Coldplay sell more than one million tickets in Europe
More than one million tickets have sold for the European leg of Coldplay’s Music of the Spheres world tour, which went on sale last Friday (22 October).
X-ray Touring’s Josh Javor, who planned the ‘eco-friendly’ stadium tour along with the late Steve Strange, told IQ that the on-sale was “insane”.
According to Javor, the European leg has “pretty much sold out” and the team is currently discussing adding more dates.
The 20-date run, which kicks off on 2 July 2022, has already expanded with an extra date apiece at Deutsche Bank Park (Germany), Stade de France (France), King Baudouin Stadium (Belgium) and Hampden Park (UK).
Notably, an extra three dates have been added at Wembley Stadium (cap. 90,00) in the UK, on top of the three already announced.
According to Javor, the European leg has “pretty much sold out” and the team is discussing adding more dates
The world tour – which is mostly promoted by Live Nation, with SJM as the main partner in the UK – is also visiting the US and Latin America (which is completely sold out), taking in 40 stadiums and one festival (Rock in Rio) altogether.
The groundbreaking tour is one of the last projects that legendary booking agent and X-ray co-founder Steve Strange worked on before his tragic passing in September.
“This is something Steve and I have planned for a very long time and because he’s not here to revel in the success, it’s one of the most bittersweet moments of my life,” says Javor.
He continues: “Don’t get me wrong, I’m ecstatic at how well it’s done but the fact that Steve, unfortunately, didn’t make it to see our plan come together brings things down to earth.
“Normally, Steve and I would get to 12 o’clock on the day of an on-sale and we’d be on our second bottle of champagne”
“Normally, Steve and I would get to 12 o’clock on the day of an on-sale and, after selling a million tickets, we’d be on our second bottle of champagne. But, on your own, it’s not the same. My constant thought has been, I wish Steve was here to see this.
“He would be on another planet. He was a member of the family when it came to this band and he would’ve been jumping for joy.”
Coldplay announced the tour earlier this month after a four-year hiatus from touring while they investigated how to make their concerts more sustainable.
The Music of the Spheres tour is bolstered by a 12-point plan to cut the band’s carbon footprint, which supports new green technologies and sustainable, super-low carbon touring methods.
A full interview with Josh Javor will appear in the next edition of IQ magazine at the end of this month.
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Mass cancellations at Hit The North Festival
Newcastle’s Hit The North Festival was hit by mass cancellations due to allegations levelled against promoter SSD Concerts.
Sports Team, Lang, Noisy, The Goa Express, Andrew Cushin and Hi Sienna were among acts to pull out of Saturday’s (23 October) multi-venue city festival, which was headlined by DMA’s.
A crowdfunding campaign has subsequently been set up by event manager Cole Gilroy to help cover the costs of the artists that withdrew from the event.
It followed an independent investigation into claims of “inappropriate behaviour and bad business practices” within Newcastle-based SSD, the findings of which were released by the firm last week. IQ has approached the company for comment.
In a lengthy Facebook post, the promoter acknowledged it “could, and should, have done better” in terms of the latter complaint, but added that “no evidence of racism, misogyny or sexual misconduct was found” against MD Steve Davis.
The report concluded the “level of familiarity” between employees and Davis had “blurred the boundaries of professional relationships within the workplace”.
“Some ACAS courses were booked for attendance by Steve Davis and other employees with management responsibilities,” it added. “This would go some way to help provide some understanding with regards to the issues related to harassment, equality, diversity, and inclusivity.
“The reflections of Steve Davis are reassuring. He has a level of awareness from this process and these events and will not engage in any contact or conversation that could lend itself to misinterpretation again in the future, reinforced by the fact there is now executive director awareness and oversight.”
This has been a very sobering process to go through
The allegations first came to light in the spring, when they were posted on workplace review website Glassdoor and shared on the company’s Instagram account after it was reportedly hacked by an ex-employee.
In April, Davis announced he had resigned with immediate effect and would take no further part in the running of the company. However, he is still listed as a director of the firm on Companies House.
“This has been a very sobering process to go through,” said Davis. “I haven’t always got things right and if this has affected anyone, I am sorry. I thank all staff past and present for their honesty and feedback which will help the business move forward. I’d like this to be a huge learning experience and I am determined that within a short period of time SSD is being recognised by others as being the fantastic, creative, safe and happy place to work that it now is.”
The company runs four music festivals – This Is Tomorrow, Hit the North, Bingley Weekender and Corbridge festival – and five venues in Newcastle and Tynemouth. In July 2020, the company launched the UK’s first dedicated socially distanced music venue, the Virgin Money Unity Arena in Newcastle.
