Officials back MSG Sphere London digital ad plan
Madison Square Garden’s controversial MSG Sphere London scheme has overcome another hurdle after officials backed its digital advertising display plans.
The proposed venue, which was approved in principal in March last year, will be covered in LED panels designed to display “moving images, artistic content and branded advertising across the entire façade of the building”.
Despite a number of objections from various parties, the scheme won the support of the London Legacy Development Corporation’s (LLDC) at a meeting yesterday (24 January), subject to a five-year review. It will now be referred to the mayor of London.
If given final approval, the 21,500-cap Sphere will be located in Stratford, east London, four miles from AEG’s The O2 (20,000-cap) in North Greenwich, and become MSG’s first property outside of the US. MSG has suggested that London has an “undersupply” of dedicated large entertainment venues compared with cities such as Berlin, Paris, Madrid and New York (the capital’s next biggest indoor spaces are the 12,500-cap OVO Arena Wembley and the 10,400-cap Alexandra Palace.
However, the scheme is fiercely opposed by AEG, which has voiced concerns over MSG Sphere London’s proximity to The O2 and – according to a 2019 investigation by The Times – created a residents’ group in opposition. AEG says it is “dismayed” by the outcome of last night’s meeting.
“The design was conceived for the heart of Las Vegas and has been transposed onto this east London site: it’s the wrong design, in the wrong location”
“We are dismayed by the LLDC PDC’s decision to sign off the MSG Sphere’s advertising strategy for its digital display in the face of strong objections from Newham Council, neighbouring east London boroughs, the Royal Borough of Greenwich, the local MP, rail operators, Transport for London, Historic England, and hundreds of local residents, some of whom are represented by local campaign group, Stop MSG,” says a statement by the company.
“We call on the mayor of London to uphold his election promise to do what’s best for Londoners, including the residents of Newham who are having this huge development forced on them, by directing refusal of the planning application.”
AEG claims the advertising façade is at a “wholly unprecedented scale for London” and “totally out of keeping with the surrounding area”.
“The design was conceived for the heart of Las Vegas and has been transposed onto this east London site: it’s the wrong design, in the wrong location,” it adds. “We have concluded that there are at least 10 problems with the MSG Sphere’s proposed controls for the advertising display. Fundamentally, regardless of the findings of a review after five years, no matter how damaging and intrusive the light pollution is to the health of residents or dangerous to rail or road users, the advertisement consent will not be revoked.”
The first MSG Sphere venue, MSG Sphere at The Venetian, is currently under construction in Las Vegas and is scheduled to open in the second half of 2023.
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AXS to launch in Australia
AEG-owned ticketing company AXS is opening an Australian office early in the new year, backed by Frontier Touring.
The firm will reportedly launch the operation next month, promising to shake up a domestic market currently dominated by Live Nation’s Ticketmaster and TEG’s Ticketek.
“We feel like there’s an opportunity for a third major player to come in, but we don’t want to just come in and do business the same old way,” US-based AXS CEO Bryan Perez tells The Australian.
“We think that there’s a new and better business model out there, where ticketing may be a little bit more non-exclusive and open.”
AEG announced a strategic JV with Australasia’s Frontier Touring in 2019, which saw the two companies merge their operations in Australia and New Zealand.
“We think the time is right to help AXS come into Australia and, if nothing else, shake it up”
“We’ve been frustrated by the ticketing landscape for probably five or six years,” adds Frontier CEO Dion Brant. “We think the time is right to help AXS come into Australia and, if nothing else, shake it up.”
LA-headquartered AXS is the official ticketing partner for over 350 premier venues, sports teams, event organisers around the world. It has additional offices in the US in Charlotte, Cleveland, Dallas and Denver, alongside European bases in London and Sweden.
AEG took full control of AXS from co-owners TPG Capital and Rockbridge Growth Equity in 2019 and rolled out its resale solution in the UK in April of the same year. It has been the official resale ticketing partner for AEG in North America since 2018.
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First gigs announced for Brits Week 2023
Brits Week for War Child is set to return in 2023, giving fans the opportunity to see leading UK artists in intimate music venues across the country.
Produced by AEG Presents, BPI and War Child, the series will take place around next year’s Brit Awards (11 February 2023) to raise money for children whose lives have been torn apart by war.
