Continuing a series of interviews with this year's queer pioneers, IQ speaks to the UK-based booking agent
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Continuing a series of interviews with this year's queer pioneers, IQ speaks to the Newcastle-based event manager
By Lisa Henderson on 01 Aug 2023
The LGBTIQ+ List 2023 – IQ Magazine’s third annual celebration of queer professionals who make an immense impact in the international live music business – has been revealed.
The ever-popular list is the centrepiece of IQ’s third Pride edition, sponsored by Ticketmaster, which is now available to read online and in print for subscribers.
To get to know this year’s queer pioneers a little better, we interviewed each of them on the development of the industry, the challenges that are keeping them up at night and more.
Throughout the next month, IQ will publish a new interview each day. Check out yesterday’s profile with Boyan Pinter, founder/director at SPIKE Bulgarian Music Showcase in Sofia, Bulgaria.
The series continues with Scott Robson (he/him), event manager at ASM Global in Newcastle, UK.
Scott Robson is a 34-year-old gay event manager from Newcastle, UK. Robson was originally a performer and after training in London and travelling the world he decided he needed a change and went back to university to study event management at the University of Sunderland before completing a masters in international marketing at Newcastle University. Robson now lives in the northeast with his partner of six years, their two dogs – Betsy and Dotty – and their cat Sylvia (named after the one and only Sylvia Rivera). They also host a weekly show on Pride Radio talking about queer art, politics, and pop culture.
Tell us about the professional feat you’re most PROUD of in 2023 so far.
So, a main goal of mine since starting to work for the Utilita Arena Newcastle was to make it queerer. The great thing is, the team has been fully on board, and we have looked at many ways in which we can make our venue a safe space for everyone. Whilst working on Yungblud, I was asked to assist in providing a gender-neutral toilet. After looking at our space and assessing what the guests needed, I was able to provide 40 gender-neutral toilets for the event. This has then translated into drawing up plans and having gender-neutral toilets available as a permanent fixture at the arena. This may seem like a small win but for many of our guests, this opens the door to them feeling welcomed and loved. The signs look super cool, too.
Name one queer act you’re itching to see live this year.
Janelle Monae would be amazing to see. Everything about her is amazing and they are a strong representation of what it is to be a powerful, talented, and inspirational member of the LGBTQIA+ community. There are a few other people I would love to see who don’t identify as queer, but their continued support doesn’t go unnoticed, Dolly Parton, Cher and Lady Gaga are of course queer icons in their own right and I would die if I got the opportunity (although I have already seen Cher a few years ago and quite frankly I’m still recovering).
“It’s probably not best practice to get drunk and apply for jobs, but here I am, almost two years later, in a job that I love”
What advice could you give to young queer professionals?
I have a few pieces of advice that I like to think I keep in mind every day at work. Always be yourself. If people don’t like that, that isn’t a reflection on you. Take up as much space as possible; don’t be afraid. Be present. Give your heterosexual colleagues the space to ask questions. This also opens the door to a deeper connection and bonds. Additionally, you might be the key to opening their minds, and you might learn something, too.
What’s the best mistake you’ve ever made?
This question really had me stumped. I have made a million mistakes in my 34 years. Some of them embarrassing, some funny, but all memorable. The one that changed my life the most was during Covid. Events were at a standstill, and I was on the job hunt; I was feeling a little insecure. Every job I looked at had the wildest job description, and I had anxiety every time I read them. So, one night I decided to have a drink or two – many of us have had a few wines and ordered things from the internet – but I got sidetracked and applied for each of those jobs. It’s probably not best practice to get drunk and apply for jobs, but here I am, almost two years later, in a job that I love! So, I think the best mistake was me thinking I needed ‘Dutch courage’ to apply for jobs I was clearly qualified for, because it taught me a lesson: never discount yourself, go for it, what’s the worst that could happen?
“There have been massive leaps in accessibility over the years, but financial exclusion is still a massive issue”
In terms of challenges in the industry, what’s currently keeping you up at night?
