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Execs talk investment opportunities in live music

A trio of leading live music executives have shared their views on the areas of the business most ripe for investment.

With the market bouncing back internationally following the Covid shutdown, Mumford & Sons musician and venue boss Ben Lovett, Oak View Group (OVG) International’s Jessica Koravos and Jarred Arfa, COO of Artist Group International, weighed in on the biggest opportunities for the industry.

Speaking during the Industry Investment: Field notes panel at the recent ILMC in London, US-based Arfa suggested the concept of Live Nation’s upcoming “emo nostalgia” festival When We Were Young in Las Vegas, which has expanded to three days due to demand, pointed a way forward for the industry.

“There are obviously so many festivals out there, but we’re seeing a lot of success where they’re focusing on specific niches,” he said. “People want to be part of that moment in time and relive that, as opposed to, ‘Let’s give everyone a little flavour of everything.’ Those that are focusing on specific genres, or overfeeding one time period, are seeing some success and a point of distinction.”

“The pandemic has made people really appreciate those coming together moments that maybe they took for granted before”

Koravos, who is also president of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group, which oversees some of the world’s biggest theatrical titles, said Covid-19 has prompted a change of mindset in the public when it comes to live shows.

“One thing that pandemic has absolutely done is made people really appreciate those coming together moments that maybe they took for granted before,” she said. “Flipping hats and talking about the West End and theatre for a second, what’s very interesting to me is that what’s very successful in the West End right now is the shows that have been there the longest.

“I see it with Phantom of the Opera, which has flipped its age demographic down by 10 years over the course of the pandemic, and I think it’s because of exactly that – you take for granted that something that’s always been there will keep being there. But I don’t think that’s the assumption anymore.

“People want to go see Billy Joel at [Madison Square] Garden. They want to go see Phantom of the Opera. They want to make sure they are appreciating the things that might not always be there.”

“There are just not enough good venues. It’s really that simple”

TVG Hospitality co-founder Lovett urged would-be investors to put their faith (and finances) in the independent sector.

“I would back indie promoters,” he said. “Everything’s getting so algorithmic, we could end up with pretty watered down creative inputs into our lives unless those indie promoters go and stick their neck out. So I would say, invest money into those indie promoters… If we can get some great promoters coming through, it’s going to be good for everyone.”

Earlier this year, TVG Hospitality announced the closing of $50 million in new funding to expand its team and venue portfolio in the UK and US, backed by a heavyweight list of investors including OVG, founded by Tim Leiweke and Irving Azoff.

TVG is bidding to create the next generation of music venues alongside elevated hospitality offerings in order to enhance the artist and fan experience and create gathering spaces as community assets. The company’s current portfolio includes London music venues, Omeara, Lafayette and the Social, and broader hospitality offerings at Flat Iron Square and Goods Way.

“This is going to be the most exciting few years”

“Across the board, I think what Tim and Irving saw – and the same issue that we were trying to solve – is there are just not enough good venues. It’s really that simple,” said Lovett, whose latest project – the 8,000-cap Orion Amphitheater in Huntsville, Alabama – opened earlier this month.

“For the last couple of decades there just hasn’t been enough investment into truly inspiring places,” continued Lovett. “There are people buying incredible bars and restaurants and hotels, and there’s lots of other things that are being constantly being reimagined and the envelope is being pushed. But when it comes to music venues it’s just stagnated. And this is going to be the most exciting few years where all of these new venues are going to [launch].”

OVG has already opened the Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, Moody Center in Austin and the UBS Arena in Long Island, New York, with schemes also on their way in Manchester, Baltimore, Coachella Valley and Cardiff.

“Venues are very expensive,” added Koravos. “The 2,000 seaters are expensive, the 20,000 seaters are super-expensive, so investment is a crucial part of getting those off the ground. But the whole point of Oak View Group is really just looking around at the fact that, around the world, the big music venues are actually all buildings that were built 20 years ago or more, for the most part.

“They were built for sports for the most part, not by anybody who knew anything about the content about what needed to go in them and what the fan needed to experience. So at Oak View, our whole reason for being is to build the best experience in the best markets.”

