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AEG’s Jim King: ‘Fans will expect more in 2022’

European festivals chief hopeful of strong 2022, but highlights potential problems for tours and events as industry gets back to business

By James Hanley on 13 Jan 2022

Jim King


AEG Presents CEO of European Festivals Jim King says the live business will need to “up its game” in 2022 to meet fans’ raised expectations.

Though heartened by the success of the festivals that managed to go ahead in late summer ’21 following the Covid washout of the previous summer, the leading exec advises the bar will be set higher for the coming season.

“We must be careful,” he tells IQ. “The emergence from multiple lockdowns created a unique demand that is unlikely to repeat in the same way.

“Fans will expect more in 2022 than they accepted in 2021. We will see an increasing upturn in expectation from fans as the year plays out and they have been to more and more shows and there will be a need for the industry to up its game to keep fans attending and buying more tickets in the later part of the year.”

“For some artists and events, 2022 has a risk of being a hangover from the pandemic rather than the strong return the industry needs”

Highlighting the potential problems for tours and festivals over the next 12 months, King points to the number of headline tours rescheduled from 2020/21 into 2022 – an issue set to be further exacerbated by the ongoing disruption to the circuit in Q1 ’22.

“Many of the sales cycles sit on top of each other and in many cases, also sit on top of the festivals that the artist is also appearing on,” he says. “Ultimately, tour and festival announcements need to be carefully coordinated, but if an artist normally sells 5,000 tickets in a market per cycle, then packaging 10,000 or more tickets around a festival play all in the same market in one year is going to be a challenge, and some artists and events will suffer.

“At some point there is likely to be fatigue between fans and certain artists, resulting in some events experiencing lower sales and/or higher non-attendance. If not managed, then for some artists and events, 2022 has a risk of being a hangover from the pandemic rather than the strong return the industry needs.”

AEG’s flagship UK concert series, BST Hyde Park, was cancelled for the second year in succession in 2021, but will return with a bumper line-up this summer. The London-based festival is to take place across two weeks from 24 June to 10 July, with concerts from Elton John (24 June), Eagles (26 June), Duran Duran (10 July), Pearl Jam (8–9 July) and, in a huge coup, Adele (1–2 July).

“With the volume of shows in play, fans will not respond favourably if their expectations are not being met”

The promoter’s All Points East staple was able to take place in London’s Victoria Park last August and its 2022 edition is set over two weekends from 19-20 and 25-28 August with headliners Gorillaz, The Chemical Brothers, Tame Impala, The National and Disclosure.

AEG’s French festival, Rock en Seine (ReS), meanwhile, has swelled to a four-day format and will be headlined by Stromae, Tame Impala and Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds from 25–28 August in Domaine National de Saint-Cloud.

King has previously explained the company paused its pre-pandemic plans for new events in favour of focusing on rejuvenating established festivals. But as the industry gears up for its first proper summer season since 2019, he retains high hopes of a strong return.

“Overall, I am positive for the summer,” concludes King. “AEG has a fantastic series of festivals on sale with amazing headliners, but the ball is in our court to deliver great fan experiences, and with the volume of shows in play, fans will not respond favourably if their expectations are not being met.”

Read the full interview with King in IQ 107, out now.

 


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