Live music giants move to bolster operations
Live Nation, UTA, WME and AXS have all moved to bolster their ranks with a series of notable appointments.
Dan Wall, who retired from global law firm Latham & Watkins earlier this week, has joined Live Nation as EVP for corporate and regulatory affairs.
Wall has been a key advisor to Live Nation for more than 12 years, previously providing guidance as lead outside counsel while a partner at Latham & Watkins. His new role will enable him to continue providing strategic counsel to the firm.
“Live Nation has been a special client to me, so about three years ago I floated the idea of this continuing relationship,” says Wall. “I am grateful to Michael [Rapino, CEO] and Joe [Berchtold, CFO] for allowing me to continue our work together and I am excited by the challenge.”
“Dan has been a trusted advisor and partner and he will no doubt continue to be a valuable asset to the team,” adds Rapino.
“The addition of Paul and Ceci, with their web of expertise… is another powerful signal about the trajectory of our company”
Elsewhere, leading talent agency UTA has added Main Street Advisors CEO Paul Wachter and Nexus Management Group founder Ceci Kurzman to its board of directors. Wachter will serve as the board’s chairman.
“The addition of Paul and Ceci, with their web of expertise in entertainment and technology, finance and corporate governance, is another powerful signal about the trajectory of our company and the work we are doing on behalf of our clients,” says Jeremy Zimmer, UTA co-founder and CEO.
The appointments support the recent growth and diversification of UTA’s business, including its acquisitions of UK talent and literary agency Curtis Brown Group and entertainment and marketing advisory firm MediaLink, as well as the strategic partnership forged with global private equity firm EQT.
“When we brought in EQT last summer as UTA’s largest minority investor, we together recognised the value of adding experienced outside voices to the board to help us continue to pursue our goals,” adds Zimmer. “Both Paul and Ceci are passionate about artists and culture and recognise the importance of how UTA can continue to lead into the future. We could not be more fortunate to have them stepping into these roles.”
“These promotions showcase the breadth of our client roster and how far we can go in servicing our artists”
Rival agency WME, meanwhile, has upped seven partners and 12 agents in its music division across its global offices in the US, UK and Australia.
Jared Rampersaud, Levi Jackson, Doug Singer, Henry Glascock, Dave Bradley, Brendan Long and Bradley Rainey are promoted to partners, while Henry Delargy, Kidder Erdman, Phillip Richard, Josh Sanchez, Anna Horowitz, Tom Larger, Brendan Moylan, Becca Chisholm, Caleb Fenn, Carter Green, Kanan Vitolo and Morgan Carney are elevated to agents.
“These promotions showcase the breadth of our client roster and how far we can go in servicing our artists,” says Lucy Dickins, WME’s global head of contemporary music and touring, and Becky Gardenhire, co-head of WME’s Nashville office. “We are so proud of the leadership and ingenuity each of these individuals has demonstrated, and we look forward to what they will achieve.”
Finally, The Music Network reports that AEG-owned ticketing company AXS has hired Andrew Travis to run its new Australia and New Zealand JV with Frontier Touring. Travis is a former CEO of Australian rules football club Gold Coast Suns, and was most recently COO of Melbourne & Olympic Parks, home to Rod Laver Arena, AAMI Park, John Cain Arena and Margaret Court Arena.
“I am delighted to be joining the team at AXS and to have been given the opportunity to lead this exciting expansion into the Australia and NZ market,” says Travis. “I look forward to super serving venues to optimise their ticketing operations and drive improved customer outcomes and satisfaction.”
“We are thrilled to have Andrew lead AXS’ entry into the vibrant Australian and New Zealand live event market,” adds AXS CEO Bryan Perez. “His extensive experience as an industry leader in sports and entertainment venues gives him a keen insight into their goals and ambitions and the challenges they’ve had realising them. He is the right person to help AXS address those challenges in a new and innovative way to the benefit of fans, artists and team throughout the region.”
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AEG Presents names Rick Johnson SVP, ticketing
AEG Presents has announced the appointment of Rick Johnson as senior vice president of ticketing and revenue, having frequently advised ticketing outlet AXS.
Based in Los Angeles, Johnson will be responsible for overseeing the department under the company’s global touring division and will report to president of global touring and talent Gary Gersh.
“I have long admired the team at AEG Presents and thoroughly enjoyed collaborating with them across countless tours over the years,” says Johnson. “I couldn’t be more excited to join Gary and the global touring team to drive world-class service and results for their incredible roster of artists.”
“He has the experience of building pricing and revenue products from the ground up”
“Rick brings a wealth of institutional knowledge to the team,” comments Gersh. “He has the experience of building pricing and revenue products from the ground up and seeing them all the way through to implementation. I’m so excited to welcome him to the company in this critical role.”
Johnson began his career in consulting, spending 10 years at both PwC and McKinsey & Company. In 2010, he pivoted to live music when he joined Ticketmaster as director of strategy, where he co-founded their dynamic pricing business unit Pricemaster.
His track record in the ticketing and pricing industry saw him teaming up with some of the biggest names in live music and sports to help drive ticket sales and generate incremental revenue.
