Toby Leighton-Pope exits AEG Presents
AEG Presents UK co-CEO Toby Leighton-Pope has left the company, it has been announced.
The promoter, who joined AEG from rival Live Nation alongside fellow co-CEO Steve Homer in 2016, has departed “to pursue other interests”, according to a statement released by AEG Europe.
Leighton-Pope previously spent 15 years at Live Nation UK, latterly as senior vice-president, where he launched the Hard Rock Calling Festival in Hyde Park. He has worked with the likes of Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Arcade Fire, Michael Buble and Katy Perry.
Steve Homer will continue to lead the division
“AEG Europe announce today that Toby Leighton-Pope, Co-CEO of AEG Presents UK, has left the company to pursue other interests,” says the statement.
“Toby joined AEG in 2016 when he was appointed joint CEO with Steve Homer. Steve Homer will continue to lead the division focusing on further growing the touring business and developing the roster of venues operated by AEG Presents UK. These include Wolverhampton Civic Halls and Olympia, London, both of which are undergoing multi-million-pound renovations and are set to open in 2022 and 2024 respectively.”
AEG will operate a 4,400-capacity live music venue within the Olympia complex and also recently agreed a 25-year deal with the City of Wolverhampton Council to run the Civic Halls.
AEG launched the All Points East festival in 2018 and attracted the likes of Adele, Taylor Swift, The Killers, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan and Neil Young to the firm’s flagship BST Hyde Park festival.
The company also opened a new Paris office in 2018, while upcoming tours feature acts such as Justin Bieber, Shawn Mendes and Blondie, as well as Ed Sheeran’s stadium dates in Scotland.
In November last year, Leighton-Pope was unveiled as the new co-chair of the UK’s Music Industry Trusts Award with YouTube head of music, EMEA Dan Chalmers after previous chair David Munns stepped down following 27 years in the role.
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Tales from Covid: Steve Homer, AEG Presents
Tales from Covid, IQ’s new series of Q&As with locked-down industry leaders, sees leading lights of the concert business explain how they are weathering the coronavirus crisis and offer their predictions for the months ahead.
Following the fourth interview, with Rock Werchter founder and Live Nation Belgium head Herman Schueremans, IQ chats to Steve Homer, co-CEO of AEG Presents UK, about barriers to recovery, long-term changes and the decision to cancel AEG’s festivals, as well as how the crisis has brought the UK live industry together…
IQ: What professional lessons have you learned so far from the Covid-19 outbreak?
SH: The importance of maintaining communication with your team is vital to not only the business, but also the mental wellbeing of the staff. Using Teams and Zoom has been a revelation, and we are looking at lots of ways of supporting people through this crisis.
Since the start of the lockdown here in the UK, it is encouraging to see agents, promoters and managers have seen this as an opportunity to increase the level of communication. It’s a shared problem and there is a real desire to work together to get through this and come out the other side, all still in business. It has shown the live sector is made up of real people who genuinely care about live music.
When do you think the recovery might start, and how is AEG Presents preparing for it?
We have been looking at Q4 2020 but, as has been the case from the start, you have to keep monitoring and considering the position. The live industry appears to be the last to see any return to what we have considered to be normal.
The Presents team have been working hard to maintain information to customers, agents, artists and venues, so that as the government brings us out of lockdown we are ready to move forward. But from what has happened so far, we are moving with caution and not over committing to one strategy.
How do you feel about the British government response to the situation?
Hindsight is great. It’s easy to say now we should have gone into lockdown earlier and we would not be in the situation we find ourselves. New Zealand and Germany reacted quicker and are showing how it limited the impact, but, as I said, hindsight is a wonderful thing.
It’s the most difficult situation any of us has ever gone through. I feel we are getting the information from the government in a timely fashion and the logic behind it makes sense.
“The lockdown has shown us how important interaction is with our fellow humans – and where better to experience interaction than at a live show?”
Many major UK summer events have yet cancelled, and the government has yet to make a clear statement on how long any event ban would last, unlike in much of Europe. Given these circumstances, how did AEG Presents come to the decision to cancel BST Hyde Park and All Points East?
