Montreux Media head on futureproofing the festival
Music festivals must diversify their business model beyond simply staging events if they are to thrive during periods of crisis, Montreux Media Ventures CEO Nicolas Bonard has told IQ.
Montreux Media Ventures (MMV) – the media and content division of Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz Festival, launched last year – has enabled Montreux to earn some revenue throughout the pandemic, and sustain its partnerships with clients and brands, even as nearly every festival worldwide fell by the wayside, says Bonard.
“I think this is a time when Montreux Media Ventures has really come into its own,” explains Bonard (pictured), who joined Montreux from Vice Media France at the start of 2019.
Bonard says the “genesis of the idea goes back a few years”, when festival bosses started to consider how they could futureproof what was, up until then, solely an “event business”.
“Because the festival is a foundation, we had to create a new entity to drive that event and hospitality business into something closer to a media company,” he explains. “That meant embracing digital and diversifying all our lines of revenue.”
Of course, the official launch of Montreux Media Ventures (MMV) at the tail end of last year – just as Covid-19 took root in China – couldn’t have come at a better time for the festival, which was forced to pull its 2020 edition as the pandemic hit Europe.
“The whole point of MMV is to diversify our sources of revenue so we can mitigate the revenue risk of a festival”
“It was all planned,” jokes Bonard, who describes how the festival has been able to use MMV revenues to soften the financial blow of cancelling Montreux 2020.
“Through some of the incremental revenue we generated through these [MMV] actions, we’ve been able to cushion the impact of Covid,” he explains (albeit not entirely, as it’s “a big hit”).
With MMV, the festival team is able to “leverage the huge audiovisual archive we have and bring those performances back to life”, continues Bonard – a mission exemplified by this month’s Summer of Music, a 16-day virtual festival that draws on performances from Montreux Jazz Festivals across the past five decades.
This takes the form of digital, streamed content (the festival already sold DVDs and vinyl LPs of historic Montreux performances), as well as custom live programming for selected brand partners, such as the Fairmont Hotel Group, for which MMV organised the recent ‘Fairmont World Tour’.
Both of these strands build on the three traditional sources of revenue for Montreux, as well as music festivals more generally: tickets, sponsorship and food and beverage, says Bonard.
He explains: “The whole point [of Montreux Media Ventures] is to diversify our sources of revenue so we can mitigate the revenue risk of a festival, where everything is just focused on those two weeks.”
“Through some of the incremental revenue we generated, we’ve been able to cushion the impact of Covid”
At present, MMV’s digital events, such as Summer of Music, are primarily “about giving back” to the music community rather than trying to turn a profit, says Bonard. (All MMV’s YouTube advertising profits for that event are being donated to the new National Museum of African-American Music in Nashville.)
However, in a few years’ time Bonard expects Media Ventures revenues to represent 25–30% of the group’s overall income, “if not more”, he says, such is the strength of the Montreux brand and archive.
“I don’t think one will replace the other,” he comments. “Because music is so emotional and personal, you’ll always need that physical contact with the artist or band. So, in my view, physical events will continue to reign supreme.”
“The future,” he adds, is in “hybrid” events, with “technology coming in and amplifying the live experience. Digital will come on top of it and augment the show, but nothing can replace that common experience with other fans.”
Future MMV projects include films, documentaries and podcasts, as well as another Fairmont tour when the Covid threat has passed.
“The festival has an incredible asset with these archives,” concludes Bonard, “and this is about amplifying them around the world.”
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#LetTheMusicPlay: UK biz mobilises to call for aid
The leading lights of Britain’s live music industry – including some of its biggest touring talent – have today (2 July) issued an urgent plea for government aid to the sector, warning that a lack of support and continued uncertainty around reopening is having a “devastating” impact in one of the world’s biggest live music markets.