Kilimanjaro Live stepped in to present this year’s edition of This Is Tomorrow in September after artists including headliner Sam Fender cut ties with SSD.
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DEAG acquires Fane Productions via Kilimanjaro
Germany’s DEAG (Deutsche Entertainment AG) has announced the acquisition of literary events production company Fane Productions via its subsidiary Kilimanjaro.
Through the acquisition, DEAG is “successfully expanding its business activities in the UK, the company’s most important secondary market,” according to a statement from the Berlin-based live entertainment group company.
Meanwhile, Kilimanjaro acquired a stake in Collective Form in early 2021, and launched Irish promoter Singular Artists in 2020 along with DEAG.
Founded in 2017, Fane Productions has hosted sold-out live events for talent including Margaret Atwood, Malala Yousafzai and Grayson Perry. In 2020, Fane launched an online arm that has “revolutionised” the way virtual book events are delivered. The company has offices in the UK and Australia.
“After a year of exponential growth and our busiest autumn ever, it’s the perfect time to join forces”
Stuart Galbraith, CEO at Kilimanjaro Live, says: “Having known Alex for several years we are pleased to welcome Fane Productions into the Kili Group. We look forward to working with Alex for many years to come and expanding and growing the Fane family both in the UK and internationally.”
Alex Fane, MD at Fane Productions, adds: “I’m delighted to be partnering with DEAG and Kilimanjaro Live as we look to our next steps as a company. After a year of exponential growth and our busiest autumn ever, it’s the perfect time to join forces with an industry leader who understands our business and can offer us the expertise and investment we need to expand our offer within the UK and beyond.”
Jonny Geller, CEO of The Curtis Brown Group, comments: “We were all excited at Curtis Brown to launch Fane Productions into the world of literary and live events back in 2017 and many of our clients have worked happily with their team over the years. We are proud to have seen Fane grow over the years and are delighted that they have found a new home in Kilimanjaro and we wish them many more years of spreading the joy of reading throughout the country.”
Earlier this year, DEAG raised another €6 million to fund acquisitions, and says it recently enlisted the services of a “renowned American investment bank” to identify new opportunities outside its “core markets of Germany, the UK, Switzerland, Ireland and Denmark”.
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Live Nation partners on Charleston’s Music Farm
Live Nation has partnered with NS2 and FPC Live for Charleston’s Music Farm, which will reopen in 2022.
The company will book the 650-capacity South Carolina club in collaboration with Nashville-based NS2, while FPC Live – a joint venture between Live Nation and Frank Productions – will manage and operate the venue.
The teams have already begun renovating and upgrading the facility.
“We are thrilled to be bringing The Music Farm back in 2022 with great new experiences for artists and fans,” says Grant Lyman, president of Live Nation Southeast. “The Music Farm has been part of the fabric of city for decades and we look forward to continuing that legacy as Live Nation helps more artists connect with their fans in Charleston.”
FPC Live and NS2 also operate the nearby Charleston Music Hall.
This venue has a 30-year history of hosting many breakout artists
“We’re excited to welcome the Music Farm to the NS2 and FPC Live family,” adds Darin Lashinsky, president of NS2. “The music scene in Charleston is vibrant and the Music Farm will play an important role in developing local and national acts. This venue has a 30-year history of hosting many breakout artists and we are thrilled to keep growing the live music offerings and giving guests and performers an upgraded experience.”
Live Nation has also announced the official opening date and initial line-up for new 1,000-capacity Dallas venue The Echo Lounge & Music Hall, developed in partnership with Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks.
The venue will open its doors this November with over 19 artists already confirmed to perform, including Madison Beer, Cheat Codes and Tate McRae.
“The Echo Lounge & Music Hall is going to be a great new venue for artists to play in Dallas,” says Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino. “There’s lots of opportunity to bring more concerts to the city, and we really value having the hometown partnership with Mark Cuban and the Mavericks in creating this space.”
“I’m super excited for the opening of the Echo Lounge & Music Hall,” says Cuban. “This takes the Design District to the next level in its move towards being an entertainment destination. And, with the tunnel between the American Airlines Center side and Design District side of the highway being finished, it will be an exciting post game place to have fun and see live shows.”
The Weeknd’s retooled tour could make up to $300m
The revamp of The Weeknd’s 2022 tour could generate up to US$300 million in ticket revenue, according to Billboard, making it one of the year’s top-grossing tours.