Kicking things off on 29 January at Lafayette will be UK rock outfit The Hunna. On 1 February, Metronomy will be playing songs from their renowned catalogue at new London venue HERE at Outernet, followed by the chart-topping Years & Years on 2 February.
Following her acclaimed debut album this year, Beabadoobee will be playing at Lafayette on 3 February, the same night that 2022 Mercury Prize shortlisted Kojey Radical will take to the stage at east London’s XOYO.
Cambridge’s critically acclaimed bedroom pop artist Cavetown will play at Omeara on 4 February, with Scottish four-piece The Snuts then taking BRITs Week to Glasgow, performing at Stereo on 5 February.
“We’re going even further afield across the UK to bring very special underplay shows to people”
Indie-pop’s Easy Life will be heading down to Bristol for a show at Trinity Centre on 7 February, while back in London Sea Girls will bring their renowned live energy to the iconic 100 Club.
Chart-topping singer-songwriter Frank Turner + The Sleeping Souls will play at London’s O2 Shepherds Bush Empire on 9 February. Rounding things off on 10 February, 2021 BRIT Rising Star nominee Rina Sawayama will turn her electrifying live performance into an intimate acoustic show at London’s Lafayette and genre-blending duo Bob Vylan will be playing tracks from their new Kerrang! Award & MOBO winning album at Omeara. More acts on the 2023 line-up will be announced in January.
Simon Jones, senior vice president, live music international, at AEG says “Bringing back BRITs Week each year is always exciting, and for 2023, we’re going even further afield across the UK to bring very special underplay shows to people. Our AEG team and partners at BPI, War Child and Mastercard have all clubbed together to help create another incredible series, for what is a fantastic industry fixture year in year out, raising much-needed funds for a very important charity, War Child. The line-up keeps growing, and there’s even more to come, so keep your eyes peeled.”
Maggie Crowe OBE, BPI’s director of events & charities says: “Announcing this brilliant lineup with more names joining the class of BRITs Week 2023 early in the New Year is just joyous. Music is therapy for the soul and listening to amazing artists of all styles and backgrounds in intimate venues is exactly how this special annual event works to raise much-needed funds for War Child – in what will be their 30th anniversary year. Our thanks to all the artists and their teams and to our valued friends and partners for making BRITs Week possible.”
Fans can enter the prize draw and win tickets to see the artist of their choice. A £5 donation buys one entry, a £10 donation buys three, and a £15 donation buys five. Fans can enter as many times as they like, to maximise the chance of winning. There will also be a limited number of tickets for each show on sale.
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AEG brings in reusable cup system at German venues
AEG has announced it is introducing a self-operated reusable cup system with in-house cup washing lines in its German venues.
Visitors to the Barclays Arena in Hamburg and the Mercedes-Benz Arena and Verti Music Hall in Berlin will consume their drinks at events from recycled cups of the Ökocup (eco-cup) brand, which will be washed directly on site.
The company says that cleaning the reusable cups at the arenas will allow it to achieve greater sustainability, avoiding the emissions that would normally be generated during transport to an external cup washing line.
“Regardless of how environmentally friendly the disposal of our cups has been up to now, it is simply better not to produce any waste in the first place”
“For us, the introduction of the reusable cup system with an in-house cup rinsing line is a decisive step in our efforts to achieve greater sustainability in the operation of our venues,” says Uwe Frommhold, VP & COO AEG Germany. “After all, regardless of how environmentally friendly the disposal of our cups has been up to now, it is simply better not to produce any waste in the first place.
“By acquiring an in-house rinsing line, we avoid transport-related emissions and solve the logistical challenges that previously prevented us from using a reusable system with external cup rinsing.”
The reusable system replaces the biodegradable PLA disposable cups previously used in AEG’s German venues for beer and soft drinks, as well as the paper cups for all hot drinks. In the future, the switch will eliminate a total of 90 tons of waste per year across all three venues.
AEG has commissioned rinsing technology specialist Meiko to install the rinsing systems in the Barclays Arena and the Mercedes-Benz Arena. The system in the Mercedes-Benz Arena will then also be used to clean the cups of the neighbouring Verti Music Hall. According to AEG, the systems in the German AEG arenas will be able to clean up to 5,300 cups per hour and meet the highest hygiene standards.
