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Live Nation's Joe Schiavon, Mojo's Kim Bloem, Kilimanjaro's Steve Tilley and AGF's Claire O'Neill share the stories of their biz breakthroughs
By Gordon Masson on 20 Mar 2019
Hard work, knowing the right people and a slice of good luck can all play a part in getting a proper footing on the career ladder.
In the first of new series of articles, IQ puts four industry figures in the spotlight by asking them to share the stories of their breakthrough moments…
Joe Schavion, Live Nation
The turning point for me was getting an email out of the blue from a guy called Nick Dewey who was looking for someone to join his festival booking team. It wasn’t a name I’d heard before, so I called up Laura Taylor of Everybody’s Management asking: “Who is he?” She said: “It’s Emily Eavis’s husband.” It was Nick from the festival I grew up idolising.
I remember the date very clearly, as it was 1 April, so I thought it might be a wind-up, but I went to meet Nick and began helping out on bookings for Glastonbury, which was amazing. That experience led to agents taking me more seriously and national promoters getting in touch, including Sam Bush from Global.
Sam and I instantly hit it off and worked together for a couple of years before both being offered the opportunity to join Live Nation [in 2017]. I now find myself in the room where the biggest tours in the world – Drake, Taylor Swift, Guns N’ Roses – are being discussed and I’m learning so much all the time. The infrastructure is in place around me – now I just need to become the biggest and best promoter I can be.
I remember the date very clearly, as it was 1 April, so I thought it might be a wind-up
Kim Bloem, Mojo Concerts
When I started as a booker of mostly jazz shows in 2001, there was one artist that I could not imagine ever promoting: Prince. Being a huge fan and just starting as a booker, doing so was completely out of my league, and I thought that if I did ever do it, I would then quit my job, as it would have been the highest achievement possible.
Jazz and related music then became more widely supported by the general public through the likes of Norah Jones, Jamie Cullum, Michael Bublé and John Legend. I was lucky to be in the right place at the right moment. I had picked up on these artists and suddenly I was going to promote them for bigger audiences than I was used to, and the idea of being a part of what made an artist’s career fly made me feel like I was really contributing to something; it was the first time I ordered champagne and flowers for the dressing rooms!
In 2004, Norah Jones sold out two Heineken Music Hall (HMH) shows. This was when the bosses at Mojo asked me to become a promoter and book bigger shows, which was a turning point in my career.
A year later, Jamie Cullum became the new, crazy jazz kid in town and was immensely popular, selling three HMHs, while Bublé started selling a lot of tickets and went from theatre-level to the football stadium GelreDome [41,000-cap.]. John Legend sold from HMH level to 18,000 tickets in a field, and Jason Mraz did the same, all beyond expectation. And then, in 2010, I received a call asking me to put on a show with Prince in a stadium, within two weeks – a dream come true!
But, as I had become addicted to this business, I’m still here, and celebrating every show that gets confirmed, big or small.
I was introduced to band members as I was flyering the queue myself. No doubt that made some kind of impression!
Steve Tilley, Kilimanjaro Live
I was new at Kilimanjaro in August 2008, and the enormity of the challenge to build a roster weighed heavily. I felt I had my work cut out to compete on the national level.
I saw Frightened Rabbit go first on at Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen in early October and knew they had a bright future! It was just a hunch but I enthusiastically told their then-agent Jess that a headline Scala [800-cap.] show would be a no-brainer. As a fan, I knew that the Midnight Organ Fight was going to clean up in the end-of-year album polls.
Jess was overjoyed to hear my suggestion, because rival promoters for the artist were not showing the same ambition. By late November, my first-ever Scala show was confirmed for the following April. Frightened Rabbit were already booked to open for Biffy Clyro at their December 2008 Brixton Academy show and I was introduced to band members as I was flyering the queue myself. No doubt that made some kind of impression!
The Scala sold out, and on the night Steve Strange turned up, as he had just taken on the band. He assured me I was still the guy to promote the band in London (and elsewhere) and a little bit more of me started to really believe I could make it as a national promoter.
When Scott Hutchison passed away last year, it was just over nine years since the Scala show. His death happened right on the eve of my huge outdoor gigs with Ed Sheeran, so I had to deal with the tragedy of a lost friend while also trying to celebrate a personal career milestone that in 2008 seemed like a world inhabited by others. Talk about mixed emotions.
2018, therefore, became my tribute to Scott, because the belief he and his band showed in me was something that gave me even more belief in myself. I wish, like many others, that I could bring him back. He was loved by so many. So, thank you, Scott (and Grant, Billy and Andy).
I found myself fresh out of uni sharing the stage with then-MD of Live Nation, Stuart Galbraith
Claire O’Neill, A Greener Festival
After studying music industry management at BCUC (interspersed with psychedelic adventures of cosmic exploration in the woods and across mainland Europe) in 2005, I decided my dissertation title would be Should UK Music Festivals Implement Environmentally Friendly Practices?. The reasoning: there was a staggering disparity between how major festivals were being operated, and what was both possible and necessary for the industry to be greener.
There was no way the ‘big boys’ were going to be swayed to change business as usual by rave-culture, revolution rhetoric alone. I needed a strategy! This strategy was to show that paying audiences wanted greener festivals, and to give clear examples of how this was possible.
Regardless of the content and the intent, dissertations are destined to gather dust in a draw for eternity. Or so I thought. Luckily for me, my intellectual property and contract law lecturer, Ben Challis, kindly read my dissertation, as I sought his sagely critique from his years of work with Glastonbury Festival, Yourope and the live music industry in general. It was thanks to Ben that our dear friend and my classmate, Luke Westbury, turned the findings of the dissertation into a website: Agreenerfestival.com. Festivals started calling.
Ben also suggested to ILMC (I think ILMC 18 or 19) that I should present my research. I found myself fresh out of uni giving my first presentation and panel discussion with a packed room of ILMC delegates, sharing the stage with then-MD of Live Nation, Stuart Galbraith, and someone from the aviation industry who provides private jets for artists, with Festival Republic’s Melvin Benn in the front row. It was a baptism of fire for which I am very grateful.
Twelve or so years later, and A Greener Festival has assessed and certified circa 500 festivals worldwide including heavyweights like Glastonbury and Roskilde Festival, organised the Green Events & Innovations Conference (now in its 11th year) alongside ILMC, and trained over 100 sustainability managers and assessors from 15+ countries.