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Inside the changing face of live music sponsorship

The pandemic has changed the game for live music sponsorship, according to prominent figures across the business.

With question marks arising over whether brand tie-ins have lost its allure or remain a premier choice for brand leaders, most signs appear to point towards the latter.

Bijal Parmar, head of consumer marketing for Virgin Media O2, indicated much of the appeal for sponsors was derived from music’s “immense power” of connectivity.

“It’s a common culture and a universal language that during the pandemic – and even post-pandemic – has been able to unite people,” she said. “It’s something that has kept people connected, so we’re able to use it to articulate our brand strategy and provide an experience for our customers… So it’s a memory that we’re creating, not just an event.”

Dukagjin ‘Dugi’ Lipa, founder of Republika Communications Agency and co-organiser of Kosovo’s Sunny Hill Festival, with his daughter, Dua Lipa, discussed the evolving relationship.

“Rather than just being that transactional stance between the artist and the brand, we see a lot of changes and different approaches from brand partners,” he said. “Now it’s more connected to brand values: do they see anything that can have longevity rather than just one kind of interaction between the artist and the brand?”

“We get a lot of brand offers, but it’s never about the money”

Dugi pointed out that although the global success of Dua Lipa’s second album Future Nostalgia had placed her in even higher demand with would-be sponsors, there were additional considerations to take into account.

“We get a lot of brand offers, but it’s never about the money,” he insisted. “It’s always about the long term partnership and the values. You become part of the brand and the brand becomes a part of you for that period of time.

“Even though you have a lot of offers, you have to be very, very careful what your next step is and who you are going to be affiliated with, etc. We are living in a new kind of world, where everything is online, everything is reachable, everything is accessible to you. So you have to be very careful who you work and why you do it.”

US-based ASM Global EVP of marketing Alex Merchan summed up the venue company’s approach.

“A key thing we find is really looking beyond just the transactional relationship,” he said. “What is in it for both parties? We’re looking for partners that we can find unique, creative things that add value to the fan experience, or to the facility itself.”

Music Venue Trust CEO Mark Davyd explained the organisation’s formation in 2014 marked a turning point for the grassroots sector’s relationship with brands. Davyd referenced the Revive Live showcase, launched in July 2021 with support from the UK National Lottery, which contributed £1 million to directly underwrite the touring and production costs of hundreds of live performances.

“Post-pandemic, it seems to me like a lot of the brands are becoming smarter and not overlaying quite so much,” he suggested. “Our deal with them doesn’t really involve us saying ‘the National Lottery’ very much at all. What they’re looking to do is own the space where an artist broke through, from being unknown to being a touring artist. They want to own that across a number of years.

“In five years’ time, they’re hoping that one of the 60 or 70 tours we’ve already put out will be by the next Adele or Dua Lipa – and they want that reputational branding, rather than a big ‘look what the National Lottery has done’ shout, and that feels quite different. I’ve done a lot of branding where quite often you weren’t really sure why the company was there, but you liked their money. But what we’re now seeing is a lot more of a focus on, ‘What is the authentic experience and how can our brand sit alongside that?'”

“The reaction from the audience is tangibly different than it was before Covid. And I think brands can see that and want to be part of it”

Davyd added that Covid-19 had acted as a “wake-up” call for people who had previously taken their local venue for granted.

“They had to drive or walk past it when it was closed for nearly two years and they really thought, ‘Wow, I could lose that,'” said Davyd. “In this pandemic, a lot of the audience reconnected with what they’ve missed. I’ve been to about 200 shows already and the reaction from the audience is tangibly different than it was before Covid. There’s a real atmosphere in the room of being so happy to be there. And I think brands can see that and want to be part of it.”

CAA UK’s Bradlee Banbury continued on a similar theme, saying many brands had been forced to rethink their relationship with live music due to pandemic.

“They had been lazily badging tours or festivals, but not really activating in a different way with music fans,” he said. “And when we went into the pandemic and there were no live events happening, I think everyone had to reinvent the wheel a little bit. There were some brands that already had strong connections with musicians established for years and they lent into it quite easily. But there were others that were just completely shocked by the whole experience.

“Post-pandemic, I think everyone will have a bit more of a strategy to spread the money a little bit further and make that connection with the actual fans, rather than just badging a tour [although] there’s a place for that as well.”

