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Billie Eilish leads coalition against gun violence

A number of artists including Billie Eilish, Peter Gabriel and Sheryl Crow have joined a coalition of musicians called Artist for Action to Prevent Gun Violence.

The alliance, which also includes Nile Rodgers, Bootsy Collins, Sofi Tukker, Rufus Wainwright and Bush, is designed to inspire people to volunteer, donate and vote to end the epidemic of gun violence in the US.

Led by musician Mark Barden, whose son was one of the 26 people murdered in the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school shooting, Artist for Action also includes the Pixies, LP, Old Crow Medicine Show, Halestorm, Rozzi, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Karen Fairchild of Little Big Town and more.

The organisation is launching with a series of live events, including a performance by Bush and special guests, at New York’s Irving Plaza on 22 September.

“As a community of artists, we need to band together to make common sense change”

Presented by AFA (Artist For Artist), the first concert is designed to raise awareness for the coalition and Sandy Hook Promise, a non-profit founded and led by several family members whose loved ones were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“After my son Daniel was murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I put my career as a professional guitarist on hold to devote myself to preventing gun violence,” Barden said. “Please join me and hundreds of other artists, musicians, actors, athletes, and people like you to finally end this senseless violence.”

“This needs to stop,” said Peter Gabriel. “So many needless deaths. So much suffering. It just needs a little common sense.”

Billie Eilish adds: “As a community of artists, we need to band together to make common sense change.”

Further concerts are planned for December to celebrate the release of the film that led to the creation of Artist for Action to Prevent Gun Violence: A Father’s Promise, as well as one next summer at Central Park SummerStage around Gun Violence Awareness Month.


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Billie Eilish’s Lollapalooza set to be solar powered

Billie Eilish’s headline set at Lollapalooza in Chicago will be partially solar powered by zero-emission battery systems.

The climate-friendly performance on Thursday 3 August is part of the Music Decarbonisation Project co-founded by Eilish herself in partnership with the environmental non-profit Reverb.

The 21-year-old’s set at the flagship Lollapalooza will be powered by zero-emissions battery systems, supplied and managed by Overdrive Energy Solutions and charged via a temporary “solar farm” at the Grant Park festival site.

The battery systems will serve as a demonstration of clean energy technologies that can drastically reduce live music’s greenhouse gas pollution and accelerate the shift away from fossil fuels, reads a release.

“By showcasing this technology with one of the biggest artists in the world, we’re accelerating toward a decarbonized future”

“We hope and believe this will be a watershed moment for the music industry,” says Adam Gardner of Reverb in a statement. “There are real climate solutions available right here, right now. By showcasing this technology with one of the biggest artists in the world, on one of the most revered festival stages, we’re accelerating the necessary transition toward a decarbonized future, for music and beyond.”

The sustainability project is one of Elish’s many efforts to combat climate change. The US singer previously partnered with Reverb for her 2022 Happier Than Ever world tour, where they set up Eco-Villages at her concert venues.

The star has also performed at numerous climate change-awareness events such as Global Citizen, the Earthshot Prize and Overheated.

Lollapalooza takes place between 3–6 August with acts including Kendrick Lamar, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lana Del Rey, Odesza, Karol G, The 1975 and Tomorrow X Together.


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Global Citizen plans Paris event with Billie Eilish

Billie Eilish, Lenny Kravitz, H.E.R. and Jon Batiste are among the artists set to perform at Global Citizen’s upcoming event in Paris.

The event, dubbed Power Our Planet: Live in Paris, will stream live from Paris’ Champ de Mars on 22 June in a bid to raise awareness about world poverty and climate change.

The free Live Nation-produced event will be held before a ticketed audience and streamed from in front of the Eiffel Tower on the Global Citizen channel on Amazon’s Twitch, with further broadcast or streaming partners to be announced in the coming weeks. Ben Harper, Finneas and Mosimann will provide additional special performances.

The location of the event was chosen to coincide with The Summit for a New Financial Pact, which is being held in Paris between 22-23 June.

Global Citizen hopes that the concert will help compel World Bank President Ajay Banga, the US government’s Janet Yellen and all the G20 Nations to take action on loosening up funds for less developed nations to deal with climate change.