AEG Global Partnerships expands into Asia Pacific
AEG Global Partnerships has announced an expansion into Asia Pacific (APAC), led by newly appointed vice president Matthew Zweck.
The industry veteran and 10-year AEG Global Partnerships executive will focus on developing strategic partnerships for the company’s portfolio of assets in Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Australia.
Based in the company’s Australian headquarters in Melbourne, Zweck and his team will be responsible for sales and servicing of brand collaborations with partners for AEG’s collection of assets in the region.
This includes recently announced projects such as Em Live, a 6,000-seat theatre that will anchor a new entertainment district in Bangkok, as well as new, state-of-the-art multi-purpose arena projects in Nagoya and Osaka, Japan, in addition to a new 20,000-seat arena in Seoul, Korea.
The new regional office will also oversee partnerships and innovative marketing programs for assets such Shanghai’s Mercedes-Benz Arena, and work with JV partner Mushroom for concert tours, festivals and other live entertainment properties produced by Frontier Touring.
Speaking on the expansion, Paul Samuels, executive VP of AEG Global Partnerships, says: “With a world-class network of more than 350 owned and affiliated venues, sports and music brands, our Global Partnerships business is unmatched in terms of our ability to offer partners access to platforms that cut through the clutter and create innovative campaigns and sponsorships that enable brands to build deeper relationships with their customers.
AEG’s Global Partnerships team is responsible for generating more than US$550 million in annual revenues
“Having worked with him for more than a decade, I’m thrilled to announce Matthew’s appointment and excited to see the growth and value he drives on the ground for not only our business, but for our future business partners across APAC.”
AEG’s Global Partnerships team is responsible for generating more than US$550 million in annual revenues and more than US$2 billion in contractually obligated income.
With a dedicated footprint and headcount based in Australia, Japan, South Korea and Thailand, the expansion of the Global Partnerships team mirrors the overall expansion of AEG’s business into Asia-Pacific.
Adam Wilkes, AEG Asia Pacific president & CEO, says: “The exponential growth of the APAC entertainment market is one I have been privileged to witness first-hand for over two decades. From first entering the market off the back off the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, our Asia Pacific business has gone from strength to strength and as we look to continue our investment footprint in this pivotal region, I am thrilled to have Matthew on hand to lead our Global Partnerships business on this new journey.”
Acting as an internal agency for AEG and AEG Presents, Global Partnerships oversees worldwide sponsorship sales and activation for over 135 properties across five continents, including venues, sports franchises, events, tours, festivals and digital content.
Notable deals include the naming rights of venues such as the O2 and the Mercedes-Benz Arenas – both the Berlin and Shanghai venues – to activations including the annual American Express presents BST Hyde Park festival, Luno presents All Points East and team sponsorship for Eisbären Ice Hockey teams.
AEG plans nine-figure revamp for Crypto arena
AEG has announced plans for a major revamp of its Crypto.com Arena (formerly Staples Center) in Los Angeles, US.
The nine-figure upgrade will reimagine nearly all aspects of the venue, entry and LA Live’s Xbox Plaza, according to a release.
The revamp involves a series of innovative new suite designs, event-level premium spaces and major changes to the exterior of the building.
The latter includes a redesign of Xbox Plaza, creating a seamless cityscape between the Crypto.com Arena and LA Live (the sports and entertainment district that surrounds the arena).
Renovations launched earlier this summer and are scheduled for completion in autumn 2024, with the arena remaining open throughout.
“Since its opening, we have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to ensure that the venue remains state-of-the-art”
“Crypto.com Arena is part of the fabric of Los Angeles, and we are incredibly proud of the role it continues to play in creating some of the most memorable moments in sports and entertainment,” says Dan Beckerman, president and CEO, AEG.
“Since its opening, we have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to ensure that the venue remains state-of-the-art, while consistently creating a world-class event and fan experience. The investment in these renovations demonstrates the ongoing commitment of AEG, the Lakers and the Kings to deliver the best experiences for all of our fans, partners, artists and teams.”
The renovations are funded in part by a $700 million naming rights deal announced with Crypto.com late last year.