The appeal is centred on a letter to the UK’s culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, signed by 1,500 artists and bands, including Ed Sheeran, the Rolling Stones, Dua Lipa, Sir Paul McCartney, Skepta, Rita Ora, Coldplay, Eric Clapton, Annie Lennox, Sir Rod Stewart, Liam Gallagher, Florence and the Machine, Depeche Mode, Iron Maiden, Lewis Capaldi and Little Mix.
In the joint letter, the artists say: “UK live music has been one of the UK’s biggest social, cultural, and economic successes of the past decade. But, with no end to social distancing in sight or financial support from government yet agreed, the future for concerts and festivals and the hundreds of thousands of people who work in them looks bleak.
“Until these businesses can operate again, which is likely to be 2021 at the earliest, government support will be crucial to prevent mass insolvencies and the end of this world-leading industry.”
New research shows the live music sector added £4.5 billion to Britain’s economy in 2019, and supports 210,000 jobs. While the UK is the fourth-largest music market in the world by value of ticket sales – and the second-biggest per capita – the appeal notes that state support for live music lags behind other countries, with other European governments such as France and Germany using public money to kickstart their concert industries post-Covid-19.
“Government support will be crucial to prevent mass insolvencies and the end of this world-leading industry”
To coincide with the letter, hundreds of artists will today begin posting films and photos of their last live show using the hashtag #LetTheMusicPlay. Fans will also be encouraged to post about the last gig they went to, in a mass show of support for the UK’s on-pause live business.
“It’s incredibly important for artists like myself to speak up and support the live music industry in the UK,” says Dua Lipa. “From the very start, playing live concerts up and down the country has been a cornerstone for my own career. I am proud to have had the chance to play through all the levels: small clubs, then theatres and ballrooms, and into arenas, and, of course, festivals in between each touring cycle.
“But the possibility for other emerging British artists to take the same path is in danger if the industry doesn’t receive much-needed government support in the interim period before all the various venues, festivals and promoters are ready and able to operate independently again.”
The UK live music industry is asking for:
- A clear, conditional timeline for reopening venues without social distancing
- A comprehensive business and employment support package and access to finance
- Full VAT exemption on ticket sales
The business and employment support package should include, they say, a government-backed insurance scheme to allow shows to go ahead; an extension of the furlough scheme and help for the self-employed to prevent mass redundancies; rent breaks for venues to allow them to reopen; an extension of business-rate relief to the entire live music supply chain; rolling over fees for single-premises event licences for festivals; and financial support for lost box-office income.
“Every day, literally, I hear of another friend in music losing their job, shutting up shop or switching careers. This pandemic has affected everyone; it has taken many lives and forever changed many more,” says Ben Lovett of Mumford & Sons and Venue Group. “Live entertainment has not been the headline, nor do I believe it should’ve been – at least until now.
“We really have to pay some attention to what our cultural landscape is going to look like on the other side of this, and we’re hoping that #LetTheMusicPlay will pull some of this into focus for a minute.”
“If the government doesn’t step up and support the British arts, we really could lose vital aspects of our culture forever”
Other artists to have signed the letter to Dowden include Take That, the Stone Roses, Foals, James Bay, Genesis, the Chemical Brothers, Johnny Marr, Slade, Biffy Clyro, Bastille, Muse, Sir Tom Jones and Manic Street Preachers.
“The UK’s venues, festivals, performers and crew bring so much to this country’s culture and economy, but they are now facing desperate financial challenges,” says Emily Eavis, organiser of Glastonbury Festival. “If the government doesn’t step up and support the British arts, we really could lose vital aspects of our culture forever.”
“July would normally see the UK embarking on a world-famous summer of live music, but this year the lights are switched off and the microphones unplugged,” adds Phil Bowdery, chairman of the Concert Promoters’ Association. “Live music has sought to play its role in helping tackle coronavirus, with many artists providing entertainment for people from their homes. But our shutdown is likely to go on for much longer than most, with many concerts and festivals unable to operate until 2021 at the earliest.
“Without rapid government support, the long-term impact will be devastating, with the loss of hundreds of thousands of highly-skilled jobs and billions of pounds from the UK economy.”