 


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Ben Lovett’s TVG raises $50m in new funding

Ben Lovett‘s TVG Hospitality has announced the closing of $50 million in new funding to expand its team and venue portfolio in the UK and US, backed by a heavyweight list of investors.

The financing round was led by Nat Zilkha and Gibson Brands, with music industry participants including C3 Presents, Irving Azoff and Oak View Group, Mike Luba and Don Sullivan, Justin Kalifowitz and Andrew Bergman, Coran Capshaw, Ron Laffitte, Lucy Dickins, Adam Tudhope and Tom Windish, and musicians Ryan Tedder, Maggie Rogers and Ted Dwane.

Founded by Mumford & Sons’ Lovett and his brother Greg Lovett, TVG currently operates three London venues, with multiple sites under development in the US, including the Orion Amphitheater in Huntsville, Alabama.

“Our passion at TVG, our defining character, is a deep-rooted belief in the value of communal spaces, gathering places where we can be reminded of our common ground and all that makes us human,” says Ben Lovett. “Music is the ultimate leveller – somewhere between melody and lyric is a truth that calls us away from our phones and out of our living rooms to stand together and sing together.

“The plans we have in mind are rooted in elevating these experiences surrounding live music. I am incredibly grateful for the investments from so many of our industry leaders. It furthers cements our belief that our new thinking is going to be game changing for artists, fans and communities alike.”

“Ben and his team are approaching the venue space in exactly the right way”

TVG is bidding to create the next generation of music venues alongside elevated hospitality offerings in order to enhance the artist and fan experience and create gathering spaces as community assets. The company’s current portfolio includes London music venues, Omeara, Lafayette and the Social, and broader hospitality offerings at Flat Iron Square and Goods Way.

“We are thrilled to be working with TVG on this next chapter of their venues.” says Irving Azoff, chairman/CEO, The Azoff Company and co-founder, Oak View Group. “Ben and his team are approaching the venue space in exactly the right way – you have to put the artist and the fan at the centre of every thought process. That’s the key and TVG are both artists and fans whilst also knowing a thing or two about hospitality. We hope to support them on their mission in any way we can.”

Funding was also provided by leading entrepreneurs and hospitality industry leaders including Jen Rubio and Stewart Butterfield, Joe Gebbia, Olga Segura, Tom Kartsotis, Samantha Marquart, Brent Montgomery, Ann Berry, Bippy Siegal, and Dani Ricciardo, as well as investors such as LionTree, Goldman Sachs, John Howard, Pete Muller and multiple partners from KKR.

The company is partnering with the City of Huntsville, Alabama on the 8,000-cap Orion Amphitheater to be opened in May. TVG will also operate a food village next to the venue and another venue located in downtown Huntsville called Meridian Social Club at The Lumberyard, which will open this summer. TVG is also developing projects in Washington DC, London, Nashville, Austin, Detroit, New York and Los Angeles.

“We have purposefully built a leadership team with extensive experience across music, hospitality, real estate and finance”

In addition, the firm has expanded its leadership team, adding Jesse Mann (formerly SVP, strategy and operations, AC Entertainment/Live Nation), Dan Pine (ex-MD at Marathon Asset Management and development partner to the Related Companies), and Lisa Seelinger (formerly head of People for Bergdorf Goodman and Maybourne Hotel Group).

“We have purposefully built a leadership team with extensive experience across music, hospitality, real estate and finance,” adds chairman David Lovett, Ben and Greg’s father, and co-founder and former vice chairman of Alix Partners in Europe. “We are building our company like we create our venues, with intention, so that our assets and TVG become valuable and sustainable parts of each of the communities in which we operate.”

Speaking to IQ last year, Ben Lovett said: “One of the things that we learned was that you need to build a whole ecosystem. There’s no point having just one big venue so bands from out of town come and play a handful of times, you’ve got to nurture local grassroots talent.”

 


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Ben Lovett: Live biz ‘will come back stronger’

Ben Lovett says more than 250 shows are booked for each of his London venues in 2022 as the live business gears up to roar back from the Covid-19 crisis.

