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AEG’s Lucy Noble on taking classical to the masses

AEG Presents’ first artistic director Lucy Noble has reflected on her first year in the role and her ongoing efforts to break down barriers around classical and orchestral music.

Noble joined AEG’s European senior leadership team in late 2022 after two decades at London’s Royal Albert Hall (RAH), where she held a hybrid commercial/artistic role at the venue prior to being appointed as its first artistic director in 2021.

At AEG, she has assumed responsibility for setting the artistic direction across the firm’s live touring and events business, and plans are afoot to grow the team.

“I felt like I had a few other adventures in me yet” she tells IQ. “I was working out what to do next, and this opportunity came up. It wasn’t that AEG was looking for an artistic director, we kind of cooked the idea up together – I was saying, ‘I can bring this and cover this whole range of genres you’re not doing.’

“I’m looking at theatrical projects, dance projects, immersive stuff… I’m basically creating a new division. AEG is very supportive because, although it will take time to build, it’s a big area of potential growth.”

Expanding the company’s repertoire, Noble is currently overseeing tours by the likes of Nitin Sawhney and Blue Man Group, and launched All Things Orchestral at BST Hyde Park in London last June as part of its Open House series programme of cultural activities.

“I think there are some barriers around classical music. Everyone needs to feel welcome and know that it is for them – and that it’s not elitist in any way”

“BST was a real highlight,” says Noble. “All Things Orchestral was the first classical offering at BST and it was a very short timeline to put it on – about five weeks or something.”

Presented by Myleene Klass, featuring Alfie Boe and performed by the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, the event took fans on a journey through classical music, both traditional and modern. With a mission to “bring classical music back for all”, general admission ticket prices were set at £11.45 (€13.38).

“It was all about having that relaxed, family offering with accessible ticket prices,” she adds. “We’re hopefully doing it again this year.”

In 2024, BST will go a step further by welcoming Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, who will become the event’s first classical headliner on 5 July (“That’s largely gone through the festival team, although I’ve been slightly involved,” clarifies Noble).

Nevertheless, her first year has not been without obstacles, and Noble explains her chief concern is to spread the message that the genre is “for everyone”.

“I think there are some barriers around classical music,” she says. “I think that everyone needs to feel welcome and know that it is for them – and that it’s not elitist in any way. I want to let everyone listen to it. That might mean presenting it in slightly different ways, but it doesn’t mean dumbing it down, because it will still be of the highest quality.”

“I want to take orchestras into new environments… It’s hard, but we will get there”

She continues: “I worked with six of the major UK-based orchestras last year, and I think I’m the only commercial promoter to be doing that. I want to support UK orchestras because they’re amazing, and open them up to as many people as possible, but it is a challenge.

“I want to take orchestras into new environments. I took some into the arenas last year, and it was hard to get those audiences to migrate to different venues, so there’s a lot of work to be done. It’s hard, but we will get there. I’m determined to open it up.”

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. At AEG, she is tasked with overseeing content creation as well as the production of new events. She is also responsible for promoting and touring shows.

“It’s a completely different world being a promoter to running a venue, it couldn’t be more opposite, and it took me a while to get into the new way of doing it all,” remarks Noble. “And obviously coming from a charity and then going to the commercial sector was quite a change as well.

“It’s been more challenging than I thought, but there have also been some positives that I didn’t expect. I’m basically in a startup – that’s what it feels like – but I’ve pulled a proper business plan together now and now I think I can say where we’ll be in the next two, three, four, five years.”

Other related AEG projects include its films with orchestra series and Video Games in Concert, which brings scores from World of Warcraft, God of War: Ragnarok, The Last of Us and The Witcher III: Wild Hunt, among others, to UK concert halls with The Heritage Orchestra, conducted by Eímear Noone. Noble has also organised a tour with organist and TikTok star Anna Lapwood.

“I work in a world that doesn’t necessarily conform with the traditional styles of promoting”

“The target is to grow the business and do more shows, but it’s about quality, not quantity,” says Noble. “I want to be an integral part of the promoting community so that people come to us as their first choice, because we do things really well.