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Beyond Rhetoric: BAME execs on boosting diversity in live
The latest IQ Focus virtual panel, Beyond Rhetoric: Race in Live Music, looked at the lack of racial diversity in the live music business, as well as practical steps the industry can take to begin turning the tide.
Hosted by Live Nation International diversity lead David Carrigan, the session welcomed UK Music’s Ammo Talwar, Metropolis Music promoter Kiarn Eslami, ICM agent Yves Pierre, ATC Management’s Sumit Bothra and Earth Agency’s Lucy Atkinson to discuss the overwhelming whiteness of the concert industry, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter and #TheShowMustBePaused campaigns for racial equality.
Talwar, who leads UK Music’s diversity and equality taskforce, said that while the industry’s front-facing components are hugely diverse, its workforce is not.
In London, for example, over 40% of the population are non-white, he said, compared to around 18% in the UK music industry. At the executive level, he added, companies are still overwhelmingly staffed by “middle-aged, white heterosexual males”.
Comparing her own path into the business, Atkinson said she speaks to a lot of white men “who say they just kind of fell into this job, and that hasn’t been my experience at all. Even now, I still feel like I have to fight to get taken seriously as an agent.”
“A lot of conversations get really overcomplicated, but there are some very simple things you can do”
On the artist side, Pierre pointed out that lot of artists aren’t allowed to “live” in traditionally white spaces – they have to start in a black/“urban” genre and then go pop or rock when they are already established. “We have to acknowledge that these artists exist and that there’s space for them,” she said.
Looking at practical measures to promote a more representative industry, Atkinson said: “A lot of conversations get really overcomplicated, but there are some very simple things you can do”: for example, the ‘Rooney rule’ in the NFL that requires at least one ethnic-minority candidate be interviewed for a job.
Speaking from a promoter’s point of view, Eslami described another simple change he has made on his shows – which, while not costing his employer any more, allows for greater investment in ethnic minority run businesses. “Every show we have has a budget, and one of those costs is catering,” he explained. “[I asked] why do we spend all our budget in supermarkets, when there are so many other caterers our there?
“It’s about looking at how we change the cash flow for these shows, whether it’s in catering, marketing or elsewhere.”
Pierre said it’s up to everyone in the industry to hold their own employers accountable when it comes to employing a diverse workforce.
“Accountability is up to everyone in that organisation. We have to make sure that the companies we’re working for live up to those standards when it comes to racial diversity and gender equality,” she explained. “A lot of the time nothing gets done because you think someone else is doing it.
“Accountability is up to everyone in that organisation”
“If I want to see the change, I have to be part of that change. I have to hold my colleagues, and my bosses and partners, accountable.”
“It’s time to do things differently,” agreed Eslami. “People often think, ‘If something’s not broken, why fix it?’, but we’ve all had a three-month time out and realised that now is the time to think about how we can do things differently in future.”
Bothra said ATC is looking at changes it can make to hiring processes to promote greater diversity. “For us as a management company, for example, we have to be aware that it’s incumbent on us to look in new places to find people,” he explained. “We can’t just go to the same recruitment agency, the same school, and do the usual thing, because that’s not going to make any difference at all.”
“The professionals are out there,” added Talwar. “We’re just not looking in the right places.”
“There are tons of kids who don’t know that an agent exists, or that there’s a management position, or a social media aspect of this,” said Pierre, emphasising the importance of getting the word out about the live industry to underrepresented groups.
“I think we have to expose people to these things, so they can understand there’s a whole workforce behind these artists and something for them to do beyond just being an artist or a producer or writer.”
“The professionals are out there. We’re just not looking in the right places”
“Before I started at Metropolis I didn’t even know a promoter was a job,” added Eslami. His advice, he said, is that “it doesn’t take long” to offer advice and mentorship to young people from disadvantaged groups. “There are 365 days in a year, and if you spare one or two” of them you can really make a difference, he said.