The UK events seem to be cancelling or postponing in a chronological order, so in some ways it doesn’t give the general public a doomsday scenario to face with the whole summer still in front of them.
As for AEG festivals, the set up, particularly for BST, have such long lead-in times it was only right to inform the artists and customers as soon as was practically possible.
According to DEAG’s Peter Schwenkow, “the open-air season is destroyed”. Would you agree with him?
As of today, it’s certainly looking that way for this summer.
As I’ve said, we are working hard towards the return but with the understanding things are continually subject to change. Social distancing being in place will have such a massive impact on this industry, of course. I know venues and events are modelling how to operate at reduced capacities.
What other challenges do you think the industry may face getting back up to speed?
The first question is, ‘When will that be?’. The longer we go on without operating, the bigger the strain on the companies within the industry and the suppliers we all rely on.
The live audience has a vast age range, and we currently believe the younger audience will come back quicker, with an older audience potentially not returning in numbers until there is a vaccine.
It’s about being able to react to the changes – what will the new normal be when we return? We are all speculating, but even the most experienced heads in the industry have never experienced the like of this.
What changes might we see long term?
The industry has, in the main, consolidated into key players over the past ten years, and this pandemic might change all this – we may see more independent companies emerging. Hopefully venues will be able to survive the lockdown, as it’s vital to have somewhere to play when we can get audiences back.
If anything, the lockdown has shown us how important interaction is with our fellow humans – and where better to experience interaction than at a live show? We have a future.
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Homer’s Odyssey: The Steve Homer story so far
Spend more than a minute or two in the company of Steve Homer, the affable, talkative co-CEO of AEG Presents in the UK, and one thing becomes clear: the man loves live music. Thirty years after he promoted his first show, Homer’s enthusiasm for the live experience is as infectious as ever.
“He’s a music fan,” says other co-CEO Toby Leighton-Pope, Homer’s partner in crime for the best part of 20 years. “If he doesn’t have a show on, he’ll find one to go and see. We’ll go away to LA on a business trip for a week, and after two days of lunches and dinners he’ll take off and go and see a band – he’s left many a business meal or important meeting to go see a show.”
“My dad, he’s 80 now, and I remember him saying to me a few years ago, ‘You’re never going to get a proper job, are you?’” adds Homer. “And I said, ‘correct.’ He just sees it as my hobby, my passion – and it is.”
Perhaps it’s that love for the art form that’s been the key to Homer’s success over the past three decades. Or maybe it’s his well-deserved reputation as a “perfect gentleman,” in the words of agent Tobbe Lorentz, or his willingness to turn his hand to everything from the Darkness to Tinie Tempah, building lifelong relationships along the way.
Either way, like Odysseus – the hero of the poem by his 8th-century-BC namesake – Homer’s story is an epic one (albeit with more Dolly Parton and fewer shipwrecks). And it begins in a market town in the Black Country, sometime in the early 1960s…
“He’s a music fan. If he doesn’t have a show on, he’ll find one to go and see”
Big on campus
Born in Stourbridge in the West Midlands, Homer caught the live music bug at his first show: The Clash at Wolverhampton Civic Hall on 16 December 1978, just a few weeks after his 15th birthday. His first brush with the industry, meanwhile, came five years later, when he went to Leicester University to study physics with astronomy (later, sensibly, transferring to a combined studies degree).
Homer, like many of his peers, served on Leicester’s entertainment committee, and after graduating in 1986 went to work at Staffordshire’s Keele University, which was recruiting for a professional (ie non-student) entertainments manager. But it was at another university that he cut his promoting teeth.
“The University of Sheffield wanted someone to come in and shape their commercial services department,” he explains. “There were three venues there, as opposed to one at Keele. The idea was to make Sheffield one of the biggest-earning university campuses in the country.”
And Homer delivered. By the early ’90s Sheffield’s entertainment business was making well over £1 million (€1.1m) profit annually, while Homer and team were running more than 60 shows a year.
