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The decade in live: 2011

The start of a new year and, perhaps more significantly, a new decade is fast approaching – and while many may be thinking ahead to New Year’s Eve plans and well-meaning 2020 resolutions, IQ is casting its mind back to the most pivotal industry moments of the last ten years.

Following on from the 2010 synopsis, IQ looks to 2011, a year in which rising unemployment and astronomical national debts continued to take its toll on spending habits. The live industry experienced a slower period, indicating signs of maturity after years of fast growth.

Extreme weather led to festival cancellations and, tragically, the loss of lives at Pukkelpop and Indiana State Fair. Festival attendance, however, stayed strong, with festival bosses commenting that the demand for festivals was definitely still there.

2011 also saw U2 take the crown for the most successful concert tour in history, dethroning the Rolling Stones with their mammoth 360° tour. The Irish rockers were on course to retain the record into the new decade, too, before Ed Sheeran came along.


2011 in numbers

Worldwide, the top 50 tours grossed US$3.07 billion in 2011, up from $2.9bn the previous year.

According to Pollstar, U2 were the most successful band of 2011. A back injury sustained by Bono in 2010 saw many dates on the 360° tour postponed to the following year, with the band selling 2.4 million tickets over the year – at an average price of $97 each.

The stadium tour, which typically drew crowds of almost 92,000 per show, grossed $231.9m in 2011, adding to the $133.6m earned on the 2010 leg.

Other major tours of 2011 included Take That’s reunion tour with Robbie Williams ($224m), the Bon Jovi Live tour ($148.8), Taylor Swift’s Speak Now tour ($104.2m) and Roger Waters’ The Wall Live tour ($103.6m).


2011 in brief

AEG opens the 52,000-cap. Türk Telekom Arena in Istanbul, later winning the contract to manage the 12,500-cap. Ülker Arena in the same city.

Serbia’s Exit Festival ends its business relationship with Charmenko agency and begins booking international artists directly.

Ticketmaster buys Spanish ticketing company ServiCaixa, allowing it to sell tickets through over 8,000 ATMs owned by financial services company and bank La Caixa.

Live Nation takes full control of Front Line Management, with its founder Irving Azoff becoming chairman of the Live Nation board, taking over from Liberty Media’s John Malone.

Nelly Furtado announces she is giving the $1m fess she was paid for performing in front of Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi in 2007 to charity. Beyoncé follows suit.

President of Madison Square Garden Jay Marciano moves to London to take up a new role as CEO of AEG Europe.

The decade in live: 2011

Irving Azoff took over as Live Nation chairman in 2011 (© Full Stop Management)

International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) figures show that global music sales fell $1.4bn in 2010, with the UK market dropping 11%, the US dropping 10% and Japan dropping 8.3%.

U2’s 360° tour becomes the highest-grossing tour of all time, beating the Rolling Stones’ Bigger Bang tour record of $554m. 360° is set to gross over $700m by the time it ends.

US ticketing company Eventbrite, which integrates social media and mobile, announces a $50m influx of venture-capital finance.

Gil Scott-Heron dies in New York at the age of 62.

German festival promoter Folkert Koopmans announces his second Swedish festival in Norrköping, the 50,000-cap. Bråvalla Festival, following the January acquisition of Hultsfred Festival.

Bloomberg reports that AEG plans to refinance the O2 Arena in London with a £150m ($240m) loan and equity injection.

The decade in live: 2011

U2’s record-breaking 360° tour (resized) © Kristian Strøbech/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Promoter Vince Power raises £6.5m ($10.4m) by floating his company, Music Festivals, on London’s Alternative Investment Market exchange.

SMG secures a management contract for Movistar Arena in Santiago, Chile, its first in South America.

AEG launches its new ticketing system, AXS, in several Denver and San Francisco theatres. The system includes a mobile app and social media integration.

Belgium’s Pukkelpop creates a private foundation to support the victims of the storm that claimed five lives at the festival on 19 August.

Global entertainment giant Vivendi buys UK number two ticketer See Tickets for a sum thought to be around £80m ($128m).

eBay announces it will launch secondary resale platform StubHub in the UK, the first market it will have operated in outside of the US.