“The only way we’re gonna make this summit count is to bring the whole world to focus its attention on it”

“How will we do that through a concert?” Global Citizen CEO and co-founder Hugh Evans told Variety. “Well, when President Macron and Mia Mottley asked Global Citizen to be part of this, they were really candid. They said there are conferences every day of the week. There are summits every day of the week. People don’t know about 90% of them. They might see a photo of the G8 meeting, and it looks nice, but these summits come and go all the time.

“The only way we’re gonna make this summit count in this critical year that counts for climate change is to bring the whole world to focus its attention on it. That’s why we’re thrilled that Billie Eilish, Lenny Kravitz, H.E.R., Jon Batiste, Ben Harper and so many incredible artists are volunteering their time to be part of this, because we need the US public to engage with this — so that the US Treasury engages with this, so that they actually reform the World Bank.”

Power Our Planet is a year-long campaign aiming to give vulnerable countries a better financial foundation and access to financing solutions to invest in the transition to clean energy and withstanding natural disasters.

“Together with Global Citizens and global artists, we are calling on world leaders, multilateral development banks, philanthropists, and private sector leaders to deliver critical funding and reimagine our financial systems to meet the moment, defend the planet, and make sure that no matter where you live, everyone is protected from the worst impacts of climate change and inequality,” reads a mission statement from Global Citizen.


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Coldplay respond to furore over upcoming Malaysia gig

Coldplay frontman Chris Martin has responded to calls for the band to cancel their forthcoming and first-ever concert in Malaysia.

Leader of the Malaysian Islamic Party (also known as PAS), Nasrudin Hassan, recently called for the band’s show in Kuala Lumpur’s National Stadium Bukit Jalil on 22 November to be cancelled.

“What does the government want to nurture a culture of hedonism and perversion in this country? I advise you to just cancel this group’s performance in Malaysia. It brings nothing good to religion, race and country,” he wrote on Facebook a fortnight ago. The protest was rebuked by several government ministers.

PAS previously called for a ban on international concerts with a threat to protest in response to Billie Eilish’s Kuala Lumpur concert in August last year. More recently, an independent Malaysian Muslim preacher called for BLACKPINK’s concert in March to be cancelled.

In a recent interview with Malaysian national radio station HITZ, Coldplay’s frontman responded to PAS’s calls: “Every time I meet Malaysian people, I feel such a sense of love and warmth. Everybody is welcome to our show. We love all people, all kinds of people, all religions.

“All leaders, all followers – nobody is excluded. We really want you to come to our show and feel free to be yourself and feel free to let everybody be themselves. Anyone who is not happy we are coming, we’re sorry, but we love you too.”

“Everybody is welcome to our show. We love all people, all kinds of people, all religions”

Coldplay’s upcoming concert in Malaysia has also made headlines after tickets appeared on resale for exorbitant prices, causing promoter Live Nation Malaysia to wade in.

According to LN, tickets purchased from scalpers will be cancelled if the sale was found to have breached terms and conditions.

MD Para Rajagopal said that no tickets have been cancelled so far, adding that cancellations will only happen when organisers have valid proof.

He also noted that the issue is an opportunity for authorities to regulate the sale of music tickets to protect the industry, fans, and promoters: “It took a show like Coldplay to open everybody’s eyes to what’s going on in our industry.”

Meanwhile, there have been petitions online for a second concert in Kuala Lumpur to be added after the Grammy Award-winning British band announced another night in Koahsiung, Taiwan, due to overwhelming demand.

Rajagopal said “Anything is a possibility. Discussions are going on for a lot of things. We cannot officially communicate anything,” and asked fans to stay tuned to the organiser’s channels for any news.


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The Gaffer: Nicole Massey

As the production manager for Billie Eilish, Nicole Massey has become one of the most high-profile roadies in the world, thanks in no small part to presenting the young star to an audience of millions at The Grammys this year.

Her résumé includes working with some of the biggest stars to ever grace the stage – Coldplay, Beyoncé, Madonna, Prince, Rod Stewart, and Van Halen, to name but a few. But it was the Divine Miss M who first ignited Nicole’s passion for touring, while her insatiable desire to learn new skills has seen her seamlessly switch roles from performer to production guru. Unlike some of her peers who fell into the production sector, Nicole’s fate seemed sealed from the start. “My parents met while working on a theatrical production, so you could say it’s in my blood,” she reveals. Indeed, the smell of the greasepaint has never been far away. “I was a dancer and performer from a really early age – I was always being excused from school to go to New York for some audition or another,” she recalls.