By the early ’90s Sheffield’s entertainment business was making well over £1m profit annually
The old school
As a university ents manager in the early 90s, Homer was in good company: other now-household names in similar roles at the time included Middlesex Polytechnic’s Geoff Ellis (DF Concerts); the University of Warwick’s Chris York and Manchester’s Rob Ballantine (both SJM); Newcastle University’s Daryl Robinson (AMG/Mama); and the University of London’s Paul Hutton (Metropolis/Crosstown Concerts).
It was also his first contact with many bookers he works with to this day, as X-ray agent Adam Saunders recalls: “Steve and I first worked together when he was at Keele University, and then following that at Sheffield. We built a great working relationship through those early years, and we carried on working closely together through his years at the Mean Fiddler, too.
“We both had some incredibly pivotal years with the Darkness and the huge success through the Permission to Land album touring campaign. Steve had by that point moved to SFX (as Live Nation then was) and a second run on that tour featured multiple nights in all the UK arenas. We even included a tour warm-up show in the ‘intimate’ Brixton Academy. Great times…”
As a university ents manager in the early 90s, Homer was in good company
Homer remained at Sheffield until 1998, by which time he’d “run [his] course” at the university amid an unwelcome evolution in his responsibilities.
“Sheffield was a great place for gigs, but I’d moved further and further in that time from booking shows to the running of the commercial services side: helping to make the bars turn over more money, working with security services, and so on, Homer says. “But my main desire was that I wanted to work on live music.”
Homer joined the Mean Fiddler Music Group, Vince Power’s venue and festival empire, that year, after having turned down a job at one of the company’s venues two years prior. “I’d previously spoken to Vince Power about a job that came up at the Clapham Grand [south London],” he continues. “But I had real security within Sheffield, and people like Paul Hutton and Simon Moran advised me against it because at that time it was so off the beaten track.
“But I left it on good terms with Vince, and I phoned him up in mid-98 to say I wanted to move to London and asked if there was anything at Mean Fiddler. I came down and he offered me the job of running Mean Fiddler’s touring department.”
“I remember my dad saying to me a few years ago, ‘You’re never going to get a proper job, are you?’ And I said, ‘correct’”
After an “okay but not great” start promoting around 30 shows that autumn, including long-time Power clients Dr John and Republica, Homer fast put his own stamp on Mean Fiddler, famously promoting early shows by Eminem and Queens of the Stone Age while imbuing its touring division with the focus on talent development that had characterised his career to date.
He also began to book acts for Mean Fiddler’s Homeland and Reading Festivals, working closely with current Festival Republic MD Melvin Benn, as well as artists including Kylie Minogue, Carl Cox and Moloko for the Renaissance club in Ibiza.
At Mean Fiddler, Homer says, he learnt for the first time “that it really matters which company you work for. […] Some agencies loved Mean Fiddler but many others didn’t. It was the first time in my career that I’d been seen as part of that corporate umbrella.”
Other high-profile Mean Fiddler-era signings included pop-punk band Bowling for Soup – who Homer saw at South by Southwest and brought over for Reading and the new Leeds Festival – and All Seeing I, the Sheffield supergroup featuring Jarvis Cocker and Phil Oakey who scored a hit in 1999 with ‘Walk Like a Panther’.
Homer’s tenure at Mean Fiddler lasted just two years, and he admits that he didn’t leave the company on “great terms” with Power, who had been “very supportive” of his career to that point and perhaps felt cheated when his rising star was lured away.
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Laura Davidson joins new AEG European festivals team
Longtime Goldenvoice UK promoter Laura Davidson has joined AEG Presents’ new European festival division, established earlier this month under CEO Jim King.
Davidson joined AEG-owned Goldenvoice in 2014 alongside former Metropolis colleague Oscar Tuttiett. She was most recently Goldenvoice UK’s VP of live music.
As part of the new European festival unit, she will serve as head of artist bookings, responsible for all bookings for All Points East (APE) in Victoria Park, London. She will also support King across all existing AEG festivals, as well as future projects.
“Laura will be an integral part of the team”
“Laura will be an integral part of the team and I couldn’t be happier that she has joined us,” comments King. “She is one of the most passionate music fans that I have ever met and has proven herself to be expertly skilled in the role of originating and curating incredible festival line-ups.”
