Monsieur Musique: Arnaud Meersseman’s 20 years in music
Born in the southern French city of Montpellier, Arnaud Meersseman had something of a nomadic upbringing. “My father worked in computers and changed companies all the time, so at first we lived in Montpellier before moving to Geneva for two years, then two years in San Francisco,” he recalls.
“Then it was one year in Amsterdam, two in Lyon, and then two years in Boston. And then I moved back to France because I didn’t want to live in the States anymore.”
With such an international background, Arnaud’s decision to pursue a career as a diplomat seemed natural and that career path seemed assured when he was accepted into the prestigious Sciences Po university in Lyon. “Sciences Po schools get you into high-level public office, and the one in Lyon specialises in foreign affairs, which is what I wanted to do,” he explains. However, his love for music found him running a student radio show, and the lure of the ministry of foreign affairs was swiftly replaced by a desire to find a career in music.
“Arnaud was studying political science, so from our first meeting we talked about Daft Punk and The Cramps”
“With hindsight, it seems like the same thing, now,” he laughs. “At the end of my second year, we had to find a three-month internship. My girlfriend at the time’s mother was a physiotherapist and looked after a French rapper who was signed to Pi-Pole in Montpellier, and that’s how I got my foot in the door. I engineered a meeting with Pi-Pole’s founder, Pascal Sanchez, and I interned over summer 2002. The following year I needed a six-month internship and Pascal took me back. After that, he hired me.”
P-Pole chief Sanchez recalls, “Arnaud was studying political science, so from our first meeting we talked about Daft Punk and The Cramps, but also about Chirac who was our lazy french president then. In fact, I found it fascinating.”
Determined to finish his degree, Arnaud used his diplomatic skills to persuade both Sciences Po and his new employer to bend the rules. “It was a bit complicated, but the university was pretty accommodating – they put all my classes on the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. Midday Wednesday, I’d go to work at Pi-Pole. But I’d also worked during classes and did classes during work. It was hectic, but I finished school and kept my job.”
“[Arnaud] has proved that one can be at the head of AEG while being a fan of music and without having studied economics”
Working at Pi-Pole with Sanchez changed Arnaud’s life. “Pascal has a great ear and he’s an amazing A&R guy, so he taught me how to listen to stuff,” he says of his former boss for whom he promoted numerous electronic artists before gradually introducing acts like The Rapture, MGMT, LCD Soundsystem, and TV On The Radio to the Pi-Pole roster.
Sanchez believes Meersseman’s curiosity was a major factor in his evolution as a promoter. “As I don’t really have the sense or the patience for management, Arnaud was responsible for his own development,” notes Sanchez. “I helped him a little by giving him work with international bands. That allowed him to work with UK agents, but as he was the only French promoter to speak English, things came easily.”
Still a firm friend of his former employee, Sanchez adds, “I’m proud to see how far he’s come. He has proved that one can be at the head of AEG while being a fan of music and without having studied economics.”
City of Lights
After six years at Pi-Pole, Arnaud got itchy feet, and the bright lights of the French capital caught his imagination. “I just got really bored, and I wanted to go to Paris.” Having discussed options with the likes of the late Gérard Drouot and Sarah Jane Richardson, Arnaud eventually met Nous Productions chief Salomon Hazot. “In terms of his roster, I felt more in place with Salomon, who also had Rock en Seine, and that made up my mind: I quit Pi-Pole and moved to Paris in March 2010.”
It wasn’t all plain sailing, however. Loyalty is a key element of Meersseman’s persona, and his relocation to Paris involved a significant step back. “Salomon wanted me to bring my Pi-Pole bands with me, but I did not want to do that to Pascal, so I started again from scratch.”
Some of the early additions to Arnaud’s Nous Productions roster were Lana Del Rey, The Weeknd, and Major Lazer
That fractious start set the tone for the relationship between Meersseman and Hazot. “Salomon is an amazing businessman, and he taught me how to do business. But at Nous, I basically
started without a roster, so I don’t think he was very happy with me at first.”
That situation quickly changed. Among some of the early additions to Arnaud’s Nous Productions roster were Lana Del Rey, The Weeknd, and Major Lazer. “I was doing all of James Rubin’s stuff like A$AP Rocky, Joey Bada$$, Run The Jewels, and Wiz Khalifa. So I really started expanding out of indie rock and electronic music into more generalist stuff.”
Arnaud’s knowledge also grew in other areas. “The last one in at Nous Production got to do all the metal shows, so I was very proficient in doom metal, thrash metal, stoner metal – I knew all the genres,” he laughs. However, he pays tribute to Hazot, who quickly involved him in the decision-making side of the business. “Salomon put me forward very much more than most of his other employees,” he tells IQ. “He really pushed me, which definitely helped me to grow.”