The Mumford & Sons musician has opened three grassroots sites in the UK – Omeara (320-cap), Lafayette (600-cap) and The Social (250-cap) – under his Venue Group umbrella since 2016.

And in the second and final part of his interview with IQ (see part one here), Lovett, who is about to make his first move into the US market with the opening of two new venues in Huntsville, Alabama, says the signs indicate the industry is “coming back strong” from the travails of the past two years.

“Our venues in London are already pretty much booked up for next year and that’s a great sign,” he says. “In terms of what other people are doing, I’m actually hearing stories about more venues being planned and opened than I’ve heard about in the last 10 years, so I do think there’s a general swing of the pendulum back to investing into the infrastructure of this industry again, rather than five years ago when every story was about another venue closing down.

“Equally, I’ve read stories about a new Cardiff arena coming; a new Manchester arena coming; Koko’s back with a crazy budget attached to it… So, on balance, you have to believe we’re building more venues than we’re losing, which is a great result.”

Lovett’s Lafayette project, which is set within the new Good Ways development in King’s Cross, opened with a special show by Dave in March 2020, only to be forced to close just 10 days after opening due to the pandemic.

We’re not going to hit a point with this pandemic where a light switch suddenly turns back on and everything’s fine again

“I wouldn’t have changed that Dave show for anything, because it was just amazing to be able to watch him perform in there the day after the BRITs,” reflects Lovett. “But I think for the team, it’s been a little bit strange, because we haven’t had that grand opening moment again. It’s been like a reopening, which isn’t quite the same.

“The general campus of King’s Cross is taking a minute to come back online – there are a lot of big companies there that haven’t had people come back to work fully yet, I think offices are 25 to 50% full, so it’s creeping back.”

The Communion co-founder continues: “I’m now of the mindset that we’re not going to hit a point with this pandemic where a light switch suddenly turns back on and everything’s fine again. It’s just going to muddle its way back to that point, which I think will reflect in the spaces that people are occupying as well.

“It’s not like, suddenly, everyone wakes up one day and says, ‘Right, I’m going to a gig again.’ I’ve been to some great gigs in the last couple of months, but I know other people who are like, ‘I’m just not quite there yet, mentally, I spent so many months being afraid to touch a door handle, that the idea of standing in a sweaty box with a bunch of strangers is a big call.’ They’re like, ‘I know I’ll get there,’ but it’s a little bit of a gradual re-entry.”

Omeara celebrated its fifth birthday last week with a night headlined by Gang of Youths. Lovett’s first venue, it has staged intimate gigs by artists including Kylie Minogue, Skepta, Beck and Biffy Clyro, along with a three-night stand by Sam Fender in November 2018.

“It obviously holds a very special place in my heart,” says Lovett. “Without that venue and the positive reaction towards it, and the conversations I’ve had with artists in the dressing room over the years – with Beck and Maggie Rogers, and certain artists I have vivid memories of talking to after their shows – I don’t think I would have been inspired to do the rest of it. It’s really that first child syndrome, and five years is both young and old.

“I really want to figure out how Omeara becomes a place like the Cavern or 100 Club, that people talk about decades later as being the place where such and such a band launched. We got Sam Fender’s first show in London. I think he’ll be around for a long time as an artist and it’d be pretty cool if, in 30 years’ time, Omeara is still standing and people are going into that room saying, ‘Wow, I can’t believe that Sam Fender once played here. Look how small it is, and now he’s doing stadiums.’

“Five years is an important mark on our way there, but there’s a lot more work to be done. I want us to continue to establish [Omeara] as a cornerstone of grassroots culture in London.”

This is a service industry to support people’s dreams and there’s something very beautiful about it

Lovett, whose London Venue Group received a £2.35m grant via the UK government’s Culture Recovery Fund to maintain the buildings during their Covid-imposed closure and explore streaming options in the future, was full of praise for the resilience displayed by the domestic venue sector.

