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The O2’s Steve Sayer on the K-pop boom

The O2’s VP and general manager Steve Sayer has spoken to IQ about the global K-pop boom after the London venue was lit up pink in honour of Blackpink’s two headline shows.

The 21,000-cap venue’s iconic white tent, and entrance sign were transformed to bright pink for the South Korean girl group’s AEG-promoted concerts on 30 November and 1 December.

The O2 was an early adopter of the K-pop craze, having welcomed BTS in October 2019, who smashed a merchandise sales record previously held by the Rolling Stones. The seven-piece band went on to make history the following year by playing to 120,000 people over two nights at Wembley Stadium, promoted by Live Nation.

“We hosted BTS before most people in the UK mainstream even knew who they were,” Sayer tells IQ. “They had this phenomenal fan base, but it was still relatively cult, and when we had those two shows I remember walking into the venue that morning – it was midweek and it wasn’t a school holiday – and there was this huge queue on the square outside The O2.

“We’ve had a lot of smaller K-pop artists and Asian artists play The O2 over the last 10 years, but that event really set the standard. You now have major artists – Blackpink’s a great example – that have the capability of selling out huge venues.”

“It’s a genre that is clearly only going to grow”

Europe’s largest K-pop festival, Kpop.Flex, sold more than 70,000 tickets in 84 countries for its inaugural edition at Deutsche Bank Park in Frankfurt, Germany, in May.

Staged by K-Pop Europa in partnership with PK Events, it was due to make its UK debut at The O2 last month with acts including Winner, Pentagon and AB6IX, alongside the first-ever Kpop.Flex Awards For Emerging Artists. But the event was cancelled following the Halloween crowd crush in Itaewon, Seoul that killed 158 people. The festival, which returns to Germany from 17-18 June, will now launch in the UK from 22-24 September 2023.

“It was sad that we had to cancel the event recently, but I think everybody understood why,” notes Sayer. “But next year’s Kpop. Flex is going to be brilliant, because there will be big headliners but it will also be an event that breaks some of the up-and-coming K-pop artists.

“In addition to Kpop.Flex, we’ve have a number of other pencils for K-pop artists next year. It’s a genre that is clearly only going to grow and our partners on that event are very much connected with the Korean equivalent of our DCMS, which is actively using it as a way to promote Korean culture globally.”

“To mark Blackpink being the first female K-pop band to headline The O2, it was only right that the whole venue should be turned pink for the first time ever in their honour”

Blackpink recently became the first girl group to gross US$3 million (€2.9m) from a single arena concert in North America, generating $3.297m per night from their two 23,928-cap sellout shows at the Prudential Center in Newark from 14-15 November. The quartet will return to London in 2023 for their UK festival debut at BST Hyde Park on Sunday 2 July.

“We were very excited and proud to start Blackpink’s European arena tour with two historic nights at The O2 – a mere sneak peek into what they have planned for their colossal BST Hyde Park show in July 2023,” adds Simon Jones, SVP of International Touring at AEG Presents. “To mark Blackpink being the first female K-pop band to headline The O2, it was only right that the whole venue should be turned pink for the first time ever in their honour. Iconic!”

Meanwhile, Billboard‘s newly published Year in Touring places BTS as the 27th highest-grossing tour of 2022, generating US$75,489,240 from 458,144 ticket sales for just 11 shows.

BTS’ record label Big Hit Music announced in October that the K-pop superstars were moving forward with plans to fulfil their mandatory military service, ending a long-running debate in Korea over whether they should receive an exemption due to their artistic accomplishments.

 


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AEG Europe adds five new leaders to UK business

AEG Europe has announced a handful of new appointments within AEG Presents UK as part of its growth and development plans across the venues and touring business.

The company has promoted Jacqui Harris to the role of VP and general manager, responsible for all operational functions for the events, touring, marketing and ticketing teams.

In addition, Lucky Thompson is named senior director, events and operations, assuming overall leadership responsibility for the company’s cornerstone events division, which includes Summer Series, C2C, Eden Sessions and Just for Laughs, among others.

Elsewhere, Connie Shao becomes VP and general manager for international touring, tasked with managing the international touring division and operations of its tours and events.

“It’s an exciting time for our business as we break new ground and in turn, build out a people structure that powers the successful delivery of our growth plans”

Plus, Leonie Wakeman is appointed director of commercial operations, with a focus on identifying, developing and implementing new revenue opportunities, while Stuart Dorn is installed as group venue operations director, responsible for AEG Presents venues, such as Indigo at The O2, The Halls Wolverhampton, Eventim Apollo and Olympia London.