“I’m trying to think about promoting differently and that’s because I work in a world that doesn’t necessarily conform with the traditional styles of promoting. But also with my experience in the charitable sector, I’m able to add in different strands alongside the concerts.

“I’ve been talking to artists about how they engage with things like music education which could include workshops in schools but then on the other side of things thinking creatively about how they present their material and that could mean us working with arrangers so that artists can perform with orchestras.”

While Noble’s initial focus has been on the UK, there is also an eye on expanding into Europe and other territories.

“I am UK-based mostly but I’m looking at some global projects that AEG will potentially invest in,” she says. “For example, I’m looking at doing a Christmas season at one of our venues, Verti Music Hall in Berlin.”

Outside of AEG, Noble has taken on the role of vice chair of Nordoff and Robbins, supporting newly installed chair Emma Banks of CAA, after joining the music therapy charity’s Board of Trustees last April.

“I’m excited to do that because it fulfils the charitable side, which has played such a big part in my life until now,” says Noble. “It’s great that I can help support them and I’m really looking forward to working with Emma. I’m going to help them with the business overall, but fundraising will be a key element.”

Noble also offers her thoughts on the Women and Equalities Committee’s (WEC) recently published Misogyny in Music report, which concluded that: “Sexual harassment and abuse in the music industry remains widespread” and demanded urgent action to tackle “endemic” misogyny and discrimination in the UK business. ILMC will be hosting a discussion on Thursday 29 February to consider the response from the live sector.

“It’s definitely something that needs to be addressed,” says Noble. “It needs to be addressed front-on and I’m glad that it’s being highlighted. I think it’s important.”

 


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AEG apologises to Sleep Token fans over pre-sale fiasco

AEG has issued an apology to Sleep Token fans who were unable to get tickets to the rock band’s upcoming US tour due to a technical error.

Fans who had signed up for pre-sale codes for the band’s Teeth Of God tour didn’t receive them until 24 hours after the general sale had started, leading to thousands of people missing out on tickets despite signing up in advance. Fans took to social media to complain, prompting AEG to email those affected.

“As a Sleep Token fan who took the time to register early for access to tickets, we know how committed you are to the band,” the email reads. “That’s something we don’t take lightly, and knowing that, we tried to provide you with early access to the presale as a reward for your loyalty.

“Since discovering the malfunctions, we have worked to provide codes to every fan that has contacted us”

“While our intentions were good, to put it simply: we failed. Our emails and sale codes were sent on time yet delivered to you late. And while there are many reasons for that, there’s no excuse. We let Sleep Token and you down. Since discovering the malfunctions, we have worked to provide codes to every fan that has contacted us.

“We value our fans and our artists and will continue to work to create the elevated experience you all expect and deserve. We are so very sorry we let you down.”

Sleep Token had also said on their social media channels that “so called ‘bot/scalper’ purchases are being identified and cancelled, before being redistributed for genuine followers to procure.”

The 21-date Teeth Of God tour will kick off on 27 April at Sick New World festival and carry on through to 28 May.

 


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AEG Germany recruits Dennis Krause to booking team

AEG has added Dennis Krause to its booking team in Berlin, Germany, effective immediately.

The new senior booking manager will be mainly responsible for booking Verti Music Hall, the 4,350-capacity venue that opened in 2018 at AEG’s Mercedes Platz.

Krause brings over 15 years of experience in the concert and event industry to AEG. Most recently, he worked as an agent for the Hamburg-based a.s.s. concerts & promotion, where he was responsible for concert and tour booking for international artists.

“We are sure that Dennis, with his large network and his background as an agent, is the right person to take the venue forward”

Prior to that, he worked as head of A&R for Prime Tours & Promotion, a Berlin-based company specialising in promoting and artist development.

“Verti Music Hall can look back on a record year and we are sure that Dennis, with his large network and his background as an agent, is the right person to take the venue forward,” says Dirk Dreyer, general manager of the Verti Music Hall.

Dreyer recently spoke to IQ about the Verti Music Hall’s best year yet and how the mid-sized venue has established its place in the competitive German market.