“There’s a lot of creative adaptability in the DNA of the people that choose to get into this industry,” he says. “It’s a tough, resilient bunch that come up with ways in which they can make ends meet, even if it’s to tie over for as long a period as it’s been. But it’s always a little bit cyclical, we’re used to it, there are seasons of ebbs and flows.

“There was a fair amount of support given at the right times. Not comprehensive, but it definitely helped. I wouldn’t say that we’re fully back in terms of all the people that were there before, being there now, but the music industry in the UK is functional and it will build back stronger.

“In and amongst the pressure of it all, there’s been important conversations and collaboration; people opening up and breaking down some of those barriers that build up sometimes between theoretical competitors, and more of a sense of togetherness. And that’s more like the kind of culture and the personality of the whole industry in my mind. This is not like the stockmarket, this is a service industry to support people’s dreams and there’s something very beautiful about it. I think sometimes it just takes something shocking happening to remind people of that.”

 


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Ben Lovett talks Venue Group’s US ambitions

Mumford & Sons’ Ben Lovett has told IQ about his first move into the US market with the opening of two new venues in Huntsville, Alabama.

Lovett is CEO of Venue Group, which operates London’s Omeara (320-cap), Lafayette (600-cap) and The Social (250-cap). Last year, he announced plans to expand his independent empire with the 8,000-cap Orion Amphitheater in Huntsville, Alabama, scheduled to open in May 2022.

“It probably seems quite an exotic shift from London at first glance, but there was a whole sequence of events that led me to Huntsville,” explains Lovett. “It actually started with the London mayor’s office, funnily enough, and Shain Shapiro from [music market development consultancy] Sound Diplomacy, who did the whole audit about the night-time economy and why we need to keep culture in the centre of our cities, so they don’t end up becoming just a big bunch of flats and offices.

“We met at the launch of Omeara five years ago, then [Shapiro] did a similar study for the city of Huntsville, which is now the biggest city in Alabama. They have lots of great jobs and lots of people live there, but there’s nothing to do, and the conclusion was that they wanted to build a big outdoor amphitheatre.

“They put a request for people to come in to present their vision – it was like an episode of X Factor. And we were like, ‘If you’re going to do this, you’ve got to build something remarkable.’ And they liked the sound of that, so they gave us the contracts and we’ve spent the last three years designing this thing.”

Details of its 13-15 May opening weekend celebration, The First Waltz, were confirmed earlier this week. Acts will include Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Emmylou Harris, John Paul White, St Paul and the Broken Bones, and Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes.

The idea is to build one of the best new venues in the world

The scheme is being managed by Huntsville Venue Group, a partnership between Lovett and industry veterans Ryan Murphy, Mike Luba, Don Sullivan, Jeff Kicklighter and Al Santos.

“The idea is to build one of the best new venues in the world,” declares Lovett, who reveals plans are afoot to complement the project with another ‘Omeara-sized’ venue in the city.

“One of the things that we learned was that you need to build a whole ecosystem,” he says. “There’s no point having just one big venue so bands from out of town come and play a handful of times, you’ve got to nurture local grassroots talent.”

The New York-based Brit suggests there is still much more to come on that front.

“We are going to try and figure out another venue in London before too long, and we’re having some interesting conversations with other cities in America,” he adds. “I’ve spent so much of my adult life touring America and I’m such a big fan of this country; I want to try and see where else we can build great venues here.”

Venue Group has offices in London, New York, Huntsville, Alabama and Austin. And the 35-year-old musician and Communion co-founder, who invested in D2F startup Planet over the summer, suggests the fallout from the cessation of touring during the pandemic has only strengthened his resolve.

“That hasn’t slowed us down,” he insists. “If anything, it’s actually made us more bullish – the reason being that we saw every man and his dog try and figure out a way to bring shows into people’s living rooms, and it just didn’t work. So if 18 months can’t break down the bond of the live music experience between fans and artists, then you better believe I’m going to go all in on this thing.”

Check out iq-mag.net next week for part two of our interview with Lovett.