While the current zeitgeist feels like a “watershed moment” for diversity, real change needs to be about more than words – it’s got to be a “root-and-branch approach” that tackles “systemic” issues, said Talwar.
He added that he’s “just as interested in the block in the middle” – the one that stops industry professionals of colour attaining leadership positions – as the one that stops ethnic minorities getting into live music in the first place. “Where are the next CEOs, the next chairmen?” he asked.
Carrigan concluded by saying the conversation had been “a long time coming” and expressed his wish that debate will go on in future. “These conversations about race in the live music industry are not common, which illustrates the need to continue the conversation,” he explained.
Given the importance of the conversation continuing, future IQ Focus panels will revisit the topic in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, you can watch back yesterday’s session on YouTube or Facebook now.
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Music business steps up after Black Out Tuesday
After the events of Black Out Tuesday, which saw music companies worldwide down tools on 2 June in solidarity with anti-racism protestors, a number of firms have announced details of follow-up initiatives intended to deliver lasting change in both their companies and across the wider music business.
As previously reported, both Live Nation, which donated to the Equal Justice Initiative, and Warner Music Group, which established a US$100 million fund to donate to charitable causes, are backing up their words with concrete actions – but they’re far from alone, with other live and recorded music businesses similarly making good on Tuesday’s promises.
London-based booking agency ATC Live, whose roster includes Nick Cave, PJ Harvey, Johnny Marr and Metronomy, on Wednesday published a list of eight changes it is making to ensure its agents “do better as a team” in future.
They include committing to improving diversity among its staff and artist roster; matching donations made towards charitable causes by employees; and encouraging artists to use their public platforms as a means of promoting “positive change”.
— ATC Live (@ATCLive) June 3, 2020
Universal Music Group
Recorded music giant UMG, which also owns a number of festivals through its U-Live division, has announced plans for a ‘taskforce for meaningful change’ that will increase the company’s “efforts in areas such as inclusion and social justice”.
In a letter to employees, the group’s co-chairs, UMG chief counsel Jeff Harleston and Motown Records president Ethiopia Habtemariam, explain that the $25m ‘change fund’ will focus on six main areas: ‘aid/charitable giving’; ‘global’ (initiatives to increase equality and inclusion across UMG worldwide); ‘internal/institutional change’; ‘legislative/public policy’ (ie lobbying for political change); ‘partners’ (working with); and ‘programming/curation’ celebrating the achievements of black creators.
“We know our community, colleagues, artists and partners are suffering. We feel it and we’re living it, but we’re also energized [sic] to fight for change,” say Harleston and Habtemariam. “We’re asking for you to lock arms with us – we want to hear your voice. Now is the time to be heard!”
Creative Artists Agency has made a new appointment to its company board, in a move it says – along with its participation in Black Out Tuesday and the return this year of its Amplify leadership summit, which “inspires and connects multicultural leaders” – underscores its “commitment to diversity and inclusion”.
Lisa Joseph Metelus, CAA Sports’ head of basketball marketing and servicing, is the latest addition to the agency’s new leadership structure, the CAA Board, which was established earlier this year.
“It is critical that our board better reflects the real world,” says CAA president Richard Lovett. “Lisa is a force. Beyond being a proven leader in one of the most successful divisions of CAA Sports, she is among the most accomplished and respected executives in the industry. She has a powerful voice, both smart and visionary, and we look forward to further amplifying her insights and perspective across the agency.”
“It is critical that our board better reflects the real world”
In addition to its symbolic actions on Black Out Tuesday, music streaming service Spotify says it is matching all financial donations made by its employees to organisations “focused on the fight against racism, injustice, inequity, and [for] driving meaningful change.”
This 19 June (or Juneteenth, the holiday marking the end of slavery in the US), direct-to-fan music and merch platform Bandcamp will donate 100% of its cut of sales to civil rights organisation the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
The company will also provide a further $30,000 annually to organisations campaigning for racial justice and creating opportunities for people of colour.