“It’s an exciting time for our business as we break new ground and in turn, build out a people structure that powers the successful delivery of our growth plans,” says AEG Presents UK CEO Steve Homer. “From our recently announced appointment of Lucy Noble as our inaugural artistic director, or our expanded footprint into the world of comedy, to our continued investment in venues like The Halls Wolverhampton or Olympia London… We’re heading into 2023 with strong momentum and I look forward to what’s to come.”

The company says the expansion will bring further opportunities across AEG Europe, with a number of open roles due to open in 2023.

PHOTO L-R: Jacqui Harris, Lucky Thompson, Connie Shao, Leonie Wakeman, Stuart Dorn

 


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Taylor Swift ticketing fallout continues

The fallout from the controversial presale for Taylor Swift’s 2023 stadium tour has escalated, with a US Senate antitrust panel set to look into a “lack of competition in ticketing markets”.

Senators Amy Klobuchar and Mike Lee of the senate judiciary subcommittee on competition policy, antitrust and consumer rights have announced the hearing – which will take place on a date to be confirmed – in response to last week’s cancelled onsale.

Swift shifted more than two million tickets – a new record for an artist in a single day – for her AEG-promoted 52-date The Eras Tour, but the sale was marred by reports of “significant service failures” and lengthy delays on Ticketmaster’s website.

“Last week, the competition problem in ticketing markets was made painfully obvious when Ticketmaster’s website failed hundreds of thousands of fans hoping to purchase concert tickets,” says Klobuchar. “The high fees, site disruptions and cancellations that customers experienced shows how Ticketmaster’s dominant market position means the company does not face any pressure to continually innovate and improve.

“This is a story about the status of Taylor Swift, not the status of Ticketmaster”

“That’s why we will hold a hearing on how consolidation in the live entertainment and ticketing industry harms customers and artists alike. When there is no competition to incentivise better services and fair prices, we all suffer the consequences.”

Days before the announcement, Klobuchar wrote an open letter to Live Nation chief Michael Rapino, expressing “serious concerns about the state of competition in the ticketing industry”. The letter came just weeks after a coalition of American consumer, artist and lobbying groups launched a Break Up Ticketmaster campaign, claiming that artists and venues are being exploited by the company.

Several industry commentators have been quick to point out that unprecedented demand for Taylor Swift tickets has little to do with Ticketmaster’s relationship with Live Nation. “This is a story about the status of Taylor Swift, not the status of Ticketmaster,” wrote Bob Lefsetz. “I wish everybody would STFU! There is no villain here. Just an incredibly successful pop star and a company that was caught off guard by demand.”

In his weekly Full Rate No Cap email, former Billboard editorial director Bill Werde wrote, “It’s pretty obvious that putting 52 dates on sale at once is an unnecessary stress to any tech platform,” adding that Swift’s team had been advised not to put all dates on sale at the same time, “But they wanted the big splash. End result? Her fans suffered.”

“We did sell over two million tickets that day, we could have filled 900 stadiums”

The Eras Tour attracted “historically unprecedented demand” as 3.5m people pre-registered for Swift’s Verified Fan presale, 1.5m of whom were later invited to participate in the onsale. However, the Ticketmaster site struggled to cope with the traffic after being swamped by bot attacks. Seatgeek (which took on $238m in private equity investment in August) experienced similar technical issues ticketing five of the Swift dates.

“The site was supposed to be opened up for 1.5 million verified Taylor Swift fans,” said Live Nation chair Greg Maffei. “We had 14 million people hit the site, including bots – another story – which are not supposed to be there. And despite all the challenges and the breakdowns, we did sell over two million tickets that day, we could have filled 900 stadiums.

“Interestingly, AEG our competitor, who is the promoter for Taylor Swift, chose to use us because we are in reality, the largest and most effective ticket seller in the world. Even our competitors want to come on our platform.”

However, in a rebuttal that may add fuel to the antitrust fire, AEG Presents yesterday told CNBC, “Ticketmaster’s exclusive deals with the vast majority of venues on The Eras Tour required us to ticket through their system…We didn’t have a choice.”

“We’re working to shore up our tech for the new bar that has been set by demand”

Ticketmaster has apologised to Swift and her fans, “especially those who had a terrible experience trying to purchase tickets”.