“We’re just at the beginning of our long-term partnership and we’re excited to support AEG’s investment in this renovation, demonstrating our joint commitment to ensure Crypto.com Arena maintains its status as a global icon,” says Kris Marszalek, co-founder and CEO of Crypto.com.
PCL Construction will serve as general contractor for the project, reprising its role as general contractor for the arena when it was first built in 1999.
France’s Rock en Seine embarks on new era
Rock en Seine GM Matthieu Ducos and AEG European festivals boss Jim King have previewed a new era for the French festival in an interview with IQ.
The extended 18th edition of the 40,000-cap event takes place in Domaine National de Saint-Cloud, Paris from 25-28 August with headliners Arctic Monkeys, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Tame Impala and Stromae.
“From an AEG perspective, we see Rock en Seine as being as important to our global portfolio of festivals as Hyde Park, All Points East, Coachella and everywhere else,” says King. “It’s equal in every measure to the other festivals that we operate in any market around the world.
“It needed some attention; it needed resource and support and we needed to allow the team to realise their ambitions. But it has the potential to be one of the world’s leading city-based festivals and we certainly feel it’s on its way to achieving that.”
AEG acquired Rock en Seine in 2017 in partnership with media investment group LNEI, but King suggests the event’s return from its Covid-enforced hiatus marks something of a reboot, as it is the first edition to be held since the launch of AEG’s European Festivals division in three years ago.
“It had not had its best years, but it is a well respected event with a great history, and a great site in the centre of Paris”
“It allowed us to bring some specialist overview to Rock en Seine, which is a very long-standing and established festival in Europe,” he explains. “It had not had its best years but it is a well-respected event with a great history, and a great site in the centre of Paris.
“With the Covid shutdown, it enabled all stakeholders this extended review on how to make it better. It allowed us to reset the team locally, build a stronger relationship and, from that platform, provide whatever assistance – and I need to underline assistance – to that team to realise what their vision of it was.
“What you’re seeing now is the realisation of the outlook and the vision of the team in Paris. Our role has been able to provide that framework and at times just some guidance and resourcing to allow that to be achieved.”
AEG’s London concert series All Points East, which was held in May pre-pandemic, has been pushed back to the same weekend as Rock en Seine, enabling Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Tame Impala to headline both events.
All Points East, which kicks off tonight with Gorillaz, runs in Victoria Park over two weekends – 19-20 and 25-28 August.
“Festivals live and die on artist bookings. We can say otherwise, but it is essential to it”
“The one thing we did centrally was reposition All Points East to the same weekend, which would then allow Matthew and also Arnaud [Meersseman], who runs AEG’s Paris office, to work much more closely with the booking teams from All Points East and establish that new culture,” says King.
“Festivals live and die on artist bookings. We can say otherwise, but it’s essential to it. So the idea was to start building that platform where agents could see a strengthened end of the summer window, with two great shows which they could then support with their artists.
“Those foundations have then been picked up by Matthieu, and what we’re seeing now is the best line-up Rock en Seine has ever had. That’s creating more ticket sales and a higher gross than Rock en Seine has ever had, and more sponsors and sponsorship gross than Rock en Seine has ever had. So it’s just success, on success, on success.”
Ducos backs up King’s assessment.
“Moving All Points East to the same weekend as Rock en Seine was a huge step,” he tells IQ. “I agree we have the strongest line-up we’ve ever had, so it’s great to start this new version of Rock en Seine after a two-year stop.
“Usually, about 60% of the festival-goers come from the Paris region and 40% from other regions of France and abroad. We will have more people from abroad than usual, that’s for sure, because we have some bands that are doing only a few shows in Europe, like Arctic Monkeys, so people are coming from far away to see them.”
“We have great ambitions that it will continue to grow”
With the festival expanding from three to four days for the first time this year, King elaborates on the ambitions to grow Rock en Seine’s international appeal.
“You look at some of the other successes around mainland Europe where they have become destination festivals for a multinational audience, and for whatever reason Rock en Seine had lost that, or was not that,” he says. “But I think it certainly is developing into that and we have great ambitions that it will continue to grow because Paris is such a great city and so easy to travel to. Once you’re there, there’s so much to do. So why only do it for two days or three days?