“The current moment is part of a long-standing, widespread and entrenched system of structural oppression of people of color [sic], and real progress requires a sustained and sincere commitment to political, social, and economic racial justice and change,” reads a blog post announcing the measures. “We’ll continue to promote diversity and opportunity through our mission to support artists, the products we build to empower them, […] how we operate as a team, and who and how we hire.”
Google’s YouTube says it has made a $1 million donation to the Center for Policing Equity, a think tank that works with police forces across the US to address discriminatory behaviour.
“We stand in solidarity against racism and injustice and are pledging $1m in support of efforts to stop it,” says the company.
WMG announces $100m social justice fund, IPO price
Following Black Out Tuesday yesterday, Warner Music Group (WMG) has announced a US$100 million fund to support charitable causes “related to the music industry, social justice and campaigns against violence and racism”.
The fund – jointly financed by WMG and the Blavatnik Family Foundation, the charitable foundation run by WMG vice-chairman Sir Leonard Blavatnik, whose Access Industries is the group’s majority owner – will support individuals and “organisations strengthening education, and promoting equality, opportunity, diversity and inclusion” in the music industry, according to WMG.
Along with the other two major labels, Universal Music and Sony Music, and all major live music industry companies, Warner Music was supporter of #TheShowMustBePaused initiative, which saw the music business come to a halt for on 2 June in solidarity with those protesting for racial justice.
Steve Cooper, CEO of Warner Music Group, says: “This fund will support the extraordinary, dedicated organisations that are on the front lines of the fight against racism and injustice, and that help those in need across the music industry.
“This fund will support the extraordinary, dedicated organisations that are on the front lines of the fight against racism and injustice”
“Our advisory panel, which will draw from a diverse cross-section of people from our team and the wider community, will help us be very thoughtful and accountable in how we make an impact. We’re determined to contribute, on a sustained long-term basis, to the effort to bring about real change.”
Today (3 June) also sees WMG’s return to the stock market after nine years, with a previously announced flotation (IPO) on New York’s Nasdaq set to raise nearly $2 billion from the sale of 77m shares for $25 apiece. Blavatnik purchased WMG for $3.3bn in 2011.
In addition to its labels and publishing arm, WMG has multiple live music interests, including concert discovery platform Songkick, Finnish promoter Warner Music Live and management company Umbrella Artists Productions, which it owns with German promoter FKP Scorpio.
Live music companies back Black Out Tuesday
Live Nation, AEG and all major international booking agencies have declared their solidarity with the African-American community, with widespread planned shutdowns across the business planned for tomorrow. The Black Out Tuesday campaign was launched amid ongoing protests sparked by the death of George Floyd last week.
Using the hashtag #TheShowMustBePaused, the shuttering is described as chance to “disconnect from work and reconnect with our community.”
Floyd, a black man, died after being arrested and handcuffed by a white police officer in Powderhorn, Minneapolis, on Monday 25 May. Eyewitness video appears to show the officer, Derek Chauvin, with his knee on Floyd’s neck while Floyd – who had been arrested after a nearby delicatessen reported he had tried to pay with a counterfeit $20 note – lay face down on the ground. Officials say Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes – including for nearly three minutes after he became unresponsive.
Floyd later died in hospital. Chauvin was sacked by the Minneapolis Police Department and is now being charged with both the murder and manslaughter of Floyd.
“We need to stop the racists that are literally killing culture”
The death of Floyd sparked protests in Minneapolis and across the US, well as demonstrations in Canada, Europe, Israel and Japan. In addition to seeking justice for Floyd, many of the protests – which began peacefully but in many cases turned violent – support the wider Black Lives Matter movement, while many of the international demos are also focused on local race-relations issues.
“There are great injustices impacting our brothers and sisters, and we are striving to be part of the solution,” reads a statement from Live Nation. “We need to stop the racists that are literally killing culture. We must take action.”
The company says it has also donated to the Equal Justice Initiative, an Alabama-based nonprofit that provides legal support to prisoners who lack effective legal representation, particularly those of colour.