Banbury spoke highly of drink brands White Claw and Jagermeister’s link-ups with All Points East.

“They’ve got their own stages,” he said. “So you’ve got a lot of fans seeing a show, drinking Jagermeister or White Claw; they’re having a party and they’re really enjoying it. Those brands have brought something to the table.”

This discussion took place as part of the Sponsorship: Falling through the cracks? panel at ILMC 34 in London.


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ASM launches Global Academy training programme

ASM Global is launching multilingual globalised training programme ASM Global Academy.

Described as an industry first, the scheme will be available to its 61,000-strong international workforce, with the aim of “elevating upskilled team members and reimagining the guest experience”.

More than 1,800 multi-language content courses will be available within the initiative, giving ASM staff the opportunity to complete self-paced learning courses designed to support their career development and enhance their knowledge.

The programme is being rolled out in the US, APAC, the UK, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East.

“This programme continues to reinforce our complete commitment to bringing forward-thinking technologies in every aspect of what we do”

“This tool is a real win and substantial benefit for our clients and employees,” says ASM Global president and CEO Ron Bension. “Our scale allows us to create this initiative and provide a one-of-a-kind opportunity for our clients to receive a complete training program as part of our service – a one-stop training and employee education program to its clients.

“This programme continues to reinforce our complete commitment to bringing forward-thinking technologies in every aspect of what we do for our clients. It furthers our team prep, breadth of knowledge and tools to bring measurable value and delivery of remarkable guest journeys.”

Courses will focus on guest services, diversity, equity and inclusion, food safety, inclusive culture, sustainability, operations, safety and security, and leadership. A number have been specifically customised to ASM Global and created in-house by the venue giant’s training department

ASM Global Academy will utilise gamification, badges, leaderboards, quizzes and evaluations to create comprehensive e-learning experience, including a safety course created specifically for venue management and a customised online guest services programme.

“These are the types of offerings that make a company a great place to work and creates an engaged and enthusiastic workforce,” adds Shauna Elvin, ASM’s EVP, global HR.

ASM joined forces with the International Live Music Conference (ILMC) earlier this year to dramatically expand the conference’s Alia Dann Swift Bursary Scheme.

The scheme, which was founded in 2018 and named after ILMC’s late longstanding producer, promotes and encourages the next generation of young executive talent. The expanded programme, backed by ASM Global’s corporate social responsibility platform ASM Global Acts, saw 30 young executives given a free place at this year’s ILMC.


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Sam Ryder named general manager of York Barbican

ASM Global has appointed Sam Ryder as general manager of the UK’s 1,900-cap York Barbican.

Ryder previously worked as head of operations at the company’s Bonus Arena in Hull, where he was part of the team that first opened the venue in 2018.

“At ASM Global we take pride in providing career development for our employees, and we are delighted to see Sam move into a role as general manager,” says Marie Lindqvist, ASM Global’s SVP operations Europe. “Sam has been instrumental in the success of Bonus Arena, Hull as part of the senior team opening and operating the arena. I am very pleased that he is now moving to lead the great team at York Barbican to continue the growth of live entertainment in the beautiful city of York.”

Ryder will begin his new role in July, ahead of summer concerts at the Barbican including Marc Almond, The Proclaimers and Jools Holland. He succeeds Darren Moore, who recently moved in the opposite direction to become general manager of Bonus Arena, Hull.

“‘I am delighted to be joining York Barbican and furthering my career with ASM Global,” adds Ryder. “I’m looking forward to continuing the success of the venue which has been expertly led by Darren Moore, we’re also making plans to improve hospitality provision, and of course bringing top UK and international events to the great city of York.”


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Boom time predicted for mid-size venue market

Mid-size arenas will provide the new “battlefield” for venue operators in the post-pandemic touring business, it has been claimed.

ILMC’s New Builds: The venue boom panel looked at the growing number of new buildings coming online, from Swansea Arena to Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena, along with future projects such as Manchester’s Co-op Live.

With investment in the bricks-and-mortar side of the live music business reaching record levels, leading venue operators stepped up to discuss the arenas and big buildings of the future.

Tom Lynch, ASM Global’s commercial director & SVP, Europe, brought up the company’s management of Olympia London, which includes a 4,400-cap live music venue and 1,575-seat performing arts theatre, and is scheduled to be completed in 2024. He also referenced the firm’s involvement in the 3,500-cap Wolverhampton Civic Halls and Derby arena schemes, which are both in development.