Earlier this week, it was announced that the After Hours 2022 tour – which was previously rescheduled three separate times due to the pandemic – would be again retooled with larger shows and added stadiums across the world.
The newly renamed and revamped After Hours Til Dawn stadium tour will feature new dates in Asia, Australia, Africa, South America and the Middle East but further details are yet to be announced.
“Due to the constraints of arenas and the demand for more shows I want to do something bigger and special for you which requires more stadiums,” wrote The Weeknd, aka Abel Tesfaye, on Instagram on Tuesday (19 October).
Some one million fans who purchased tickets to the original tour dates are to be refunded automatically, all of whom will be given priority to buy tickets for the stadium shows when they go on sale.
The Weeknd may be able to achieve [up to $300m in sales] this while performing 30% fewer shows
This means that promoter Live Nation will be on the hook to refund more than $100m in sales – which is 2.5% of the company’s total annual balance sheet – according to Billboard.
However, if the overhaul works out, The Weeknd could double or triple ticket revenue up to $300m in sales, by Billboard’s estimation, making it one of the year’s top-grossing tours.
On top of that, The Weeknd may be able to achieve this while performing 30% fewer shows – since large stadiums often have two to four times the capacity of arenas.
The Weeknd’s global After Hours til Dawn tour was originally scheduled in 2020 (when it was just the After Hours tour) to hit 105 arena dates beginning June 2020, but was postponed due to the pandemic – first to 2021 then January 2022 and now to summer 2022.
The rejuvenated tour comes after The Weeknd scored the longest-charting Billboard Hot 100 song of all time with ‘Blinding Light’ and the second longest-running No.1 album on the Billboard 200 for 2020 with After Hours.
The Grammy award-winning artist also headlined the 2021 Super Bowl Halftime Show, which is traditionally the most-watched event of the year on US television.
Green Guardians: Power
The Green Guardians Guide, spearheaded by the Green Events and Innovations Conference (GEI) and IQ Magazine, is a new yearly initiative boosting the profiles of those working at the forefront of sustainability, in the hope that it might also inspire others.
The 2021 list, which originally ran in IQ 103, includes 40 entries across eight categories, highlighting some of the organisations and individuals who are working so tirelessly to reduce the carbon footprint of the live entertainment business.
This year’s winners have been chosen by a judging panel that includes experts from A Greener Festival, Greener Events, Julie’s Bicycle, the Sustainability in Production Alliance, the Sustainable Event Council and the Tour Production Group.
IQ will publish entries across all categories over the coming weeks. Catch up on the previous instalment of the Green Guardians Guide which looks at travel & transport.
Club La Feria
In May 2019, La Feria club in Santiago, Chile, became the first nightclub in the world to sustainably cover 100% of the energy it uses.
In a collaboration with Budweiser, the project included carefully retrofitting the historical structure with 35 photovoltaic panels on the roof and in the main wall.
In total, the facility will produce 1,299 kWh of energy monthly – more than enough to power its strobe lighting, cool down overheated clubgoers, run the sound system, and provide all other electrical needs.
This translates to a saving of 6.51 tons of CO2 annually that would have been otherwise emitted into the atmosphere – more than what five houses would consume.
That “Chile is at the forefront of sustainability in the region and probably the world,” is La Feria and Budweiser’s vision.
“We hope this initiative can inspire and motivate other clubs in Chile, and that in a few years [those that] operate on renewable energy are the rule and not the exception.”
The undertaking is the fusion of both worlds from the club and the brand.
La Feria’s commitment to inspire green initiatives in the music industry and in its community unites with Budweiser’s goal to transform its global production by 2025 to 100% clean energy.
La Feria club in Santiago, Chile, became the first nightclub in the world to sustainably cover 100% of the energy it uses
Ecotricity’s mission is to fight climate change by scrapping the use of fossil fuels and giving people an alternative – green energy.
The company started with one windmill in Gloucestershire, UK, and has carried on building new wind and solar parks around the country.
Whenever a home or business switches to Ecotricity for their electricity, they stop using fossil fuel to power their home and start using green energy.
Other energy companies have followed Ecotricity’s lead, and today around 33% of the energy used in the UK comes from green sources.
Across the UK, homes and businesses are still predominantly heated using fossil fuels – mainly natural gas. Although Ecotricity’s gas is only about 1% from sustainable sources, the rest is carbon neutralised gas (the company invests in carbon reduction programmes to cancel out the carbon burned).