“The ability to attract great talent is based on many things: the offer, the routing, but obviously where you’re going to and what we were able to do with Rock en Seine is to be more ambitious with the acts that we wanted to attract and then, with that, be more ambitious with the audience that we want to attract to see those acts.
“I think you’ll see great developments in the range of people – and the countries they originate from – coming to Rock en Seine over the next five years.”
In a setback for organisers, a planned standalone date on 30 August, headlined by Rage Against the Machine, with support from Run The Jewels and Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes, was scrapped last week on “medical guidance” due to an injury sustained by RATM frontman Zach de la Rocha.
Nonetheless, Ducos suggests AEG’s backing puts Rock in Seine in a strong position as it looks to enhance its reputation year-on-year.
“Paris doesn’t have a history of iconic, pop/rock music festivals,” he says. “We’ve been there for 18 years now and we did a great job, but I think we can go further and become an iconic festival in this great city. I’m quite confident about our power and attractiveness to book the rock, pop, but also electro and hip-hop acts we want in the future.”
AEG and LN settle Coachella trademark dispute
AEG and Live Nation have settled their trademark dispute over a rival music event called ‘Coachella Day One 22’.
AEG’s Goldenvoice subsidiary accused Live Nation of “contributory infringement” due to Ticketmaster selling tickets for the New Year’s Eve event.
‘Coachella Day One’ was organised by Native American Tribe Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians at a Southern California venue it named ‘Coachella Crossroads’. Twenty-Nine Palms was not listed as a defendant in the lawsuit after claiming sovereign immunity.
Coachella was granted a temporary restraining order against Live Nation last December, preventing the sale or advertisement of tickets while the case was further contested, and a judge declined LN’s bid to have the lawsuit thrown out earlier this year. However, Bloomberg Law reports the case has now been settled out of court.
Coachella Festival registered the “Coachella” trademark for musical events in 2006
Terms of the settlement have not been disclosed, but according to Law360, AEG and Live Nation entered into mediation on 9 August and drew up a binding agreement to end the litigation. A notice of dismissal will be filed “no later than 19 August 2022”.
The Goldenvoice-promoted Coachella Festival registered the “Coachella” trademark for musical events in 2006. Its most recent edition was held at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California in April. It will return from 14-16 and 21-23 April next year.
Gold at the end of the rainbow
For decades, LGBTIQ+ culture was forced to exist on the fringes of society. Few queer artists were allowed to bring their whole selves to the stage, instead forced to hide in plain sight. This meant there was little to no representation for LGBTIQ+ music fans, and queer-friendly spaces in the mainstream were non-existent.
In Europe, in 2022, queer culture is increasingly celebrated. During this past month alone, Harry Styles headlined two shows at the 90,000-capacity Wembley Stadium; Elton John stole the show at BST Hyde Park; and Years & Years delivered a “jubilantly gay set” on the Other Stage at Glastonbury. LGBTIQ+ acts and allies are taking up space on some of the world’s biggest stages. And this culture is big business at the box office.
“There are a load of artists who have made it and who are inspiring LGBTIQ+ role models – Years & Years, Sam Smith, Christine [& The Queens], Kim Petras, Lil Nas X, for example,” says Live Nation promoter Maddie Arnold, who is also an alumna of IQ Magazine’s LGBTIQ+ List 2021.
“I’m glad these days people are a lot less prejudiced; you have highly influential people like Harry Styles who will wear non-gender-conforming clothes on stage and celebrate the queer community through his lyrics and onstage performances.”
“You have highly influential people like Harry Styles who will wear non-gender-conforming clothes on stage”
Stadium-filling icons aside, the value of the pink pound is perhaps best evidenced by the emergence of specialist companies and festivals in the live music business that serve queer artists and audiences. The last 12 months have seen the launch of agencies such as Queer Music Agency (Denmark) and Gallos Talent (UK), ticketing companies like Red Eye (New York), and festivals including Flesh (UK) – all of which cater exclusively to the community.
But not just anyone can strike gold with the pink pound. While many behemoth brands and companies have cottoned onto the economic value of the pink pound (hello Pinkwashing!), few are able to truly connect with those audiences in the same way as those who have put down roots in the community. In 2022, it has never been more evident that representation pays.
Gaps in the market
More often than not, it’s the executives who are themselves queer who are best equipped to identify trends, spot gaps in the market, and develop new opportunities in the space.
