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With Sam Smith hitting arena level worldwide with his second album campaign and tour, IQ chats to the promoters behind the shows to discover the secret to his success
By Rhian Jones on 15 Jun 2018
You’d be hard pushed to find someone who hasn’t heard of Sam Smith. The London-born singer has become a household name over the course of a four-year career that’s now reached arena-level with his current 89-date The Thrill of It All tour.
Smith’s trajectory follows that of a small handful of Brits, namely Adele and Ed Sheeran, that have cracked the mainstream market in such a spectacular fashion over the past decade. Alongside live success, he’s had two №1 albums in the UK – the last of which also topped the charts in the US – and multimillion record sales worldwide, along with three Brit Awards and four Grammys.
Agents Mike Greek and Summer Marshall at CAA have been with Smith every step of the way, as have a dedicated team at Method Management, record label Capitol and a legion of promoters worldwide who tell us all about Smith’s current run of live dates below.
The Thrill of It All tour was announced in October last year, a few weeks before the release of Smith’s second album of the same name. It started in the UK with 180,000 tickets sold across 14 dates in March and April, which were promoted by SJM (Sheffield, Newcastle, Manchester, Birmingham and London), DF Concerts (Glasgow), MCD (Dublin) and Goldenvoice (London).
After selling out two O2 Arena dates largely through pre-sale in London, two more were added, which also sold out. Smith had last played three dates in the capital at the 4,900-cap. Brixton Academy in 2015. Goldenvoice promoter Laura Davidson tells us Smith’s first tour had been underplayed, which made promoting The Thrill of It All plain sailing from the get-go.
“The best thing about working on Sam’s career is being part of such a great team”
“We left the last campaign in such a hot place and really held it back,” she says. “With the new album really connecting and coming straight out with a huge song like ‘Too Good at Goodbyes’, we didn’t really have any concerns going into arenas. Four O2s seemed very achievable.”
The team was keen to keep ticket prices reasonable, with the O2 shows priced from £29.50 (€33.50) to £62.50 (€71.50) for front-row seats. A partnership with Twickets helped curb the secondary market.
SJM Concerts promoter Luke Temple credits the wider team’s patience and meticulousness with the ease at which his tickets were sold and the quality of the show. He says: “On the first album campaign, Sam could have very easily done arenas but it was the right decision not to after seeing this latest show. With two albums of material to play, and the production, which was spot on, you couldn’t take your eyes off it from start to finish.
“The best thing about working on Sam’s career is being part of such a great team. Everyone involved cares about every little detail and the production team that put the show together have got great ideas. Everyone put a lot of thought into the show and the tour.”
With experienced production manager Wob Roberts pulling the strings on the road, the tour also benefits from the minds of creative producer, Lee Lodge, Jason Sherwood’s set design, lighting design by Tim Routledge and video content put together by Studio Moross.
“We didn’t really have any concerns going into arenas. Four O2s seemed very achievable”
Production includes a long, thin, triangle-shaped stage that puts Smith amongst the audience, creating an intimacy that can sometimes get lost in large venues. DF Concerts’ Dave Corbet, who promoted two sold-out dates at the Glasgow Hydro, explains: “It’s sometimes very difficult in an arena to make an artist feel well connected with the audience, but the way that production was laid out makes you feel that Sam is really in amongst the crowd.
“It’s laid out physically to be focused on Sam and is all about connecting with him, which works really well because he gives such a polished performance. The first time I saw him at King Tut’s you could tell right away there was something very special there, he has quite a remarkable voice, especially when you see it live and appreciate the range he has.”
Across the rest of Europe, Smith played 18 dates in April, May and June. After starting the leg at the Globe Arena in Stockholm, he visited Denmark for the first time to play the Royal Arena in Copenhagen on 20 April. ICO Concerts director Kim Worsøe sold 14,500 tickets for the show, which he describes as an “easy process” thanks to chart hits in the region, widespread radio support and download traction. “We could easily do multiple dates at the Royal Arena,” he explains. “The demand is so strong.”
Continue reading this feature in the digital edition of IQ 77, or subscribe to the magazine here