However, the company believes green gas is the way forward and it is constructing green gas mills – making biomethane from grass cuttings – to replace natural gas in the grid. When the grass grows back, it absorbs the carbon dioxide created by burning green gas. Then that grass is cut to make more green gas, and the sustainable cycle repeats itself.
Ecotricity’s mission is to fight climate change by scrapping the use of fossil fuels and giving an alternative – green energy
Greener was founded in January 2018, in order to make an impact on the carbon dioxide footprint of on and off-grid energy markets, using mobile batteries and smart energy planning.
The idea emerged in 2014, after a backstage visit to one of the biggest festivals in The Netherlands. Greener’s founders were shocked to discover how little thought had gone into accurately and efficiently planning the power supply of equipment such as lights, audio and food trucks.
As they investigated further, they saw the same lack of planning for energy efficiency in other areas, like construction sites and grid maintenance. Instead, all they could see was needlessly massive equipment running on very low-efficiency rates – a situation they felt compelled to change.
The people behind Greener are convinced that there are many opportunities to make practices in the energy sector less of a burden on the environment. The company sees solutions in technological innovation and it is bringing these to the market to make our world greener.
Greener was founded in order to make an impact on the carbon dioxide footprint of on and off-grid energy markets
Pohoda on the Ground, the miniature 2021 version of Pohoda Festival with capacity limited to 1,000, was able to operate using just electricity from the grid.
Pohoda takes place on a local airfield that is in regular use. In its partnership with local energy provider, ZSE, the event’s production crew researched the maximum capacity of the local network and set up four points on the airport, where they could temporarily place high voltage 630kVA transformers.
“For the full capacity festival with 12 stages and 30,000 visitors, it covered about 40% of the festival energy needs in 2019. For the limited-edition 2021 [event], just two transformers were enough to cover it completely,” reports the event’s sustainability chief, Michal Sládek.
“As we cannot expand the local network further, our next intention is to use the transformers more efficiently. Although they are ideal for stages to handle the energy peaks in the shows, it appears that more energy is consumed in the services that are running continuously for the whole festival, as well as the food concessions. So, for the next edition of Pohoda, we plan to analyse thoroughly the energy use to find any possible savings and the optimal setup to feed the festival, efficiently, with energy.”
Pohoda on the Ground, the miniature 2021 version of Pohoda Festival, was able to operate using just electricity from the grid
Offering consultancy in energy and sustainability, ZAP Concepts has created a unique, straightforward, online power supplies application that has been designed to calculate the amount of power that an event needs in advance.
The new web application makes the collection of power information from all event suppliers extremely easy, quick, and efficient. All suppliers receive a link where they can submit details of their power consuming gear directly into the application, and event producers can select their gear from the database, which contains all possible power consumers at events, including all required data to make accurate energy calculations.
Instead of a power supplier trying to estimate the energy consumption at an event, organisers can select their own equipment in the tool. Zap can then calculate energy consumption with the help of an extensive set of parameters, and the system will create a customised Smart Power Plan within 72 hours.
The Zap tool provides information and suggests the most sustainable and efficient power supply for an event, allowing organisers to cut up to 80% of emissions, use fewer generators, increase the use of green batteries and create the most reliable power network for their event.
Execs talk talent exodus, sales and no-shows
The live music industry’s staffing shortage, returning customer confidence and no-shows at concerts were high on the agenda in IQ’s latest Recovery Sessions event.
Chaired by the European Arenas Association Olivier Toth, the webinar explored the recovery of the arena market with the help of a heavyweight line-up of executives, including Coralie Berael (Forest National Arena), Tony Goldring (WME), Steve Homer, (AEG Presents), Hans Dhondt (Rock Werchter) and Paul Twomey (Bio Security Systems).
A key issue of debate was the loss of seasoned backstage workers to other industries during the pandemic.
“All venues and festivals are going to come together at some point and try to find their usual people, but a lot of them have left that pool,” said Berael. “We’re going to have to replace people and they’ll need training. They don’t have the necessary experience.
“The loss of talent is quite a concern. I’m not only worried about the quantity of staff, but especially the quality of staff and we are having to start a lot more upfront in finding the right people. Usually, even a week before, you can make a miracle and find the right people, but now you might need to start a lot earlier… It’s a real risk to business continuity and it’s one of the challenges that we’re facing at the moment.”
Homer suggested the issue had been exacerbated in the UK by Brexit.
“We had some issue trying to secure catering companies because they were struggling with staffing,” he said. “We’ve got a double whammy here with Brexit having an influence on people leaving the UK as well.