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AXS to launch in Australia
AEG-owned ticketing company AXS is opening an Australian office early in the new year, backed by Frontier Touring.
The firm will reportedly launch the operation next month, promising to shake up a domestic market currently dominated by Live Nation’s Ticketmaster and TEG’s Ticketek.
“We feel like there’s an opportunity for a third major player to come in, but we don’t want to just come in and do business the same old way,” US-based AXS CEO Bryan Perez tells The Australian.
“We think that there’s a new and better business model out there, where ticketing may be a little bit more non-exclusive and open.”
AEG announced a strategic JV with Australasia’s Frontier Touring in 2019, which saw the two companies merge their operations in Australia and New Zealand.
“We think the time is right to help AXS come into Australia and, if nothing else, shake it up”
“We’ve been frustrated by the ticketing landscape for probably five or six years,” adds Frontier CEO Dion Brant. “We think the time is right to help AXS come into Australia and, if nothing else, shake it up.”
LA-headquartered AXS is the official ticketing partner for over 350 premier venues, sports teams, event organisers around the world. It has additional offices in the US in Charlotte, Cleveland, Dallas and Denver, alongside European bases in London and Sweden.
AEG took full control of AXS from co-owners TPG Capital and Rockbridge Growth Equity in 2019 and rolled out its resale solution in the UK in April of the same year. It has been the official resale ticketing partner for AEG in North America since 2018.
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IQ 115 out now: ILMC 35 preview, The Cure, Germany
IQ 115, the latest issue of the international live music industry’s favourite magazine, is available to read online now.
The November edition includes a sneak preview of the various events and gatherings set for the 35th edition of the International Live Music Conference, which will be held at the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London from 28 Feb – 3 March 2023.
In addition, Gordon Masson goes behind the scenes as The Cure resume their live career with their biggest ever European. In his latest market report, Adam Woods discovers Germany’s live music industry is enduring challenging times, while James Hanley examines the high-flying business of air charter.
Elsewhere, we celebrate AEG Presents France general manager Arnaud Meersseman‘s 20 years in music and profile 20 forward-thinking companies developing live music metaverse worlds.
For this edition’s columns and comments, AXS director of ticketing Paul Newman outlines how the Covid standstill allowed his team to reimagine its ticketing delivery systems; and Music Managers’ Forum CEO Anabella Coldrick details the various challenges facing the live music business.
Plus, four years since IQ’s agony aunt, Wasserman Music’s Alex Hardee, last shared his wisdom with those in need of guidance, it’s time once again for Auntie Alex to dispense some sage-like advice…
As always, the majority of the magazine’s content will appear online in some form in the next four weeks.
However, if you can’t wait for your fix of essential live music industry features, opinion and analysis, click here to subscribe to IQ from just £6.25 a month – or check out what you’re missing out on with the limited preview below:
Swede Sensation: Sweden Market Report
When arena-dwelling Swedish metal band Sabaton attempted to get back out on the road again in early 2022, the challenges of late-pandemic international travel soon scuppered the plan. So it was replaced with another: a tour of just about everywhere in Sweden.
“We did 30 dates and sold 40,000 tickets,” says promoter David Maloney of All Things Live Sweden. “It was unique because no one has done a tour like that, ever, in Sweden. We played markets where we sold 2,000 tickets in a town where 4,000 people live.
“They are an arena band – they have a show next year at the [former] Globe in Stockholm, and they’ve sold 10,000 tickets for that. But rather than sitting at home complaining, they said, ‘Fuck this shit, we’ll go out on tour. If there’s a stage and a roof, we’ll play there.’ And we played places in Sweden I had never even been to.”
Maybe we’re not on the brink of a world in which every band has to rip up small Swedish towns like Mölnlycke, Ålmhult, or Ronneby to make a living, but Maloney still believes there is a lesson here.
“In one sense, that’s the way it has to be in future,” he says. “If you want to play for an audience maybe you have to change your whole way of thinking. Especially for local bands. There’s a limited amount of big stages, a limited amount of festivals, a limited number of people.”
With its sturdy and experienced promoters, its plentiful festivals, and its smallish population, it is true that Sweden is not an easy place in which to innovate, and it is hard to find pockets of demand that aren’t being catered for by someone.
“We are quite a mature and well-developed and well-exploited market,” says FKP Scorpio partner and promoter Niklas Lundell. “If you want to develop a new concept and you think you are going to be on your own,” he notes wryly, “maybe Scandinavia is not your priority market if you know what I mean.”
“We are quite a mature and well-developed and well-exploited market”
With the exception of some small clubs in Stockholm where rents have rendered the grassroots business model inadequate, Sweden has more or less everything it needs. World-class venues? Check. Well-heeled audiences? Definitely.
A spot on every serious European touring schedule. No problem. Big, loud festivals and cool boutique ones? No need to ask twice.
Sweden is a model of a compact, modern market, with three very viable touring cities in Stockholm, Malmö, and Gothenburg. And at the mass-market end of the scale, at least, the post-pandemic boom has been a thoroughly fulfilling experience.
“It’s doing very well,” says Thomas Johansson, father of the Swedish live business and Live Nation’s chairman of international music and Nordics.