Raised in the city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania – in the same county as global production hub, Lititz – Nicole was given free rein to exercise her imagination, as her parents could obviously see where her natural talent might take her. “They encouraged my creativity. I had imaginary friends as a child – Shamen, Camen, and Amy – who we would pick up on the side of the road on car journeys. My sister’s friends would be wondering what on earth we were doing, but it was a regular thing,” she laughs.

Growing up surrounded by adult actors and performers may have helped instil self-confidence in the young Nicole, too, because when she had the chance to compete for a dance scholarship across the country in Dallas, Texas, she persuaded her parents to let her undertake the trip on her own. Needless to say, she won the scholarship.

Getting older
Having made a name for herself in theatrical circles, Nicole found herself living in Los Angeles until her first taste of life on the road on a live music show changed everything – dancing for Bette Midler on her 1999 Divine Miss Millennium tour. “It was my first rock-and-roll-style tour. And, honestly, within days I decided that I never wanted to not do this,” states Nicole.

Nicole next found herself out with Backstreet Boys, which saw her having to use her passport for work for the first time. “I remember being in Buenos Aires and just so excited that I could go see the Eva Peron balcony, because I’m a dorky theatre girl,” she says. “At any opportunity, I’d do all the sightseeing and stuff, so I got the nickname Pollyanna because I was so excited to be everywhere… I’m just a girl from little Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and I’ve been to Uzbekistan; I’ve been to Prince Charles’s birthday party. I never want to take this for granted.”

“It was my first rock-and-roll-style tour. And, honestly, within days I decided that I never wanted to not do this”

Determined to keep touring, Nicole would offer artists her dancing prowess while taking on additional roles behind the scenes. “I was a professional dancer until about the age of 28 or 29,” she notes. “But even when I was on tour, I’d take jobs where I was dancing and doing wardrobe.”

Working for Rod Stewart offered such an opportunity and also allowed her to participate in one of the music industry’s favourite side-lines: nepotism. “Rod loves using people’s skills to the maximum – he has a drum tech who is also the percussionist, for instance. So, when we hired my sister, Danielle, for wardrobe on the tour and Rod discovered she was a Rockette – one of the dancing girls at Radio City [Music Hall] – he asked us to choreograph something for Hot Legs and for Sexy. As a result, we danced all of the 2008 tour. I would go from being a tour manager to dancing in the show and coming back, with full stage makeup on, to deal with promoters and stuff like that. It was funny.”

Taking on wardrobe duties for the likes of The Chicks and such costume-heavy outings as Madonna’s Re-Invention tour in 2004, Nicole’s curiosity for all aspects of production started to develop early on, but it was her long, on-off touring with Rod Stewart she points to as opening new doors.

“The first real production job was before working with Rod, when Bill Leabody asked me to be his production assistant on Enrique Iglesias,” she explains. “However, with Rod Stewart, I started out doing wardrobe, and then when the band’s tour manager was leaving, they were confident I could take on that role as well, so I was doing both for a while. And then that’s when we hired my sister.”

I didn’t change my number
Gaining a solid reputation for her can-do attitude, Nicole was on the end of a call from Craig Finley when he was planning Coldplay’s 2009 European stadium tour – drafting her in as production coordinator. And when Leabody took over for Coldplay’s 2012 world tour, the writing was on the wall. “I ended up telling Rod during a tour of Australia that I was going to work for Coldplay the following year, so I gave him about six-months’ notice.”

Rod Stewart’s influence continues in Nicole’s life, however, as his 2009 tour date in Ireland had life-changing repercussions.

“My dear friend, Tom McCarthy, who is an Irish guy that owns a couple of bars in New York, told me he’d be coming to Rod’s shows when we were in Ireland. And the night before the Dublin show, he asked if he could bring his friend, Dick Massey, who was in the movie The Commitments, to the show. Naturally, I said yes because I love that movie, but I didn’t know which one he was, and I hadn’t seen it since about 1991. In fact, one of my childhood friends reminded me that we had to sneak into the movie theatre because the movie was R-rated – up until Pulp Fiction came out, The Commitments held the record for the most F-bombs.