“Historically, we’ve been able to manage huge volume coming into the site to shop for tickets, so those with Verified Fan codes have a smooth shopping process,” it said in a blog post. “However, this time the staggering number of bot attacks as well as fans who didn’t have codes drove unprecedented traffic on our site, resulting in 3.5 billion total system requests – 4x our previous peak.

“We handle onsales for countless top tours, some of the biggest sporting events, and more. Never before has a Verified Fan onsale sparked so much attention – or traffic. This disrupted the predictability and reliability that is the hallmark of our Verified Fan platform.

“We’re always working to improve the ticket buying experience. Especially for high demand onsales, which continue to test new limits. We’re working to shore up our tech for the new bar that has been set by demand.”

Live Nation released a statement addressing competition concerns last weekend. “Live Nation takes its responsibilities under the antitrust laws seriously and does not engage in behaviours that could justify antitrust litigation, let alone orders that would require it to alter fundamental business practices,” it said.

 


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AEG Presents appoints first head of comedy

On the heels of the appointment of Lucy Noble as AEG Presents’ inaugural artistic director, the company has named Georgie Donnelly as its first head of comedy.

Previously head of comedy & podcasts at Moment House, Donnelly has also served stints as an agent at UTA and established the comedy department at promoter Kilimanjaro Live.

Donnelly’s hiring is considered central to AEG’s plans to expand its footprint beyond music and exponentially grow its comedy portfolio, which includes the London debut of Just For Laughs festival, which takes place at The O2 from 2-5 March 2023.

“I am absolutely delighted to join the team at AEG Presents who are synonymous with live music and entertainment,” says Donnelly, who has worked with the likes of Jonathan Van Ness, Hasan Minhaj, Daniel Howell, Yvonne Orji, and Russell Peters. “I am so excited to be expanding the live comedy aspect of the business and look forward to bringing some of the biggest stars and events in global comedy to the UK.”

“With Just for Laughs, as well as the arrival of Georgie to this newly created role, our plan is to really accelerate our comedic footprint”

AEG Presents UK CEO Steve Homer adds: “Georgie is immersed in the comedy world and has incredible experience booking and running tours and shows across multiple comedic genres. It’s an area AEG Presents is increasingly taking up residence and with Just for Laughs, as well as the arrival of Georgie to this newly created role, our plan is to really accelerate our comedic footprint.”

Donnelly’s arrival comes just weeks after it was announced that Royal Albert Hall artistic director Lucy Noble will be joining AEG’s European senior leadership team, assuming responsibility for setting the artistic direction across the company’s live touring and events business.

Noble, who is tasked with overseeing content creation as well as the production of new events, also assumes responsibility for promoting and touring shows, with an initial focus on the UK, followed by an eventual expansion into Europe and other territories.

Meanwhile, Stormzy has been announced as the first headliner of AEG’s All Points East 2023 festival in Victoria Park, London. In a UK exclusive, the grime artist will star in his own curated This Is What We Mean Day on Friday 18 August.

 


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Spotlighting AEG UK’s new wave of promoters

AEG Presents UK promoters Eliza-Jane Oliver and Kara Harris have given IQ the lowdown on the company’s new generation.

Oliver has risen through the AEG ranks from executive assistant and now works with acts such as McFly, Allie X, Jinkx Monsoon and Ben DeLa Crème, Keith Urban, Rammstein, Michael Bublé, Bryan Adams, High Vis and Tremonti.

Harris, meanwhile, joined the firm in 2021 on the back of stints with Dice, Village Underground and EartH Hackney, and promotes the likes of Omar Apollo, Kenyon Dixon, Aly & AJ, JAEL, Beharie, NeOne the Wonderer, Deto Black and Vivendii Sound.

AEG has enjoyed a string of hit tours in 2022 with artists including Rammstein, Diana Ross and the Pet Shop Boys, but there have also been misses along the way.

“The difficulty is that there is no trend,” Oliver tells IQ. “People are very sensitive to ticket prices at the moment so you have to be sensible with that, but it is a bit random. It always has been with promoting to an extent because some things connect and some things don’t, especially when you’re working with newer artists, but it’s up and down.”

“The most challenging part of this year has been adapting to people’s post-Covid habits”

“The most challenging part of this year has been adapting to people’s post-Covid habits,” reflects Harris. “Certain shows that we would assume were going to be huge sellouts have taken a bit longer to get there and there isn’t just one reason for it. Whether it’s the cost of living or people just taking a little while to get back into the swing of things, there are so many factors at play.