“We think more of these mid-sized venues will come to the market and help the industry grow”

“It’s reflective of where we think there’s some growth in the market,” said Lynch. “It’s great to build new arenas and stadiums, but actually, you look all across Europe and there are venues that cap out at 2,000 in every single city, and the next step is 10,000 to 15,000 capacity arenas.

“That’s a problem. It’s a limitation on shows and we think more of these [mid-sized] venues will come to the market and help the industry grow and sell more tickets, rather than saturate or steal tickets. We want to create venues where there aren’t venues and try and drive economic impact that way.”

DEAG executive Detlef Kornett agreed: “The new battlefield will be mid-size arenas… It’s very important to fill that gap between 2,000 and 23,000.”

Kornett said there was an increasing realisation that music events were no longer just attended by fans of the artist.

“Our industry had grown a lot over the last few years because of the baby boomers. Then we had a pandemic and that group is a bit hesitant to come back”

“It’s very similar to what happened in sports and that’s where the premium offerings and the diversification kicks in,” he said. “People come for more reasons than just listen to the music: they want to socialise, they want to have a good time prior and after, and they want to communicate on socials that they were at the event. New arenas have the ability to provide for that.

“Our industry had grown a lot over the last few years because of the baby boomers. Then we had a pandemic and it’s very clear now that group is a bit hesitant to come back. So all of the efforts of the new venues to take that anxiety away, will be very important. Once we’re out of this pandemic, if that ever is the case, you will see a lot of pent-up demand.”

Lynch explained the pros and cons of refurbishing an existing building compared to pressing ahead with a new build – referencing ASM’s 12,500-cap Newcastle Gateshead Quays arena scheme, which will succeed the city’s near 30-year-old Utilita Arena.

“Once you’ve built a venue, there’s so much carbon, trying to be sustainable from that point on is damage limitation,” he said. “You can do great things in energy consumption, and just the way that you interact with the community, but you need to be really conscious of the decision you’re taking.

“Newcastle Gateshead is a good example of where we’ve actively looked at renovating what’s there, rather than changing and building new. The reality for us was that it was built for £10 million in 1994, so it’s a shed, it’s not even an aircraft hangar. It’s been an incredibly successful venue. And we’ve evolved it over the years, but actually trying to renovate something that is all metal and was built for £10m, so long ago, is counterproductive.”

“New builds are a fantastic anchors for a regeneration project”

Opening in 2024, the arena is the centrepiece of a £260m regeneration scheme which will include a conference and exhibition centre, restaurants, a hotel and large areas of ‘outdoor realm’ and performance space on the same site.

“We’re shutting down one venue and bringing something new to market with other event venue aspects to it which we think, in turn, is more sustainable and better for the environment,” explained Lynch. “It brings more people in from different walks of life. What we’re aiming to get to in the end is not just one customer base or demographic, but a cross-section of society.”

John Rhodes, design director of HOK London Studio, whose past work includes Leeds’ First Direct Arena and recently recently completed the 18,000-cap Etihad Arena on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island Arena, outlined the wider economic benefits of new arena developments.

“They’re fantastic anchors for a regeneration project,” he said. “The footfall that these buildings attract just reinvigorates districts. You can see that in Leeds where the the amount of private investment around there, after we built the arena, is just incredible. Having 12,000 people going every week ensures that all of the local community, shops and bars and such like, have that footfall to survive from.

“There’s great opportunity for these buildings to be actually engaged in the community to actually become an anchor and facility for community activities and such like. The ’00s was about an experiential economy: buying stuff, buying experiences. I think the next generation is going to be buying experiences that improve us. And part of that is our cultural footprint – how we engage with these venues, how we engage with our communities – and we need to create buildings that allow you to do that.”

“We’re seeing much bigger event floors now. Everyone loves a mosh pit”

Rhodes quipped that the quest to design a bowl that is as large as possible but still capable of providing an intimate experience remained “the Holy Grail”.

“How can it be scalable to 6,000-7,000 – where you have a completely authentic experience without feeling like you’re in an empty venue? There are ways of doing that,” he said. “The size and scale of the event floor is key. We’re seeing much bigger event floors now. Everyone loves a mosh pit, so let’s make these mosh pits bigger. And you can flex in relation to that.