For his part, Hazot recalls, “What surprised me most about Arnaud was that he was always listening to music. If I saw him in the street, he would be listening to something; when he was going home at night after a show, he would be listening to music. He wasn’t thinking about the money – music always came first.”
Among Arnaud’s greatest allies in those early days at Nous, were Rubin, Cris Hearn, and CAA chiefs Emma Banks and Mike Greek. “Through them I learned about the proper agency world, not just the electronic music stuff,” says Arnaud.
“[Arnuad] wasn’t thinking about the money – music always came first”
Meersseman’s remit at Nous also introduced him to Rock en Seine – the festival he now programmes. “In the first year, Salomon had me just keep the grid and look out for the Rock en Seine offers. But pretty quickly I was included on the booking calls. Salomon and Doudou [Christophe Davy] were essentially booking the festival but allowed me to share my opinions. They gave me a seat at the table, which I’m very thankful for.”
By mid-2015, the writing was on the wall for Arnaud’s time at Nous, when talks of a corporate takeover began to leak. That prompted Meersseman to start pondering other options, but before he was able to put any plans into action, the unthinkable happened. “It was more than rumours that Solomon was speaking to Live Nation, and at no point did I feel I wanted to go work with them, so that was worrisome. But then, obviously, Bataclan happened,” he says.
Meersseman was promoting the Eagles of Death Metal show at the venue on 13 November 2015, when the terrorists struck. He was sitting on the terrace in front of the venue with friends when the gunfire started, and within seconds he had been hit by a bullet and gravely injured. In coordinated attacks across Paris, terrorists murdered 130 people – 90 of whom were in and around Bataclan – and injured more than 400.
“It’s a massive trauma to me: really massive,” he tells IQ. “First off, I’m very lucky in what happened to me: getting shot in front of the venue and not inside, so not being in the middle of bodies and things like that – it was lucky. But it’s very violent, and while physically I got much better – I remember being surprised at how quickly the body can heal – rebuilding myself psychologically was a long, long process in terms of just getting over being dissociated, because I was essentially in this fog the whole time.
“Just getting rid of the insomnia and getting confidence back in life and stopping thinking about what happened, replaying it over and over… that took a lot of work in terms of psychotherapy, hypnosis, and things like that.”
“[The Bataclan attack] is a massive trauma to me: really massive”
He adds, “It’s strange how the brain works. My real breakthrough came when a memory that I had completely suppressed materialised through a combination of hypnosis and rapid eye movement therapy. It was seeing one of my friends getting shot in the head right next to me. Once that came out, suddenly I felt I could start to move forward.”
Arnaud’s determination to get back to work also brought its own traumas. “I felt I needed to be back in the office, symbolically, to coincide with the first date back of Eagles of Death Metal, which was mid-February when they played L’Olympia. But that was way too quick. I remember taking the metro to the office, and there was a loud bang on the train. I had to run back home because I was just scared shitless.” The work environment was also surreal. “It took me time to realise that I was not ready to be back in the office. And then on top of that, the Live Nation move was happening. So, I decided I needed to get out of there.”
Finding a New Home
Looking to start the next chapter, Meersseman had discussions with Emmanuel de Buretel about joining his Corida division, which was in the process of acquiring Pi-Pole. But the chance to establish his own operation was more enticing, both professionally and personally. He found that opportunity at FIMALAC group, whose promoting division, MIALA, specialised for the most part in domestic French talent. “I’d never really worked with domestic acts, but FIMALAC backed me to do international stuff, so I moved to MIALA with a remit to grow the international roster.” But the move soon unravelled. “I felt like they had no idea of what our job was. And worse, agents did not understand what we were doing or how it was structured.”
Determined to find a solution that would allow him to take on the growing might of Live Nation when it came to attracting international acts to France, Arnaud took matters in hand. Having
discovered that AEG was looking to acquire Rock en Seine, he relentlessly pursued senior management about the idea of creating a Paris office.
But it was Arnaud’s longstanding friendship with then WME boss Marc Geiger that proved to be the catalyst. “Geiger was in Paris for Lollapalooza, so we met, and I outlined my idea of a French AEG office. He took it up and the next morning I got an email from him saying that he had spoken to [AEG chairman and CEO] Jay Marciano, who wanted to talk to me.”
In January 2018, Arnaud’s living room became AEG’s inaugural French headquarters, with a staff of four
As a result, in January 2018, Arnaud’s living room became AEG’s inaugural French headquarters, with a staff of four. With others gradually joining the operation, that arrangement lasted for around six months before the AEG France team could find a proper office. “I never invoiced AEG for the rent of my living room,” laughs Arnaud.