“We have just finished a bunch of outdoor shows: Iron Maiden, Rolling Stones, Lady Gaga all sold out stadiums. Then, we had a lot of other shows that have done very well all over Scandinavia, so I would say the business is good.”
As with any prosperous market, Sweden in the first year after the pandemic gives every appearance of being in the form of its life, but as always, the glory of the packed-out arenas and stadiums does not necessarily reflect right across the business.
“The shows that are suffering most from poor ticket sales in the post-Covid period are the ones that would usually sell 700-2,000 tickets,” says Edward Janson of increasingly diversified rock and metal specialist TADC, formerly Triffid And Danger Concerts.
“The big shows are doing well but it’s rather difficult in the middle segment these days”
“The smaller club shows are doing okay, and the big shows are doing well. But it’s rather difficult in the middle segment these days,” he adds, noting that ticket sales are currently around 25 to 30% down.
Johansson notes a similar trend when it comes to artists a little further down the scale. “Generally, the big artists are doing very well, whether they are local or international,” he says. “The mid-range artists are a little softer, the smaller club acts, too. Basically, it’s because there are so many tickets on sale. A lot of people were sitting with tickets for 2020, and then all of a sudden they were sitting with tickets for 2021, and when 2022 came around they already had five or six tickets booked.”
Certainly, there are challenges, even for an affluent market like Sweden. “There is huge competition now, since almost all artists are touring at the same time,” says Janson. “And inflation is rising, and the Swedish krona is getting weaker compared to the dollar and the euro. With that said, during the upcoming winter, I’m sure that it will stabilise and that ticket sales will go back to where they were before the pandemic.”
Svensk Live, the local live music body that gathers together clubs, festivals, promoters, and agents, recently launched its Life is Live campaign with performing arts group Svensk Scenkonst, aimed at encouraging fans to return to live events at all levels. Operations manager Joppe Pihlgren says there is a strong sense of industry cohesion around such initiatives.
“We have 270 members in Svensk Live,” he says. “We have the big companies, but they also understand that if you don’t have the grassroots then ultimately everything else suffers. We had that kind of [indie vs corporate] struggle a little bit more in the past, but we have got all these people very much together now.
“We have a youth organisation where [Live Nation] bring in volunteers to work for Lollapalooza. And we have a climate project as part of Way Out West – though we also do things with FKP Scorpio.”
“There is huge competition now, since almost all artists are touring at the same time”
And while Sweden may be a highly mature market, with plenty of corporate interest, it is also a major global pop and rock producer with plenty of self-esteem, and one in which local identity remains strong. Pihlgren, himself a home-grown rock star as the frontman of veteran Swedish band Docenterna, is heartened by the rise of local acts to arena and even stadium level.
“Before, it was just Springsteen and the big international artists who could fill up a stadium, but now you have [Gothenburg-born star] Håkan Hellström selling out [four nights in August at Gothenburg’s] Ullevi stadium. Laleh also sold it out in the summer, and we have a lot of smaller acts coming through.”
Historically one of Live Nation’s safest markets, Sweden hasn’t got a great deal more perilous for the business’s biggest player lately. As well as taking the lion’s share of the stadium and arena touring business, the corporate owns leading indie and Way Out West founder Luger and holds majority shares in the Summerburst and Sweden Rock festivals, as well as being the local custodian of Lollapalooza since 2019.
As thrill-starved punters all rush to the biggest concerts they can find, the current conditions were made for Live Nation. “This year has been a fantastic vintage,” says Johansson. “And 2023 is shaping up to be yet again an enormous year. We put Bruce Springsteen on sale a month ago – two Copenhagens, two Oslos, and three Gothenburgs – and we sold 400,000 tickets in a day.”
FKP, very much the challenger to Live Nation in the Nordic markets and elsewhere, helped to spearhead the increasingly ubiquitous tendency among Nordic promoters to operate across the region and has had a full set of Scandinavian offices for around five years.
“We are super, super close,” says Lundell. “It has been good to unite our forces and see what we can do jointly, and whoever is best placed to take a lead can basically do it for all four territories.”
“For your own health it’s hard, because ticket sales have picked up really late”
Among its Swedish exploits this year are ten Ullevi stadiums for Ed Sheeran and three for Rammstein; one and four, respectively, for Swedish stars Laleh and Håkan Hellström; shows for Gorillaz; and a new festival, the Rosendal Garden Party, and an older one, Where’s The Music in Norrköping.
“I think there is definitely potential to develop [in the Nordics], but it is also one market, or several markets, that have been dominated by one player,” says Lundell. “So it is about just slowly growing and showing that there’s an alternative and that we can do a good job with both big and small shows and be creative and fast. Showing that there is not a monopoly situation here, that there’s other promoters to speak to.”
The Waterland-backed All Things Live was born in 2018 as a pan-Scandinavian operator built from Denmark’s ICO; Norway’s Friction and Atomic Soul; and Sweden’s Blixten & Co and Maloney Concerts, and had scarcely formed when Covid struck.
“It was an exciting time because we actually had a chance to work together as a group,” says Maloney. “And then it was a bit of an odd feeling, that we were ready to go and then nothing. But now it’s all great.”