— Live Nation (@LiveNation) May 30, 2020
AEG says it, too “stands with communities of color [sic] against bigotry, racism and violence” and “will not stay silent” on the issue.
“Enough is enough. We’ve seen this. We’ve felt this. We will not be silent,” reads a forceful statement from CAA. “The racial injustice and violence suffered within black communities needs to stop. We will stand up, speak up, and stand alongside our CAA family.”
ICM Partners says it “stand[s] in solidarity with the families of George Floyd” and other slain African Americans “Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery”, and WME with its “black colleagues, clients, partners and allies today and every day.”
We stand with our black colleagues, clients, partners and allies today and every day. We see you and are committed to taking actionable steps that bring lasting change. pic.twitter.com/WqOF4EVhiP
— WME (@WME) May 31, 2020
Also sending messages of support are UTA, which has prepared a list of companies “taking action nationwide to fight for justice”, and Paradigm Talent Agency, which similarly provides links to the campaign for justice for Floyd, as well as several anti-racist resources.
In the recorded music industry, the big three labels – Universal, Warner and Sony Music – have also confirmed their participation in Black Out Tuesday, announcing they will suspend all business operations tomorrow as a statement of solidarity, with some cancelling the scheduled release of all music this week.
The Black Out Tuesday campaign will also be acknowledged by IQ and ILMC, which will suspend all operations for 24 hours.
Music Managers Forum partners with TikTok
The Music Managers Forum (MMF) has announced an associate partnership with viral short-form video app TikTok.
TikTok – which has been downloaded more than two billion times globally – has been playing an increasingly important role in artist campaigns of late, helping music makers and their teams connect with audiences during the Covid-19 lockdown, including through its TikTok Live Sessions (which follow on from a starring role at this year’s Brit Awards).
Notable music 2020 successes on the platform include include Young T and Bugsey’s #dontrushchallenge (2K Management), Robyn’s #onmyown (DEF Management), Years & Years’ #breathechallenge (YMU Group) and Little Mix’s #BUSStayHome (Modest! Management).
The MMF’s associate programme enables artist-focussed music services to build direct relationships with the association’s network of more than 850 UK-based managers.
Activities already planned under the associate partnership with the MMF include access to best-practice resources on TikTok for MMF members, virtual training sessions co-hosted by TikTok and leading UK managers, and an in-person event in London, likely to be in autumn 2020.
“TikTok’s impact has been truly phenomenal”
Annabella Coldrick, MMF CEO, says: “Watching artists and music makers pick up and experiment with new technologies is always fascinating, but TikTok’s impact has been truly phenomenal. The MMF is delighted to have them onboard as an associate, particularly at such a challenging time, and I believe this partnership will deliver deep and lasting value to our membership and the talent they represent.”
“TikTok’s mission is to inspire creativity and bring joy to our users, and artists and their music have been a central part of this creative process since the app launched,” adds Paul Hourican, UK head of music operations for TikTok.
“We’re looking forward to working with the MMF to help managers make the most of our platform and connect artists with TikTok’s global audience, expanding the ways in which they can continue to creatively engage with fans, create lasting connections and drive success in all areas of their work.”
Read IQ’s November 2019 Q&A with TikTok’s head of music partnerships Europe, Farhad Zand, on how live businesses can utilise the platform here.
New signings continue during corona lockdown
Nearly three months into the shutdown of virtually all concert touring globally, booking agents and artist managers continue to discover and sign new talent, with many using the opportunity to bolster their rosters in anticipation of live music’s return, they tell IQ.
“Discovering new talent is a big part of the agent’s job, and since many of us are stuck at home with no shows happening currently, that gives us extra time to listen to new music and get interested in new artists, even more so than before,” says Belgian agent Guillaume Brevers, who left London’s ATC Live to set up his own agency, Hometown Talent, earlier this year.
“I believe it wasn’t the case in the first few weeks following [the outbreak of] the virus, as most of the agents were really busy postponing their tours, discussing festival cancellations, etc. But more recently, I personally have found I have more free time to focus on new music.”