The decade in live: 2011

Santiago’s Movistar Arena (© Movistar Arena)

German powerhouse FKP Scorpio continues its buying spree by taking a majority stake in Sweden’s Getaway Festival.

2011’s biggest-selling artist, Adele, undergoes throat surgery to repair damaged vocal chords, forcing her to cancel all remaining tour dates and promotional appearance for the year.

Bankers Citigroup agree to sell EMI Music to Universal Music Group for $1.9bn, while EMI Music Publishing will become part of Sony ATV in a $2.2bn deal.

Michael Jackson’s physician, Dr Conrad Murray, is found guilty of manslaughter.


Live Nation emerges victorious in the saga for the rights to run the new €134m 15,000-capacity arena in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Seatwave chief Joe Cohen denies speculation the ticket resale company is in financial trouble, despite reports it has amassed losses of €40m since 2007.


The decade in live: 2011

Amy Winehouse (1983-2011) © Republic Records (cropped)

Who we lost

In 2011, the music industry lost a number of important figures, including Scottish singer-songwriter Gerry Rafferty, 63; agent Ron Baird, who opened CAA’s Nashville office in 1991, 60; legendary soul and jazz musician Gil Scott Heron, 62; Willie Robertson, co-founder of insurance specialist Robertson Taylor, 67; award-winning singer Amy Winehouse, 27; Academy Music Group founder John Northcote, 62.


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Brian Becker: Holograms will ‘grow the business for everyone’

The dawn of holographic technology is an historic “inflection point” for the live entertainment business, as significant as the emergence of the major multinational promoters, according to Brian Becker, the former CEO of Live Nation forerunner Clear Channel Entertainment.

The growth of the diversified Live Nation model ushered in a new paradigm for the music industry, says Becker, now leading BASE Hologram, the company behind holograms of deceased stars such as Roy Orbison and Amy Winehouse. “Clear Channel, SFX, Live Nation… all those companies focused on organic and innovative growth, and a new way of doing business. That’s what [BASE Hologram] is doing, though obviously on a smaller scale.”

An entertainment industry veteran with more than 35 years’ experience producing live events, Becker was previously CEO and president of US mega-promoter PACE Entertainment – then the world’s biggest live entertainment business – before assuming an executive role at SFX Entertainment, which acquired PACE in 1998. In 2000, in a deal worth US$4.4bn, SFX merged with Clear Channel, and Becker became chairman and CEO of the newly created Clear Channel Entertainment.

He left Clear Channel in 2005, when its live entertainment division was spun off as Live Nation, and formed theatre producer BASE Entertainment the following year. In January this year, the company launched a holographic division, BASE Hologram, and recently announced it would add a holographic Amy Winehouse to its stable of touring shows, which also includes Roy Orbison and Maria Callas.

BASE’s Orbison show, In Dreams: Roy Orbison in Concert, and the Callas tour, Callas in Concert, are currently playing to packed theatres in North America. Meanwhile, a Ronnie James Dio hologram tour of Europe (produced by rival outfit Eyellusion) wrapped up with a show at the 1,100-cap. Trix in Antwerp in late 2017. “As the Dio Returns shows went on and word spread […] the crowds kept growing,” said Eyellusion CEO Jeff Pezzuti at the time.

A far cry, then, from the mixed reaction that greeted earlier experiments in the space, such as 2Pac’s brief appearance at Coachella 2012 and Michael Jackson’s moonwalk at 2014’s Billboard Music Awards. (“Creepy” was Pitchfork’s verdict on the latter.)

Becker tells IQ the philosophy behind BASE Hologram – three years in the making – is to take technologies prevalent in other sectors, chiefly cinema, and “externalise them” in a live format, allowing them “to be enjoyed in a communal environment”.

“We’ve already gone two steps beyond what we thought could be done”

“If you look at holographic tech, and mixed and augmented reality, all those things are, at the end of the day, cinematic techniques,” he explains. “We realised that if we can combine holographics with live performers, and on top of that add cinematic effects, then we’ve already gone two steps beyond what we thought could be done [in a live environment].”