 


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Ben Lovett, IE Music invest in new D2F platform

Planet, a new direct-to-fan (D2F) live music platform, launches today (26 July) with investment from Ben Lovett, member of Mumford & Sons, co-founder of Communion and CEO of Venue Group, and IE Ventures, the investment arm of artist management company IE Music (Robbie Williams, Passenger, Cher Lloyd).

Founded in early 2020 by James Morrison, former senior director of global partnerships for AEG, Planet enables artists to sell tickets, products and fans directly to fans, who in turn can influence “everything from tour locations to support acts”, according to the company, which describes itself as a “crowd-powered community where artists and fans come together as a collective”.

“Now is the moment to put fans back at the beating heart of live music” says Lovett, whose Venue Group added its latest property, the Social in London, late last year.  “Planet has been designed to bring music fans and artists closer together, providing a platform for artists to build a deeper understanding of their fans wants and needs.”

The new company’s website, planet.fans, is powered by an insights engine dubbed the Beat, which gathers and interprets data on consumer behaviour to provide artists with a greater understanding of their fans.

“As we emerge from lockdown … the opportunity for artists to reinvent and rewire their relationship with their biggest fans grows stronger”

Accoring to Morrison, the Beat engine helps artists plan what to ‘drop’, when to do it, and who to drop it to, “enabling artists to connect with fans more effectively and more directly in the biggest moments”.

“The more fans participate the better chance they have of getting more of what they want, like great-value tickets, backstage access and first-release drops, straight from the artist,” he explains. “As we emerge from lockdown and live events return, the demand of the crowd beats louder and the opportunity for artists to reinvent and rewire their relationship with their biggest fans grows stronger.”

The platform is starting to power artists’ early release presales from September 2021.

“We have long supported artists going directly to their fans”, says Stephen O’Reilly, managing director of IE Ventures, “largely because it improves the experience and creates new value from already captive audiences, and there’s none more so than live music fans right now, so we are looking forward to working with James and the team to understand the levels of demand for our artists as things open up.”

 


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Academy Music Group, Ronnie Scott’s receive CRF grants

Academy Music Group (AMG), Ronnie Scott’s and London Venue Group (LVG) are among the eight arts and cultural organisations in the UK to receive grants between £1 million and £3m from the second Culture Recovery Fund (CRF) tranche.

Venue operator AMG, whose shareholders include Live Nation, will receive just under £3m (£2,981,431) to “help meet the core operating costs” of its 20 live music venues across the country, including O2 Academy venues in London, Leeds and Liverpool.

While world-renowned jazz club Ronnie Scott’s has received a grant of £1,272,631 to “explore streamed performance opportunities for emerging and established British musicians”. The club says it’s delighted that “the fundamental importance of Ronnie Scott’s” has been recognised.

And venue operator LVG, owned by Mumford & Sons member Ben Lovett, has been awarded £2,358,902 to maintain its venues Omeara (cap. 320), Lafayette (600) and recent addition The Social (250) during closure and “enable them to explore streaming options in the future”.

“We are overjoyed that we are able to ensure that all our members of staff can now look ahead to Christmas without the looming threat of redundancy, and to protect the extended Venue Group family; a team of bright, passionate, capable, industry professionals who we’ve been trying to support however possible since being forced to close our venues back in March,” Lovett wrote on Instagram.

“These grants will help the places that have shaped our skylines for hundreds of years and that continue to define culture”

“These grants will help the places that have shaped our skylines for hundreds of years and that continue to define culture in our towns and cities,” says culture secretary Oliver Dowden at the department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), which has been working alongside Arts Council England to disperse the fund.

“From St Paul’s and Ronnie Scott’s to The Lowry and Durham Cathedral, we’re protecting heritage and culture in every corner of the country to save jobs and ensure it can bounce back strongly.”

Elsewhere, in Scotland, 203 organisations and venues have received a share of £11.75m through the first tranche of the Scottish government’s Culture Organisations and Venues Recovery Fund, delivered by Creative Scotland.

“The Scottish government is determined to do everything within our powers to see the sector through this crisis,” says culture secretary Fiona Hyslop.