Aissata Hartmann-Sylla, senior director booking AEG Berlin, adds: “I know Dennis as an excellently networked and respected agent and am delighted that we have been able to secure him for us.”

AEG Germany also comprises Berlin’s Mercedes-Benz Arena (cap. 17,000) and Hamburg’s Barclays Arena (15,000).

 


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AXS creates new leadership roles to manage growth

AXS has announced the creation of two leadership roles to help manage its rapid growth both domestically and internationally.

The AEG-owned ticketing company has promoted COO Tom Andrus to president, North America, focusing on expanding revenue streams and cultivating client relationships within the market.

In addition, Blaine Legere, formerly SVP of corporate strategy & emerging markets, is upped to the role of president, international. He will focus on the worldwide expansion of AXS’ global platform and managing the company’s existing international portfolio. The pair will report directly to AXS CEO Bryan Perez.

“AXS continues to experience explosive growth both in North America and abroad, and with no signs of stopping, it’s essential to structure our business to effectively handle this growth and delivery of our global platform,” says Perez. “Tom and Blaine have been instrumental in the building of AXS from the beginning, and I’m excited to work with them in these new roles as we continue to expand.”

“It’s a pivotal time for AXS in our journey to expand our best-in-class system and products outside of North America”

Legere joined AXS as its inaugural employee when the company launched in 2011. Since 2020, as SVP of corporate strategy & emerging markets, he has managed the company’s expansion in Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

“It’s a pivotal time for AXS in our journey to expand our best-in-class system and products outside of North America,” says Legere. “I’m grateful to lead the charge, and I’m inspired to be working with our talented leadership and our dedicated teams across the globe who are rising to the occasion. The growth opportunities we’ve realised in Europe, combined with our footprint in Asia and most recent launch in Australia and New Zealand earlier this year, really set the table for an exciting run ahead.”

Andrus initially joined the leadership team alongside Perez and Legere as general manager in 2012 shortly after AXS’ establishment, returning to the firm in 2018 as COO.

“I am looking forward to leading the AXS North American business,” adds Andrus. “It has been a highlight of my career to build AXS with Bryan, Blaine and the rest of our team. Our innovation and dedication to our employees, clients and customers have led to our success and will fuel our continued growth. I fully expect the changes in our organisation to take us to new heights.”

 


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AEG and Eventim ‘enter race’ to buy See Tickets

Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) and CTS Eventim have reportedly entered the race to acquire Vivendi-owned See Tickets.

The Financial Times reports that French-headquartered media giant Vivendi is seeking up to £300 million (€351m) for the company, which it bought for €96m in 2011, with AEG and CTS among the first round of indicative bids submitted in recent weeks.

AEG and Eventim have both declined to comment on the report, while Vivendi says it has “received at this stage several very encouraging offers regarding the possible sale of its ticketing and festival activities”.

It was first reported that Vivendi was exploring the sale of See Tickets, along with its festival division – which includes 11 festivals such as the UK’s Love Supreme and Kite, as well as Garorock in France – back in the autumn, having concluded they were not of sufficient scale to compete with the likes of Live Nation and AEG.

Vivendi announced the partial spin-off of its stake in Universal Music Group in 2021. The ticketing and festival businesses form part of its Vivendi Village subsidiary, which posted revenues of €238 million last year – up from €102m the previous year – and reported sales of €81m for the first six months of the 2023 financial year.

See Tickets is is “projected to experience high single-digit growth over the next few years”, with other suitors anticipated to join the race

AEG, which operates venues such as The O2 and Eventim Apollo in London, Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles and the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin, already owns ticketing business AXS, which it co-founded 12 years ago and took full control of in 2019. AEG recently agreed to sell its stake in venue management behemoth ASM Global as part of the latter’s acquisition by Legends.

CTS, meanwhile, owns ticketing companies in 21 markets and became majority shareholder in France Billet, the largest ticketing company in France, in the summer. In its latest financial results, the firm posted ticketing revenue of €459.3m (up 36% year-on-year) for the first nine months of 2023 and is projecting group revenue in excess of €2 billion for the year as a whole.