Similarly, Dominik Meyer of Austria’s Cobra Agency tells IQ that while the early days of pandemic were largely spent dealing with cancellations and postponements, there is now definitely “more time to listen to music and explore new stuff”.
One London-based agent (who asked not be named) says he, too, has been signing new acts during the shutdown, as there are “things that I am definitely excited about and that I feel I need to sign now.” He adds that discovering new talent gives him a feeling of normality in strange times – as well as “a sense that there is a business to come back to.”
“Signing new talent is a good way for agents to remain proactive while no tours are taking place”
Also keeping calm and carrying on is Australian artist manager Andrew Stone, who leads Chugg Music, the management, publishing and label division of Michael Chugg’s Chugg Entertainment. Chugg Music’s most recent signing is Mason Watts, who agreed a label deal with the influencer-focused City Pop Records late last month.
With City Pop, says Stone, “we’re looking to sign artists now more than ever. There’s a focus on artists who have developed in the influencer/social media space” – City Pop’s first signing was TikTok star Mia Rodriguez – “so we feel at least somewhat prepared for a more online model of artist development. I think it’s a good time to build catalogue and grow communities on streaming, socials and radio, so that when the artists are heading out on the road in the future they have more than two songs that people know.”
Signing new talent is “a good way [for agents] to remain proactive” while no tours are taking place, comments Brevers, “so when things hopefully get back to normal, agents will be effective immediately and ready to provide their clients with the service they deserve”.
“In an industry where everything happens especially fast, I’m taking advantage of this new free time to think about new ways to reinvent myself as an agent,” he adds, “as well as how this industry could evolve to meet the challenges we’re facing in today’s society.”
Stone says lockdown is “forcing us to get really good at online marketing and collaborations. We are collaborating more than ever with artists across Zoom, and having features from other countries and languages, so that our international audience development isn’t completely halted by our inability to tour.”
“As long as there are engaged audiences, there will be a creative and nimble industry that can make the most of connecting with them”
With the return to full-scale concert touring believed to still be some way off, it depends on the individual agent or manager – and their personal circumstances – whether they’re using their relative downtime to scout for new talent, or just trying to survive, says the London agent.
“I think it comes down to the people,” they say. “Some are nervous about the future and just holding on, and some are understanding that it will pass and that they have to check new things out.”
They’re in the latter camp, they say – and so is Stone. He concludes: “I hope we’re not in denial about the long-term outcomes, but I think that so long as there are engaged audiences, there will be a creative and nimble industry that can make the most of connecting with them – whatever the circumstances.”
IQ launched its monthly New Signings playlist, which features tracks curated by a selection of major booking agencies, last week. Listen here:
UK industry calls for clarity, timetable for reopenings
Nearly a billion pounds will be wiped off the value of the UK music industry without immediate government action to support the live sector, industry leaders have warned.
Thousands of jobs will be lost and the British music business – which formerly contributed £5.2bn a year to the UK economy – will suffer £900 million (€1bn) in losses from the impact of coronavirus without urgent state support, the UK Live Music Group has said.
The group, which sits within trade body UK Music as the collective voice of promoters, festivals, agents, venues and production services, is calling for, among other measures, clarity on when live events will be allowed to return – as has already happened in many European countries, including the Netherlands, Norway and Spain – as well as any social-distancing protocols that will need to remain place when they do.
As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, three quarters of the industry’s workforce is furloughed, with little certainty about when their jobs might return.
“We’ll need more support from government to survive”
In addition to job losses, the impact of Covid-19 means that further government support is also necessary to prevent more than 550 grassroots music venues going under, according to the group. Additionally, a recent Association of Independent Festivals survey found that 92% of its members, chiefly small and mid-sized summer events, are facing imminent collapse.