Patrick Janssen, marketing manager at Live Nation GSA, is one such professional. During his previous role at Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion (KJK), he marketed the first one-queen drag tour in the German market with Sasha Velour’s Smoke & Mirrors.
“I thought, why is nobody setting up shows for these queens in Germany?”
Velour rose to fame in 2007 after winning the ninth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, the smash-hit reality TV competition searching for America’s next drag superstar. The series has spanned fourteen seasons (plus several spin-off shows) and airs internationally in countries including the UK, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, and Israel.
Thanks to the series, Velour earned acclaim on a global scale becoming a household name in certain circles, and yet… “When I spoke to friends, they were, like, ‘Oh, she’s going on tour in Europe, but she’s not coming to Germany,’” says Janssen. “And I thought, why is nobody setting up shows for these queens in Germany?”
Coincidentally, KJK was approached to promote Velour in Germany. The company’s CEO sought Janssen’s opinion who was readily equipped to report on Velour’s cultural relevance, fan base, and universal appeal. Fully immersed in the idea, Janssen ended up promoting the shows.
“I think if [the CEO had] had to decide on his own, he would have declined because he doesn’t know the audience or her background and career development – it’s not his thing,” says Janssen.
“It was really emotional to have brought so many people together to watch a drag queen”
Janssen’s alignment with Velour’s audience proved to be indispensable when it came to marketing the tour. “Another person on the tour marketing team might have spoken to gay magazines and run editorials and print ads, but the gay community is more digital than that,” says Janssen, explaining that he mostly relied on Grindr, a dating app that is geared towards gay and bisexual men.
“We had better click-through rates (CTRs) on Grindr than on Facebook and Instagram,” he continues. “On those social media platforms, I targeted different drag queens and the CTRs were good – like 10–14% – but on Grindr, the CTRs were like 20–28%. The product and the placement matched.”
The tour took place in spring and comprised one show at the Musical Dome (cap 2,000) in Cologne, one at the Laeiszhalle in Hamburg (2,025), and two at the Admiralspalast (1,756) in Berlin. Despite Germany being in the throes of Covid-19 restrictions, the shows were a success – both on an economic and a social level.
“Everyone had a good time, and people left the venue with a smile on their faces,” says Janssen. “It was really emotional to have brought so many people together to watch a drag queen.”
“Another person on the tour marketing team might have spoken to gay magazines but the gay community is more digital than that”
“The second tour that was offered was Adore Delano [an American drag queen who rose to fame on RuPaul’s Drag Race and then American Idol] in September. This time around, my CEO didn’t ask me if we should do this, he simply asked which capacity in the general market I would recommend.”
In addition, the success of Velour’s shows attracted an offer from a UK agent for The Trixie & Katya Show, [two drag queens who rose to fame on the seventh season of RuPaul’s Drag Race] who will tour in November.
Assembling the right team
As Janssen’s story illustrates, giving queer executives a seat at the table can have a direct impact on a company’s business and artist’s career. Though, as Live Nation’s Arnold points out, LGBTIQ+ artists don’t necessarily need a queer team around them to have the best chance of success.
“I definitely have my go-to agents when I find an artist that falls into this category who is looking for representation,” says Arnold, who promotes queer artists including Muna, ZAND, July Jones, PYRA, Alma, Lauren Sanderson, GIRLI, and Ashnikko.
“Some of [the agents] are queer themselves, but it’s definitely not a dealbreaker”
“Some of [the agents] are queer themselves, but it’s definitely not a dealbreaker. As long as I know they are inclusive, open-minded, and would be a good fit for the act, there’s definitely a conversation to be had. That being said… it’s always good to see if they already have LGBTIQ+ acts on their rosters.”
AEG Presents’ Chloe Pean, who works with queer acts including Duncan Laurence, Dhruv, and Will Young, and has launched an LGBTQIA+ club night/showcase called Melodaze, adds: “It’s always good to bear in mind that you can pick your team, whether you would like a queer marketing person and a female ticketing manager on the team, and think about all the options available that aren’t always traditional.”
Protecting the talent
Cherry-picking the right team is crucial to the success of any artist – no matter what their sexuality – but there’s an added layer of importance to that strategy when it comes to queer talent.