Davidson adds: “I’m excited to be joining this new division at AEG. I was very proud to have been part of the team that launched a brand-new festival with All Points East. I’m looking forward to an even better 2020 in Victoria Park, as well as working with Jim across all of AEG’s festivals.”
In addition to APE, the European festival division oversees British Summer Time Hyde Park in London and Rock en Seine in Paris.
BST Hyde Park receives AIE gold status
AEG Presents’ British Summer Time (BST) Hyde Park has been awarded gold status for Attitude is Everything’s charter of best practice, recognising the event’s commitment to inclusivity for deaf and disabled people.
Since 2013, AEG Presents has partnered with Attitude is Everything, a charity working to improve access to live music for deaf and disabled people. The charter of best practice exceeds the legal obligations set out in the equality act, presenting measures to achieve a truly equal service for disabled customers.
In 2017, the UK Live Music Group officially recognised the charter as an industry standard.
“We’ve been working with AEG and BST Hyde Park for over five years and have been impressed by how the festival have developed their access over this time,” says Paul Hawkins, Attitude is Everything’s festivals and volunteering manager.
“Accessibility works best when it something that all staff members engage in, from a senior level to frontline staff, and this is certainly the case with Barclaycard presents British Summer Time Hyde Park.
“AEG have been a fantastic company to work with and we are confident that, even with the gold award, they will continue to raise the bar for access to ensure all customers have the best experience possible at the shows,” adds Hawkins.
“Accessibility works best when it something that all staff members engage in, from a senior level to frontline staff, and this is certainly the case with BST Hyde Park”
The news comes following the event’s double win at the charity’s Outstanding Attitude Awards in March, picking up awards in the ‘customer service’ and ‘ticketing without barriers – venue/event’ categories. The event also received commendation for updates to its disabled-access provision.
Initiatives at BST Hyde Park include three accessible viewing areas over two stages and roaming drinks vendors at the Great Oak stage and Barclaycard stage. A friend or family member can gain access to the areas with an interchangeable, free personal assistant pass.
British sign language (BSL) interpreters cover every act on the Great Oak stage and accessible toilets are present at every toilet block. All pre-event information is available in audio and easy read versions and there is a dedicated access customer service team available all year via email and phone.
The introduction of guided tours will help those requiring additional assistance for navigating the site.
“Making sure our events are open to all is a top priority of ours, and we believe it truly sets us apart from our competitors,” comments AEG Presents’ senior event manager, Jenny Hamada. “Recognition from Attitude is Everything, who we’ve worked with for many years, is a heartening sign that these efforts are making a real difference.”
Headliners for this year’s BST Hyde Park include Celine Dion (5 July), Stevie Wonder (6 July), Barbra Streisand (7 July) and Florence and the Machine (13 July).
Ed Sheeran performs record-breaking South African shows
Ed Sheeran performed his first-ever headline shows in South Africa in March, breaking existing ticket sales records to put on the biggest concerts in South African history.
The AEG Presents-promoted shows sold 230,000 tickets across four dates, breaking the previous ticket sales record by 30,000.
The South African shows were part of Sheeran’s worldwide ÷ tour, which has consistently broken ticket sales records and ended 2018 as the highest-grossing tour of the last 30 years.
The British singer-songwriter performed two shows as at the 55,000-capacity Cape Town Stadium and two at Johannesburg’s 94,736-capacity First National Bank (FNB) Stadium.
Simon Jones, senior vice president of live music international at AEG Presents UK, promoted the shows in partnership with South Africa’s largest promoter, Live Nation-owned Big Concerts.
“With the South African stadium tour we were taking him [Ed Sheeran] to a new audience who hadn’t experienced him live and the appetite to come to the shows was enormous”
“Ed is an artist who makes universal and timeless music and that’s why he is a global phenomenon. With the South African stadium tour we were taking him to a new audience who hadn’t experienced him live and the appetite to come to the shows was enormous,” says Jones.
“The operation to ensure all Ed’s fans were able to enjoy the concerts in an extremely safe environment was huge. Along with our partners Big Concerts, the cooperation from all relevant government services to achieve this was fantastic and showed what a brilliant destination South Africa is for international touring artists.