Coming out of the pandemic, all promoters have had to learn the new language of the market, including highly unpredictable, occasionally heart-stopping sales patterns.
“I have to say that the big shows we are doing, at least, have sold really, really well – although for your own health it’s hard, because ticket sales have picked up really late,” says Maloney. “We did one show with Green Day in June [at Stockholm’s Tele2 Arena], and in the last two weeks sales just exploded. We came to the level we wanted to be, but a month before the show we were thinking, ‘What’s going on?’ It’s a new chapter, you don’t have anything to go on.”
As the Sabaton example shows, Maloney remains passionate about the idea of creative thinking be- tween promoters and artists. “The thing that we want to remain is independent,” says Maloney.
“This year, we had time to try new products such as climate-friendly fuel”
“We want to have artists come first, and that is our whole point. On some occasions, we will make a deal for all four Nordic countries. Sometimes we just do it in Norway or Sweden or Finland or Denmark. But we want to have the flexibility to work with the artist rather than telling them, ‘This is what we need to do, or nothing.’”
TADC, meanwhile, has diversified while maintaining its roots in rock and metal. Upcoming shows include Manowar, Helloween, Uriah Heep, and WASP, but this year it has sold 10,000 tickets for 50 Cent and also staged Simply Red, Don McLean, and The Beach Boys.
“When TADC started in 2015, our focus was mainly on rock and metal,” says Janson. “Still the majority of our shows are within rock and metal, but we have broadened our focus a lot. During 2023 we will do even more shows in other types of music.”
TADC expanded into Norway and Denmark in 2021 and maintains offices in Stockholm, Gothenburg, Oslo, and Copenhagen. “Sweden, Norway, and Denmark are definitely still different markets with different cultures, but we’re in a good position when we can make offers for all three countries,” says Janson.
Everyone knows just how much pain festivals, in particular, suffered in 2020 and 2021, as their annual glorious moment was, in most cases, snuffed out not just once but twice. So 2022 has been a major relief for Sweden’s big names, including 30-year-old rock and metal festival Sweden Rock, which returned in June to Norje in southern Sweden for the first time since 2019, with Volbeat, In Flames, and Guns N’ Roses at the top of the bill.
“It was great to be back. Even better than I hoped,” says man-ageing director Jon Bergsjö. “Our visitors, artists, and staff were very positive and enjoyed the festival.” One silver lining of the three-year lay-off was the time to plan, says Bergsjö, with particular emphasis on experience – waiting times, F&B choice, clean toilets – and sustainability.
“We make changes every year to become more sustainable,” he says. “This year, we had time to try new products such as climate-friendly fuel, and we got a lot further in getting all our food stands to make better choices about cutlery, plates, and other single-use products. We even started serving the draft beer and drinks in specialised paper cups.”
“We ended up selling 50,000 tickets in a market like Malmö that has never had this kind of event before”
Luger’s Way Out West was the first Swedish festival to shout about sustainability, and it is now meat-free, milk-free, and climate-trans- parent. It returned in August with Robyn, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Burna Boy, and First Aid Kit.
Elsewhere, in no order of size, Swedish collective Ladieslovehiphop (LLHH) partnered with Live Nation Sweden and Luger on the 2022 Ladieslovehiphop Festival. The boutique festival, which debuted at Trädgården in Stockholm in 2019, returned on 19-20 August at Fållan & Slakthusområdet in Stockholm with an eclectic female-led line-up starring Stefflon Don, Ayra Starr, Ivorian Doll, Baby Tate, Shaybo, and Dreya Mac.
Of the other Live Nation-related festivals, the two-day electronic Summerburst Festival returned to Ullevi in Gothenburg in June, and Lollapalooza Stockholm – the first Lolla in the Nordics – finally got its second edition in July by the water in Gärdet, with Imagine Dragons, The Killers, Pearl Jam, Lorde, and Post Malone on board.
The big event of the year for All Things Live in Sweden is the acquisition of Malmö’s Big Slap Festival. Founded in 2013, the previously one-day event was one of Sweden’s largest electronic dance music festivals, with a daily capacity of around 15,000 attendees. This year, All Things Live bumped Big Slap up to two days, relocated it from Tallriken park to Nyhamnen on the city’s waterfront, got Justin Bieber on board and was vindicated in doing so.
“We ended up selling 50,000 tickets in a market like Malmö that has never had this kind of event before. People talk about Malmö being Sweden’s Miami, and we could see that at Big Slap.”
TADC has two festivals in Gefle Metal Festival and Atlas Rock, both in Gävle on Sweden’s Baltic Sea coast. “Gefle Metal Festival has grown into an event that fans of extreme metal see as an event that you need to go to,” says Janson. “This is the place where you meet all the other fans of the music and see the bands that don’t play at any of the other festivals.
“This year, we also did the first edition of our new festival Atlas Rock, with acts like Scorpions, Alice Cooper, and Black Label Society. We believe that this also will be an established festival very soon with an audience that keeps returning.”