See opened its first US base in Los Angeles in 2014 and operates more than 15 offices worldwide including in London, New York, Nashville, Paris, Amsterdam and Zurich. In 2022, the firm sold more than 39 million tickets for 8,000 clients including the UK’s Glastonbury festival, Tomorrowland in Belgium and AmericanaFest in Nashville, US, with sales expected to top 43m this year.

Its executive committee comprises five members: Rob Wilmshurst (Group CEO), Boris Patronoff (Group COO), Leanne Lipscombe (Group CFO), Marijke van den Bosch (CEO Benelux and Germany) and Laurent de Cerner (CEO France). The company is “projected to experience high single-digit growth over the next few years”, according to FT sources, with other suitors still expected to join the bidding war.

 


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AEG Germany VP Uwe Frommhold announces retirement

Veteran AEG Europe executive Uwe Frommhold is to retire from his position as VP and COO AEG Germany after 17 years with the company.

Frommhold, who joined the company in 2007 when the company purchased the 16,000-cap. Color Line Arena in Hamburg (now the Barclays Arena), of which he was MD, will continue to serve AEG in a consulting role, working across selected projects.

“After careful consideration, and with the support of AEG Europe president & CEO Alex Hill and AEG Europe COO John Langford, I have decided the time is right to wind down my journey with AEG after 17 years with the company and 22 years in the venue business,” says Frommhold. “I am extremely grateful that I have been able to work with many incredible people during my tenure and shape the German live events landscape together with them. With a strong German leadership team in place, the time is right for me to step back.

“I would like to thank AEG for what has been an unbelievable journey and for continuously trusting and supporting me. Most importantly, I want to thank all the people at AEG, especially the teams in Hamburg, Berlin and London, who I’ve had the pleasure of working with during this time. I’m excited to see what’s next for the future of AEG in Germany and will be cheering the team on from the sidelines.”

“Renowned as a respected and well-connected leader, Uwe has indelibly shaped our business, our team and the industry”

VP & CFO Jan Kienappel will be promoted to the role of COO & CFO AEG Germany, reporting to Hill, when Frommhold’s retirement takes effect on 1 February 2024.

“As Uwe takes a step back and looks toward his well-deserved retirement, we extend our gratitude for his exceptional leadership and commitment to AEG Germany throughout his impressive 17-year tenure,” says John Langford, COO of AEG Europe.

“Renowned as a respected and well-connected leader, Uwe has indelibly shaped our business, our team and the industry. It is hard to believe that when Uwe joined AEG back in 2007 as arena director in Hamburg, the Mercedes-Benz Arena, Mercedes Platz and Verti Music Hall did not yet exist. Uwe has been instrumental in guiding AEG Germany to the market-leading position it enjoys today. The values he instilled in our German business have become the benchmark for the industry, and that says it all.”

 


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Legends-ASM deal signals shift in venue market

Legends’ blockbuster acquisition of ASM Global promises to usher in a new era in the venue management sector as the company battles for international market supremacy with Oak View Group.

The reputed $2.4 billion deal to create a premium global live events company was announced yesterday (7 November).

Launched four years ago following a merger between arena operators AEG Facilities and Onex’s SMG, ASM operates buildings including ICC Sydney Convention Center, Avicii Arena in Stockholm, OVO Arena Wembley, Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai, Brooklyn’s Barclays Center and State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

Current ASM Global equity holders AEG and Ondex will sell their ownership interests as part of the agreement, while ASM will continue to serve existing and in-development AEG venues.

“[The] announcement is the culmination of the journey AEG and Onex embarked on in early 2019 when we completed the merger of AEG Facilities and SMG to form ASM Global,” says Dan Beckerman, president and CEO of AEG. “Our purpose has been clear from the start – to drive ASM’s growth and create significant value for ASM and its clients. Despite the tremendous impact of the pandemic, we were able to unlock substantial business value over the past four years with ASM growing both its revenues and global portfolio.”

AEG-owned venues including The O2 in London, AccorHotel Arena in Paris, Germany’s Barclays Arena in Hamburg and Mercedes-Benz Arena Berlin and Los Angeles’ Crypto.com Arena will remain under AEG control.

