Fyre Festival: lessons learnt and myths debunked
The launch of two Fyre Festival documentaries earlier this month must have been the highlight of many event professionals’ week, or even year. Online streaming platforms Hulu and Netflix released separate documentaries revisiting the disastrous Bahamas-based Fyre Festival, and they have been the talk of the town ever since.
Aside from lashings of schadenfreude and a huge amount of empathy for those who lost money and livelihoods, a few things emerged from Netflix’s Fyre: The Greatest Party that Never Happened and Hulu’s Fyre Fraud that are important to set straight.
True: Social media, influencers and brands can make or break an event
Get these three things right and the world is your oyster. The fact that Fyre sold out instantly was an incredible testament to the care taken by agencies surrounding the brand and design, as well as the power of social media and influencers. But the terrible fact was that this marketing was not based on reality.
While a set of supermodels sold the event, a simple tweet broke the horror story to the world: that pitiful, sweaty cheese sandwich. So, please be careful – the terrible experience of one customer can make global headlines in seconds.
Future launches of festivals and events will reveal whether consumer trust in new brands “selling the dream” has been broken, or at least whether fans will require more substantiation before deciding to part with their cash.
False: You can’t use cashless wristbands if there is no wifi
Thankfully, the Tappit team had no involvement with Fyre Festival. However, what we do know is that our solution does not require wifi to operate. Reporting and analytics by events organisers might be marginally slower as a result, but a lack of wifi does not cause a problem with regards to implementation. Even on a far-flung island – which Pablo Escobar may or may not have owned – you can integrate the Tappit solution seamlessly.
The fact that Fyre sold out instantly was an incredible testament to the care taken by agencies surrounding the brand and design
True: Going cashless is the future of events
Fyre correctly tapped into a major trend for customers and event owners alike: going cashless is the future. Cash is used in less than 1% of transactions in Sweden — and Tappit’s recent global survey of 800 festivalgoers found that 73% prefer being cashless at festivals.
For organisers, too, there are huge benefits to going cashless. Valuable data and insights are gained, helping organisers to understand their fanbase and target their marketing. Profits increase due to faster transactions, increased spending and a reduction in administrative costs and, of course, theft and fraud are virtually eliminated. Sadly, in the case of Fyre Festival, no one benefited at all.
True and false: The fans’ money was at risk on the wristband
One of the benefits of going cashless as an event organiser is to understand how much people are willing to spend at your event. This, in turn, gives greater insight into how to create a memorable experience and provide the products that customers want to buy.
At Fyre, from what it seems the fans did lose their money. However, this is an issue wherever and whenever people buy something long distance. Whether it is a gift card or a holiday, if a retailer goes bankrupt before the customer receives the goods, then their money is at risk.
If event organisers choose to work with Tappit, our dedicated account management team helps them to create the right solution for their audience. We work together to ascertain whether keeping funds in escrow or ensuring the transactions are stored on our partner’s merchant account is the best way to reassure customers or aid cash flow.
Being honest with fans might not have saved Fyre Festival, but it certainly would not have created a global story that provided enough content for two full-length documentaries
True: Honesty and timely communication make a difference
When things turned sour for Fyre, they went downhill quickly. Yet, as many people mentioned in the documentary, simple and fast communication might have made a difference. Being honest with fans might not have saved Fyre Festival, but it certainly would not have created a global story that provided enough content for two full-length documentaries.
So, while everyone is discussing Fyre around the water cooler for the next few weeks, please think about what you can learn and what you can do to ensure that your event is making the headlines for the right reasons.
Jenni Young is chief marketing officer of Tappit.
EDM star Marshmello to play in-game Fortnite show
Viral video game phenomenon Fortnite is to host its first-ever in-game concert, with RCA-signed DJ Marshmello reportedly set to perform in the free-to-play Fortnite Battle Royale this Saturday (2 February).
According to Fortnite news site Fortnite Intel, “if you head to Pleasant Park” – a residential-themed area on the Fortnite Battle Royale map – “right now you’ll see the early makings of a stage being built for his performance”, while Marshmello has also added a Pleasant Park date to his online tour schedule. (Unlike ‘real’ shows such as his mid-February dates in India, fans are only able to RSVP for the show, rather than buy tickets.)