With French law decreeing that a promoter’s licence is essential before being allowed to sell tickets, Arnaud tells IQ, “It took a full year to be fully operational, and by the time December 2019 came around, we were poised for a very big year in 2020. And then, we all know what happened.”
As the Paris operation had grown to ten people, the need for bigger premises was also necessary. “I signed the lease for a 400-square-metre office, moving in early April 2020… Great timing.”
However, AEG’s attitude toward the Covid situation was exemplary. “We were worried that they might just shut us down, but the company was amazing – we even got bonuses at the end of 2020,” reports Arnaud. Generous government subsidies also helped. “The government essentially picked up the tab for all the employee salaries for a year,” he adds.
Slowly emerging from Covid restrictions, the stop-go activities of 2021 complicated matters, but this year has seen AEG France get back on track, albeit with familiar challenges. “We were faced with the same thing as everybody else: we were doing the same number of shows that we did in 2019, plus 40%, often with less staff. On top of that, we had our very first big shows – the Rolling Stones and the Hella Mega Tour – so there was definitely added pressure.”
Looking forward, Meersseman is determined to exploit some of the untapped potential of the French market, as the majority of international acts tend to only visit Paris on their European tours. “With domestic stuff you can probably play 200 shows in France because every single mid-level city has its own venue, often run by the city or the state.”
“The government essentially picked up the tab for all the employee salaries for a year”
Citing The Cure’s current tour as an example of how A-list international acts can properly tour France, Arnaud says, “The Cure really put in the time and everything’s sold out. There’s great business to be done in the regions.”
As the busiest year in history for live music speeds toward its conclusion, AEG Presents’ French office currently numbers 22 employees, while 2022 has also seen the company ink a new agreement that reunites Arnaud with his mentor Hazot’s new company, Solani Productions.
Hazot comments, “When I was looking to set up Solani, I called Arnaud and it was very emotional because he told me that he owed a lot to me. We share the same birthday – September 15 – and we’ve always been in touch on that day, so I’m very glad we are working together again.”
Meersseman agrees. “Striking that deal with Salomon will increase our show count and bring some amazing artists to the roster,” says Arnaud, citing the likes of Ed Sheeran, Metallica, Rammstein, Iron Maiden, Katy Perry, and Red Hot Chili Peppers. “It feels good to be working with him again.”
Asked about his 2022 highlights, he responds, “I was very proud to be able to work with the Rolling Stones. It’s always a great one to put on the CV. Also, Rock en Seine was a kickass bill this year.” He continues, “The festival is getting amazing support from agents now – we’re almost done with 50% of the bill for 2023 already because people really want to play Rock en Seine.”
And while confessing that he’s “terrible” at HR – “I really suck” – Arnaud’s track record to date isn’t too shabby. “I’m a bit overwhelmed, but I do have a great promoter team in place now – people like Emma Greco who is a really good young promoter. And I also brought in Laurent Castanié who has a very solid roster, from the Dropkick Murphys to Chemical Brothers to Flaming Lips.”
He concludes, “We’re in a good place right now. I’ll probably hire another one or two promoters next year and keep on building. We want to also grow the festival footprint at some point, but we’ll see – we’re talking to a couple of people who are thinking about creating new events with [AEG European Festivals CEO] Jim King. There’s still a lot of room for AEG Presents to grow.”
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Arnaud Meersseman: Bataclan attack spurred me on
AEG Presents’ Arnaud Meersseman has said the attack on the Bataclan, which took place five years ago today, left him more determined than ever to keep working in live music.
Meersseman, whose then-company, Nous Productions, was the promoter of the ill-fated show, says that the alternative to continuing – to quit promoting concerts – would have been to hand victory to the terrorists responsible.
Meersseman was one of hundreds of people injured when three heavily armed Islamic State gunmen attacked the Paris venue during a performance by Eagles of Death Metal on 13 November 2015. Ninety people, including the band’s merchandise manager, Nick Alexander, lost their lives in what was then the deadliest attack on a live music event.
The attack, along with subsequent terrorist incidents at Manchester Arena and the Route 91 Harvest festival, had far-reaching implications for the live business, with stricter security and safety protocols becoming standard at large events.
The tragedy also continues to affect the survivors: As Meersseman points out, an article in this morning’s Le Monde reveals that some 30% of people who were at the Bataclan completely changed their career direction in the years following the attack.
“Convincing AEG to open their French office, and them trusting me to do, was me saying, ‘I’m still standing’”
For Meersseman, however, the choice was clear. “Yes, I was attacked and wounded at my place of work, but it’s more than just work – it’s my passion, my lifestyle, and the only job I’ve ever done,” he tells IQ.
Now general manager and VP of AEG Presents France, Meersseman says he “lost himself in work” in the aftermath of the attack. “I think I was pushed forward [by it],” he explains.