Accessibility is a major concern for me; we have so many artists, icons, and performers pass through our venues, and not everyone has the opportunity to attend. There are many reasons – financial, accessibility, or distance – and I would love to work on a way to make space for these people to be part of it. I never went to a lot of live music events growing up because it was difficult for my parents to attend with both my sister and I. My sister has a genetic disorder, and so this makes the experience more difficult. There have been massive leaps in accessibility over the years, but financial exclusion is still a massive issue, and for those that live in rural areas and never get the chance to attend big events because of the cost and distance involved, if we could develop the technology or tailormade experiences (at a reduced rate and with buy-in from the promoters, artists and managers) for families with these experiences, I would sleep way better. No one should be excluded.
How do you see the live music business developing in the next few years?
During Covid, the events industry had to get creative, and it was amazing to see new spaces created in order for people to attend and participate in events. Once the lockdowns were fully released, the new spaces disappeared. But I wholeheartedly believe the future of the events industry is an amalgamation of both. The real-life experience can never be overruled by the digital one, but mixing both elements could see a massive growth in engagement for the audiences and allow new technologies to influence the guest experience. With the surge in VR, I think it’s only a matter of time until we are using this technology as a permanent fixture in our events. I mean, we have ABBA breaking records in London, as you read this, so who knows what could be next.
“We have seen major improvement in ticket reselling, but there is much more that needs to be done”
Name one thing you’d like to see the live music business change.
Ticketing. We have seen major improvement in ticket reselling, but there is much more that needs to be done. We have seen artists and management limit the number of tickets sold per person, but the problem is still rife. If there could be a way to monitor it more closely, our events would become way more accessible as people won’t be out-priced by people buying multiple tickets with no intention of ever using them.
Name one thing the industry could do to be a more equitable place.
There are many things we need to do, but sometimes the most basic act can be the most beneficial. We need to keep talking, learning about each other, our struggles, our aspirations, and hopes and fears, will inevitably create more understanding. If we do this in our venues and places of work, this culture will expand. Sure, we can make policies and practices, but if we don’t believe in it, realistically, it’s just a bit of paper with writing on it. We need to make the change happen on the ground. Learning about someone makes us care, and if we care, we will be proactive in the change. Treating someone equitably regardless of job title or position, learning everyone’s names and a bit about them. So, supporting each other, in my opinion, will create the connections and conversations, which will inevitably create the space for a more equitable environment for all.
“Utilita Arena Newcastle see my queerness as my superpower and not an affliction, and honestly, I would have to agree”
Shout out to your biggest ally in the live music industry.
My biggest ally in the live music industry is the team at Utilita Arena Newcastle. Starting a new place can often be scary, but when you’re queer, there is the added stress of whether there will be someone there who doesn’t ‘get you,’ and this can be a massive issue. About a month after I started, I missed out a full block of seats. I was mortified and upset about the whole situation. Upon arriving at work the next day, our electrician, Mark, saw me visibly upset. He took me to one side and gave me the space to explain why I felt the way I did, and he gave me the pep talk of all pep talks. This gave me the strength to pick myself up and move forward. There was no judgment in that moment; he didn’t care that I was queer; all he knew is that a member of his team was upset, and he needed to help rectify the situation. [The team at] Utilita Arena Newcastle have always been supportive of me. I’m free to be as gay as I want! Their support influences my work, and they see my queerness as my superpower and not an affliction, and honestly, I would have to agree.
“Suicide doesn’t care about sexuality, and the people at this charity are so supportive and passionate about people”
Do you support any LGBTIQ+ cause(s)?
Northeast Social Group is based in Newcastle, and they create spaces for queer people to meet up, communicate, and share without judgment. Cat is a powerful human with a heart of gold. Cat and the team work endlessly to make sure they create spaces for all. They also work and support many other queer events, charities, and networks in the region.
Pride Radio is a queer-run media centre and radio station based in Pelaw, based out of the Pride Media Centre. They support the community by creating queer docuseries and starting queer conversations, as well as housing many queer businesses and providing space for trans people to change into more comfortable clothing outside of their home environment.
Lastly, If U Care Share Foundation. They are a suicide prevention, intervention, and support charity based in Chester-le-Street. Suicide doesn’t care about sexuality, and the people at this charity are so supportive and passionate about people and making sure you’re supported in a time of need and after. They work so hard all year around and operate from donations, so any help would be greatly received. These causes really make a difference in the region, and without them, the region would be a less special place.
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