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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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Omeara’s Ben Lovett announces new London venue

Mumford and Sons member Ben Lovett has announced plans for his second live music venue, Lafayette, launching in London early next year.

Lovett opened grassroots venue Omeara (320-cap.) in late 2016. His new venture, located in Kings Cross, will be set within the new Good Ways development.

The new venue will be booked by Communion, the team that organise all live shows and club nights at Omeara.

“A few years ago I embarked on a journey into the unknown with family and friends and launched Omeara at Flat Iron Square,” comments Lovett. “We weren’t entirely clear how to achieve what we ultimately wanted, but we definitely knew what it needed to be and why we were doing it.

“I have had some of my favourite and most memorable experiences in Omeara since it opened back in late 2016, and I truly believe that the experience it has provided both fans and artists is something so important to London’s venue landscape.

“I’m forever committed to pushing forward a new era of music venues that truly elevate people’s expectations of what that experience should be”

“It is with great pride that I can now share our plans to open Lafayette @ Goods Way which will be in the heart of King’s Cross, adjacent to Central St. Martins and Coal Drops Yard. I’m forever committed to pushing forward a new era of music venues that truly elevate people’s expectations of what that experience should be, and I believe London ought to continually strive to be at the forefront of the entertainment industry on a global stage, as the best city in the world.

It’s still early days in the venue’s construction but, this time, not only do we know exactly what it will be and why we’re doing it, but we’re now extremely confident that we know how to deliver it too!”

Lovett aims to provide a wide array of programming for the new venues, from “regular, eclectic club nights” to “bespoke one-off events”.

Further details, including Lafayette’s capacity and information on upcoming shows, will be shared over the coming weeks.


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