“While we will no longer be an owner in ASM, we look forward to continuing to work with the company and its talented leadership team”

“This transaction will allow us to focus on the continued growth of AEG’s core businesses, including our owned and operated real estate and venues and our live entertainment and ticketing business,” says Ted Fikre, vice chairman and chief legal and development officer of AEG. “AEG has enjoyed our successful partnership with Onex and, while we will no longer be an owner in ASM, we look forward to continuing to work with the company and its talented leadership team as they pursue ongoing success under the stewardship of Legends as the new owner.”

The transaction, which is subject to regulatory approvals, is targeted to close in 2024.

“We are extremely grateful to the entire ASM leadership team for their unwavering dedication to positioning the business for success, in particular during the unparalleled operating environment they faced during the pandemic, which has allowed ASM to recover so strongly and have great long-term prospects,” says Kosty Gilis, MD at Onex Partners. “We would also like to thank AEG who have been wonderful partners consistent with their impeccable reputation in the marketplace.”

Founded in 2008, Sixth Street-backed premium experiences specialist Legends provides venue planning and project management, premium sales, sponsorship, hospitality and merchandise services. Its clients include prestigious brands such as Real Madrid, SoFi Stadium, Dallas Cowboys, FC Barcelona, New York Yankees, and Ryder Cup, as well as the NFL, MLB, NASCAR, PGA of America and FIFA World Cup.

“We believe ASM is being acquired by an outstanding company in Legends who will take the business to new heights,” adds Amir Motamedi, MD at Onex Partners. “We wish them much success in the coming years as they continue to grow the business and serve customers globally.”

“I always remind our folks, stay focused on us”

Legends says the ASM deal will enhance its services portfolio, positioning it to “meet the expanding needs” of sports organisations, venues and attractions around the globe, while “supporting its vision to deliver exceptional live experiences for fans in the digital age”.

The experiences and hospitality realms are increasing priorities for the sector. Fellow venue giant Oak View Group (OVG), which was founded in 2015 by former AEG CEO Tim Leiweke and ex-Live Nation chairman Irving Azoff, oversees the operations of new venues such as Climate Pledge Arena at Seattle Center, UBS Arena in Belmont Park, New York, and Moody Center in Austin, Texas, and Acrisure Arena in Palm Springs, California, as well as the Co-op Live development in Manchester, UK.

OVG upped its offering with its acquisitions of Philadelphia-based venue management firm Spectra and Rhubarb Hospitality Collection.

OVG boss Leiweke attempted to play down the rivalry between the two behemoths in an appearance on The Bob Leftsetz Podcast earlier this year.

“I always remind our folks, stay focused on us,” said Leiweke. “We’re the greatest asset we have and we’re our own worst enemies. So stay focused on us. We’re going to be great, not because ASM is bad. We’re going to be great because OVG is going to excel.”

 


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Paul Tollett on Coachella’s past, present & future

Goldenvoice boss Paul Tollett has opened up on the evolution of Coachella and offered a glimpse into the future of the event in a new interview.

Bad Bunny, Blackpink, Frank Ocean and Skrillex, Fred Again.. and Four Tet headlined the most recent edition at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California, back in April, which also featured acts such as Calvin Harris, Gorillaz, Burna Boy, Blink-182, the Chemical Brothers, Blondie, Rosalia, Eric Prydz, The Kid Laroi, Charli XCX and Björk.

The US festival’s co-founder Tollett was joined by AEG’s global touring SVP Michael Harrison for an ‘in conversation’ session at the inaugural SXSW Sydney last week in Australia.

Tollett revealed that Coachella was unlikely to grow beyond its current 150,000-capacity – in person at least.

“I don’t know it needs to be bigger,” said Tollett, who highlighted the event’s long-running livestreaming deal with YouTube as a means for it to expand its audience without increasing on-site capacity.

YouTube livestreamed performances from all six stages at Coachella, on both weekends of the festival, for the first time this year and Tollett credited the partnership – along with international headliners such as Blackpink – with extending the brand’s global reach.