“There was a severe level of burnout, because we went from literally nothing in venues to almost 80/90%. People had been working for supermarkets or courier services, and then all of a sudden they’re thrown back into working full time in venues, operating as security, or stewarding, or local crew. So it’s been a tough baptism, shall we say, to come back.
“Luckily, the people that are in the industry are determined to make it successful, so a lot of people have gone the extra yard, or the extra mile in a lot of cases, to make sure that events have been happening.”
We’re quite confident for the next few months, but it will take time
Berael reported that, after a slow summer, ticket sales for shows were on the rise, with younger people especially keen to return to live events.
“Since there are a few mass events happening, we can see that the trust is growing again,” she said. “We see that in the curve of the ticket sales. It’s like people were waiting to see whether it went well, and whether there were long queues, etc. So we’re quite confident for the next few months, but it will take time.”
She added: “We communicated probably 500% more with our audience than we used to, just to make sure, in the first instance, that they knew the show was going to happen, to reassure them in a way.
“All the emails about how [the entry system was going to work] came afterwards… explaining to them and educating them about how it was going to work, so that they could already imagine the journey.”
As revealed by IQ last month, promoters have reported the rate of no-shows by ticket-holders at concerts has been far higher than usual.
“At the start of September, we were experiencing quite high levels of no shows – anything between 25% and 35% in some markets,” said Homer. “It does seem to have settled down a bit better this month. The no-show rate is dropping to between 10% and 15%.
“I’ve often equated this whole experience to the feeling of if you go to an outdoor swimming pool. There’s always someone that will go in first, and when that person surfaces, everyone on the side goes, ‘what was it like?’ And I think there’s an element of that that comes along with shows as well.
“It’s all about confidence, and I think the longer we go on without any further restrictions imposed or anything like that, the more comfortable people will be going to shows, going into those indoor environments, with mass audiences.”
With shows that have been announced more recently, you would expect the no-show numbers to be a lot less
Goldring shared an alternative theory for the high no-show level.
“I think we have different situations,” he said. “With a tour that went on sale in 2019 and has been rescheduled a number of times, some people just kind of forget about it, or maybe they’ve lost interest. So I think you’re going to have that scenario.
“With shows that have been announced more recently, you would expect the no-show numbers to be a lot less.”
He continued: “The thing that’s really put a smile on my face is that artists have just loved performing again. They’ve been stuck at home like all of us and, suddenly, they’ve had that interaction with the audience that they haven’t had for so long, and they’ve loved it. So that’s very positive for all of us.”
The Recovery Sessions, supported by ASM Global and Goodtill, is a series of fortnightly webinars designed to keep the live music industry updated about the international roadmap to reopening. All Recovery Sessions events are free to access for IQ subscribers.
To subscribe to IQ for just £5.99 a month, click here.
ESNS bolsters 2022 programme
ESNS 2022 is taking shape after organisers confirmed a keynote interview with DreamHaus CEO Matt Schwarz and inked a long-term deal with See Tickets.
Eurosonic Noorderslag, which returns to Groningen, the Netherlands from 19-22 January 2022, will also feature talks from Urgenda director Marjan Minnesma, Dutch music entrepreneur André de Raaf and psychologist Anne Löhr of Mental Health In Music.
See Tickets will handle all ticketing for the conference and festival as part of a new four-year partnership.
“ESNS is always on the lookout for new possibilities to take the customer journey to a higher level,” says Dago Houben, CEO of ESNS. “Especially in this time, smart data interpretation and personal communication with our visitors are key. We’re looking forward to building a strong partnership with See Tickets.”
This partnership fits in perfectly with the experience we have in the dance industry and our ambitions in live music
Under the agreement, all products will be selectable in one single transaction and ESNS will also be one of the first partners to benefit from the new See Tickets CRM-tool Identity.
“The combination of history and heritage of the festival/conference and our scalable e-commerce solutions promises a lot for our joint future,” adds See Tickets Benelux MD Marijke van den Bosch. “This partnership fits in perfectly with the experience we have in the dance industry and our ambitions in live music.”
Meanwhile, 60 up-and-coming European acts have been added to the ESNS line-up, including 10 new Spanish acts (Marta Knight, Marina Herlop, Mundo Prestigio, Pódium, Biznaga, Gabriela Richardson, Santa Salut, Maika Makovski, Derby Motoreta’s Burrito Kachimba and Dora) for Eurosonic, along with five Dutch acts (Don Melody Club, Flemming, Hang Youth, Kuzko, and Son Mieux) for Noorderslag. Spain has already been announced as the focus country.