— Liam | Wolves 🐺 (@LiamTWiiN) January 29, 2019
Since launching last year, Fortnite Battle Royale has become the most successful free-to-play game video game of all time, pushing developer Epic Games’ valuation to nearly US$15bn as the number of Fortnite players – most of whom pay real money (or ask their parents) to buy in-game skins and other cosmetic items – soars over 200 million.
In addition to Marshmello, other famous fans of the game include fellow artists Drake and Deadmau5, as well as several sportspeople, with French footballer Antoine Griezmann famously celebrating his goal in the 2018 World Cup final with the game’s ‘Take the L’ dance.
According to Fornite Intel, leaked in-game data shows the concert by Marshmello will kick off at 2pm ET (7pm GMT).
The Marshmello show follows the recent Fire Festival in Minecraft, which featured DJ sets by the likes of Ekali, Hudson Mohawke, Arty and Luca Lush.
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Minding our own business: why mental health needs more attention
Traditionally an industry that attracts passionate and creative individuals who are willing to go the extra mile, the highly competitive live music business appears to be rife with fatigue, anxiety, stress, and drink – and drug-related problems.
A recent survey of more than 500 promoters, event organisers and venue owners, by ticket agency Skiddle indicates the extent of the welfare challenge facing the music industry. Some 82% of respondents said they had suffered with stress, 67% said they had anxiety, and 40% said they had struggled with depression.
Skiddle found 65% of promoters admitted to frequently feeling an “intense and unmanageable level of pressure.”
Someone who knows first hand what it feels like to suffer mental health issues as a result of intense pressure at work is production manager Andy Franks. After being sacked from a tour as a result of excessive drinking, Franks says he didn’t know where to turn to for help.
After meeting artist manager Matt Thomas, and collectively realising that drink – and drug-related mental health problems were widespread in the recorded and live music sectors, the duo founded the charity Music Support.
Franks says the aim of Music Support’s tagline – ‘You Are Not Alone’ – is to emphasise that the charity is there to ensure there is always someone on hand to help.
As well as offering a 24-hour helpline manned by volunteers with experience in the music industry, Music Support provides Safe Tents backstage at UK festivals, and services including crisis support and trauma therapy.
“We get feedback from people who we have helped and it is awe inspiring, we know we have saved people’s lives”
“We get feedback from people who we have helped and it is awe inspiring, we know we have saved people’s lives,” says Franks. As well as crew, promoters and venue staff, artists are also affected by the enormous pressures involved in delivering live music. One of the patrons of Music Support is Robbie Williams, while acts including Depeche Mode and Coldplay are among those to have helped fund the charity.
Despite the high-level backing, Franks says the future of Music Support is far from secure unless further funding can be found.
“These problems are in everyone’s business and we are providing a valuable service, but the only way we can sustain that is with regular funding. We are in desperate need of sustained funding,” says Franks.
Lina Ugrinovska is another live music industry executive who, having struggled with issues including stress, became determined to help others overcome their problems.
Ugrinovska handles international booking at Password Production in Macedonia. Earlier this year she launched the ‘Mental Health Care in the Music Industry’ initiative with the aim of raising the profile of mental health issues, and helping people to tackle their problems via mentoring sessions and panel discussions.
She says, “I feel a responsibility to open the box and show that people should feel comfortable talking about their issues, instead of treating them as a sign of weakness.
“The idea behind the initiative is to raise awareness and help develop a healthier industry, through sharing stories, diagnosing, prevention and problem solving. It is something that everyone involved in this industry should take responsibility for.”
“I feel a responsibility to open the box and show that people should feel comfortable talking about their issues, instead of treating them as a sign of weakness”
An organisation that clearly has its employees’ best interests at heart is UK performance rights organisation PRS for Music. It used World Mental Health Day to announce the launch of an initiative that will see 16 of its staff trained as ‘mental health first-aiders.’
The initiative, in partnership with Mental Health First Aid England, is the next step in a series of wellbeing programmes carried out by the organisation in recent years.
Steve Powell, PRS for Music chief financial officer, says, “We have undertaken wellbeing programmes covering issues including nutrition, physical, financial, digital detox, and mental health. This latest initiative enables people to have conversations more regularly and outside of a structured programme.
“The area of stress and mental resilience is something that more and more people are having to cope with. This initiative is designed to enable people to talk about mental health and break down the stigma surrounding it in an informal and confidential way.”
