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ILMC 31: The Venue’s Venue: Close-up Magic

Arenas are booming, but what about the smaller venues that develop the talent pipeline, asked this year's Venue's Venue session

By IQ on 07 Mar 2019

ILMC 31: The Venue’s Venue: Close-up Magic

Opening the ever-popular venues panel, SEC’s Anne-Marie Harwood presented findings from the National Arenas Association (NAA) and European Arenas Association (EAA) arenas survey for 2018. She said the 48 respondents had 989 unique events over the year, and 4,643 performances which saw audiences of a total 27.5million people.

Music accounted for 46% of all performances and 58% of attendance, and saw a 5% year-on-year increase in performance and attendance.

The biggest music genres were pop and rock. The number of rock shows rose 28%, and attendance was up 36% compared to 2017.

Steve Sayer from London’s The O2 said the results clearly show the live sector is really healthy, but added that venues are having to be more innovative to maintain audiences. He cited the country music festival, C2C, that it hosts and promotes with SJM as one example. It’s grown into one of its biggest events of the year and has expanded into other territories, he explained. Harwood agreed, saying country has grown massively across Europe.

Sayer said while touring is still the core market, the key is finding opportunities around the edges, such as esports.

Nick Kenyon from the Barbican in London said he has seen huge changes in recent years, in particular that people now want to attend “events”. They want a stand-out proposition with surrounding experience. “Audiences are much more sophisticated and demanding than they were. They want a seamless welcoming accessible journey,” he told the room.

Music accounted for 46% of all performances and 58% of attendance in 2018

Guy Ngata from AEG-owned 17,000-capacity Dubai Arena said as well as western touring acts, the forthcoming venue will be programming content that’s structured for the Arabic community and the large Indian subcontinent community in the emirates.

Kenyon shared proposals for a new Centre for Music which is opening in London – he said it’s about providing a world class acoustics concert hall, plus an education centre.

Wizard Promotions’ Julia Frank from Germany said in the past few years two new venues have opened: Elbfilharmonie in Hamburg, which is in demand because Hamburg doesn’t have many mid-sized venues. The New AEG Verti Hall opened in Berlin recently.

Chair Lucy Noble wondered if all these new venues are growing the market or increasing competition, saying that while London has two major arenas, The O2 and SSE Wembley, there are plans for a new 18,000-capacity venue, MSG Sphere. What impact would that have on the city’s existing infrastructure, and are we saturating the market? she asked.

The O2’s Sayer responded that he wasn’t sure that building a new venue would stimulate demand for ticket sales.

As focus switched from large-capacity venues to the grassroots spaces that enable talent to develop, Noble wondered if larger venues should be supporting smaller ones. Beverley Whitrick from UK-based grassroots venue campaign group, Music Venue Trust, said the majority of grassroots venues in UK and around world are not purpose-built like the forthcoming arenas, and are instead struggling in converted buildings that are often at the mercy of rent rises.

“It’s time for the big venues to play their part in making it more of an obvious pipeline”

Because they spend 130% of ticket take on show, they can’t invest in the artist or audience improvement, she continued. The gap between customer experience at top end and grassroots is widening – and that’s becoming a crisis. “If people only have less than positive experiences at local small venue then that might put them off live music,” she warned. “It’s time for the big venues to play their part in making it more of an obvious pipeline.”

Adam Goodyer of tech company LiveStyled said if large venues are expected to support smaller venues with no incentive, it won’t work. He suggested ticketing companies should invest in this network because there’s economic reason to do it.

Louise Stewart from Aberdeen’s AECC said her venue has long been an economic driver for the city. But the venue is one of smallest in UK and past its sell-by date, so a new venue is being built as part of huge £333m development including conference centre and arena.

With huge priority being placed on data, Livestyled’s Goodyer said technology should be can help create a good customer experience.

He said his company’s work with AEG venues has identified new revenue streams – for example, if there’s unsold premium seating inventory, they can offer low-cost upgrades to digital customers to make them feel rewarded and bring in revenue. “Our data shows these audiences are 30% more valuable than those who aren’t,” he said.


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