“Things have changed so much now, people want to book a year in advance. I don’t want to, I want to wait and see what’s out there”

“All of a sudden you have the biggest artist in that region. And what it does is, it just gets everyone watching from that area,” he said. Coachella wasn’t really that well known in Asia. Now, everyone in Indonesia follows it, not just Korea. It became a thing where no matter what country you’re in, you could watch it like it’s your show.”

Tollett said the first two Coachellas, held in 1999 and 2001, lost a million dollars after attracting just 17,000 and 21,000 fans respectively, reports Audience Republic.

In its first decade, Tollett added, he didn’t start booking the line-up until around six months before the event, and still believed in not planning too far ahead of time.

“It’s a rolling 90-day masterplan,” he said. “I haven’t even finished booking next April’s show, and it announces in January. Things have changed so much now, people want to book a year in advance. I don’t want to, I want to wait and see what’s out there.

“I never say, ‘In the next three years, I’m changing it to this,’ it just changes. As it goes you look back and go, ‘Oh it changed over the last three years.’ You do it by the music. The music is leading the culture. You just start seeing trends when you look back.”

Coachella is scheduled to return over two weekends from 12-14 & 19-21 April 2024.

“There’s a growing trend out there between managers, agents, promoters, who like to do these multi-year, multi-cycle deals”

LA-based Australian promoter Harrison, meanwhile, who made the switch from Frontier Touring five years ago, discussed how global touring deals had changed the live music landscape.

“There’s a growing trend out there between managers, agents, promoters, who like to do these multi-year, multi-cycle deals,” he said. “What that allows you to do is have longer periods of time where a promoter is engaged with an artist, and you can really get involved and invest in their growth campaigns by touring.”

A celebration of the tech, film and music industries South By Southwest (SXSW) made its debut in Sydney, Australia from 15-22 October, and featured 400 sessions and more than 700 speakers from around the world, including Nicole Kidman, Naomi Watts, Chance the Rapper and Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker.

In addition, the SXSW Sydney Music Festival took place across locations including the Hollywood Hotel, the Lansdowne and Lord Gladstone, hosting more than 250 artists and over 300 performances.

The official annual Asia Pacific instalment of the US conference and showcase festival, SXSW Sydney was a collaboration with promoter TEG, the NSW government and tourism agency Destination NSW.

The next edition of SXSW’s flagship US event is set for Austin, Texas between 8-16 March 2024.

 


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MSG’s London Sphere plans ‘moving forward’

Madison Square Garden (MSG) Entertainment boss James Dolan says the company’s controversial MSG London Sphere scheme is “moving forward”.

MSG’s futuristic $2.3 billion Sphere at The Venetian in Las Vegas, US, launched to rave reviews last Friday with U2’s U2:UV Achtung Baby Live At Sphere residency, but progress on a proposed London replica has been slow.

But speaking to Variety, MSG executive chair and CEO Dolan insists the development – along with other potential spinoffs outside North America – is “still very much moving forward”.

“That is definitely a big part of the business plan, to build more Spheres all over the world,” he adds. “And by the way, different-size ones too – probably not much bigger than the one in Vegas, but we’ve actually gone through already architectural drawings and designs for smaller Spheres for smaller markets.”

Plans for the 21,500-cap UK venue, which would become MSG’s first property outside of the US, were first announced more than five years ago and were approved in principal by the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) in March last year, despite objections from various parties.

However, AEG called on levelling up secretary Michael Gove to block the proposal earlier this year. Gove issued a holding direction to the LLDC, meaning the organisation and London mayor Sadiq Khan are prevented from signing off the plans before Gove rules on whether they need to be “called in” for further scrutiny.

If given final approval, the Sphere will be located in Stratford, east London, four miles from AEG’s The O2 (20,000-cap) in North Greenwich. AEG is a longtime critic of the scheme, having voiced concerns over its proximity to The O2 and – according to a 2019 investigation by The Times – creating a residents’ group in opposition.

“Since we have the experience of building the first one, it won’t be as expensive as the first one”

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.