“[The focus on Spain] will bring a wide palette of young, emerging and talented acts from all over Spain to show how fresh, alive and exportable artists we have in our country,” says César Andión, of The Spanish Wave and Live Nation Madrid.
The 2021 edition of ESNS was held entirely online and welcomed nearly 4,000 people from 124 countries to its digital conference and festival platforms.
Lights, camera, action: UK suppliers on the reopening
Do you remember at which point the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic first hit home? For some, it was when they suspended all flights to mainland China. Or when the UK government admitted that we faced a “substantial period of disruption… due to the outbreak.”
For others it was the realisation that, after the announcement on 9 March of a strict nationwide quarantine in Italy, lockdowns were coming to us all. For those whose livelihoods were invested in the music industry, watching all of this unfold prompted an increasing feeling of dread.
For Yvonne Donnelly Smith, music lighting sales director of PRG – a global company operating audio, camera, lighting, and various other production services – that latter date was particularly significant.
“I got my first email from Bryan Adams’ team saying: ‘All shows cancelled due to Corona,” she says. “That was quickly followed by The Script, who cancelled because someone in the touring party had caught Covid. Then the domino effect really started to kick in.”
As she tells it, every day two or three more tours would cancel as the reality of the situation began to outweigh optimism that the whole thing would blow over quickly. And then the summer festivals started to fall – “which everyone was holding out hope for,” she says.
“We’d just loaded the trucks to head to site the next day when everything was cancelled”
It was a similar story with John Henry’s, a multi-disciplinary company in the live sector offering audio, backline, and staging services, who had just sent out audio and backline equipment for multiple US country artists touring Europe and heading towards the C2C Festival at London’s O2 Arena.
“We’d just loaded the trucks to head to site the next day when everything was cancelled,” says Johnny Henry, company director. “We then had to negotiate the return of equipment from all around the country to get it back before we had to close the doors and send staff home. It was a devastating moment for everyone.”
Christie Lites, a global stage lighting vendor covering live music, theatre, TV, corporate, and special events, and employing over 400 employees around the world, were ramping up into what business development executive Jessica Allan describes as “a very, very busy year.” It all came to a sudden, complete halt.
“The realisation that pretty much everything was coming back in kit-wise – including shows that had been out for five years or more – and the logistics of what that involved was definitely one of the ‘Oh shit!’ moments,” she adds.
Everyone IQ spoke to for this feature talks of the initial shock and disbelief, and how thoughts turned extremely quickly from dealing with the mammoth task of returning equipment and personnel, to the question of “what happens now?”
“We all thought it was only a temporary blip, not an 18-month hiatus”
Bryan Grant of Britannia Row, a company that has been supplying audio systems and crews since 1975 and is now part of the Clair Global Group, was initially optimistic.
“The enormity of it didn’t really sink in for some time,” he explains. “We all thought it was only a temporary blip, not an 18-month hiatus.”
As such, hard work continued behind the scenes at all these companies, to ready themselves for whenever a re-opening – and large-scale music events – could once again take place.
Grant notes how crucial it was to keep key people in place and remain open for business, while Donnelly Smith says that “remaining flexible and resilient” kept PRG busy through the on-slaught.
John Adam’s famous old adage, that “Every problem is an opportunity in disguise,” was severely tested as companies struggled to make sense of what they were dealing with, and what the long-term future of touring and live might look like.
John Henry’s began working with an AV company, PIXL, to convert their studios into a live-streaming and broadcast hub
Tentative suggestions that late summer 2020 could see some events return, were nixed by the looming threat of the second wave, and with further lockdowns throughout winter and the early part of 2021 – not to mention the Delta variant – the prognosis looked gloomy.
Nevertheless, the pause became a chance to take stock, to develop their offerings, and branch out into new tech or events.
Britannia Row, through the Clair Global Group, developed the Virtual Live Audio system, a high-quality, low-latency streaming platform that allows presenters and performers in the broadcast and corporate sectors to interact in real-time with their audiences, while PRG was also helping clients move into streaming, setting up studios and live spaces, and tailoring solutions to help events transition into the digital space.
They opened a rehearsal space, too, The Bridge, which allows clients to prepare for shows safely and securely.
John Henry’s began working with an AV company, PIXL, to convert their studios into a live-streaming and broadcast hub, and were actually able to service a number of recorded events that saw over a thousand people back through their doors.
“We took the opportunity to re-evaluate internal processes with our team behind the scenes”
For Christie Lites, planning and research never stopped, but they also – like the others – took a brief step back.
“We took the opportunity to re-evaluate internal processes with our team behind the scenes, making improvements in preparation for the return,” says Allan.