Another organisation providing a 24-hours-a-day, seven- days-a-week help line for people suffering with mental health issues is Britain’s Help Musicians. Its Music Minds Matter service was launched in December in response to the findings of its Can Music Make You Sick? study released the previous year.
Nearly three quarters of survey respondents stated they had experienced anxiety and depression, while more than half said there wasn’t sufficient support available. Aside from the helpline, Music Support provides a network of international counsellors to help those in need while out on tour.
Formerly known as the Musicians Benevolent Fund, which was set up in 1921, Help Musicians not only helps people with mental health issues, but other problems including isolation and financial turmoil.
Continue reading this feature in the digital edition of IQ 80, or subscribe to the magazine here
Calls for inquiry into Cambridge Live bail-out rejected
An inquiry into crisis-hit Cambridge Live, the trust which runs the Cambridge Folk Festival (CFF) and Cambridge Corn Exchange, will not go ahead. Concerns arose following a £750,000 bail-out from the council.
Last month, Cambridge City Council brought Cambridge Live back in-house, after the trust encountered persistent financial difficulties.
The Council granted a £500,000 support package to the trust in June last year, later followed by an additional £250,000.
The Liberal Democrats tabled an amendment calling for a full inquiry into the reasons for the trust’s failings:
“Recognising the substantial potential public cost of this rescue and the need to decide whether Cambridge Live should in future continue in-house or be re-launched as an independent organisation, it is important to properly understand what went wrong in Cambridge Live and in the council’s relationship with it, both as its founding sponsor and major partner and customer.”
“It is important to properly understand what went wrong in Cambridge Live and in the council’s relationship with it”
“We therefore request officers to recommend terms of reference for a cross party members’ inquiry addressing these issues.”
However, the amendment was rejected by the council. Chief executive of Cambridge City Council, Antoinette Jackson, responded saying: “Our priority at the moment is to stabilise the organisation. We do not have the officer capacity at the moment to support an inquiry.”
This is not the first time such a bail-out has happened. Cambridge council awarded the 2007 and 2008 CFF ticketing contracts to online ticketing platform Secureticket Ltd. The company later went into administration, leaving the council to cover £618,000 in ticket sales.
Launched in 2015, Cambridge Live puts on events including the long-running CFF (10,000-cap.). Speaking to IQ last year, CFF boss Neil Jones spoke of the need to widen the festival’s appeal and the pressure of competing with live music behemoths such as Live Nation and AEG, with the exclusion zones such companies enforce.
Cambridge Live also runs concert and event venue the Cambridge Corn Exchange (1,700-cap.) and family-friendly community event the Big Weekend (15,000-cap.). The council will now be responsible for all services formerly provided by Cambridge Live. All events and concerts will continue as planned.
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Superstar UK YouTuber Jacksepticeye signs with WME
William Morris Endeavor (WME) has added to its growing roster of digital stars by signing popular YouTuber Jacksepticeye from its London office.
Irish-born, British-based Jacksepticeye, real name Sean McLoughlin, has more than 21 million YouTube subscribers (50th in the world), along with nearly 6m followers on Instagram and 5m on Twitter. McLoughlin is best known for his ‘Let’s Play’ gaming series and vlogs of his life, and has also embarked on a live career with his How Did We Get Here tour, which played mid-sized venues in Norway, Denmark, Sweden, the UK and the Republic of Ireland.
Representation by WME is for all areas, and sees McLoughlin join a digital roster that also includes internet personalities Joe Sugg, Andrea Russett and Jake Paul. He continues to be represented by manager Nicole Graboff and lawyers Ryan Pastorek and Adam Kaller.
All major Hollywood agencies, including WME, CAA, UTA and Paradigm, have rosters that include YouTubers and other digital ‘influencers’, and the trend has in the past few years crossed the Atlantic, thanks to the success of events including Summer in the City and the Meet and Greet Convention.
“The market is definitely getting bigger, and there’s no reason at all why this can’t be an arena-level headline business in the next three to five years,” WME London agent Alex Bewley told IQ in 2017. “Rather than just clicking a ‘like’ button on Facebook or subscribing to a YouTube channel, fans are increasingly buying tickets to see a show by their favourite creators.”