The construction costs of the “next generation” Vegas project escalated to $2.3 billion (€2.1bn) – leading some observers to query whether subsequent venues would be too expensive to build (the estimate for the London development was widely reported as £800m, pre-pandemic).

“We have a fully developed construction design and construction company that has a lot of experience building all over the world,” he says. “And since we have the experience of building the first one, it won’t be as expensive as the first one.”

Dolan expects the Vegas Sphere to be profitable despite costs running almost double its original $1.2bn budget.

“Yes, I absolutely expect it to be profitable,” he says. “Will it generate enough profits to justify the capital that was put into it? I think so, but it remains to be seen. I mean, so far, the biggest hurdles in that is making sure that you have a product that the consumer is going to want. And what I’ve seen of our product, I think we have that.

“And then it comes down to marketing and selling tickets and generating revenue and sponsorships, and that all looks like it’s on a very good trajectory. We’re already seeing worldwide interest from other countries that are talking to us about building [Spheres] for them.”

The London project was back in the headlines this week, with the Evening Standard reporting that developers had offered locals blackout blinds to make up for the glowing images they would be broadcasting via the structure’s external LED panels. Officials gave the green light to its digital advertising display plans in January 2023.

 


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BMI reacts after live groups appeal rate increase

Live Nation, AEG and the North American Concert Promoters Association (NACPA) have filed to appeal against BMI’s court triumph over performance royalty rates paid by the live industry.

The US collection society claimed victory in the long-running court battle back in March after New York District Court Judge Louis Stanton ruled a new rate of 0.5% would replace the previously tiered rate of between 0.15% and 0.3%, which had been in place since 1998.

The ruling said the new 0.5% rate also applies retrospectively to shows that took place from 1 July 2018.

However, it was revealed this week that the live groups have filed a notice to appeal the decision, which could mean they intend to move forward with the appeal, but could also be a procedural move to keep the option to appeal open. The move was drew criticism from BMI.

“Given Live Nation, AEG and NACPA’s bizarre position throughout trial that concertgoers attend concerts for the experience of the staging, videos and light shows, as opposed to the actual songs and music being performed, their appeal was not a surprise to BMI,” says BMI president and CEO Mike O’Neill.

“For decades, the live concert industry has fought to keep rates suppressed. And even now, when they are making more money than ever, in more ways than ever, they are determined to deny songwriters and composers the fair value of their work, despite the fact that without their contributions, a concert wouldn’t even be possible. BMI will continue to fight on behalf of our affiliates, the creators of the music that is the very backbone of the live concert industry, to prevent that outcome.”

At the outset of the case in 2018, BMI said its total income from the US concert business was $20 million annually

It claims the court’s decision “ended decades of below-market rates”, arguing the revised rate reflected “the importance of music in the live concert experience”.

“The decision also expanded the definition of the total revenue base to which the new rate is applied, taking into account the way modern promoters monetise concerts,” it adds. “This includes tickets sold directly onto the secondary market, servicing fees received by the promoters and revenues from box suites and VIP packages.”

BMI (Broadcast Music Inc) represents the public performance rights in over 20.6 million musical works created and owned by more than 1.3m songwriters, composers, and music publishers.

At the outset of the case in 2018, BMI said its total income from the US concert business was $20 million annually, or less than 0.19% of the industry’s revenue. This number is less than 2% of the $1.118bn it paid to songwriters in 2018 (BMI paid $1.5bn in 2022).

The live groups have not commented on the appeal. However, responding to the March 2023 ruling at the time, Live Nation said in a statement, “We advocated on behalf of artists to keep their costs down, and managed to hold the increase to less than 1/3 of BMI’s proposed increase. This will cost the performers we work with approximately $15 million a year spread out over thousands of artists, and cost increases for Live Nation directly are not material.”

An spokesperson for AEG said back in May: “AEG Presents and NACPA were defending performing artists, who bear the costs of BMI fees, in this litigation. The result is that BMI was awarded significantly less than it sought, which is an important benefit for performing artists. AEG Presents will always support all of the artists who make their living on our stages.”


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