“There is technology there in terms of curtaining and such like, but I’m particularly interested in the super-theatre model, which ties in with that smaller scale arena, where you actually force the short stage configurations to create walls of people for the performers. The bowls have been tailored to create that Liverpool FC Kop or Borussia Dortmund Yellow Wall-type feel.”

“The driver of our business is music – and it took us a long time to figure that out”

Guy Dunstan, MD of ticketing and arenas for Birmingham-based NEC Group, spoke about the evolution of arenas, most notably in regards to the customer experience.

“I think of what the venues were like 20, 30 years ago and they’ve evolved significantly,” he said. “Venues back then were very much concrete, soulless spaces, and it was about getting people in, getting them to their seat, watching the show and maybe grabbing a beer. But as we’ve developed our facilities, we’ve elevated that whole experience. And what we’ve also done is open up the premium opportunity.”

Asked directly about return on investment by panel chair Stephanie Bax of CAA Icon, Oak View Group (OVG) UK’s Brian Kabatznick said 60% of revenues came from VIP offerings, naming rights and sponsorship deals.

“If you look at the revenue generation for New York, Seattle, Manchester, you’re basically driving your revenues by having a naming rights partner that’s engaged in the local community and wants to be associated with a quality venue that touches their consumer base – and they’re willing to pay for that,” he said.

“We all know that the VIP product, 10 and 15 years ago, was VIP boxes. Well, that’s over – people want to be communal, and they want diversity of product. So in all of our buildings, you have roughly 10 to 15 different price points, locations and amenities to cater to specific corporate and non corporate customers. So if you get sponsorship right, and if you get premium right, that solves it. But at the end of the day, we all know that it all comes down to content.”

He added: “In the old days, you’d have operators building arenas arenas around a hockey rink or a basketball court, but ultimately, let’s be honest, the driver of our business is music – and it took us a long time to figure that out.

“Getting out of the pandemic, it was strange timing that we just opened in four new buildings. But we’re pretty clear that the return on investments have been very successful.

“Moving forward, I think we’ll be a little bit more challenged with the supply chain and materials and the rising inflation rate. But we know that more people are listening to music before and more people are playing music than ever before. And our partners seem to be pretty pleased with what we’re doing, which is why we’ve got 10 other venues under development.”


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The latest on live music’s supply chain crisis

The perfect storm impacting touring’s supply chain ahead of the industry’s biggest summer in years took centre stage at ILMC.

Chaired by Kilimanjaro Live CEO Stuart Galbraith, The Supply Chain: Restock, repair and recruit panel focused on the ongoing issues caused by the sector’s staffing exodus since the onset of Covid-19.

Galbraith noted that, with tens of thousands of freelance workers – and full-time staff – having left the industry over the past 24 months to find jobs elsewhere, shortages remained across the board.

“One of the key problems at the moment – and that’s been the case from last August, September and then through Christmas and now, as we head into what will be undoubtedly the busiest festival season ever in the UK and many other territories – is actually there just aren’t enough staff,” said Galbraith. “So many people have left our industry, whether it be riggers, bar staff, security, truck drivers, etc.”

It’s the task of everybody to bring in new talents and teach them”

Okan Tombulca of eps said that the uncertainty around the restart had deterred a significant section of the workforce from returning.

“A lot of people from the industry had other jobs and they said, ‘Listen, I’m happy to come back. But not only for two or three months, because then I’ll lose my other job,'” he said. “A lot of promoters brought in a lot of young people without any experience and the workload was really high. We saw many people burned out after the three months… It was just too much.”

Tombulca said that training the next generation of backstage talent was of paramount importance.

“It’s the task of everybody: promoters, service companies, that we bring in new talents and teach them,” he said. “We, as eps, were fortunate that we didn’t lose too many people. Nevertheless, we are very, very concerned about staffing.”

“We were trying to do eight months’ work in three months, with probably half the number of people”

Festival Republic’s Becky Grundy, event manager for festivals such as Reading and Creamfields South, described last summer’s season as the most challenging of her 25-year career.