“We are really proud to have worked on the shows with Ed and his team and to deliver something very special in a brand new territory,” comments Jones.
Sheeran’s tour has now travelled to Asia, last week kicking off in Taoyuan, Taiwan. The artist will play a full stadium and greenfield tour in Japan (Tokyo, Osaka), Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur), Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand (Bangkok) and Indonesia (Jakarta).
These shows account for a further 350,000 ticket sales across the region.
Bring Me the Horizon added to APE 2019 line-up
Bring Me the Horizon will play their only UK festival show in 2019 at next summer’s All Points East (APE) event in Victoria Park, London.
In their first headlining festival show, the British metal act will curate and headline APE on Friday 31 May, topping a bill that also includes Run the Jewels, Idles, Yonaka and more.
The APE announcement follows on the back of tragedy for Bring Me the Horizon, who described their horror after a fan died at their Alexandra Palace show last Friday (30 November).
They join previously announced APE headliners/curators Chemical Brothers (24 May) and Christine and the Queens (26 May) and Bon Iver (2 June).
Jim King, senior vice-president of festival promoter AEG Presents, comments: “We are beyond thrilled to be able to welcome Bring Me the Horizon to the East Stage next year for their long overdue first festival headliner set.
“31 May is going to be an unforgettable night for Victoria Park”
“The band and the festival have curated an unbelievable day of music. 31 May is going to be an unforgettable night for Victoria Park.”
All Points East, which has a daily capacity of 40,000, debuted to a “phenomenal” response in 2018, after AEG was awarded a five-year exclusive on the use of the east London park. It follows a similar format to the company’s successful British Summer Time (BST) event in Hyde Park, combining two weekends of music with a BST-style free-to-access midweek offering, All Points East In the Neighbourhood.
All Points East 2019 runs from 24 May to 2 June. Tickets for the Bon Iver and Chemical Brothers shows are on sale now, with GA day passes priced at £71.55.
AEG Presents names new SVP, international
AEG Presents has promoted Simon Jones to the newly created role of senior vice-president of music, international.
In the newly created, London-based role, Jones will head up AEG Presents UK’s global concert operations, working with AEG offices in the US, Europe, Asia and the Middle East to promote a range of artists from club gigs to stadium shows. He reports directly to Steve Homer and Toby Leighton-Pope, AEG Presents London’s joint CEOs.
The creation of the position comes after AEG Presents’ launch in France in January this year, following the company’s acquisition of a stake in leading festival Rock en Seine in 2017.
In 2017, AEG promoted more than 800 live events in the UK, including British Summer Time Hyde Park festival and the recently launched All Points East in Victoria Park, London.
“I’m certain we can keep upping the ante both in the UK and around the world”
“I’ve enjoyed building the international touring arm of our UK office in recent years – it’s a major passion of mine and I’m excited to continue and expand on this even further, with some incredible shows and tours to announce soon,” says Jones, who joined AEG as an intern, working at the then-new O2 Arena. Since then, he has risen through the ranks to become a promoter and senior executive.
“What we have achieved since AEG Presents launched in the UK has been phenomenal and I’m certain we can keep upping the ante both here and around the world. The artists that work with us are always at the core of our thinking when planning tours and shows, and that is reflected in the calibre of artists and their teams that we work with.”
Jones’s current tours include Shawn Mendes’s European tour, the Ed Sheeran South Africa stadium tour, Asian tours for Khalid and Calum Scott, Rodriguez across Australia and New Zealand and UK tours for Anne-Marie, Jess Glynne, Tom Odell and the Vamps.
Recent successes include Ed Sheeran in Asia and the Middle East in 2017–18, as well as Sheeran’s three sell-out stadium shows in Glasgow this year, Justin Bieber’s 2016–17 UK tour, Craig David’s 2017 arena tour and the annual Brits Week series of shows.
AEG launches new indoor festival, Made for the Weekend
AEG has partnered with Made Festival to launch Made for the Weekend, a new two-day indoor festival debuting this October at Genting Arena in Birmingham, UK.