“Going after AEG and convincing them to open their French office, and them trusting me to do, was me saying, ‘I’m still standing.’ Because if I stopped, they’d have won.”
Five years on, 13 November understandably remains a “strange time” for Meersseman – although it gets “a little less strange ever year”, becoming more like a “black-and-white movie” than personally lived trauma, he explains.
While planning for terrorism is “now an accepted part of our jobs”, especially around periods of increased violence, the way Meersseman sees it, fans, artists and the industry have two options: “You either completely stop your life, or you carry on. And if you don’t carry on, they’ve won.” The latter, he adds, was “never an option”.
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France marks five years since deadly Bataclan attack
France today is leading silent ceremonies to mark five years since the series of coordinated deadly attacks on the Bataclan concert hall, Paris cafes and the Stade de France.
Prime minister Jean Castex led the commemorations, unveiling commemorative plaques at each location that pay tribute to the 130 victims killed by Islamic State extremists on 13 Nov 2015.
Members of the public were not invited to attend commemorations this year due to the country’s partial lockdown.
Ninety of the deceased victims were killed at the Bataclan concert hall when three heavily armed gunmen opened fire during the Eagles of Death Metal concert which was attended by 1,500 people. The other 40 victims were killed during the four-hour attack on the capital.
❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ pic.twitter.com/fL5zgzRkpW
— EaglesOfDeathMetal (@EODMofficial) November 13, 2020
Among victims of the Bataclan concert hall attack was Nick Alexander, the 35-year-old, British merchandise manager for Eagles of Death Metal, who had dedicated 15 years to the music industry.
His sister, Zoe Alexander, told the BBC: “He was such a people person which is why he was so good at his job, interacting with the fans on a daily basis. One of the things I admired most about Nick was that he was unashamedly himself and trod his own path throughout his whole life.”
On the first anniversary of the attack, the Alexander family created The Nick Alexander Memorial Trust, which provides music equipment to disadvantaged communities across the UK.
In aid of the memorial trust and charity Life for Paris, Queens of the Stone Age – which shares member Josh Homme with Eagles of Death Metal – are tonight broadcasting previously unseen footage from the Mona Museum in Tasmania.
QOTSA will broadcast previously unseen live footage from @monamuseum, Tasmania, in aid of @NickAlexanderMT & @lifeforparis charities. It will be available for a limited time beginning 9am (LA), 5pm (London) & 6pm (Paris) on Friday Nov. 13th.
— QOTSA (@qotsa) November 9, 2020
Elsewhere, Serge Maestracci, a survivor of the Bataclan concert hall attack told DW: “Music has helped me get through the worst time of my life. I was terrified after the attack. I was afraid to leave the house, to cycle through the city. I felt I had become a target.
“Music was my way to express my feelings and what I’d experienced. When you go through an event like this, you think, I escaped death by a few minutes. Life grinds to a halt. But then, it continues and you think — I need to live life to the fullest!”
Survivor Christophe Naudin, who hid in a closet for hours with two dozen people during the attack, recently published a book called Diary of a Bataclan Survivor describing his post-traumatic stress.
“Writing up my thoughts instead of just brooding over what had happened has really helped me. And it was good to go through it again to get it into shape for the book. All this is part of my reconstruction,” he told DW.
Read IQ‘s interview with AEG Presents head Arnaud Meersseman, who was among those wounded at Bataclan.
France is again under high alert for terrorist attacks after three Islamic extremist attacks since September have killed four people.
French biz pushes for full capacity shows by Sept
Over 3,000 members of the French live music industry have signed an open letter to the government, asking for “clear and coherent” forecasts on the reopening of the sector after more than four months of shutdown.
In the letter, French industry professionals including concert promoters, venue owners, technicians, service providers, producers, artists, freelance workers and others, ask for a decision from the government regarding a possible date for the resumption of standing shows.
“As we can no longer live in a state of expectation, we ask you for clear and coherent scenarios and deadlines so that we can work to restart our activities.”
The industry representatives say they are committed to restarting shows at 100% capacity from 1 September, but state this date is getting increasingly difficult to envisage due to issues related to programming and the organisation of tours.
The live professionals also state they have “demonstrated our sense of responsibility and our ability to rigorously apply government decisions and regulatory framework”, as well as submitting “concrete proposals” with a view to working with the government to restart business.
“As we can no longer live in a state of expectation, we ask you for clear and coherent scenarios and deadlines so that we can work to restart our activities”
However, unlike other French sectors such as sport and hospitality, the live music business has not received a concrete timetable for reopening.
“Nobody understands the silence concerning us,” say the industry representatives, “starting with the public who question us insistently and who tell us their desire to go back to concerts.”
“We feel abandoned and despised by our public partners.”
