The music biz relies on an army of specialists working tirelessly to ensure crews, artists and entourages enjoy hassle-free travel as they take shows around the world. Adam Woods talks to those at the sharp end of the travel and transport sector
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From EAY 2019 – the Globe opened 30 years ago, dramatically changing the Stockholm skyline and firmly cementing the Swedish capital on the international touring map
By Eamonn Forde on 18 Nov 2019
What began life 30 years ago as one of the most controversial buildings in Stockholm has now become woven into the fabric of the Swedish capital and a celebrated part of the city’s skyline.
The Ericsson Globe – known locally simply as “Globen” – took over two years to build. It opened its doors on 19 February 1989 and remains the largest hemispherical building in the world. Over the past three decades it has changed the live entertainment and sports environment not just in Stockholm but across Scandinavia. In that time, the venue has hosted over 3,300 events and seen 35 million customers through its doors.
Its construction at the time was desperately needed as there was no purpose-built multifunctional arena in the region until its arrival, with concerts and other family entertainment events having to make do in ice hockey arenas that dated back to the 1960s.
“There was an architectural competition to build the new arena and to make it a landmark of the city,” says Marie Lindqvist, the venue’s vice president and general manager. “It is a spherical building, and it was very controversial at the beginning but it has become a well-known and well-loved landmark in the city of Stockholm. The building was completely new and very modern. It was very different to what had been in the market before.”
Its impact was instant, putting Stockholm on the international touring plans for major acts and events, as it meant they could now play to audiences of up to 16,000 in a purpose-built arena.
“The Globe has been a major contributor to Stockholm growing on the international music and entertainment market”
“The Globe has been a major contributor to Stockholm growing on the international music and entertainment market,” says Lindqvist. “It has been an enabler for Stockholm to get big shows but also to host international championships in ice hockey, handball, figure skating, and many more sports. It has definitely been a driver in positioning Stockholm as an events city.”
What was state-of-the-art in 1989, however, can start to look and feel archaic in 2019. As such, the venue has been keenly aware of the need to constantly evolve, to ensure it doesn’t become as anachronistic as the hockey arenas it superseded.
Scandinavia has long been a leader in the adoption of online and mobile technologies, and it is only to be expected that this has impacted on live entertainment in the region before most other places in the world. The Globe has adapted to keep itself at the forefront of these developments.
Jenny Blomqvist, head of event sales at the venue, says that while laptop/PC sales of tickets are still 50% of the market there, mobile is where the focus is now. “We do see a big shift towards mobile payments,” she says, “[and] all development within ticketing is now focused on mobile.”
With this rise of online and mobile comes a concurrent growth in the importance of data, and this feeds into how the venue runs and helps it anticipate customer behaviour.
“Today, consumers expect great connectivity in any arena; it is one of the basic components of the live experience”
“Data lets us know more about the fans and, thereby, creates a better customer journey [in terms of] what they want and how to communicate with them,” says Blomqvist. “It’s also more important with today’s technology and data to explain more about your exact position in the venue, the view from your seat, and also about possible upgrades or add-ons.”
Data, ultimately, should be used to enhance the customer experience. “With more information about visitors and sales, together with the promoter we can create a better event when it comes to getting the perfect seating plan for each show,” she says.
Alongside the customer-facing benefits of this rich data there are also business-facing upsides. “Promoters expect fast feedback on booking availabilities, so the organisation needs to quickly process information in order to find out what can be accommodated, both from a calendar and an operational perspective,” explains Blomqvist. “I would say that the organisation has sharpened its working processes and our know-how to better face up to the ever-increasing demand for arena availability.”
Given that Ericsson has been the venue’s naming partner for the past decade, mobile technologies have long been front and centre here. “Today, consumers expect great connectivity in any arena; it is one of the basic components of the live experience,” says Gil Murphy, the Globe’s head of event technology. “Most of the new ways of operating a venue depend on the connectivity in the arena with the POS systems, ticket scanning, wayfinding, and so on. Also, from an operating perspective, great connectivity is essential.”
Staying on top of the rapidly evolving digital world is a priority for the venue. “When Ericsson Globe hosted the Eurovision Song Contest in 2016, the Wi-Fi in the arena was upgraded to a newer standard, delivered by Ericsson, and is today a network that can handle most challenges,” adds Murphy.
“Technological developments have equated to greater demand from artists as well as [raise] expectations from visitors. The arena has had to gradually evolve to meet expectations”
The next technological leap will be 5G mobile connectivity, and venues will have to move in lockstep with these telco developments. “One thing I believe is, for sure, connectivity will continue to increase, as well as new ways to interact digitally with arena visitors,” says Murphy.
Tied into this is the development of the venue’s own smartphone app, which will launch later this year for the Globe and the company’s other four arenas in the city (Friends Arena, Tele2 Arena, Annexet and Hovet).
“The goal with the new app is to smooth the consumer journey and simplify your own interaction with the event you are going to,” explains Daniel Stålbo, director of comms at the Globe. “[The app] is where you will receive your ticket to your event [and it] is also where you will get all the information about your upcoming event; tips about how to best get to the arena; where to stay; how to order and pay for your food and drinks; how to get upgrades, and so on. It also provides a new foundation for interaction with live events in ways that promoters and partners define – such as voting, quizzes, seeing playlists, and more.”
New technologies are also shaping the creative potential of the venue, allowing the touring acts and productions to do things that were inconceivable even a decade ago.
“Technological developments have equated to greater demand from artists to incorporate [new] show techniques as well as [raise] expectations from visitors for a multimedia experience that can be shared online,” is how Blomqvist puts it. “The arena has had to gradually evolve to meet expectations. For instance, we are constantly working on how to improve rig capacity, as well as creating solutions for data capacity in line with visitors’ expectations.”