“The market in Sweden has recovered great from the closedown during the pandemic”
The promoter is also exploring ways of keeping its flagship Gefle Fest active year-round, with a smaller indoor edition in the winter and a Gefle Metal Cruise in the spring. FKP Scorpio’s four-day Rosendal Garden Party launched this year as part of a trio of new festivals also including Loaded in Norway and Syd for Solen in Denmark. It took place on the Djurgården island in central Stockholm, with headliners The Strokes, Florence + The Machine, The National, and Tyler, The Creator, and drew 10-15,000 a day.
“It was a really good first year, and the experience was fantastic,” says Lundell, who also senses a return to old ways of independent creative thinking in the festival market. “Ten to 15 years ago, all the festivals went from being run by a bunch of patient souls out in the nowhere lands to becoming part of a bigger strategy and a new framework,” he says.
“That is maybe going back on itself a little bit. I think people will move away from concentrating on the urban markets, and I think a lot of fantastic new ones will be popping up around the country.”
ASM Global’s Stockholm Live has the capital’s venue market pretty well cornered. Since 2008, the company (as AEG Facilities) has operated the 6,000-14,500-capacity Avicii Arena (formerly the Ericsson Globe), the 8,100-cap Hovet, and the 3,400-cap Annexet. In 2013, it added the new Tele2 Arena in south Stockholm, with configurations for between 18,000 and 37,000, and in 2017 took over the 30,000-57,000-cap Friends Arena in Solna in Stockholm County, north of the city centre.
Last year, ASM Global signed a long-term lease to manage the Södra Teatern, a theatre venue with a capacity of up to 600, and Mosebacketerrassen, a rooftop terrace that can accommodate around 2,000 people.
“The market in Sweden has recovered great from the closedown during the pandemic, and after being up and running for a couple of months, we do see an increasing demand for live acts again,” Stockholm Live event sales director Jenny Blomqvist told IQ’s Global Arenas Guide.
“The challenge for the industry in Sweden is to get back to its previous strength again, focusing on all the staff rehires we need, at the same time as educating and developing our organisation for the coming months of events – all this while delivering the acts in our arenas today.”
“Today we face a completely new challenge in trying to foresee even the next six months”
And as for everyone, the future is suddenly harder to read, in all kinds of ways. “Today we face a completely new challenge in trying to foresee even the next six months, as the market is not acting as it did before the pandemic,” says Blomqvist. “International shows are released with shorter sales periods than previously – two to five months – so whereas in previous years we would have known by now how the summer of 2023 would be, today we are still releasing shows for 2022. So we have to be even more flexible in our calendars and have tighter deadlines in all we do.”
The change to the name of the venue known as The Globe, or Globen in Swedish, came as a tribute to local DJ and producer Avicii. The iconic building is now also a hub for initiatives focused on young people’s mental health, in cooperation with sponsors [home improvement store] Bauhaus and [insurance company] Trygg-Hansa.
Also new, in a very different vein, is the introduction of AXS’s new AXS Mobile ID ticket across the Stockholm Live venues. The ticket is non-transferable, except through AXS, and is intended as an antidote to the illicit secondary market.
“What we see with Rammstein, Ed Sheeran, and these other big artists is they want personalised tickets; they don’t want their tickets to end up on the secondary market at ten times the price, and this is a way to guarantee that,” says Jay Sietsema, AXS general manager, Sweden.
Other key venues in Sweden include the Malmö Arena, which has a capacity of 13,000 for sports (predominantly ice hockey) and 15,500 for concerts, and, of course, the Ullevi Stadium. The stadium’s all-time crowd remains the 70,144 pulled by local boy Håkan Hellström on 5 June 2016 – beating the old record of 70,091 set the previous night, and comfortably exceeding the 69,349 that came through the turnstiles two days later.
Spotify launches Live Events Feed
Streaming giant Spotify has launched the Live Events Feed, an in-app destination that allows users to discover concerts in their local area via personalised listings.
The innovation replaces the previous Concert Hub feature, and introduces a number of updates to help fans find shows by their favourite artists.
Listings are sourced from the platform’s ticketing partners including Ticketmaster, AXS, Dice, Eventbrite and See Tickets.
“We’d love to be a part of helping the live music industry recover”
“With shows coming back, and listeners excited to see their favourite artists perform live again, we think this is the perfect time to explore new ways that Spotify can further support the industry,” says René Volker, Spotify’s senior director of live events.
“Thanks to partnerships with leading ticketers like Ticketmaster, AXS, Dice, Eventbrite, See Tickets, and others, Spotify now has most of the world’s concerts listed on-platform in our major markets. Users can now check out those listings on the Live Events Feed. They’ll be excited to see personalised recommendations for upcoming shows based upon their unique taste profile.
“Ultimately, our goal is to ensure that fans are aware of all of the upcoming events by the creators they love and creators they may come to love. We believe if we get that right, then we can get more fans to more shows and help artists and venues have better-filled rooms. We’d love to be a part of helping the live music industry recover and, even more importantly to us, helping to grow it in the years to come.”
“We spent about two years studying the industry, its products and its users”
Sam Sheridan, Spotify’s product manager for live events discovery, explains the Live Events Feed was two years in the making.