“I’ve constantly been having conversations about scaling down shows that maybe would have done a certain capacity before Covid, and trying to be a little bit safer in the current climate.”

Despite the baptism of fire that greeted the duo in the post-pandemic promoting world, both have been quick to make their mark.

“My biggest highlight of this year was seeing Omar Apollo play at Koko,” suggests Harris. “I loved Koko before it closed and to see it renovated has been beautiful. My favourite part of being a promoter is knowing that, when you see a bunch of people in a room enjoying themselves, you had a part to play in it.”

“I started working with Jinkx Monsoon and BenDeLaCreme, who are two world famous drag queens, and we’ve just sold out London [Palladium], which is so exciting – people just love them,” adds Oliver. “I’ve been working with [Steve Homer, AEG UK CEO] on Rammstein for years. We had shows at Cardiff Principality Stadium and Coventry Building Society Arena – they were meant to be 2020 and then 2021 – and they finally happened this year.

“After three years of, ‘Will it happen, won’t it happen?,’ to get 40,000 people in a room together was just incredible and it was the best production for a live show I’ve ever seen.”

“Hopefully we will see a resurgence in UK R&B and I can be a part of that”

Harris, who is also a presenter for British online radio station No Signal, has a particular passion for R&B and singles out FLO and Reggie Becton as ones to watch from her roster.

“I’m definitely an R&B lover,” she says. “I also have a radio show, which is specifically on R&B because it comes from a love of driving around with my dad and listening to Bobby Valentino and Aaliyah, so I’m excited to grow that number of R&B shows that AEG does and hopefully see a resurgence in UK R&B. And hopefully I can be a part of that.”

AEG UK CEO Steve Homer has overseen a revamp since taking sole charge of the company’s UK office at the start of the year following the departure of former co-CEO Toby Leighton-Pope, who has since resurfaced as MD of the newly formed TEG Europe. Both Harris and Oliver speak warmly of the working environment.

“The biggest thing that I’ve learned in this past year is the need to constantly adapt, learn and grow,” says Harris. “One thing I can say about working at AEG is that I feel genuinely supported. I constantly have more than one person there to lift me up or learn from.

“I look back at myself in September last year and I was in this new environment and just trying to get a grasp of everything. To see how I’ve grown since then is very fulfilling. It feels invigorating and fresh and it’s nice to be part of this new regime together. We’re constantly learning off of each other and it’s a nice environment to be in.”

“We’ve got 11 promoters at AEG and six of them are female, and that makes me really excited for the future”

“To be honest, I wasn’t sure if the transition from assistant to promoter was something I would ever do, but Steve made it so easy,” adds Oliver. “I just said, ‘I think I’d like to promote’ and he said, ‘I can’t believe you didn’t ask me this already,’ and that was kind of that. He’s always there to bounce ideas off and to answer questions.”

In closing, Oliver is buoyed by the makeup of the team and is optimistic about its prospects from here.

“We’ve got 11 promoters at AEG and six of them are female, and that makes me really excited for the future,” she says. “AEG is a company that is built on partnerships and we love working with other great promoters. Our international department has amazing promoter partners, all over the world, so I’m looking to build relationships and find my niche. It’s exciting for me to be able to make the transition after being an assistant, but I’ve got a lot of work to do so I want to establish myself and put on some great shows.”

 


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Lucy Noble hired as AEG’s first artistic director

Former National Arenas Association (NAA) chair Lucy Noble is departing the Royal Albert Hall to become AEG Presents’ first ever artistic director.

Noble joins AEG’s European senior leadership team, assuming responsibility for setting the artistic direction across the company’s live touring and events business.

Tasked with overseeing content creation as well as the production of new events, Noble also assumes responsibility for promoting and touring shows, with an initial focus on the UK, followed by an eventual expansion into Europe and other territories.

Noble has served at the RAH for two decades and held a hybrid commercial/artistic role at the London venue prior to being appointed as its first artistic director last year.

“Professionally, this is a huge win for AEG and only strengthens our world-class reputation; I can’t wait to see the creativity and direction she’ll bring to our AEG Presents business as we move forward on this exciting next phase in our journey,” says AEG UK CEO Steve Homer. “On a personal level, I’m extremely chuffed – I’ve worked with Lucy for many years and it’s always been a wish of mine to bring her over to our side of the fence. We’re thrilled this is now a reality.”