The number of signatories of the letter has more than doubled since being sent to French president Emmanual Macron, prime minister Jean Castex and culture minister Roselyne Bachelot on Thursday (23 July), with festivals Hellfest Open Air, Eurockéennes de Belfort, Les Rencontres Trans Musicales de Rennes and Vieilles Charrues; venues the Bataclan and Zénith Paris; and trade union Syndicat des Musiques Actuelles (SMA) and industry body Prodiss among those to show their support.
Large-scale events (over 5,000 capacity) are currently banned in France until September. Social distancing measures are still in place for all shows, with masks obligatory at indoor venues from 1 August.
The letter is available to read in full here.
This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.
Terrorists looked to attack festivals in Barcelona and Benicassim
The group responsible for the terror attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils on 17 August 2017 had also researched music clubs and festivals in Barcelona and Benicassim as potential next targets, police information acquired by Spanish news agency EFE has revealed.
According to the report, the men searched the internet extensively for information on the Rototom Sunsplash Festival in Benicassim, The Razzmatazz concert venue in Barcelona and various LGBT clubs in Sitges, Barcelona. It is thought by police that the group were taking inspiration from the 2015 attack on the Bataclan in Paris and the 2016 attack at Pulse nightclub in Florida.
The information released by police is largely the result of the mobile phone records accessed from a phone belonging to one of the members of the terrorist groups, found in the chalet in which they planned the 17 August attacks. Also on the phone were searches looking for the capacity of the Colossos club in Barcelona.
Other web searches included “Barcelona concerts calendar,” “all festivals 19.08.2017 in the Valencian community,” “major festivals in Sitges 2017” and “major festivals Sitges Les Barrancas”.
The Mossos d’Esquarda, the Catalonian police force, said an attack on any of the places researched in Barcelona and Benicassim would have been a “valid target” for a terrorist attack, since they represent, “by way of music and shows”, the Western way of life that runs against jihadist ideology.
Other web searches included “Barcelona concerts calendar,” “all festivals 19.08.2017 in the Valencian community,” “major festivals in Sitges 2017” and “major festivals Sitges Les Barrancas” (a rural area of Catalonia). The searches were conducted in the period from 13 August to 17 August, the days leading up to the attacks.
In the two attacks actually carried out by the terrorist group, some 15 people were killed. In the most violent attack, the one on La Rambla, a popular tourist destination in Barcelona, a further 130 people were injured. Six attackers were killed by police.
The news that terrorists sought to attack popular music events in Spain comes as similar attacks have risen in frequency in recent years. Alongside the Pulse nightclub shooting and the Bataclan attack, other attacks in just last year involving live music have included the Manchester Arena bombing in May 2017 which killed 22 people, the shooting at BPM festival in Mexico in January 2017 where five people were killed and the shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Music festival in Las Vegas in October 2017, which left 58 people dead.
Security under review after Manchester Arena bomb
As venue operators around the world begin to process the news about the horrific attack on music fans in Manchester, live event security experts are reporting high volumes of queries from an industry that will have its work cut out to reassure concertgoers in the days and weeks ahead.
With festival season due to kick off in just a couple of weeks, urgent reviews of security measures are happening among production crews around the UK, while National Arenas Association chairman Martin Ingham – like most others in the arenas sector – spent the morning in operational meetings with his staff.
“Each of our member venues has been liaising with their own local police force and their network of counter terror officers and I know of at least three arenas who have had briefings with police today,” said Ingham. As well as UK arenas, Many London theatres were also understood to have spent the morning reviewing security procedures.
BBC Radio One’s Big Weekend festival is due to take place in Hull from 27-28 May. A spokesperson for the festival told the NME, “The health and safety of everyone involved in Big Weekend is now our primary focus and we are carrying out a full assessment, with the police and our partners, of every aspect of the festival.”
“Each of our member venues has been liaising with their own local police force and their network of counter terror officers and I know of at least three arenas who have had briefings with police today”
Security expert Chris Kemp, of Mind Over Matter Consultancy, tells IQ that he had received calls from as far afield as New Zealand and emails from clients around the world in the immediate aftermath of the Manchester Arena bombing.
“We’ve just created a course with Network Rail on identifying behavioural characteristics and trying to stop perpetrators in their tracks. But the difficulty is that the modus operandi of these terrorists is changing and there is no way you can infiltrate where there are lone terrorists who don’t communicate with others and just decide to carry out the act.
“Another difficulty is that you are asking low-paid staff to engage people they might perceive as suspicious, but if you’re getting £7.50 an hour, are you really going to put your life on the line? So it has to be the police, or [Security Industry Authority] operatives who do this.”
