our arenas’ clientele, so we hope this positive business trend continues throughout 2018 and beyond.”

Birmingham-based NEC Group, whose other venues are the National Exhibition Centre (NEC), International Convention Centre (ICC) and Vox Conference Centre, grew turnover 17.9% and profits 58% in a successful 2016–17.

 


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Venue Coalition reaches 70+ member arenas

North American booking consultancy Venue Coalition has increased its portfolio to more than 70 arenas, after adding ten new member venues in 2017.

Venue Coalition, led by Jeff Apregan, acts as a booking ‘advocate’ for independent arenas and theatre venues, engaging with industry decision-makers to identify new business opportunities and influence tour planning decisions to the benefit of its members.

Steve Kirsner, vice-president of booking and events SAP Center (17,496-cap.) in San Jose, California – one of 2017’s new intake – says: “SAP Center management is excited to be a part of Venue Coalitionr. “In the very competitive Bay Area market, Venue Coalition will provide another outlet of intelligence, which will help keep SAP Center in the forefront as the premier sports and entertainment venue in northern California.”

“2017 was another year of significant growth for Venue Coalition”

Another new member venue is First National Bank Arena (11,704-cap.) in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Its director, Jim Brown, adds: “Venue Coalition plays an integral part of our marketing and programming strategy here at First National Bank Arena. The services and knowledge that Jeff Apregan, Andrew Prince and their whole Venue Coalition team provides is invaluable.”

Andrew Prince, executive vice-president and partner at Venue Coalition, says: “2017 was another year of significant growth for Venue Coalition. Our members are actively engaged, and together we are booking more shows than ever before.”

 


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