Noble, who will assume her new position at AEG in the coming months, is an executive member of UK trade body LIVE, as well as chair of the Live Group’s venues sub-committee, and most recently served as chair of the NAA. Earlier this year she received the NAA Award for Outstanding Contribution to the NAA and the live music industry.

“It was always going to take something pretty spectacular to draw me away from ‘The Hall’”

“I’ve worked closely with the AEG team for many years and have long since admired their work – to join a leader of this calibre, working across live music and events, is something I can’t wait to be part of,” she says. “After a two decade tenure, I count many of my colleagues as dear friends and as such, it was always going to take something pretty spectacular to draw me away from ‘The Hall.’ While it will always hold a special place in my heart, I’m excited about what’s to come.”

Under Noble’s direction, the RAH gained a reputation as a promoter in its own right, producing original concerts as well as attracting a wide range of high profile shows, promoters and artists, while her leadership of the Hall’s engagement programme has seen it increase its reach to nearly 200,000 individuals every year.

“We all wish Lucy the very best in her new role and are sure that she will continue to shine,” says Royal Albert Hall CEO Craig Hassall. “The Hall’s immensely experienced and dedicated staff will continue to present an extraordinary programme of events which have been booked by Lucy’s team, including a heart-warming Christmas season – featuring carols, traditional concerts, jazz, drag, soul, classic ballet and so much more – and Cirque du Soleil’s Kurios, which brings in the new year.”

Hassall announced in August that he is stepping down at the start of the 2023 season to take up the position of president and chief executive of Playhouse Square in Cleveland, Ohio. Dan Freeman, who joined the Hall in June from his previous role as chief financial officer at LW Theatres Group, will lead the organisation as interim CEO until Hassall’s replacement comes on board.

“I am delighted that Dan has agreed to step up to lead the organisation until the new CEO starts in 2023,” adds Hassall. “Dan has already demonstrated great leadership and everyone at the Hall is focussed on ensuring continuity for artists and audiences alike.”

 


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AEG UK boss highlights mid-size venue ‘sweet spot’

AEG Presents UK chief Steve Homer has spoken to IQ about opportunities offered by the mid-size venue market after the company confirmed the long-awaited reopening date of The Halls Wolverhampton.

The first shows at the 3,404-cap The Civic at The Halls Wolverhampton and 1,289-cap The Wulfrun at The Halls Wolverhampton will take place in June 2023.

The historic Halls hosted artists such as David Bowie, The Clash prior to closing in 2015 for its multi-million pound refurbishment.

“We’re in a position where the diary is officially opening next week for promoters and agents,” says Homer. “We’re planning on doing a series of launch shows within the first 10 days to two weeks of it opening just to get people reacquainted with the venue.”

The council are due to hand over the keys to AEG on 21 November, with test events set to be held next spring ahead of the official reopening.

“It costs £1 billion to build an arena from scratch now, so it’s a safer business model because it’s not relying on enormous investment to get off the ground”

AEG, which agreed a 25-year deal with the City of Wolverhampton Council to run the venues back in 2019, will also operate the 4,400-cap live music space within London’s £1.3 billion Olympia scheme, which is on track to open in 2024. The firm’s mid-size portfolio also includes the 5,000-cap Eventim Apollo and 2,800-cap Indigo at The O2, both in London.

“Like buses, they come in batches,” jokes Wolverhampton native Homer, who notes similar AEG developments in Denver and Nashville.

ILMC’s New Builds: The venue boom panel previously explored the potential for a boom in the mid-sized sector, and Homer spells out the financial benefits.

“That 3,500 to 4,500 capacity seems to be the sweet spot and it’s definitely something that we’re seeing across the globe,” he says. “It costs £1 billion to build an arena from scratch now, so it’s a safer business model because it’s not relying on enormous investment to get off the ground.”

Homer has overseen a revamp of AEG’s UK operations since taking sole charge of the company’s UK office at the start of the year following the departure of former co-CEO Toby Leighton-Pope, who has since resurfaced as MD of the newly formed TEG Europe.

“I embellished our venues division and split the touring division into three specific sections”

“It was like losing my right arm, and so there was a bit of adjustment that came with that,” reflects Homer. “But once I got over the initial shock of it, I knuckled down and decided it was something I wanted to do. I decided that if it was just going to be me, I needed to structure it in a slightly different way because when Toby was there there were various lines of responsibility that fed down from both of us. So I did some restructuring within the teams.