Kemp believes that terrorists are targeting precisely the places and events where people least expect such atrocities to happen, while those behind such attacks are also getting more savvy about what to wear and how to behave to avoid arousing suspicion. “Unfortunately there has to be a limit on how far you go with things because the costs of extra layers of security can be astronomical. But we are continuously working to create more deterrents and we’re doing a lot more stuff with venues and venue associations to improve security measures,” he says.
“There has to be a limit on how far you go with things, because the costs of extra layers of security can be astronomical”
Iridium Security director Reg Walker observes that “there has clearly been some hostile reconnaissance done beforehand for this bombing.” Although early reports state that it was a lone bomber using homemade explosives, Walker speculates that he would have to have had a support structure and that police and security services are already working hard to identify the bomber and any potential collaborators. At press time, reports were already emerging about the arrest of a 23-year-old man in connection with the Manchester attack.
“There are a lot of lessons to be learned from this tragedy,” says Walker. “It appears that this individual waited outside and attempted to walk into the venue on egress before detonating the device with a hand switch. But the fact that he was in a sort of no-man’s land, in a concourse between the venue itself and the train station, is significant.
“Most venues already have security in depth and the cooperation between venue operators and the security services is very good, so that most venues have become hard places to attack – but at the same time this person targeted an area on the periphery.”
Walker warns that it is virtually impossible to make any venue completely secure. “Even somewhere like Buckingham Palace, with its state-of-the-art security, still has incursions,” he says. “But on the flip side, this is the first mainland bombing in the UK since 2005, so the number of incidents that have been prevented is significant.”
Advising venue operators on how to strengthen security measures, Walker concludes, “It’s vital that venues reach out to the National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) for advice on how to enhance or adapt their security. And it’s also imperative that venues carry out regular drills so that new staff can benefit from that training and everyone knows what to do if there is an attack.”
“It’s vital that venues reach out to the National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) for advice on how to enhance or adapt their security”
While a number of live music operations declined to comment in the immediate aftermath of the attack, one expert points out that what happens both in the short- and long-term will depend on the outcome of the UK government’s emergency Cobra meeting.
“The information that filters down through the SECOs (security coordinators) will determine the response of promoters and event organisers,” said the source. He added that the police and security services would determine what additional measures may be required for summer festivals and concerts in general, but this may not be communicated for a number of days. “Obviously, trying to get hold of counter terrorism experts in the police today isn’t possible, but they are very effective at sharing information with us, so we expect to be briefed in the next day or two.”
Paul Reed, general manager of the Association of Independent Festivals in the UK noted that security at music festivals, as well as venues, is continuously reviewed as the top priority of promoters is the safety of their audiences. He tells IQ that in recent years, there has been a vast increase in dialogue and intelligence sharing between police and festival organisers, while initiatives such as NaCTSO’s counter terrorism Argus exercises are also helping to strengthen security efforts.
“In the aftermath of this dreadful attack in Manchester, audiences attending festivals this season may understandably have some concerns”
“In the aftermath of this dreadful attack in Manchester, audiences attending festivals this season may understandably have some concerns,” says Reed. “I must emphasise the excellent security record of UK festivals. AIF members are experts in organising safe and secure events for between 800 and 60,000 people and a highly effective private security industry has built up around events in this country.
“In addition, organisers have a constant dialogue with law enforcement and other relevant agencies at a local, regional and national level and there is increasingly more intelligence sharing between these agencies and promoters through initiatives such as Operation Gothic and the Project Argus training events. Security measures at festivals are reviewed constantly and the top priority of promoters of festival and concerts is always the safety and security of audiences. If additional measures need to be introduced, we are confident that they will be.”
Industry pays tribute to Manchester bomb victims
Figures from across the live music industry have been quick to offer their condolences for the victims of the deadly terror attack at Manchester Arena yesterday evening. At least 22 people died and many more were injured after an Isis-linked suicide bomber detonated an improvised device outside the foyer of the 21,000-cap. venue after a show by Ariana Grande.
SMG Europe, which manages and operates the arena (pictured) for property firm Mansford, has confirmed that “an incident occurred in a public space outside of Manchester” and offers its “thoughts and prayers […] to the victims of this tragic incident and their families”.
Several other venues also offered their condolences. Paul Thandi, CEO of Birmingham venue operator NEC Group (Genting Arena, Barclaycard Arena), comments: “Our thoughts are with those who were affected by the terrible incident at the Manchester Arena last night. We’re shocked and saddened by what has happened.”
A statement from The O2 in London, meanwhile, says staff are “shocked and deeply saddened by the terrible tragedy in Manchester”. The AEG-operated venue adds that it is in discussion with “the promoters of Ariana Grande’s tour [Live Nation]” as to whether the remainder will go ahead. Grande is booked to play The O2 on 25 and 26 May.