“This emergency funding will provide vital support to a wide range of cultural organisations and venues across Scotland currently facing extreme challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic. It has been designed specifically to help organisations cope with the immediate issues they are facing and to help save jobs.

“I am pleased to see such a wide range of organisations supported, from comedy clubs and theatres to galleries and production companies.”

See results from the first round of the UK’s CRF here.

 


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London’s The Social joins Ben Lovett’s Venue Group

London venue The Social will reopen in 2021 after partnering with Venue Group, the Ben Lovett-led operator of Omeara and Lafayette.

The two-storey, 250-capacity venue, located on Little Portland Street in London’s West End, will operate under the Venue Group umbrella as part of a partnership that provides The Social with “stability and security” and assurance for its customers, according to the company.

The Social opened in 1999 and has hosted acts including the Chemical Brothers, Four Tet, Michael Kiwanuka, Florence and the Machine, Adele, Beck and Aphex Twin. It raised more than £145,000 in a crowdfunding campaign last year to stop its enforced sale.

“Ever since The Social announced that it was at risk of closure in 2019, I have been actively engaged in trying to figure out a way to prevent that from happening. We have been working together on a solution that retains the entire independence and ownership for the founders while teaming up together to ensure the long-term viability of the venue,” says Venue Group CEO and Mumford & Sons member Lovett, who spoke about his passion for grassroots venues at ILMC’s Futures Forum eearlier this year.

“Alongside Omeara and Lafayette, I hope that we are developing a path for artists of all shapes and sizes to develop and grow with their fans”

“I believe that The Social is one of the most important destinations in London, especially as a music venue, and alongside Omeara and Lafayette I hope that we are developing a path for artists of all shapes and sizes to develop and grow with their fans in one of the world’s most significant music cities.”

Robin Turner of The Social adds: “After the 2019 Crowdfunder, we knew we were realistically only halfway towards saving The Social. Though we were able to stay open for our 20th anniversary, we’d lost our long-time operating partners and needed to find new ones to help us move forward.

“When we met Ben, Greg [Lovett] and the Venue Group, we immediately knew they were kindred spirits: people who recognised the transformative power of a good night out, and were dedicated to offering audiences and bands the best gig experience possible.

“We’re extremely excited about The Social taking its next steps forward with them. Here’s to the next 20 years.”

 


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‘We exist to tour’: Team Mumford do Futures Forum

Mumford & Sons’ live strategy formed the core of the Futures Forum keynote interview on Friday (6 March), featuring founding band member Ben Lovett, manager Adam Tudhope and agent Lucy Dickins, in conversation with journalist Paul Stokes.

“We are most passionate about the live side,” said Lovett, in a statement that proved almost superfluous over the course of the interview, given the palpable sense of enthusiasm he emitted while talking about Mumford & Sons’ past tours, their Gentlemen of the Road events and his own venues, Omeara and Lafayette.

Since the very earliest stages of Mumford & Sons – and even before they were known as such – the band members approached performing with a “sleeves rolled-up mentality”, unafraid of getting involved with staging and other aspects of putting on shows.

This resulted in a collaborative approach to touring, which remains to this very day. “I love the fact that it is always a conversation between us and the promoters,” said Lovett. “We respect promoters as a band – it’s in our DNA.”

The band officially formed in 2007, consisting of Marcus Mumford, Winston Marshall, Ted Dwane and Lovett, with Dickins and Tudhope coming on board as firm members of the team from the get go.

“We just toured non-stop,” said Dickins, who joined WME in May last year. “I’ve never seen a work ethic like it and that continues today.”

Lovett agreed that “the main reason Mumford & Sons exist is to tour”. The band’s most recent concert tour, Delta, saw them perform more than 60 dates at arenas across Europe, North America, Asia and Australia.

“I’ve never seen a work ethic like it and that continues today”

The mammoth tour sold 700,000 tickets in just a few days of going on sale, broke multiple attendance records and featured the band playing in the round for the first time. “It was very challenging but incredibly effective staging,” said Lovett, explaining there was a “sense of duty” to allow fans to experience their songs in a different way for their fourth headlining tour.