Even in 2022, LGBTIQ+ artists can face limitations ranging from unequal pay to discrimination to prejudiced language. With these considerations, it’s no surprise that the live music business has seen the launch of specialist companies that are well-versed in navigating such prejudice and protecting their talent.
“The drag events industry has always been a little bit of a Wild West”
Nathan Stone, the former creative director of TEG MJR and the creator of DragWorld, last year launched a new UK-based LGBTIQ+ talent management company, Gallos Talent.
The company is working with acts including drag queens Juno Birch and Joe Black (as seen on RuPaul’s Drag Race UK), and offers its services as a partner to events such as Trans Festival London and Cornwall Pride.
Discussing the reasons for launching Gallos Talent, Stone tells IQ: “The drag events industry has always been a little bit of a Wild West, which is something that has dramatically changed in the years since the huge success of Werq the World [an ongoing tour featuring drag queens from RuPaul’s Drag Race]. Before this, any club could put on events, change artists, cancel events, and withhold customers’ money – it wasn’t seemingly regulated in the same way.
“With artists of all sizes, it was always our priority to find partners who we know treat the artist well, as well as the customers, to stop these trends.”
“Unfortunately, there are far too many minorities who feel oppressed in the music industry”
That sentiment is echoed by Frederik Diness Ove, founder of Queer Music Agency in Denmark, which aims to provide non heterosexual talent with better opportunities to break- through in the music industry.
“Unfortunately, there are far too many minorities who feel oppressed in the music industry,” he tells IQ. “This industry is very much dominated by cis-gendered, white, straight men, and therefore we try to rally so we can hopefully stand stronger.”
While both agencies were launched with a mission to level the playing field for queer artists, both founders claim there’s a gap in the market for their specialist services.
“Whilst drag is a mainstay in the UK, there are still many European markets that are just beginning to get these events travelling through their countries, so that is really exciting to witness and be part of!” says Stone.
“Whilst drag is a mainstay in the UK, there are still many European markets that are just beginning to get these events”
Catering to the fanbase
According to AEG’s Pean, the choice of live space can be crucial in promoting queer artists and making their audiences feel safe and included. “It’s important to know what spaces work for a queer act and audience,” she says.
“There tends to be a more diverse roster of people that work in these spaces as well, which creates the right environment and means that there is expertise and understanding of what the act needs.”
But many who IQ spoke with said more can still be done to make venues more suitable for a community that has historically been marginalised. Gender-neutral toilets at venues are a priority for AEG Presents’ Chloe Pean. “It will take more time in venues that are owned by bigger corporations, but it feels like things are moving in the right direction,” she says.
Live Nation’s Arnold agrees: “The provision of gender-neutral toilet facilities is definitely something that should be thought about when putting on these types of shows; with adapted security protocols ensuring all staff members are fully trained and respectful of the audiences.”
“The provision of gender-neutral toilet facilities is definitely something that should be thought about”
Specialist crowd management agencies, which comprise exclusively of queer people and promise “a community-specific approach to security,” are becoming a common fixture in queer nightlife – particularly at club nights. Arnold also points to the importance of buddy systems, which are set up on online or at the venue and help solo gig-goers make new friends.
“A lot of ticket buyers are always looking for someone to go to the show with, and it’s great that a lot of artists promote buddy systems on their social media platforms so that fans can find other fans to go to the shows with,” she says. “It’s definitely the venue’s responsibility to ensure all fans feel safe and welcomed, whether it be a queer show or not.”
Pean adds: “It is also down to the person running the show on the day, taking care of the artists and making sure they are comfortable in their working environment.
“The promoter rep is also the one to brief the security staff and venue manager who relay [the information] on to the rest of their teams. You tend to see that once that ethos is implemented, it sets the tone for a night before a single ticketholder has walked through the door.”
These elements are crucial – but often overlooked – ways of connecting with queer audiences and capitalising on the kind of loyalty that has boosted queer artists from grassroots venues to world-renowned stages.
“From what I’ve been lucky enough to see, [fan bases of queer artists] are much more diverse, and very loyal,” says AEG Presents’ Chloe Pean.
“There’s no good way of explaining it, but the environment at a LGBTQ+’s person’s show is special and warm. You will have people that come who are fans of the music and then other fans that come for the community element and some for both!”