The group has identified the following areas in which government help is needed:
- A continuation of all existing employment schemes and business support packages until the live music industry recovers
- Value-added tax (VAT) breaks on ticket sales for a minimum of 18 months (to give festivals, concerts and live events time to see the results)
- Additional financial support to ensure that landlords provide rent-free periods to music-venue tenants
- Extension of business rate relief to the entire live music supply chain, include service companies and sound and lighting suppliers
- Clear guidance about when professionally run, licensed events can resume, in order to allow operators to properly plan a recovery
- Clarity around social distancing which takes into account the range of different venue sizes, some of whom may not be able to reopen until measures are further relaxed
Newly appointed UK Music chair Tom Watson says: “The music industry is really hurting. Parts of the sector are effectively on life support and will need a sustained package of help from the government to survive.
“The support for our world-leading industry must continue”
“The music industry has joined forces and is doing its best to look after its people through a fantastic network of hardship funds. As the world slowly emerges from the international lockdown, the UK cannot afford to leave behind its economy-boosting music industry. We’ll need more support from government to survive and remain a long-term contributor to the economy.
“If we are to nurture the next generation of British stars like Adele, Stormzy and Ed Sheeran, we need the government to listen and act to ensure our music industry remains the envy of the world.”
“The government must not abandon the music industry, which is such a vital part of our economy, culture and social fabric,” adds Lucy Noble, artistic and commercial director of the Royal Albert Hall and chair of the National Arenas Association.
“The support for our world-leading industry must continue until we have a chance to get back on our feet.”
Tour Managers Not Touring axed after backlash
Tour Managers Not Touring (TNT), a fundraising initiative intended to aid several famous DJs’ out-of-work tour managers, has been quietly pulled following a backlash on social media, where commentators criticised the artists’ apparent reluctance to put their hands in their own pockets.
TNT saw tour managers including Ian Hussey (Carl Cox), Tim ‘Dingo’ Price (Dubfire), Zak (Seth Troxler) and Gabriel Torres (the Martinez Brothers) selling a series of self-made mixes, along with collaborations with the artists with which they work, for a minimum of €5, with all funds going direct to the tour managers involved.
While apparently well intentioned, the idea apparently went down like a cup of cold sick in the dance music world, with electronic music industry figures such as Barker, Kornél Kovács, DVS1 and Maceo Plex tweeting their displeasure. “Please give your money to real charities and NOT to rich DJs and their staff,” wrote Plex.
The most widely shared criticism came courtesy of trance producer John Askew, who recorded a now-deleted video rant (rescued by Dutch DJ Cassy) asking why the likes of Cox, Troxler and Nicole Moudaber “aren’t they covering their tour managers’ costs and giving these mixes away for free, or charging money and giving that money to the medical services, the NHS [UK National Health Service] and every other country’s equivalent?”
“Please give your money to real charities and NOT to rich DJs”
“These are guys with multiple millions of pounds, euros, dollars in the bank,” he said, “and they’re asking the general public to keep their tour managers afloat?”
As spotted by Selector, the TNT Bandcamp page went dark shortly after, and the mixes are no longer available to buy.
Cox in turn criticised the backlash, writing on his Facebook page that he has “never seen anything blown so far out of proportion without context” and saying that idea came from the TMs.
“A group of the hardest-working tour managers out there wanted to get creative and have some fun by getting together and seeing who could actually DJ,” he says. “They asked me to support them, as they support us touring DJs week after week throughout the year. All of us did that without too much thought or hesitation through our social media channels and gave them a mix from one of our shows.
“There was no suggestion ever made that this was to cover ‘wages’ – that is simply ridiculous and I feel saddened that this has even been suggested.”
Cox’s comment, however, is at odds with tour manager Tim ‘Dingo’ Price (Dubfire), who on launching the project stated: “Our goal is to release some new and interesting content to help with the #StayHome initiative and also try and gain some financial support for us tour managers during this unfortunate time, as most of us, if not all, are not paid a salary – we are paid per show.”
It remains unclear whether the aforementioned DJs will now be coughing up to support their crew, as John Askew has suggested.