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Visas, festivals and the trouble with Brexit
A recent report by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has shown that the UK’s creative industries could face serious troubles immediately after Brexit if no deal is reached, or even if the government maintains the current visa system as it is. From individual acts on European tours to massive events like Glastonbury, losing the freedom of labour that the UK enjoys will make these projects difficult in the future.
The system isn’t working…
If the current visa system is maintained, foreign workers in the music industry will face convoluted, drawn-out visa applications, or being shut out entirely, as their jobs don’t qualify for the Tier 2 work visa. With the visa cap for working visas being reached every month this year, minimum salaries for non-EEA workers have reached £40–50,000 (€46–57k), meaning anything below this is ignored and the position goes empty.
The CBI report identifies the great contributions Europeans make to the music industry, noting that 10% of those in UK music have a European passport. As a key player in the global music industry, Britain also plays host to many EU managers who use the country as a base to manage international artists. To lose this ease of free movement with the continent could result in big names shunning the UK in favour of other countries on the continent.
The CBI report states that self-employed workers account for 70% of the music industry. Since the Tier 2 work visa route requires all applicants to be sponsored by a UK sponsor, this 70% could be at risk, and any further EU migrants may lose this opportunity entirely in the future. This would mean a much less diverse workforce, losing out on skills from the European market that many Brits do not have, such as second-language skills needed to break into the international market.
Mixed feeling on festivals…
For festivals, there is varied opinion. Adding visas and carnets to the cost of each performer could mean costs trickle down to the ticket buyers, which could see crowds drop in numbers. Festivals like Glastonbury could be struck at the source, as the festival has a turnover of £37 million but a profit of just £86,000 – or 50p a ticket.
A lack of access to casual labour, which the EU provides, may also leave us short in everything from security to bar staff. While Europeans are not being asked to leave at the stroke of midnight on Brexit day next March, those here on a temporary basis are unlikely to want to spend the money and effort to sign up to the government’s EU settlement scheme.
“The government should keep the British festival industry in mind when they are agreeing our future trade and mobility deals with the EU”
Some 823,000 Europeans visited the UK as music festival tourists last year. When compared with just 135,000 tickets available at Glastonbury each year, this could be quite a deficit to make up should Europeans choose not to make the journey in the future. Therefore, the government should keep the British festival industry (which contributes up to £4.4 billion to the UK economy each year) in mind when they are agreeing our future trade and mobility deals with the EU.
Tour carnets – documents required for all musicians touring on a visa – are needed to report all equipment entering and leaving, which could mean that smaller UK groups avoid touring in Europe altogether. Bigger names could still extend this price hike to their fans, which could affect the industry’s public image as a top authority worldwide.
While at present government hopes are that the UK and EU will have reciprocal ‘visa-less’ travel after Brexit, this would only cover certain ‘business activities’, and European artists may still need to enter on a Tier 5 temporary work visa, which also requires sponsorship, making it far more complicated for each musician to enter. A separate touring visa has been suggested that could provide a lifeline for EU bands trying to break out in the UK.
Artists from anywhere touring in Europe will also be required to pay extra for further carnets to enter the UK, meaning that artists may consider not entering the UK or touring for fewer dates to keep costs down. Smaller bands who already tour on a shoestring will be most affected, which will in turn affect the venues that support them.
Considering our music exports make up a quarter of the market in Europe, the bloc has a lot to lose from our exit without the right kind of deal, but time is running out. If the government listens to the advice of the CBI, the music industry could insure itself against a complete Brexit catastrophe. Or, the indomitable strength of British music culture may thrive no matter what happens. Only time will tell, as Europe decides what it’s going to do with us, and its citizens mull over whether they’re willing to stay in the UK.
Mike Jefferson joins eps America sales team
Global event infrastructure provider eps has announced a new appointment to its US division, as Mike Jefferson joins the eps America sales department.
Jefferson has over 20 years experience consulting for infrastructure, providing ground protection and installing services nationwide.
According to eps America chief executive, Lee Bauman, Jefferson brings “extraordinary” expertise in ground protection and onsite event services to the team.
“The eps America team is thrilled to have Mike on board. He will help eps America to continue to offer outstanding services for our clients with event infrastructure solutions across North America,” says Bauman.