The LGBTIQ+ List 2022: David Jones, AEG
The LGBTIQ+ List 2022 – IQ Magazine’s second annual celebration of queer professionals who make an immense impact in the international live music business – was published in the Pride edition (issue 112) this month.
The July 2022 issue, which is available to read now, was made possible thanks to support from Ticketmaster.
To get to know this year’s queer pioneers a little better, we interviewed each individual on their challenges, triumphs, advice and more.
Throughout the next month, IQ will publish a new interview each day. Catch up on the previous interview with David Davies, founder and head of live at Double D Live and head of experience at Catapult.
The series continues with David Jones (he/him/his), chief information officer at AEG in the UK.
David Jones is chief information officer for AEG, the global leader in sports and live entertainment. He heads up the AEG Global Technology division, and is responsible for the company’s technology strategy and solutions across the US, Europe and Asia-Pacific.
A digital and technology leader in the broadcast, entertainment, retail and real estate sectors for over 20 years, David is also executive sponsor of AEG’s Pride Employee Network Group which aims to drive change by giving LGBTQ+ colleagues a greater voice and foster a culture of inclusion.
Prior to AEG, David led the technology team at Virgin Radio and Ginger Media Group. He lives on the Isle of Wight with his husband Tony.
Tell us about a personal triumph in your career
I have recently been promoted to the role of global chief information officer. In my new role, I am leading a new division – AEG Global Technology – which brings together AEG’s talented technology staff in the US and Europe.
AEG’s technology teams were historically organised on a regional basis, and I used to head up the European team as Chief Information Officer for AEG Europe. I will continue to be based at AEG’s European headquarters in London, and I am proud to say that this will be the first time that someone in the UK will head up a global team in our company.
What advice could you give to young queer professionals?
Seek out other LGBTQ+ people in your organisation or industry; build friendships and provide support to each other. Being part of the Pride employee network group at AEG has been a wonderful experience. I have made new friends right across the organisation, and our group has been a force for positive change in our company.
Name one thing the live industry could do to be a more inclusive place
Empower and support your LGBTQ+ colleagues. And that means more than simply ‘rainbowing’ your logos, venues and events in Pride month. If your organisation doesn’t have an employee network group then help your LGBTQ+ colleagues to establish one and support them to drive positive change.
What’s the best mistake you’ve ever made?
I wouldn’t call it a mistake, but it wasn’t the ‘conventional’ decision. When I left university, I had an offer to join Andersen Consulting on their graduate scheme. I also had an opportunity to join the Virgin Radio sales team on a short-term contract as an assistant working on their customer databases.
Rather than join the safe world of management consultancy, I opted for media and entertainment. Within six months, Virgin Radio had offered me a permanent job as their Head of IT, which was wild, given that I was only 23 at the time. I’ve never regretted that decision.
Empower and support your LGBTQ+ colleagues. And that means more than simply ‘rainbowing’ your logos…
The queer act you’re itching to see live this year
Steps at Birmingham Pride. Even though they are performing on Sunday evening; I’m too old for such giddiness on a school night…
Your favourite queer space
In 2018, the Isle of Wight hosted UK Pride. Peter Tatchell spoke about how ‘local’ Prides were so much more important than those traditionally held in big cities, because it was important for LGBTQ+ people to be visible, embraced and happy everywhere, not just in places like London or Manchester.
I witnessed an enormous Pride flag paraded down the main street of my hometown, enjoyed drag queens in the cabaret tent on the esplanade, and then sang along with Conchita Wurst on the beach stage. My favourite queer space was the Isle of Wight on Saturday, 21 July 2018.
Tell us about a professional challenge you’ve come across as a queer person in the industry.
I genuinely don’t believe I have encountered any professional challenges. I have been lucky to work for companies which were full of diverse, friendly and inclusively-minded people and I have never had to hide my sexuality from work colleagues.
However, I am a white, cis, middle-class man; I am in a privileged position. My experience will not be representative of everyone in our community.
A cause you support
In my younger days, I was chair of the British Youth Council. The British Youth Council is an organisation which promotes young people’s participation in decisions which affect them. They campaign on issues which affect young people, including climate change, child poverty and votes at 16. I am proud to be an alumnus and to continue to support them.