These ranged from technology tweaks through to broadening and building on sustainability programmes, as well as a number of ‘Crew Prep’ events to help crew and clients prepare for getting back to work.
With Britain having lifted restrictions on 19 July this year, many other countries following suit, and the continuing rise in the number of people double vaccinated, something approaching normality has begun to return.
Music’s live and touring sector has been scrabbling to respond, but with lead times normally measured in months, and many still wary of attending packed, sweaty arena shows and festivals, it’s been a stuttering reopening.
“Ramping up from essentially a standing start, combined with the uncertainty, was always going to be a challenge”
PRG just serviced Creamfields – as did Christie Lites – alongside Rewind, Wireless, and Isle of Wight, but really all eyes are on 2022, and a full-blown return.
“We’re optimistic,” says Britannia Row’s Bryan Grant. “We think there’s going to be huge demand,” adds PRG’s Yvonne Donnelly Smith.
Others are even more confident: 2022 is shaping up to be a “very mad year” says Christie Lites’ Allan, with two years’ worth of events squeezed into one system. But that pressure is already being keenly felt, and having some worrying knock-on effects.
“Ramping up from essentially a standing start, combined with the uncertainty still floating around, was always going to be a challenge,” says Allan.
“There is fear from vendors and freelancers that limits will be pushed both of budgets, timescale, and of people to meet demand. The other big issue is the lack of crew, as so many have had to get work elsewhere or have decided not to come back.”
“There is fear from vendors and freelancers that limits will be pushed both of budgets, timescale, and people to meet demand”
That’s a problem noted by Britannia Row director Bryan Grant as well; “that’s why we’ve kept up with our training programmes and have kept as many of our people employed as we possibly can,” he says.
Demand outstripping supply has had other consequences too. “Material shortages are already affecting manufacturers, so spares and some of the vital things that you need for touring and shows are in short supply already,” notes Johnny Henry. “There is no sign of that improving yet.”
There is also the issue of Covid bubbles being broken, and isolated infections bringing whole operations to yet another temporary halt.
“We’ve already recently seen shows and tours being pulled at the last minute because of positive Covid cases,” continues Henry.
“Everyone involved in productions is doing their best to avoid these situations, but it’s clearly very difficult no matter what precautions are being taken. I expect this to continue into 2022.”
“The fact that we can duplicate both equipment and people in many territories means less freight and air travel”
And that concern has led to yet another issue, particularly with regard to larger tours. “We’re starting to see some now pushed back into 2023 as artist management look at scheduling, and also the fact that so many artists and bands are potentially competing for venues and punters in 2022,” says Allan.
Making sure long-awaited live performances are delivered in the best possible way to fans is a key component for festival chiefs and touring acts when deciding on their 2022 and beyond plans. Innovation has seemingly blossomed during lockdown; so too gains in efficiency.
“We are constantly upgrading our systems to provide more efficient packages in terms of weight, size, and coverage,” says Grant. “For touring acts, the fact that we can duplicate both equipment and people in many territories means less freight and air travel, which saves money and the environment.”
That last part – sustainability – is becoming an ever more vital component of companies’ offerings, and something the music industry is keen to embrace. All of the companies IQ spoke to had placed it at the top of their agenda.
“There’s a high demand for LED products to take the lead on jobs, and PRG were doing this well before the pandemic,” says Donnelly Smith.
“Our warehouses use rainwater harvesting and solar panels where possible”
“Joining and working with TPG has been extremely influential for us in continuing this journey towards sustainability in our events – we’re taking an inside-out approach to solidify this culture change, offering sustainable kit to our customers and also making changes in-house, like switching energy suppliers and using sustainable materials.”
“We are constantly trying to learn about where we can improve on sustainability – it is something we are passionate about,” says Allan.
“We have a living sustainability programme, so our warehouses use rainwater harvesting and solar panels where possible, and we’re excited to be opening our most eco-friendly building to date in Nashville in September, which is built using a revolutionary decarbonised method of construction.
“On tour, our standardisation of flight cases helps reduce the truck pack and the fact that you can pull and drop a European leg from the UK and pick up again in North America without the need to fly or ship kit is a key reason why sustainability-conscious clients use us.”
Undoubtedly, the last 18 months have been a seismic shock, and recovery will depend on the ticket-buying public – as Grant notes, “Covid isn’t going away, so we are just going to have to adapt to the circumstances that confront us.”
“This past year has shown what we can achieve if we pull together”
But live events have proved resilient before, and are doing so again. The future will just be a little different.