“We took some risks on Delta,” he said, “and on balance it really paid off. It really felt like there were connection happening between audience members throughout that tour.”

Forming meaningful connections in interesting places is at the heart of much of what the band do. The team revealed that upcoming plans to “go deeper into eastern Europe”, explore new “seemingly random places” and work with new promoters, were “scuppered” by the recent coronavirus outbreak.

“We really do have a really awesome idea up our sleeves,” said Tudhope, with the team hinting that plans would not be put on hold forever.

The band’s Gentlemen of the Road event series has seen them perform in many different places, travelling to small towns in the UK, Australia, the US, South Africa, and more.

“The culture clash is so beautiful”, said Tudhope, speaking of seeing tiny, off-the-beaten track towns inundated with festivalgoers, and local businesses benefitting from the event. “There’s a real community aspect.”

Dickins referenced the practical challenges of finding a suitable site for these unique events and curating the line-up. “It’s double, if not triple the amount of work but it’s worth every bit,” she said. “Enthusiasm drives it.”

“It was very challenging but incredibly effective staging”

From a business point of view, Tudhope said the events were a great way of gaining a true understanding of how promoters work, which has “really informed a lot of our own business decisions.”

“Promoters aren’t a bank for us,” added the Mumford & Sons manager. “They’re the enablers of a dream and you need a good relationship for that.”

If the experience of putting on their own events has enabled the band and team to develop a deeper understanding of how promoters work, then Lovett’s experience as a touring musician has informed him in his capacity as a venue owner.

Lovett, who owns and operates London venues Omeara and the recently opened Lafayette, stated that both fans and artists want something “unique” from venues, asking why the industry is pushing a more standardised “cookie cutter” model.

“Everybody wants to play Omeara because it’s so thought out from the artist’s side,” said Dickins. Artists that have performed at the 320-capacity venue include the Pretenders, Kodaline, the Maccabees, Beck and Circa Waves, with upcoming performances from Jake Bugg, Amy Wadge and Jesse Malin.

Lafayette (600-cap.) opened its doors last week with a performance by Brit Award-winner Dave and already has a full programme of upcoming events by the likes of Jack Peñate, D Double E and Hudson Taylor.

“The support I’ve received for Lafayette has meant the world,” said Lovett, adding that he has the lease on the venue for 25 years – equating to around 5,000 shows. “Just think of all the acts that are going to go through there.”

“For me, the sign of a successful band is longevity”

Lovett’s venue ventures have much to do with sustaining the live industry and providing artists with a place to perform. Lovett referenced the number of venue closures that have been seen in recent years, emphasising the damage that the secondary ticketing market is enacting on the grassroots level of the industry in particular.

Tudhope spoke of how the US leg of Mumfords’ Delta tour ended up generating “many millions” for the secondary market. “We didn’t want our fans to have to pay that money,” he said, explaining that it was the tickets sold at the affordable price band that were most heavily targeted by touts.

This experience “galvanised us really strongly to do something about it”, said Tudhope. Together with other managers and artists, the Mumford team has now created “a really good coalition” around anti-touting group FanFair Alliance.

Environmental sustainability is another area that the team is looking to improve upon. The band partnered with green touring specialist Reverb on its Delta tour to calculate – and later offset – carbon emissions, and create an eco-friendly touring template for future use.

“The key thing you have to commit to is spending money,” said Tudhope. “It costs money to be greener, that’s the reality.”

With sustainability remaining essential to Mumford & Sons’ ethos, it appears this will be a cost the band is willing to take.

“For me, the sign of a successful band is longevity, rather than number ones or show size, or anything else,” said Lovett. “All I want to know is: how can we do this for longer?”

 


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The final countdown: ILMC week is here

The 32nd International Live Music Conference (ILMC) is kicking off tomorrow (3 March) in London, welcoming top music industry professionals for a wide range of panel discussions, keynote interviews and networking events.