Tony Watson, sales director for First Direct Arena in Leeds, a sister SMG venue, comments: “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends and colleagues associated with the [Manchester] Arena incident.”
Grande herself tweeted: “From the bottom of my heart, I am so so sorry.”
from the bottom of my heart, i am so so sorry. i don't have words.
— Ariana Grande (@ArianaGrande) May 23, 2017
Michael Dugher, the newly appointed chief executive of UK trade group UK Music, comments: “Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by this horrific attack. It is even more distressing that children and teenagers have been targeted.
“We owe a huge debt of gratitude to our brave emergency services and the venue staff. We know venues take security very seriously and do all they can to minimise risks, including training staff how to deal with major incidents. As a result of police investigations there will no doubt be a further review of these measures.
“Music has the power to bring people together and is so often a celebration of peace and love. We will not let terrorism and the politics of violence, hatred and division conquer that spirit.”
Freemuse, an NGO which campaigns for artistic freedom, has criticised the attack “in the strongest possible terms”. “Freemuse calls for a thorough and impartial investigation to bring the perpetrators to justice,” says executive director Srirak Plipat. “Targeting artists and audiences is a cowardly act that will never succeed in silencing artistic expressions and cultural life.”
A statement from Live Nation, the promoter behind Ariana Grande’s Dangerous Woman tour, reads: “We are deeply saddened by this senseless tragedy, and our hearts and thoughts are with those impacted by this devastating incident.”
“The appalling and cowardly attack of Manchester is an attack on our freedom, culture and life,” adds Marek Lieberberg, managing director of Live Nation in Germany. “We mourn for the innocent victims of a blind and brutal terror.”
“Music has the power to bring people together … We will not let terrorism and the politics of violence, hatred and division conquer that spirit”
“Our thoughts today are with all those innocent people whose lives were so cruelly taken yesterday evening in Manchester, and with all those who lost a loved one,” says Munich-based CTS Eventim. “[W]e are sure that Manchester will emerge even stronger from this past night as one of Europe’s centres of pop culture. Our sincere condolences go out to all those affected, and we wish them the loving support of their friends and family.
Live Nation’s Phil Bowdery, speaking on behalf of the Concert Promoters’ Association, says: “We are deeply shocked and saddened by last night’s senseless attack at the Ariana Grande concert. This is heartbreaking news and our thoughts and love are with everyone in Manchester at this time – in particular those that lost their lives or were affected by this devastating incident and their families and friends.
“All members of the Concert Promoters’ Association will continue to work with venues, police, stewarding companies and the relevant authorities, and it is our understanding that outside of the Manchester Arena and the Ariana Grande tour, all other planned concerts and events will go ahead, as advertised, unless ticketholders are directly advised to the contrary. Fans should check with venues direct for specific updates.
“In light of this attack on our concertgoing community, we ask for the support and understanding of our patrons with regard to any security measures which are in place for the safety of the public, and urge everyone to be vigilant and report any suspicious behaviour.”
Both the National Arenas Association (NAA) – of which Manchester Arena is a member – and European Arenas Association (EAA) say they are “shocked and deeply saddened” by the attack.
“Our membership stands in solidarity with the arena, the responders and investigators working hard in Manchester,” reads the EAA statement, “and we are heartened to read of the stories of bravery and courage shown by those teams and the local emergency services last night. Our thoughts and sincere condolences go out to those who have been injured and to the families of those who have so tragically lost their lives.”
This article will be updated with more comments as we receive them.
Timeline: Attacks on live music
The Manchester Arena bombing is the latest in a series of terrorist attacks against concerts and festivals by Islamic extremists, which began – in Europe – in November 2015 at the Bataclan theatre.
But the industry had experienced terror attacks prior to Paris…
22 May 2017
A suicide bomber detonated an explosive device in a foyer outside Manchester Arena killing 22 and injuring 59 following a show by US singer Ariana Grande. The incident is the largest terrorist attack in the UK since the 7/7 bombings in 2005.
1 February 2017
Islamist militants are blamed for a tear gas attack on a concert in Sudan. Two canisters of tear gas were fired into the audience during a show by Sudanese singer Nada Galaa at a cinema in New Halfa, in the state of Kassala.
16 January 2017
Four people were shot dead and fifteen others injured when a lone gunman opened fire at BPM Festival in Mexico. A woman also died in a stampede that ensured as a result of the gunfire. Three of the dead were the festival’s security staff who lost their lives trying to protect patrons inside the Blue Parrot nightclub in Playa del Carmen.
1 January 2017
An attack in an Istanbul nightclub on New Year’s Day resulted in the death of 39 people and injured 70 others. A gunman claiming to represent the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) opened fire inside the Reina nightclub owned by the SU Entertainment Group, in Ortaköy, Istanbul.