Split into two themed days, Made for the Weekend will on Friday 12 October host a day of hip hop and grime, featuring Giggs, Stefflon Don, Pusha T, Nasty C and more, then on Saturday 13th present some of the giants of drum and bass and house music, with artists including Chase & Status and MC Rage, Andy C, Gorgon City, Max Chapman, Catz ’N Dogz and SaSaSaS taking over the 15,700-capacity arena from 2–11pm.
In joining forces with AEG, promoter We Made It Ltd says the Made Festival brand “steps up another level”, following its sold-out fifth-anniversary event in Birmingham last month.
“After the fifth year of the Made Festival summer edition and a 12,000 sell-out at Perry Park in July, we felt it was time to take the brand to the next level,” says festival director Pete Jordan.
“We are really excited to be working with the Made Festival team. They have built a great event with a strong following”
“We wanted to bring the extravaganza of the festival into an indoor setting, and in autumn, when the UK festival season is well and truly over. Choosing the world-class Genting Arena at the NEC for our new two-day event felt like an appropriate move, and we cannot wait to see the all-star, multi-genre line-up come to life there.”
Adds AEG/Goldenvoice UK promoter Oscar Tuttiett: “We are really excited to be working with the Made Festival team. They have built a great event with a strong following and we’re looking forward to seeing how we can build on this together.
“We are thrilled to be doing Made for the Weekend in Birmingham. It’s an amazing city that has been such a strong market for touring in recent years, and we hope the local community will be pleased to see this new indoor festival arrive.”
Day tickets are priced from £32.50, and weekend tickets from £55, plus booking fee, and will be available from the Made Festival website on Friday 10 August.
Behind the scenes at All Points East
This year, AEG Presents launched a new festival, All Points East in Victoria Park. Victoria Park is a fantastic green space in the heart of a vibrant area of London, one of the most important live music cities in the world. It will be the home of All Points East for the next four years.
We were focused on creating a series of shows that widened our relationships with the artist community and music fans. We wanted to achieve this by delivering an event that complemented what we already did in London but would carry its own personality and identity.
Staging a brand-new event in a crowded market is always as much about thinking differently and creatively as it is about utilising past experience. We waited patiently for the chance to present our ideas to Tower Hamlets local authority and when the new contract opportunity arose we knew we needed to move quickly and deliver a vision that resonated with them. If we were successful, we were also acutely aware of other stakeholders we needed to connect with to ensure the event was a success on all levels, not just musically.
The often-used ‘we’re only here for two weeks’ argument never seemed the strongest way to win the hearts and minds of people who rely on parks for their family enjoyment and well-being. Being a good partner is an important part of AEG’s DNA, and being a good partner in the community even more so. We are able to do this by having the right people with the right outlook. We don’t look to compete on volume. We just want to do what we do as well as we possibly can. That allows our team to spend a little longer to make something a little better.
The real challenge for me is whether we, the industry, are giving fans what they want
The fact that Victoria Park has such a unique cultural history meant we were able to strengthen our All Points Equal event. This celebrated 100 years since some women were given the right to vote and 90 years of equal voting rights for women and men, with a rich vein of inspirational educational and historical content that kicked off the midweek programme of free-to-access activities.
Music, of course, matters the most. There is a lot of talk about the industry lacking headliners but I’ve never totally bought into that argument, which I see as a fairly limited assessment of the live music landscape. The real challenge for me is whether we, the industry, are giving fans what they want. Are we creating platforms where they return home inspired to come back for another live music experience as quickly as they are able to? That’s essentially the challenge we want our team to meet at All Points East.
All Points East was, and is, about artists who never dial it in. It was booked driven by our own musical passion, and we wanted musicians who wear their own passion on their sleeves, and always deliver. So 40,000 people came to see Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds give one of the most memorable headline performances that I have ever seen. Raw, heartfelt, sometimes brutal, and searingly honest.
While All Points East is travelling a different road to British Summer Time Hyde Park and requires elements of different thinking, there is an overriding philosophy that unites them. Both events stand for a delivery of quality. We want artists to walk out the production exit feeling they had a great time and that they were treated respectfully. Equally, we want the fans to walk out the public exit and say they had a great time and were treated respectfully.
I like to not overcomplicate things…