The 2020 edition of ILMC features the conference’s most wide-reaching agenda yet, with sessions looking at the agency, ticketing, venue and festival sectors, as well as exploring green touring, mental health, the Insta-generation and life after losing a star act.

This year also sees the return of Futures Forum on 6 March, a forward-looking discussion and networking event created by young professionals for the next generation of live music industry leaders.

Highlights of the ILMC agenda include the ILMC Breakfast Meeting, which sees Dire Straits manager Ed Bicknell site down to interview fellow legendary artist manager Peter Rudge, and the Futures Forum keynote, featuring Team Mumford & Sons – founding band member and venue owner Ben Lovett, manager Adam Tudhope and booking agent Lucy Dickins.

The 2020 edition of ILMC features the conference’s most wide-reaching agenda yet

Elsewhere, ILMC’s main opening session The Open Forum: Universally challenged will consider the impact of Covid-19 coronavirus on the business, as well as other key topics; agents line up to discuss recent strategies for both emerging and established artists in The Agency Business 2020; urban music’s meteoric rise is examined in the Urban Legends: Hip hop on top panel; and the industry’s duty of care towards its workforce forms the centre of conversation in the Mental Health: Next steps for live session.

A packed ILMC workshop schedule will look at the impact 5G is likely to have on live music, the benefits video-sharing platform TikTok brings to the business, how to maximise the potential of digital marketing and the advantages of digital ticketing.

The first day of the conference shines the spotlight on live music production at the ILMC Production Meeting (IPM) and sustainability at the Green Events and Innovations Conference (GEI).

Outside of the conference programming, the best and brightest of the industry will be crowned at the ILMC Arthur Awards Winners’ Dinner on Thursday night and delegates will go head to head in a series of activities including the It’s a Copout game show night, as well as staples of the ILMC night-time programme table football and karaoke.

ILMC takes place at the Royal Garden Hotel in London from 3 to 6 March. Companies supporting this year’s conference include Live Nation, Ticketmaster, Eventim, Universe, Livestyled, Tysers, Joy Station, Mojo Rental and Showsec.

 


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Team Mumford, Peter Rudge confirmed as ILMC keynotes

Legendary artist manager Peter Rudge and Team Mumford & Sons and  have been announced as the keynote speakers at this year’s International Live Music Conference (ILMC) in March.

The ILMC Breakfast Meeting (Wednesday 4 March) this year features two titans of the artist management game, as Dire Straits manager Ed Bicknell sits down to interview Peter Rudge, whose roster has included the Who, the Rolling Stones, Roger Waters, Duran Duran, Madness, Ray Davies, Anastacia, James, Imelda May and Ball & Boe.

The Futures Forum keynote, taking place on the final, youth-focused day of the conference on 6 March, will see Team Mumford & Sons interviewed by Radio X DJ John Kennedy. Founding band member and venue owner Ben Lovett will be joined by manager Adam Tudhope (Everybody’s) and booking agent Lucy Dickins (WME) to reflect on Mumfords’ journey from banjo-plucking west London folkies to global superstars.

The ILMC Breakfast Meeting features two titans of the artist management game

Elsewhere across the ILMC conference schedule, guest speakers include CAA co-head Emma Banks, UTA’s head of global music David Zedeck, Live Nation’s executive president of international touring Phil Bowdery and SVP Marketing Jackie Wilgar, Book My Show CEO Ashish Hemrajani, AEG President and CEO Alex Hill, Oak View Group co-chair Jessica Koravos and O2’s head of sponsorship Gareth Griffiths.

Last year’s Breakfast Meeting saw the Who’s Roger Daltrey take to the stage to discuss the band’s beginnings, crooked managers and his oft-strained relationship with Pete Townshend, whereas the inaugural Futures Forum keynote featured double grammy winner Dua Lipa talking about the challenges faced by women in the industry, alongside her father, Dugi.

ILMC takes place at the Royal Garden Hotel and The Baglioni Hotel in Kensington from 3 to 6 March. The invitation-only event sells out annually, with 1,200 delegates from over 60 markets attending the main conference, and a total of around 2,000 professionals expected at ILMC events across the week.

 


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