“We spent about two years studying the industry, its products and its users,” he says. “One of the key behaviours we see is that fans engage with artists on-platform, but then they leave to search for listings online or to even follow artists on social media for the sole purpose of staying on top of their events. We think the Live Events Feed is an opportunity to help close this loop. This helps ease the burden on fans, reduces the competition artists need to contend with to stand out, and creates new efficiencies around marketing.
“Another core learning was how sticky the discovery pathways are that lead with the artist, which you can see manifest in the design that leans into rich artist imagery, helping fans feel more connected and better informed about their favourite artists. We also included a new way to represent and celebrate the full body of the artist’s touring offering.”
He continues: “In addition, we built a new messaging tool to provide fans with personalised recommendations for upcoming live events based on their listening habits. And we’re putting fans in control of how they want to be communicated with by giving them tools to set their notification preferences, and offering them more information about our different ticketing partners. This, in turn, is helping these partners to find audiences.”
ILMC 34: Inside ticketing’s new normal
International ticketing executives have given a mixed picture on live music markets around the world as the business bids to pick up where it left off pre-pandemic.
ILMC’s Ticketing: All change please! session heard from Ticketmaster UK’s Sarah Slater, Marcia Titley of Eventim Norway & Sweden, John Talbot of AXS Europe, Dice’s Amy Oldham and TicketSwap’s James Fleury, with Michael Hosking of Singapore-based Midas Promotions offering a promoter’s perspective.
Quizzed on the state of play by chair Richard Howle of The Ticket Factory, the panel reported contrasting fortunes to date.
“In Scandinavia, restrictions were lifted in December in Denmark, in January in Norway, and February in Sweden, so we’re about three, four months in,” noted Titley. “When the restrictions were lifted, ticket sales jumped, which was great, we were all thrilled. And then they kind of plateaued.”
“We’re making progress, but it’s slower than I think we all had hoped”
While observing a week-by-week improvement, she added that Covid has appeared to have triggered a change in purchasing habits, with a shift towards buying tickets later in the day.
“They’re waiting, and I think we can all understand why,” she said. “I think we’re all holding our breath a little bit wondering if some new variant’s going to pop up tomorrow. And shows aren’t selling out, so that sense of urgency isn’t there.
“One thing we’re starting to see in Scandinavia as well is uncertainty if shows and festivals are actually going to happen. Just recently, last week, one of our biggest festivals in Norway had to cancel because of Covid complications… So this has also affected consumer behaviour.
“Also, I think we’re trying to find ways to get people to go back to live. I think people have got a little bit stuck on their couches and we need to try to find a way to get them to remember what live was all about. If we can get them into the shows then we will be able to build up that kind of credibility in the market. We’re making progress, but it’s slower than I think we all had hoped.”
“One of the greatest impacts of Covid is it has made people, generally, quite lethargic”
Citing sold-out stadium shows by Justin Bieber in Singapore and Malaysia, Hosking stressed that demand was visible for certain artists, but returned to the theme of audience lethargy.
“The real test will be maybe the B and C-listers,” he offered. “I think one of the greatest impacts of Covid is it has made people, generally, quite lethargic. The old days of having to do everything immediately seems to have waned. And of course, Asia’s not one country, it is several countries and there are still very different restrictions about touring. But Justin is living proof that if the people want you bad enough they’ll go out and buy tickets.”
Talbot, who joined AXS last summer, said the business had faced an “existential threat” and attempted to put its travails into perspective.
“To use a hospitalisation analogy, we were hit by a truck and now we are in the recovery from that period, and it’s not going to happen overnight. We’ve got a cost of living crisis. People can see the alternatives to going out – because they were denied so long, they’ve got other options and they can entertain themselves in different ways.
“We do need to teach the market that going out, congregating, seeing live events is a really, really important part of our culture and they should come back to it. But those challenges are nowhere near as existential as what we were facing only a matter of months ago, so I think there’s a lot of reason to be very cheerful.”
“Half of our customer services activity at the moment is reuniting customers with the tickets they bought in 2019 and 2020”
He added: “We’re finding that a lot of our best customers are holding four or five tickets to shows that are yet to play off… So how do you sell to the market new events, when they’ve already got commitments, and sometimes they’ve forgotten that they’re holding these tickets?
“Half of our customer services activity at the moment is reuniting customers with the tickets they bought in 2019 and 2020. So when that clog disappears, as it will, I think that’s when we can really start to see new on sales not being buffeted by those market forces.”
Slater and Oldham suggested the state of affairs in the UK was more favourable across the board, in part, due to being able to press ahead with a partial festival season in 2021.
Slater, who received the Golden Ticketer gong at the 2022 Arthur Awards, pointed to Ticketmaster’s stellar business in the final quarter of last year.
“We were really able to capture that pent-up demand that the pandemic brought,” she said. “Q4 was absolutely huge: We had Reading & Leeds sell out; Creamfields sell out; we’ve got new sites for festivals; there are lots of tickets out there, but we’re selling all our tickets as well.
“We’re really positive; we were lucky that we got the summer  in the UK, so we’re in a slightly different position to everyone else.”