While the original concept for BASE Hologram was “straightforward: to put shows on tour”, Becker continues, “we now think we can go much further with this, with residencies, on Broadway and the West End, in museums…”

While In Dreams: Roy Orbison in Concert has been a huge success, reporting on the rise of the holograms still tends to fall back on their perceived strangeness (although Vulture notes the Orbison shows are “disappointingly, not as creepy as you’d think”), indicating a degree of consumer (or at least journalistic) unease about the process and ethics of bringing dead stars back to life.

“First of all, we’re not bringing people back to life,” Becker explains. “We’re making a theatrical, immersive concert experience, bringing music and images to this stage. This has been done in many different ways for years: in Broadway shows, movies, documentaries…

“The second think I’d say is, the overwhelming majority of people that who go to these shows are in awe and really enjoy what they’re seeing. Initially, people are ooh-ing and aah-ing – and by the third song they’re applauding. If you go and see a ‘real’ artist and clap, you’re thanking them, encouraging them… In this case they’re speaking to speaking to the hologram, which means their belief has been suspended and they’re able just enjoy the experience.

“It’s not for everyone, but it’s like if you hate horror films – don’t go and see a horror movie. Vote with your wallet.”

Is there also an argument, IQ wonders, that growth in popularity of holograms could take marketshare away from the already struggling (living) grassroots artists – after all, why take a chance on a new band when you could go and see Freddie Mercury play ‘live’ at a local club?

“Holograms provide access to extraordinary content that isn’t otherwise available”

“No – just the opposite,” Becker emphasises. “This is a conversation we’ve been having in different forms for the past 30 years. It’s a myopic point of view to think that when new technology comes along it’s going to hurt something. In almost every case [historically] that technology found a way to expand the business; there’s a few years when people have to adjust, but ultimately it expands the universe for everyone.

“TV didn’t kill the film business, home video didn’t kill TV. When streaming came along people said music was finished, but music is bigger now than it’s ever been – there are new music companies flourishing and new artists emerging like never before.

“There are always naysayers, but you’ve got to take a step back and look at the broader picture.”

Alongside the other companies in the space (Becker says several of his BASE partners know Eyellusion and “think very highly of them”), BASE Hologram is doing something “unique and new,” comments Becker, “and we hope we’re going to really accelerate the creation of a whole new sector in live entertainment.”

Becker says over the course of his career he’s “recognised certain inflection points” that changed the face of the entertainment business: Consolidation in the theatrical market is one, he explains; the growth of motorsports is another (PACE pioneered staging motorsports events in indoor stadia). “No one bats 100%,” he concludes, “but we think this [holograms] is one of those opportunities that has all the components needed to be a successful new industry sector.

“It’s incredibly creative, and it provides access to extraordinary content that isn’t otherwise available. That’s what we’re bringing to the table.”


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Amy Winehouse to be reborn as hologram

Brian Becker-led live music hologram company BASE Hologram has announced a world tour with a holographic Amy Winehouse, adding to the ranks of the deceased stars who are taking to the stage once more.

The tour, which begins in autumn 2019, will see a Winehouse hologram backed by a live band and singers, and raise money for the Amy Winehouse Foundation, which works to counter drug and alcohol abuse among young people.

It joins current BASE Hologram touring shows In Dreams: Roy Orbison – The Hologram Concert, which began in Oakland, California, earlier this month, and Callas in Concert, which features a hologram of Maria Callas, who died in 1977.

Rival hologram company Eyellusion, meanwhile, has seen success with its Ronnie James Dio hologram tour, with a Frank Zappa show also in the works.

“To see her perform again is something special that really can’t be put into words”

BASE Hologram founder and CEO Brian Becker – formerly CEO of Clear Channel Entertainment, which became Live Nation – comments: “Earlier this year we launched BASE Hologram with tours featuring two music icons who redefined the live concert theatrical experience in truly unique ways, and we look forward to continuing new creative and emotional opportunities with Amy Winehouse.

“Amy was a powerhouse in every sense of the word. She played by her own rules, pioneered her own sense of style of music and because of that we know she is the perfect person to headline this type of project.”

“This is a dream for us,” adds Winehouse’s father, Mitch. “To see her perform again is something special that really can’t be put into words. “Our daughter’s music touched the lives of millions of people and it means everything that her legacy will continue in this innovative and groundbreaking way.”

Full details, including tour dates, will be announced in the coming months.


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