“We were trying to do eight months’ work in three months, with probably half the number of people,” she said. “There was the uncertainty about when things would open up and the availability of equipment, because most of it was tied up on government testing sites. Working under those circumstances, you’re making 1,000 phone calls when you could be normally making 10. But it increased the dialogue between everyone in the industry. We couldn’t have got through it without the support of the suppliers.

“We did seven or eight full capacity events from July through to September and we didn’t really start bringing people back to work on those until May, so it was a lot of work to achieve in a very short space of time.”

ASM Global’s Ailsa Oliver, general manager of Utilita Arena Newcastle, called the circumstances around last year’s restart in the UK as a “nightmare” and said the situation was still some way from returning to normal.

“I’d like to say it’s fine [but] it’s not fine,” she said. “I think we’re possibly getting used to it. Our resilience plans are working. We’re working very collaboratively with our providers locally and really thinking about how we value our workforce and how we encourage people to come back to the industry, or just to join the industry. Because there’s been two years where they didn’t even know there was an industry to come back to.”

Oliver added that staffing costs were up “25 to 50%” in some cases. “Some of that is linked to Covid and hygiene protocols, and additional work is required from that,” she said. “But yeah, it is up to 50%-plus in certain roles.”

“There are no restrictions, but we have a lot of artists coming in who are still very much aware of Covid and want the safety procedures”

CEO of UAE-based Flash Entertainment John Lickrish said the company’s biggest challenge related to content.

“Getting content in a six-hour minimum flight, logistics and operations was really challenging during the Formula One [Abu Dhabi Grand Prix of December 2021] where we had four big concerts and Foo Fighters cancelled at the last minute,” he said. “Trying to get a backup artist, or anyone to come and perform, was next to impossible.

“We were working directly with the airlines and with the authorities to make concessions about Covid, but we couldn’t get the equipment in. We ended up sourcing two people who happened to be in the UAE: one was in Dubai and one was in Abu Dhabi for F1, so it was a bit of a challenge. We used to be able to snap our fingers.”

Xenia Grigat of Copenhagen-based promoter and booking agency Smash!Bang!Pow, brought the session up to speed on the state of play in Denmark.

“We didn’t have a festival season last year, but we did some headline shows,” she said. “Of course, the majority was with local artists – it’s just recently that we have had international artists coming in, with all the challenges that that brings with it.

“There are no restrictions, but we have a lot of artists coming in who are still very much aware of Covid and want the safety procedures that we cannot uphold because we can’t enforce that on the audience any longer. We get it that they want to have the audience wearing face masks and want crew to be tested, which we can do to some extent. But backstage, it’s still taking up resources.”

“Every change is also an opportunity to get to the next level”

Galbraith said that while Covid was “pretty much done” in the UK, there were still knock-on effects relating to neighbouring markets.

“It’s certainly done in the public areas of concerts and backstage pretty much too, but we’ve got artists that are coming in to the UK and touring who are still working on protocols based on what’s happening in Europe,” he said. “And they’ve got to, because they’ve got to go back there – and they can’t go back there with Covid because they have to quarantine there and they’ll lose the shows.”

Ending on an upbeat note, Tombulca suggested how the business could use the crisis to improve its inner workings.

“Every change is also an opportunity to get to the next level,” he said. “This situation is also bringing a lot of new ideas. From the vendors to the service companies, we’re developing a lot of new products, which are more sustainable and need less labour and transport capacities.

“We are forced to do that because we all know at the moment, we might be in a good position, because the demand is higher than the offer. But we all know in two years time, you guys will squeeze us again. So we have to be prepared for it, without doubt.”


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ASM Global announces Clorox hygienics partnership

ASM Global has announced a partnership with The Clorox Company to enhance health and wellness in venues across the US.

The multi-year “advanced hygienic” link-up will span ASM’s portfolio of arenas, stadiums, theatres and convention centres, with Clorox products, including disinfecting wipes, hand sanitiser and electrostatic sprayers, used to help protect fans and guests.

To honour Covid frontline responders and health care workers, Clorox will also provide $1 million in tickets to premier sports and entertainment events across the country.

ASM previously initiated a series of hygiene protocols, dubbed VenueShield, in 2020 to provide “trusted protection” for visitors in response to Covid-19.