“I embellished our venues division and split the touring division into three specific sections – one of them was pure touring, everything from clubs to stadia, and then working with the junior promoters and assigning them tours to work on that they wouldn’t necessarily be familiar with, with support from the greater team. So it was a good opportunity for those promoters to work with bigger artists or venues than they’d probably have been familiar with up to that point in their career.”

He continues: “And then I created a new events division for a number of our standalone projects that don’t really fit into touring – our 50/50 ownership of the Eden Sessions, Country to Country and Just for Laughs, the comedy festival we’re partnering on. We put our summer series of shows into that as well – the likes of Michael Buble, Tears for Fears, Bryan Adams and Ball & Boe, so that’s certainly helped me focus the business.”

Revisit part one of our interview with Homer here.


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John Meglen: ‘Live is never going away’

Concerts West president and co-CEO John Meglen has discussed the state of play in the global touring industry in a new interview.

Speaking to IQ, the veteran promoter acknowledges the difficulties for the business since the post-Covid restart but seeks to accentuate the positives.

“I’m hoping we’re coming out of a difficult period that was created by the pandemic, which included the loss of vendors, [challenges] trying to find trucks and buses and rescheduling shows,” he says. “The business is good if you’re doing it right. But at the same time, I’ve seen people out there that just aren’t doing it right.

“There is tremendous amount of inventory this year and big numbers coming out of things like K-pop that we didn’t have not that long ago. I’m pleasantly surprised at how well a lot of things are selling.”

Los Angeles-based Meglen has worked with the likes of the Rolling Stones, Roger Waters, Justin Bieber and Katy Perry, and was instrumental in the creation of the modern Las Vegas residency model with Celine Dion’s A New Day show in 2003.

AEG/Concerts West recently presided over the Stones’ sold-out Sixty anniversary tour, which ran from 1 June to 3 August, generating US$121,326,763 from total ticket sales of 712,641. Meglen has also overseen Roger Waters’ North American tour, which comes to a close this weekend at the 20,000-cap American Airlines Center in Dallas.

“People still want to go out and see great shows and great artists, and our job is to make that environment and that situation comfortable”

“We’re in the process of finishing Roger Waters’ North America tour right now and they’ve had a very strict [Covid] protocol. They’ve stuck to it, but it’s not easy right now – you really have to be prepared,” he says.

And echoing comments by AEG Presents UK boss Steve Homer, Meglen highlights the need for restraint in the market.

“I think we’re all being a little cautious right now,” he says. “You’re coming out of the pandemic and then with what’s going on in the economy and politically in the world today, you’re trying to be as smart as you can.”

Concerts West appointed a new VP of touring earlier this week in Jesse Stoll, who is tasked with identifying touring opportunities and building touring relationships and partnerships. And Meglen finishes on an upbeat note for the future.

“People still want to go out and see great shows and great artists, and our job is to make that environment and that situation comfortable for both the public and the artists,” he concludes. “So as long as we can keep doing that, we’ll be okay. Live is live and it’s never going away. You can’t print more of it – you’re either there or you’re not there, so we work on the ‘you’re there’ part.”

 


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Steve Homer on ’23: ‘The watchword is caution’

AEG Presents UK chief Steve Homer is preaching caution for the live business in 2023 following a year of ups and downs.

AEG has enjoyed successful tours in 2022 with the likes of Rammstein, Diana Ross and the Pet Shop Boys, along with a solid festival season with BST Hyde Park (“A phenomenal year”) and All Points East in London (“Good, but not as strong as ’21), plus the rejuvenated Rock en Seine in Paris (“It’s back as a major player”).

But with the industry’s post-Covid recovery facing challenges on multiple fronts, Homer tells IQ the overall picture for the sector is more mixed.

“There have been some good results across the business, and some horror shows as well”

“There have been some good results across the business, and some horror shows as well,” says Homer. “Everyone was thinking there was going to be this bumper return in ’22, and the volume of shows was there, but the audiences were still not back in great numbers. Newer shows were selling, but shows that had been moved a couple of occasions were floundering a bit and all promoters suffered from that.

“And then, obviously, we had production cost increases of 25 to 30% and just general [lack of] availability of buses, trucks and people to do the job. A lot of people left our industry during the pandemic; you had a real skillset deficit.”