“The eps America team is thrilled to have Mike on board. He will help eps America to continue to offer outstanding services for our clients”
Jefferson is “excited” about joining the team, commenting: “Eps’s reputation for excellence in event infrastructure is second to none globally and I look forward to contributing to growth and continued development of the North American business.”
eps is an equipment rental company providing event infrastructure such as grandstands, ground and turf protection systems, security gates and mobile sanitary installations.
The company developed its own “flat-foot” stage barrier for Harry Styles’s first solo tour last year.
AI creates “digital twins” for entertainment industry
Oben, a company specialising in personal artificial intelligence (PAI) technology, has created the first-ever AI entertainment hosts, who presented Chinese New Year programming together with their human counterparts.
On 28 January, the well-known television hosts Beining Sa, Xun Zhu, Bo Gao and Yang Long hosted China Central Television’s (CCTV) Network Spring Festival Gala alongside their “digital twins”, courtesy of Oben’s PAI technology.
An accompanying WeChat mini-app allowed viewers to use any of the four PAI hosts to send personalised new year’s greetings to friends and family. The celebrity PAIs delivered video messages to recipients, much in the way that human celebrities record personalised voicemails or Instagram videos for fans.
“The ‘digital twins’ facilitate new ways to engage viewers and fans in more personalised and unique experiences”
The PAIs created by Oben can look and sound like anyone in the world, constituting believable digital replicas of famous human figures. Using AI, the avatars can be taught to sing in another’s voice, perform specific dances and interact with fans through mobile devices.
The “digital twins” facilitate new ways to engage viewers and fans in more personalised and unique experiences. The technology has proved popular in the entertainment industry and Oben has worked on several celebrity partnerships.
The company is expanding into the music industry too. Oben recently released a human/ PAI duet music video with popular Chinese female idol group SNH48. The “digital twins” join their human counterparts in the video to sing, dance and interact with the band.
Trailblazer: Nick Griffiths, Kingdom Collective
Welcome to the latest edition of Trailblazers – IQ’s regular series of Q&As with the inspirational figures forging their own paths in the global live entertainment business.
From people working in challenging conditions or markets to those simply bringing a fresh perspective to the music world, Trailblazers aims to spotlight unique individuals from all walks of life who are making a mark in one of the world’s most competitive industries. (Read the previous Trailblazers interview, with Kyō’s Godwin Pereira, here.)
This week, IQ talks to the multifaceted Nick Griffiths, founder of creative agency Kingdom Collective and director of the Beat Hotel Marrakech, a four-day cultural residency taking place near Marrakesh, Morocco.
Beat Hotel, perhaps best known from its stage at Glastonbury festival, will this year hold its inaugural festival from 28 to 31 March at a boutique hotel in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. Performers include Young Fathers, Maribou State, Gilles Peterson, Hunee and Palms Trax, while an accompanying literary programme and celebrations of Moroccan cuisine will complete the cultural experience.
Launched in 2011, Kingdom Collective is a culture and communications agency based in London. The agency works with clients such as Red Bull Music Academy and Red Bull Studios, Glastonbury Festival, Pioneer DJ and Gala Festival for PR, talent booking and event management.
Here, Griffiths speaks about both elements of his professional life, the lessons he’s learnt working in the music industry and his love for live experiences.
How did you get your start in the industry?
I moved to London in 2004 with an English degree and a cheap suit in search of employment – hopefully in music. My first proper job was as an assistant at music PR company-turned-experiential agency Slice.
There are so many agencies in this space now, but back then there were only a handful, and Slice was probably among the first wave, so it was a great place to start. I learned the basics of live events, from a promotions and programming and production point of view, working for clients like Heineken, Southern Comfort, Diesel, Yahoo! and Beck’s.
Tell us about your current role.
I wear two hats, really: one as founder of creative agency Kingdom Collective, and one as a director of the Beat Hotel, both of which came into being in 2011. It was the same time I was doing Land of Kings – a multi-venue music and art festival in Dalston – and realised I loved the buzz of putting on independent events as well as the big-brand stuff. In fact, sometimes, I still get more from producing a 200-cap. club night in a basement than some of the big budget brand events.
Setting up Kingdom Collective was a way of being able to pursue both interests, in a way where one would feed the other. So, in 2011 we first did the Beat Hotel at Glastonbury, which we’ve done each year since, and has led to the four-day festival in Marrakesh this March.