“Clorox’s industry-leading solutions allow us to continually enhance the quality of our event experiences”

“Since the very start of the Covid pandemic, our focus has been on reimagining the future of live events and preparing clean and safe venues for the return of our team members, athletes, fans, partners and guests,” says ASM Global president Ron Bension. “Clorox’s industry-leading solutions allow us to continually enhance the quality of our event experiences, and we’re excited to partner with them in honouring the heroic workers that have supported all of us as we’ve navigated through the pandemic.”

ASM and Clorox will officially launch their partnership at the Oakland Arena in California on 1 June, prior to rolling it out to the venue giant’s other US facilities, with an eye toward expansion across a wider portfolio of worldwide venues.

“Clorox is committed to supporting people’s health and well-being no matter whether they’re at home or out in the world, which is why we are incredibly excited to be working with ASM Global,” adds Tad Kittredge, VP and general manager at Clorox. “It’s especially rewarding to extend our support to those who have been on the frontlines during the pandemic with the well-earned thanks they deserve.”


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Smashing Pumpkins open ASM’s new San Antonio venue

ASM Global’s Tech Port Center + Arena in San Antonio, Texas has opened with a sold-out show by Smashing Pumpkins.

The company has hailed the new 3,300-cap facility, which has upcoming gigs by the likes of Rise Against, Papa Roach and Boyz II Men, as “the most technologically advanced lifestyle entertainment venue in the world”.

ASM has incorporated a host of local brands into the design of the complex – which also includes a sports arena, museum and food hall – via its culinary division Savor.

“This was an inventive solution to a very specific enterprise reflective of a deep community project of immense importance to San Antonio,” says Shaun Beard, SVP of food and beverage, ASM Global. “This is a project involving the public and private sector with national and international import.

“Food hall, arena, VIP revenues and per caps exceeded our grand-opening projections by 41%”

“Food hall, arena, VIP revenues and per caps exceeded our grand-opening projections by 41%,” he adds. “This reflects an unorthodox but highly comfortable reconfiguration of not only the physicality of our POS positions but additionally the local flavours familiar to our audience.”

Savor has also introduced the world’s only self-ordering bar featuring over-sized television monitors and facial recognition for custom-crafted cocktails. The system remembers orders, reorders and subsequently sends guests their tab.

ASM plans to roll out the system, which previously had a beta-run at its Vystar Arena in Jacksonville, at select venues throughout its international portfolio.


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IPM 15: Production heads on perfect storm of Covid and Brexit

The IPM programme concluded with what organisers referred to as the mega panel – a session that revolved around the current industry conditions, summed up by the strapline Covid & Brexit: The Perfect Storm.

Split into two parts, the mega panel involved multiple guest speakers from around the world, with Bonnie May from Global Infusion Group chairing part one and applauding those businesses who managed to get through the survival period by adapting their operations to negotiate two years of severely impacted activities.

Indeed, with the war in Ukraine adding to that ‘perfect storm’ analogy, hiking costs even higher and exacerbating the supply chain crisis, May turned to a plethora of experts to tell their stories over the past two years, as well as citing their early experiences of the industry recovery.

Singapore-based Paul Sergeant (ASM Global) underlined the fact that a lot of debt had been incurred during the Covid pandemic and that would continue to impact the live entertainment sector over the coming months and years. He advocated the pandemic’s effect on improving communications from top to bottom in his company as a massive tool in motivating employees.

Sergeant also talked up the Venue Management school in Australia that has been running for about 30 years and awards people diplomas when they graduate. He said that numerous sectors across the live entertainment business in Australia had bought into that programme and market its benefits to their various audiences.

“I’m still now educating people who have only started getting back out in the road”

José Faisca from Altice Arena in Portugal highlighted the importance of everyone in the live entertainment ecosphere that make the industry work – and the fact that those at the bottom of the food chain need more help and support than those who are at the top, if they are going to remain part of the business, rather than taking their skills elsewhere.

“We are better together,” he stated, adding that treating the freelancers and suppliers as part of his company’s extended family – eating together, inviting everyone to team meetings, and investing in training – encourages an atmosphere where everybody is happy to work for the health of the company. “We sometimes invite the families of our suppliers, the riggers, etc, to events so that they can see what their loved ones do and the results they help produce,” he revealed.

