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AEG’s Jim King on ‘most diverse’ BST Hyde Park

The European festivals CEO also discussed ticket sales, the headliner drought, staffing challenges and artist boycotts

By Lisa Henderson on 02 Jul 2024

AEG’s European festivals CEO Jim King

AEG’s European festivals CEO Jim King


image © Dave Hogan

AEG’s European festivals CEO Jim King has spoken to IQ about BST Hyde Park’s most “diverse and exciting” lineup yet.

The 11th edition of the London concert series kicked off on 28 June with All Things Orchestral, and includes concerts with Robbie Williams, Shania Twain, Andrea Bocelli, Stevie Nicks, Kylie, Kings of Leon, SZA, Morgan Wallen and Stray Kids.

Notably, Bocelli will be the event’s first classical headliner, while Stray Kids will follow in the footsteps of BLACKPINK who last year became the first-ever Korean band to headline a major UK music festival with their performance at BST.

“I think it’s really important that we’re stretching, musically, where we’ve been previously,” King tells IQ. “We’ve got a really great balance of shows and genres this year. We’ve also got strong female headliners, which we always strive to do. We’re very happy that Kylie, Shania, Stevie Nicks and SZA are on the bill.

“I think SZA is one of the most important contemporary artists around at the moment, certainly of her generation,” he continues. “We were really fortunate to be able to confirm her off the back of a long cycle. And we’re especially excited about Stevie Nicks. We’ve tried several times to book her and it’s never been the right moment so I thought we’d missed the chance.

“I think it’s really important that we’re stretching, musically, where we’ve been previously”

“She’s timeless and has never been more relevant,” says King. “When you look at the data of who buys her tickets, it’s a young audience. She’s got an unbelievably strong connection [with that audience] through the artists she’s inspired like Taylor Swift and Lana Del Rey.”

Though this year’s sales don’t quite match up to 2023’s record year, in which 550,000 tickets were sold, King says the diverse bill has paid off.

“We’re still going to have one of the most successful series ever, with 500,000 people coming to the park – which is incredible when you match that up against any event around the world,” he says. “And what we’re seeing is artists outperforming themselves because there’s something magical about artists headlining shows in Hyde Park in the centre of London in the summer.”

BST’s unique setup tends to be a big draw for both artists and fans but King says it’s not easy to source the calibre of acts that meet the event’s criteria.

“This show stands for getting the biggest artists doing special things or a combination of things they’ve never done before,” he says. “We’re trying to provide fans with unique experiences they don’t normally get to see, not just a tour date, so we set the bar pretty high. This is Kylie’s only show [in London], while SZA is just playing here and Glastonbury and then Stevie Nicks rarely plays.”

“There are certainly fewer stadium-level, Hyde Park-level artists who are touring in ’24”

Weighing in on the much-discussed ‘headliner drought,’ King says: “There are certainly fewer stadium-level, Hyde Park-level artists who are touring in ’24 but I can assure you the 2025 marketplace is already busier so it’s just a cycle.”

King hastens to add that London is the “most competitive music market in the world” and that comes with advantages and disadvantages.

“The artists benefit from that because it’s a wonderful market to play and fans to get to enjoy the great diverse range of those artists coming in, so that’s positive,” he says. “But the competition has [downsides] in terms of the supply chain and staffing.

“We’ve lost a lot of really skilled engineers, riggers and staging contractors, as well as casual staff who were working security or cleaning or running bars,” he says. “And it takes a while to get that level of skill back in.

“I always say that if the first member of staff a fan meets when they come to one of our shows can’t respond to a question like ‘Where’s the bar’ or ‘Where’s the toilet’ or “Can I have this drink’ we’ve already lost.”

“We should find a pathway through this challenging problem and protect important revenue sources”

Another, newer challenge, in the festival sector has been artists boycotting events whose sponsors have ties to Israel.

“We always review and fully audit people we work with,” he says. “And we operate in a society of free speech – we respect everyone’s views within that. We’re a facilitator of music events and I think that a neutral position in our role is important to provide a platform for people to create their art and operate their businesses.

“At that same time, this industry doesn’t get much governmental support so it needs to find solutions from within itself. We should be sitting down as an industry and reflecting on how we should find a pathway through this challenging problem and protect important revenue sources.”

BST Hyde Park continues this Thursday (4 July) with a headline performance from Morgan Wallen.

 


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