“People are demanding to have choice and flexibility now when it comes to buying tickets”
“The market’s certainly buoyant,” added Oldham, Dice’s VP of content, Europe. “We had over a million people go out in London last month, which is extraordinary. The place where it’s the most buzzy is with emerging talent – the waitlist for artists like Fred Again is astronomical. People are buying really early because they’ve got the protection of knowing that they can give their ticket back if they can’t go.”
James Fleury of price-capped ‘ethical’ ticket marketplace TicketSwap said the Amsterdam-based firm had already twice broken company records in the first four months of 2022, and backed up Oldham’s point on flexibility.
“People are demanding to have choice and flexibility now when it comes to buying tickets,” he said. “Buying a ticket anymore isn’t necessarily a commitment to attend that specific event. It is for the top four or five artists that I really love, but for the other artists where we maybe like one single or a couple of tracks… I think it’s important that we also promote that flexibility.
“Our challenge this year as a company is to educate both fans, but also partners – promoters and festivals – about why having that choice and flexibility is important on the fans’ side.”
Friday round-up: World news in brief 17/12/21
Welcome to IQ‘s weekly round-up of news from around the world. Here, in bite-sized chunks, we present a selection of international stories you may have missed from the last seven days…
TEG, the Sydney-based live entertainment, ticketing, and technology company, has appointed impresario Randy Phillips to the board of directors. The live music veteran most recently served as president and CEO of LiveStyle. Prior to that, Phillips was CEO at AEG Live for 13 years, where he promoted world tours for artists such as Bon Jovi, Justin Timberlake and Justin Bieber. Phillips, whose role will be both advisory and operational, will contribute to the expansion of the TEG footprint in live entertainment, including the creation of unique, owned, or co-owned, and financed intellectual property.
Semmel Concerts has set up its own booking department under the name SCE Artists & Events. “Of course, the booking area has always been an important part of our company DNA, which we are now professionalising and making more visible with the Artists & Events department,” says MD Dieter Semmelmann. “We act as a partner and networker between artist/production and customer. Due to our experience and our diverse portfolio, we are able to offer and implement individual and tailor-made concepts for our partners.”
Midem, a music industry conference and festival in Cannes, has been officially axed after 55 years. The impact of Covid-19 forced the organisers to stage events online in 2020 and 2021. An in-person event was scheduled for June 2022 but has now been pulled. The event launched in January 1967 with the promise that execs could “do all your business in six sunny days in Cannes,” and it became a crucial fixture of the music industry calendar.
The organisers of marquee Spanish festival Primavera Sound have warned that they may have to find a new host city in 2023 due to a “lack of interest and agreement” from Barcelona city council. Primavera Sound has taken place in Barcelona for 20 years and has recently expanded internationally with sister events in Los Angeles, Chile , Argentina and Brazil. The flagship event will mark its 20th-anniversary next year with an expanded edition.
The 10 people who died in a crowd crush during Travis Scott’s concert at the Astroworld Festival in Houston last month accidentally suffocated, according to the Harris County medical examiner. The victims, aged 9 to 27 years old, died of compression asphyxia, the examiner’s report concluded. Another 300 people were injured among the audience of 50,000 people. Travis Scott has requested to be dismissed from multiple lawsuits he is named in relating to the Astroworld disaster.
More than 160 music festivals across the country are to benefit from the latest round of compensation from the Norwegian government’s scheme for organisers and subcontractors in the cultural sector. Kongsberg Jazz Festival, Oslo World, Vossa Jazz, Night Jazz, Trondheim Jazz Festival, Oslo Jazz Festival, Beyond the Gates, Midgardsblot Metal Festival, Nordland Music Festival and Risør Chamber Music Festival are among the festivals that will receive a share in 2022. It was recently announced that the scheme, which has been running since 2020, will be continued until the summer of 2022.
Opry Entertainment Group (OEG) has announced AXS as its official and exclusive ticketing partner. Under the partnership, AXS will provide its full suite of solutions for all OEG properties on a single platform, streamlining tour and show ticketing operations. OEG properties include the Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Auditorium, its Ole Red venues in Orlando, Gatlinburg, Nashville, Tishomingo and the recently announced Ole Red in Las Vegas (expected 2023). The partnership also creates new opportunities to align with AXS’s parent company AEG and its live event business, AEG Presents.
AXS names Jay Sietsema as general manager, Sweden
AEG-owned ticketer AXS has announced the appointment of Jay Sietsema as general manager for its Swedish operation.
Sietsema joins from Eventim Sweden, where he held the position of managing director. His 20 years’ worth of experience in the industry also includes roles at Live Nation and AEG Facilities.
In his new role, Sietsema will work with a large portfolio of clients, including Stockholm Live, clubs within the Swedish Ice Hockey League and Swedish Elite Football League.
From his official start date of 3 January 2022, he will report to Tom Andrus, COO for AXS. Sietsema succeeds Oscar Klingensjö, who has decided to depart the company.
“[Jay’s] background and experience ushers in yet another exciting new chapter for our businesses in Sweden”
Andrus says: “I’m thrilled to welcome Jay to the team; his background and experience ushers in yet another exciting new chapter for our businesses in Sweden. I would also like to offer immense thanks to Oscar for his years of service here at AXS. Under his leadership, we’ve seen a tremendous uptick in growth and strength that has enabled us to perform at an extremely high level.”