Who, or what, have been the biggest influences on your career so far?
My time at Slice had a big influence on my younger self, in terms of the people I met and the work, but also seeing that it was possible, and perfectly valid, to have a variety of interests.
I also still get influenced and inspired by going to events that I’m not working at, whether it’s gigs, festivals or brand shows. It’s important to keep an eye on what everyone is up to, but I also love being at shows so I try to go out as much as I can.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Being able to work in those moments where people are having the best part of their day, week or year. Music events in particular are a release for people and, at their best, can create an energy that can be life-affirming. If that ever stops, I think I’ll know it’s time for a career change.
“Music events are a release for people and can create an energy that can be life-affirming. If that ever stops, I’ll know it’s time for a career change”
And the most challenging?
For me the challenge is around balancing the creative and the commercial. We always want to keep the excitement and passion for what we do, but there are commercial realities to consider; keeping your integrity and staying true to what you stand for across all of your work, is really important. Sometimes that means knowing when to let things go.
What achievements are you most proud of?
Taking the Beat Hotel from being a small cocktail bar at Glastonbury to doing our own festival in Morocco has been lots of fun, and we never really had any expectations about what it might become.
I’m also proud of the work Kingdom Collective has done for Red Bull. The takeover of the London Eye for Revolutions in Sound for Red Bull Music Academy’s 15th birthday will take some beating. A celebration of UK club culture, we put 30 legendary clubs into the Eye’s 30 pods and live streamed the whole event.
What, if anything, could the music industry do better?
We’ve started to see a shift towards more women and diversity across the industry, but I think a lot of it has been PR rather than real change. Most labels, agents and managers are still overwhelmingly male, in my experience, as well as the line-ups of festivals. Committing to 50/50 line-ups, as some events have, is bold and commendable, but I’d like to see more change behind the scenes in the industry, which will take more than a few magazine headlines.
What advice would you give to someone hoping to make it in live music/entertainment?
We did a campaign around regional music scenes with WeGotTickets and asked 50 promoters, venue owners and industry insiders that same question. The near unanimous answer was “Don’t be a dick”.
I can’t think of a better answer.
If you’d like to take part in a future Trailblazers interview, or nominate someone else for inclusion, email IQ’s news editor, Jon Chapple, on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Australia’s QBA reports record attendance for 2018
The Qudos Bank Arena (QBA) reported a record number of visitors in 2018, with over one million fans attending shows in Australasia’s largest indoor live entertainment venue (21,000-cap.).
The TEG-owned and AEG-operated QBA hosted over 1,066,607 ticketed patrons last year, the largest ticketed crowd to attend the arena for live entertainment since it opened its doors in 2000.
The attendance figures do not include guests who visited the arena for business events such as functions, conferences, seminars and exhibitions.
To celebrate the landmark achievement, a ‘QBA Golden Ticket’ was awarded to the one millionth guest through the arena’s turnstiles. The recipient will receive two tickets for every ticketed event of the 2019 QBA calendar.
“Qudos Bank Arena hosted over 110 ticketed shows throughout 2018, and with that level of event activity likely to continue in 2019, we couldn’t be happier for Kayla [Golden Ticket recipient] who will get to enjoy even more great events over the next 12 months,” comments Steve Hevern, QBA general manager.
“2018 was a special year, and the huge accomplishment is credit to the entire team that work so hard every day”
“2018 was a special year, and the huge accomplishment is credit to the entire team that work so hard every day to provide our clients, patrons and guests with outstanding customer service that keeps them coming back.”
The arena reported other record-breaking events in 2018. P!NK played nine shows as part of her Beautiful Trauma World Tour, breaking the arena record for the longest run of shows played by a solo artist, as well as the record for total ticket sales for any artist.
Bruno Mars accumulated the highest ticket sales for a male solo artist at the arena, playing five shows as part of his 24k Magic World Tour.
Others acts to play in the arena last year include Katy Perry, Sam Smith, Celine Dion, The Killers and 21 Pilots.
QBA, previously known as the Acer Arena and as Sydney Superbowl, was originally built for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. It is one of the top ten grossing arenas in the world, hosting hosts a range of live entertainment events across music, comedy and sport, as well as corporate events and conferences.