Asthie Wendra, a show director and stage manager from Indonesia said her team was almost back to full strength post-pandemic, despite the fact that many found work elsewhere, suggesting that lot of people want to return to the live entertainment environment in her country. Wendra also highlighted the importance of education and training in the workforce. “They need to get something other than money, but education and helping them return to the industry and see that they can have a career there helps us to do that,” she said.

Lisa Ryan (EFM Global) said Covid was a blessing for the Brexit factor, as the industry probably would not have coped had there been the normal level of events through the red tape nightmare, carnets and other new regulations thrown up by the aftermath of the UK leaving the European Union. “I’m still now educating people who have only started getting back out in the road,” she said, hinting at the carnage that could await the business when the busy summer season kicks in. She adds, “I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I’ve never seen anything like this [situation].”

Ryan and May agreed that improving the conditions for employees was a crucial part of keeping people motivated and retaining their skills in the industry, with both citing pay rises, better holiday terms, facilitating people to work from home on flexible hours, and even allowing staff to relocate abroad to fulfil life ambitions. However, they acknowledged the difficulty of recruiting new people to the industry, as well as attracting people back who may have found work elsewhere that offer them a more settled life-work balance.

“I don’t think the artists have realised yet that the costs have gone up and the profits will be less”

Part two of the mega panel was chaired by eps holding chief Okan Tombulca who explained that he has been on a number of conference sessions during the past year to specifically address the supply chain issues that are beginning to hit the international industry, both in terms of personnel and equipment. He voiced his personal opinion that the business is continually in a perfect storm, in terms of spiralling costs and pressure.

Andrew Zweck (Sensible Events) suggested it’s too early to know if artists have changed their views because of the various limitations that are hitting the business post-Covid. “I don’t think the artists have realised yet that the costs have gone up and the profits will be less. It’s unfolding now as we speak and that problem is not fully understood by the artists.” He added that the fact there are no double drivers this year is having an impact on tour plans, including at least one stadium show he had to cancel because they could not get a stage for that date.

“Artists are going to have less and I’m not sure they know that yet,” Zweck added, noting that he did not know who was going to tell them.

Production manager Phay Mac Mahon reported that the production side of the industry has lost about 30% of its workforce. “It’s the vendors’ time – they don’t need to reply to you because they are so busy trying to fulfil the contracts that they have,” said Mac Mahon. “With larger artists it’s planned further ahead, but for the younger artists it’s tough because their production manager might not be able to get the answers and therefore they may not be able to get the suppliers.”

Julia Frank from Wizard Promotions in Germany revealed that she started calling around a year ago for a certain tour for summer 2022. “I’m now just six weeks from that tour starting and I’m still ten riggers short,” she said.

“I’m now just six weeks from that tour starting and I’m still ten riggers short”

Anna Golden of UK promoters Kilimanjaro Live revealed that the company’s focus was on UK touring artists and outdoor shows. “We’ve been in constant communications with our suppliers so that at least they know these shows will definitely happen,” she said. “One of the festivals that Kili owns has actually bought its own stage because we have a five-year plan and that was financially more viable.”

Tombulca pondered whether that might be a new concept for promoters to own the infrastructure. Mac Mahon countered that the artist ego and ambitions for bigger and bigger shows might work against that. “Artist ego is the vendor’s best friend,” said Mac Mahon.

Zweck noted that the likes of the Royal Albert Hall has its own in-house lights and PA that it encourages bands to use, which also helps with sustainability. And he told IPM that in Australia, agreements are in place that equipment will stay in specific cities this year for artists to share, rather than shipping that kit on long journies for days at a time between venues. And on a similar theme, Tombulca says Live Nation has set up 28 stadia across America with exactly the same stages and kit for the summer.

Delegate Bryan Grant from Britannia Row noted that there is not enough equipment in the world to supply all the tours that are going out this year, revealing he had tried to fly in kit from South Africa for some of his events, only to be told it had already gone on rent in Germany.

Tombulca also touched on the impact of the war in Ukraine. Frank said the cost of fuel was the obvious impact, but she had not seen any difference in ticket sales in Germany. However, Zweck said it was another doubt to plant in the mind of the ticket seller for festivals and tours in the latter part of this year, going into 2023.

We’re in for a tough year, but humans are resilient and we will find a way”

Lisa Ryan from EFM Global noted that many of the Antinov aircraft that might be used for bigger tours are grounded in Russia and the Ukraine, while the biggest of all was recently destroyed in the conflict.

