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New horizons: Diversification pays off for Kili in birthday year

Kilimanjaro Live is on course for a bumper tenth-anniversary year, after broadening its offering to include comedy, podcasts, sports, YouTubers and West End theatre

By Jon Chapple on 31 May 2018

Team Kilimanjaro, 10th anniversary party

Galbraith (centre) and Team Kili at its 10th anniversary party at Omeara

On the back of its successful diversification strategy and Ed Sheeran’s massive stadium tour, British promoter Kilimanjaro Live is on course to double its revenue in 2018, according to CEO Stuart Galbraith.

Kili turned over around £26 million in 2017, said Galbraith, speaking to IQ for the company’s recent 10th anniversary feature, and expects to double that figure this year.

Kilimanjaro – founded as a music promoter by Galbraith in 2008 as a joint venture with AEG, and now part of Deutsche Entertainment (DEAG) – has, particularly over the past four years, diversified well beyond music, into family entertainment, comedy, gaming, YouTubers and more, and recently acquired a majority stake in London-based Flying Music Group, accelerating its expansion into West End musicals and theatre.

The company also works on spoken-word shows, podcast tours and sporting events such as Extreme Nitro Circus. On the comedy side, promotion duties are headed up by Georgie Donnelly, who joined in 2016, and Kili has since worked with the likes of Jeff Dunham, Jim Jefferies, Trailer Park Boys, Michael Che, David Sedaris, Brian Reed, Mike Birbiglia, Aziz Ansari and Tape Face. It also has a run of multiple shows each year at the Edinburgh Fringe.

“We’re happy to try our hand at everything,” says Galbraith, who says Kilimanjaro has a “very vibrant” series of events in the pipeline. “Our staff have a combined skillset that’s as good as any promotion/marketing machine anywhere in the world.”

Part of the rationale behind that diversification, he explains, is that the margins of music touring are increasingly tight amid both soaring artist fees and the steady increase in the cost of putting on a show.

“We’re happy to try our hand at everything”

“And when something does go wrong with a tour, it has a huge financial impact,” he continues. “That’s why any promoter these days runs a 5–10% margin.”

The musical/family entertainment sector is also attractive to promoters because of “the opportunity to create something and own it” – something not possible with touring – adds Galbraith.

“On the music side, you only really start making money on arena- and stadium-sized acts,” adds promoter Mark Walker, who has carved out a niche promoting and producing shows by YouTubers and other digital stars. In early 2016, he co-founded Free Focus, a digital management company, as a joint venture with Kilimanjaro and TV/radio agency Triple A Media.

“Stuart didn’t take much persuading or convincing,” he recalls. “We’d been chatting for a few years about the limitations in the rock world. “I think the proof was in the pudding, as soon as we started doing our first tours and selling out shows off the back off one Instagram post and one YouTube video!”

Read the rest of IQ’s feature on Kili’s tenth anniversary, which also includes insights on the company’s history, its opposition to secondary ticketing and the early career of Ed Sheeran, here.


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