Klingensjö added: “I want to thank our clients, partners, colleagues around the world and of course my fantastic team in Sweden for my almost 5 years at AXS. I am proud of the partnerships we have built, the trust we gained and the incredible team spirit that our employees have shown. I wish AXS all the best in the future and will continue to cheer from the sidelines.”
LA-headquartered AXS is the official ticketing partner for over 350 premier venues, sports teams, event organisers around the world, including Stockholm Live, The O2, The SSE Arena, Wembley, AEG Presents, STAPLES Center, T-Mobile Arena, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Minnesota Timberwolves, Houston Rockets and the Vegas Golden Knight.
AEG took full control of its ticketing business AXS from co-owners TPG Capital and Rockbridge Growth Equity in 2019.
AXS rolled out its resale solution in the UK in April of the same year and has been the official resale ticketing partner for AEG in North America since 2018.
International Ticketing Report 2021: The Recovery
The International Ticketing Report is a one-off annual health check on the global ticketing business, with emphasis on the sector’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The past two years have been turbulent for the business, but with consumer demand for live events now at an all-time peak, the challenges of fulfilling the most packed event schedule in history will test ticketers to the hilt.
Staffing, vouchers schemes and refunds, demand, consumer behaviour, communication, new products & services, secondary ticketing, pandemic lessons and recovery are among the challengers addressed by industry-leading experts in this extended report.
IQ will publish sections of the International Ticketing Report over the coming weeks but subscribers can read the entire feature in issue 105 of IQ Magazine now.
To read the previous instalment of the report on pandemic lessons, click here.
Weezevent CEO Pierre-Henri Deballon observes that the coronavirus pandemic helped separate the wheat from the chaff in terms of dependable ticketing partners.
“It’s important for a company to make money in its model so that it is solid, capable of facing crises like this one, but also so that it is capable of investing and supporting in the long-term, and not only in the short-term or only on the basis of fundraising,” says Deballon.
“We can see this with completely crazy fundraising schemes for models whose profitability I really doubt can be proven. It’s a real issue because unprofitable players are players who have a short-term vision, with all that this can imply on the organisers’ databases.”
As the live entertainment market aims for a rapid recovery, Fair Ticket Solutions’ founder & CEO Alan Gelfand advocates paying attention to consumer choice when developing ticketing technology.
“The key element for ticketing companies is to find ways to identify people for health and security reasons without additional friction. Blockchain, digital/mobile, and NFTs only identify the transaction, not the actual identity of an attendee, which is where they all fall short.
“If the ticketing companies can tie an actual verified identity to the ticket, it could open up a new acceptance of biometrics”
“If the ticketing companies can tie an actual verified identity to the ticket, it could open up an entire new acceptance of biometrics and launch future new fan experiences based around biometrics, which have been talked about for years but not accomplished to date,” adds Gelfand.
“We are extremely positive about the prospects for the future,” says Event Genius & Festicket CEO Benjamin Leaver. “The coming months and years offer incredible opportunities to deliver the best-ever customer experiences in live entertainment.
“Promoters and customers expect nothing less than a seamless, delightful, digital-first experience. Our sole focus is to deliver this for our partners so that they can continue to put on extraordinary live entertainment across the world.”
Martin Haigh and Total Ticketing are also looking to forge closer relationships with promoter and event organiser partners to aid their prospects. “Our future roadmap is to a large part projected by the clients we service,” notes Haigh.
“Our development queue has never been longer, as such ticketing is only going to become more and more integrated into our clients’ infrastructure. We are continuing to invest heavily into allowing our clients to manage their inventory more elegantly, reach ever more consumers through our network and to maximise their revenue from each ticket sold.”
“Sustainability in all sectors will become more of a default setting, including the events industry”
But The Ticket Factory‘s Richard Howle concludes that companies must, first and foremost, listen to the needs of the fans. “One of the notable things that has changed in recent months has been customer sentiment – everyone seems angrier and more impatient,” he says.
“As an industry we need to do more to put audiences first, ensuring we are doing the right thing by them. We have a lot of building back to do and we need to bring fans with us, making sure we are open and fair to them. Over the past 18 months [fans] have found other things to do with their leisure time and money and, yes, whilst there is pent-up demand, we shouldn’t take it for granted.”
TicketPlan’s Ben Bray agrees. “Many fans will want the reassurance that the environments they attend are safe and secure and, given the heightened understanding of risk that now exists, they will continue to purchase TicketPlan on a wide range of bookings with generally, higher attachment rates,” he surmises.
“Sustainability in all sectors will become more of a default setting, including the events industry, and whilst the impact of the pandemic has inevitably and necessarily meant that our sector has focused on its survival, sustainability will become a crucial part of the planning and design of events.”
Paul Newman says the strategy of AXS will be to “continue to support our clients, making their customers feel happy and safe to return to the live events market.”
He concludes, “Demand is very strong, but with a flooded market of events, people will be making choices to see artists that mean the most to them. The key is getting the right events in front of the right customers, at the right time; and we are committed to working with our partner venues and promoters to do exactly that.”