“This past year has shown what we can achieve if we pull together,” says Allan. “Yes, a very difficult road lies ahead, but we have confidence that collectively the industry will find a way through and come out the other side.”
“I think what we’ve learnt over the last 18 months is that you can’t stand still,” adds Johnny Henry. “You have to use any spare time to continue to refine your trade, improve where you can, be more efficient, and get more out of your resources than you think possible. Your staff are your greatest asset, and while you’ve got to put faith in the future, don’t forget the past.”
Ultimately, the message is one of collaboration, and working together for greater success – and the greater good. “It’s an opportunity for all of us in the touring community, from artists, agents, promoters, and managers, to supply companies and all of those who work within these organisations to realise that we’re all on the same side,” says Grant.
“We all need to earn a living, and all need to respect what we all contribute to making this wonderful, mad machine work; let’s keep going.”
Live music to set the stage for COP26 Glasgow
Live music will play a supporting role in the United Nations Climate Change Conference (aka COP26), in Glasgow, this month.
The summit will take place between 31 October and 12 November at the Scottish Event Campus, the site of the nation’s flagship live music venue, the newly renamed OVO Hydro (cap. 13,000).
Running alongside the conference is a three-day fringe festival, Beyond The Green, celebrating music, the arts and sustainability.
The fringe festival will include a not-for-profit event combining live performances and conference sessions, led by sustainable events specialist UMA Entertainment (UMAE).
The 6 November event will involve a day of panels from climate experts and thought leaders across NGOs, youth activism, music and the entertainment industry, including several LIVE Green working group members.
UMA Entertainment’s event will feature performances from acclaimed artists Aurora, Sam Fischer and BEMZ
Speakers include A Greener Festival director Teresa Moore, Beggars Group head of sustainability Will Hutton, Tyndall Centre deputy director Professor Carly McLachlan and Groove Armada’s Andy Cato.
Performances from acclaimed artists Aurora, Sam Fischer and BEMZ will be followed by an after-show event with sets from Cato, Sarra Wild and Darwin.
UMAE, which is chaired by Live Aid promoter Harvey Goldsmith, is working on the event with partners including Future for Humanity, Ivy Farm, Stabal, PRS, PPL, Ecosia, Count Us In, Bluedot Festival, Julie’s Bicycle, LIVE Green, and Featured Artists Coalition.
“We are thrilled to be leading on the conversation of culture and entertainment and the role it plays in driving change at scale at COP26, a pivotal event in the climate crisis,” says Harvey Goldmsith. “This event is the cornerstone of what’s to come from UMA in our mission to produce events that push the global climate agenda forward.”
LIVE Green chair John Langford added: “In the wake of Live Green unveiling a suitability charter for the live music industry, it’s encouraging to see so many artists, their representatives and other influential personalities taking a clear stand against climate change at COP 26.”
Earth Aid, Music Managers Forum, Positive Impact, Exit [Live], EarthPercent, Music Declares Emergency and Beggars Group are also associated.
All profits from the ticketed event will be donated to official charity partner EarthPercent founded by Brian Eno, and social impact charities in Glasgow.
Also running alongside COP26 is a new concert series to help “turn the tide on the climate crisis”, organised by leading Scottish promoter DF concerts and Project Zero.
Concerts for Climate will feature some of the biggest names in Scottish music including Twin Atlantic and Admiral Fallow
The series, Concerts for Climate, will feature some of the biggest names in Scottish music including Twin Atlantic, Admiral Fallow, the Ninth Wave, Rachel Sermanni, Rura, Blue Rose Code, Tamzene and The National Youth Pipe Band.
The event will take place at Scottish venue King Tuts Wah Wah Hut on 11 November, and is set to become the first in a series of global music events produced by Project Zero.
All proceeds from the Concerts for Climate series will fund a global network of projects that protect and restore the ocean and blue carbon ecosystems (mangroves, seagrass meadows and tidal marshes).
“We are honoured to host the very first Project Zero Concert at King Tut’s, in the host city of COP26, Glasgow,” says Susan Kerr, King Tut’s.
“It is so important that we tackle climate change now and, this concert series will help draw attention to the fact our oceans are our biggest weapon in fighting the climate emergency.”
Tickets for Concerts for Climate go on sale tomorrow (22 October) at 10.00 BST.
COP26 comes a month after LIVE Green launched the ‘Beyond Zero Declaration’ to reduce net emissions across the UK’s live music business to zero by 2030. The declaration and charter has been signed by the 13 key associations representing the various sectors of the business.