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IPM 13: Small Venues: Does size really matter?

The penultimate panel of the 13th ILMC Production Meeting looked at the production challenges faced by venues with capacities from 25 to 5,000

By IQ on 04 Mar 2020

IPM 13: Small Venues: Does size really matter?

‘Does size really matter?’ was the question posed to IPM delegates at the day’s penultimate panel, which looked at the production challenges faced by venues with capacities from 25 to 5,000.

Serge Grimaux, from the 4,000-capacity Fórum Karlín in Prague, spoke on the pressures small venues without “anchor tenants”, such as sports teams, face to fill their calendars. “As soon as you try to bring in other events – whether it’s a food festival, a smaller sporting fixture – you get into additional challenges to deliver them, and that’s where you need good production people to make things happen,” he said.

Unlike arenas and stadia, venues such as London’s Eventim Apollo (5,039-cap.) “have finite parameters,” said its production manager, Alice James. “Believe me, I’d love to make the stage bigger, move the back wall, give you three more truck bays… but our venue was built in the ’30s and they didn’t think of things like lifts, or getting big wardrobe cases into dressing rooms…”

To bridge any gap between artist and venue expectations, it’s important to “make sure our communication is strong – and early,” continued Luke Hinton, promotions manager at the 170-cap. Horn in St Albans, “because it can be that if additional equipment is required, for example, we could do things like reduce the saleable capacity of the show. But we have had occasions where we’ve only found that out after the show sold out, so it’s important to get that communication in early from both sides.”

“Believe me, I’d love to make the stage bigger … but our venue was built in the ’30s”

“There has to be some compromise,” added Máté Horváth from Hunarian promoter DDW Music, “from both sides, such as making sure the management and the artist are understanding all the technical requirements. You have to work together and make it happen in the end.”

Unlike arenas, “people feel a love for their local grassroots venue”, said chair Chris Jones, manager of Selby Town Hall in Yorkshire. “They often know the door staff, the sound engineer, in a way you don’t get in the bigger venues – where you go, you enjoy the experience and then you go home. They’re really a part of the local ecosystem in a way that bigger venues can’t be.”

That may be true, but the core challenges are the same – so Jones asked panellists to finish by reflecting on the similarities between production for shows in small and large venues.

“You have to work together and make it happen in the end”

Advancing, suggested James: “For example, [at the last minute] the band decide they want to film the show, which creates kills – but in a sold-out show there aren’t any seats to kill. I’ve talked to my colleagues at the O2 [Arena in London] and they’ve experienced the same thing.”

“You need great people” no matter the size of the venue, said Grimaux. “If I remember back to when I was working in a tiny venue, even if we were three people doing the job of ten or 15, you need to be dedicated and realise the role you have in that chain.”

“When you’re advancing a smaller venue, you have a more active role,” continued Horváth, “but what’s common is that all artists and touring personnel deserve to have best possible show. This is something that has to apply equally for an arena and a 100-cap. room – no one should feel like they’re nothing special, just a band playing in a small room.”

“It’s not true that the bigger the venue, the bigger the problem,” Grimaux added. “The problems are the same. It’s the attitude that’s the most the important thing.”


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