Homer suggests the situation is similar in the company’s core overseas markets, albeit some countries have been slower than others to return to normal since the pandemic.

“It’s a global phenomenon where we’re experiencing a number of things that are just very challenging”

“It’s a global phenomenon where we’re experiencing a number of things that are just very challenging,” he says. “The US festival market was severely impacted by increased costs and our US business has been very cautious going forward into next year because of that. Germany is still in recovery – it’s nowhere near as advanced as the UK or North America – and events in Australia have been going well, but again, they’re a little bit behind.

“In some ways, it’s good that it’s happening to all of us, because we all understand it; there is no promoter, agent or management company that hasn’t been affected by this, so we all understand what needs to be done going forward and there’s a bit more caution out there.”

A surprise hit for the promoter, however, was the reunion tour by British hip-hop trio N-Dubz, who sold 260,000 tickets for their upcoming UK arena comeback.

“It’s phenomenal,” says Homer. “Something that was considered to be a 10-date tour ended up being a 24-date tour with four shows at The O2, all sold out, three Manchesters and three Birminghams. It’s a great news story. Coldplay, Adele and Bruce Springsteen are all out there selling is expected and they will always be hot artists, but this was something that was not anticipated and it was a nice result for everyone.”

“The watchword is caution: don’t take any unnecessary risks”

Homer also weighs in on the likely ramifications of the energy crisis for the industry, as well as the alarming pound to dollar exchange rate.

“Again, the watchword is caution: don’t take any unnecessary risks,” says Homer. “I think the energy crisis is more about how it affects people’s pockets in terms of what they can spend, so we’re not certain. In the last big recession in 2008, we saw that entertainment was still considered to be something that people needed as a release, you just don’t go as often. And then, for venues, you don’t spend as much when you’re there.”

He continues: “One of the biggest things that’s causing us concern is the pound to dollar rate at the moment [the pound hit a record low against the dollar last week but has since rallied 10%]. We were almost on parity, which has not been something we’ve been familiar with for a long, long time. And it’s really biting in terms of artists touring over here – it becomes far more expensive for them to do it and it’ll be interesting to see how that impacts going forward.

“It’s creating a few anxious thoughts as to whether we can afford to offer American artists what they need to come over, so it might mean we’re missing a few that we would normally see.”

“We can’t justify increasing ticket prices, because that’s going to be the first thing that people are going to look at and go, ‘I can’t afford to go to that'”

On the prospect of raising ticket prices in line with the rising costs, Homer notes the subject is an ongoing conversation with agents and managers, describing it as a “balancing act”.

“Artists have greater costs to run on the road, whether that’s fuel, buses, hotels, or the general level of transportation with equipment, so their profitability is going down,” he concedes. “But we can’t justify increasing ticket prices, because that’s going to be the first thing that people are going to look at and go, ‘I can’t afford to go to that.’ It doesn’t take a lot of people to say no before the tour becomes unviable.

“It’s something we are looking at, but the general [stance] is do not just increase the ticket price in order to get the money you think you need, because the audience won’t be there.”

Part two of our interview with Homer, in which he discusses going solo in the AEG hot seat, his restructured team and the firm’s ambitions in the venue market, will be published next week.

 


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Concerts West names Jesse Stoll as VP of touring

AEG Presents subsidiary Concerts West has appointed Jesse Stoll as VP of touring.

Based in Los Angeles, Stoll’s duties will include identifying touring opportunities and building touring relationships and partnerships.

“I am incredibly excited and hungry to dive in full force to the global touring space with Concerts West,” says Stoll, “I have grown up with the AEG family and there aren’t many companies that drive home the toughness, drive and true grit spirit of what embodies an all-around concert promoter. John and Paul’s close attention and treatment of their touring artists as real partners on all cylinders is unmatched at the highest level of service.”

“Jesse brings 14 years of booking experience, deep relationships, and a passion for live entertainment”

The son of late concert promoter Jon Stoll of Fantasma Productions, Jesse Stoll joined AEG Presents in 2008 as an operations coordinator, producing and organising numerous festivals and shows across the Southeast region, and went on to become a full-time talent buyer.

“We are thrilled to welcome Jesse to the Concerts West team,” adds Concerts West co-CEO John Meglen. “Jesse brings 14 years of booking experience, deep relationships, and a passion for live entertainment. I worked with Jesse’s father Jon Stoll for many years, he was a close friend. Jon would be proud to see his son follow in his footsteps and build upon the family legacy.”

 


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