And speaking from the point of view in the Baltics, Renatas Nacajus from ISEG in Lithuania reported that ticket sales dropped immediately when the Ukraine war started, as confidence disappeared from the market.

Golden concluded that this summer is just about surviving and getting through 2022 as best as possible. Frank agreed. “It’s like going back to the 90s – it’s not going to be pretty, but it will do,” she stated.

Zweck commented, “We’re in for a tough year, but humans are resilient and we will find a way. Market forces will have a correction in terms of giving more money to the people at the lower end. But overall I’m pessimistic and I think when we look back in two years, we’ll struggle to see what we learned from Covid and we’ll be back to the greed of the big promoters and that will become rampant again.”


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Manchester’s AO Arena to undergo £50m revamp

ASM Global has announced a £50 million plan to transform Manchester’s AO Arena.

The three-year phased development, which will begin this summer, will dramatically enhance the 21,000-cap venue, expanding its infrastructure while adding innovative guest features. Further details will be released in the coming months.

The 27-year-old arena has a string of sell-out concerts lined up for 2022, including Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa, Diana Ross, Alicia Keys, Swedish House Mafia, Snoop Dogg and George Ezra.

“The first phase will enhance and increase our standing floor capacity”

“AO Arena is one of the world’s iconic venues and a much-loved part of Manchester’s rich culture and history,” says Chris Bray, EVP Europe at ASM Global. “It has been delivering world class entertainment experiences for over two decades. As we approach our 30th anniversary, this ambitious endeavour will not only reinforce its position as a leading destination for live entertainment but will extend its market leadership for ‘live’ and fan experiences for the next 30 years, and we’re proud to be further investing into the heart of Manchester.

“The first phase will enhance and increase our standing floor capacity to share this historic arena with even more of our guests and we will also be adding new hospitality lounges and investing in delivering an upgraded concourse experience. Our performers will be immersed in an all-new back of house artists campus, unparalleled anywhere.”

Additional major developments will include brand-new arena entrances, specially tailored premium experiences, custom designed lounges, and new premium seating.

“This will not only elevate the experience for guests and fans, but for everyone who sets foot in the venue”

AO Arena’s back of house will also be upgraded with a complete overhaul of the backstage experience, including new artist dressing rooms and production areas, a “world-class” green room with meet and greet facilities, an overhaul of crew catering, and first-class connectivity and technology.

“This is a really exciting time for the AO Arena,” adds recently appointed general manager Jen Mitchell. “Not only are we able to welcome guests back after a challenging two years, with a programme packed full of world-class acts and entertainment; now we can reveal the first phase of ASM Global’s plans for the arena’s redevelopment. This will not only elevate the experience for guests and fans, but for everyone who sets foot in the venue, including artists, production, crew and our staff who work so hard to make the magic happen right here in Manchester.”

AO Arena is set to face competition in the city from Oak View Group’s new east Manchester development Co-op Live, which is scheduled to open in 2023.


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ASM Global introduces facial-verification tech

ASM Global has launched an ‘industry-first’ facial verification network in partnership with software company PopID.

The technology, which verifies payments and authenticates tickets via a fan’s face, was launched at San Diego’s Pechanga Arena on Wednesday (20 April).

According to ASM, the technology will soon be deployed at Save Mart Center in Fresno (California), Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai (United Arab Emirates), and Toyota Arena in Ontario (Canada).

“The PopID platform will allow us to eliminate the dependence on cards and phones at our events”

“The deployment of this technology in our venues represents the beginning of a revolutionary change in the entertainment world,” said ASM Global CEO and president Ron Bension. “The PopID platform will allow us to eliminate the dependence on cards and phones at our events and ensure that every guest interaction is secure, speedy and seamless.”

John Miller, CEO of PopID and chairman of Cali Group says: “We are excited to partner with ASM and take the initial steps to truly revolutionize the event experience of the future with highly secure, phoneless entry and digital payments. When customers opt to enrol in our platform, they’ll be able to enter the venue by requesting facial verification at the gate—instead of having to rely on a QR code on their phone.

“The seamless experience will continue at concession stands, where a guest can choose to ‘check in’ with facial verification at the point of sale, enabling them to instantly see personalised food and beverage recommendations and order and pay without the need for IDs, credit cards or phones.”


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