24 July 2016
A failed asylum seeker from Syria blew himself up and injured 12 others after being turned away from the Ansbach Open festival in Southern Germany. The 27-year old man was refused entry for not having a ticket before detonating a home made bomb at the entrance to the event.
12 June 2016
Omar Mateen, a 29-year old security guard swearing allegiance to ISIL killed 49 people and wounded 53 others after opening fire at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The attack was the deadliest in the United States since the September 11 attacks, and the deadliest mass shooting by a single shooter in US history.
13 November 2015
ISIL gunman killed 89 concertgoers at the Bataclan theatre as part of a coordinated attack on Paris that claimed 130 lives and injured 368. The attack took place during a set by US rock band Eagles of Death Metal. The gunmen took hostages inside the venue before being shot or blowing themselves up in the ensuing police raid.
26 May 2010
A bomb detonated outside the Stavropol Concert Hall in Russia killed seven and injured 40 others. The explosive device was detonated 15 minutes before a popular Chechen dance show Vainakh, who had previously been openly photographed with Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov.
5 June 2003
Two female suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the Krlyla festival at the Tushino Airport near Moscow, killing 16 people and injuring 60 others. The bombers were both linked to rebel formations in Chechnya.
22 people dead after bombing at Manchester Arena
At least 22 people, many of them children, have lost their lives after a suicide bombing at Manchester Arena for which the Islamic State terror group has claimed responsibility.
An explosion ripped through the foyer of the 21,000-cap. UK venue at around 22:40 last night, shortly after the conclusion of a concert by American pop singer Ariana Grande (pictured), with the mostly young, female audience the apparent target. More than 50 people are also known to have been injured.
Chief constable Ian Hopkins of Greater Manchester Police described the attack – believed to have been carried out by 22-year old Salman Abedi, who died at the arena – as “the most horrific incident we have had to face in Greater Manchester, and one that we hoped we would never see”.
“We are deeply saddened by this senseless tragedy”
The bombing is the worst terrorist attack in Britain in more than a decade, and comes 21 years after the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) bombed Manchester in an attack that left no one dead but injured 212.
It is also the deadliest terrorist attack on a music venue since the mass shooting at Bataclan in Paris in November 2015, which led to many venues, promoters and festivals rethinking their security strategies in response to the growing global threat of Islamist terror.
Speaking in Downing Street, UK prime minister Theresa May said: “All acts of terrorism are cowardly attacks against innocent people but this attack stands out for its appalling, sickening cowardice, deliberately targeting innocent and defenceless young people.”
Many foreign leaders have expressed their condolences, including US President Donald Trump who said the “slaughter of innocent people, mostly innocent children” was wicked and the work of an “evil loser”.
According to Pollstar’s annual figures on the arena market, Manchester Arena was the fourth busiest arena in the world in 2016, with total ticket sales of 851,785 for concerts.
“All acts of terrorism are cowardly attacks against innocent people but this attack stands out for its appalling, sickening cowardice, deliberately targeting innocent and defenceless young people.”
The arena issued a statement condemning the attack, which read: “Last night, our community suffered a senseless tragedy… Our entire team’s thoughts and focus are now on supporting the people affected and their families.
“We are assisting the police in any way we can. We cannot praise the emergency services enough for their response and have been inspired by the way the people of this great city of Manchester rallied round last night and have continued to respond today. It shows the very best of this city.
“Again, our thoughts and deepest condolences are with all those affected by last night’s tragedy.”
Live Nation, which promoted the Grande show, says: “We are deeply saddened by this senseless tragedy, and our hearts and thoughts are with those impacted by this devastating incident.”
Live EDM growing fast in France
Continuing the trend seen in 2014, electronic music was the fastest-growing sector in the French live market last year.
Audience figures for electronic/dance music events increased 40% in 2015, reveals new data from industry body CNV (Centre national de la chanson, des variétés et du jazz), although comedy shows had the highest number of paying attendees (28% of the total live market) and pop and rock concerts generated more ticket sales (21% and 19%, respectively).
As a whole, the French live sector generated €763 million in total ticket sales in 2015 – up 5% on 2014 – from 25.3m attendees (4% more than the previous year).
Despite the strong figures, CNV warns of “the fragility of an ecosystem composed mainly of small- and medium-sized businesses”
CNV notes festivals – of which there were a record number in 2015 – “contribute greatly to the vitality of the sector”, outstripping the rest of the market with an average of 15% growth.
Despite the seemingly strong figures, CNV says the 15 November 2015 attack on the Bataclan in Paris has “obviously had an impact” on the health of the market, and also warns of “the fragility of an ecosystem composed mainly of small- and medium-sized businesses”.
It emerged earlier this year that electronic music is also the only genre showing consistent growth in the US.