“But anyway, Dick came to the Rod Stewart show, and three months later I was living in Dublin. And three years later we got married.”

“I would go from being a tour manager to dancing in the show and coming back, with full stage makeup on, to deal with promoters”

Immersing herself back in the production side of touring suited Nicole perfectly. “I just fell in love with being part of the crew,” she tells IQ. “I truly love taking care of the crew and being the mama. When you’re the production coordinator or production manager, half of the job is just dealing with people, personalities, and managing their expectations.”

My strange addiction
Prior to her long stint with Coldplay, which took her from 2012 to 2019, many of Nicole’s jobs involved fulfilling more than one role – a work ethic driven by her determination to learn as many disciplines as possible.

“From the time I was on the road with Backstreet Boys, 24 years ago, I’d travel on the audio bus and ask, ‘How do you guys know whose cables are what?’ And they’d say, ‘Why don’t you come load PA with us to find out!’ And so, I started loading in and out PA on Backstreet with the Clair audio boys. That’s how I learned where everything was going and started to feel more comfortable on the floor, rather than hiding back in those offices.”

She continues, “I found out very early on that it’s good to push your cases to the truck: you have to find the things that actually help the whole tour, rather than just thinking of yourself.”

Eager to learn about different roles, Nicole would consistently volunteer for other production-related tasks. “I helped with confetti on lots of tours,” she reports. “I did confetti on The Chicks, on [Michael] Bublé, and I used to call the confetti cues on Coldplay.”

Her natural curiosity made every day an education process. “I just asked the questions. I realise that there’s no way that anybody can know everything, especially with how technology changes so quickly. But I guess it comes back to me being bold and not afraid to say I have a different idea about how to do something.”

Certainly, her work on arena and stadium tours offered countless moments to build her knowledge base, which for one of those rare people who can boast a photographic memory, has resulted in an encyclopaedic skillset. “Being a part of such big, heavy productions, you almost have to possess the knowledge just to operate,” says Nicole. “As the [production] coordinator, I had no freight knowledge until Bill [Leabody] let me be a part of the email chains, which really allowed me to learn.”

“You have to find the things that actually help the whole tour, rather than just thinking of yourself”

Citing other colleagues who nurtured her, she continues, “On Enrique, I had a tour manager called Jerry Levin, who encouraged me and made me his assistant. Through him I learned a lot about dealing with the artist directly in the sense of their needs, hotels, and flights, and all that stuff. Cary ‘Slim’ Ritcher was a production manager who I worked with on smaller shows, and he explained why we’d run the cables a certain way because we were near the [loading] dock, and you didn’t want to be rolling road cases over the top. There are a ton of dumb little nuances of touring, whether it’s in a theatre or whether it’s in a stadium. But if you treat every day as a learning experience, it all mounts up.”

Everything I wanted
As one of the most popular characters on the global tour circuit, it’s somewhat astonishing that Nicole’s work with Billie Eilish marks her debut as a production manager. Indeed, if she had not been vocal about her ambitions to become the boss, it’s conceivable she might still be waiting in the wings.

The magic moment came in South Africa on Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s 2018 world tour. “Bill Leabody and I were in a runner van, and I just said out loud that I wanted to be a production manager. I put it out into the universe, and less than four months later, Bill recommended me for the Billie job,” says Nicole.

Taking up the story, Leabody tells IQ, “I first met Nicole nearly 20 years ago on a tour with The Chicks when she was in charge of wardrobe. We shared an irreverent sense of humour and hit it off straight away. Nicole was always in a good mood and was wonderful at her job.”

Reunited on the next Chicks’ tour, Nicole became Leabody’s production coordinator. “Other tours followed and, when Coldplay came around, I of course took Nicole with me,” continues Leabody. “We did two stadium tours together, which Nicole handled effortlessly.

“When the OTR2 tour, with Beyoncé and Jay Z came in, Carmen Rodriguez was already in place as coordinator. However, there was an opening for someone to go in advance to deal with steel crews and make sure production needs were all ready for us coming in hot. Nicole took on this challenge and did an amazing job.

“To say that Nicole has excelled is an understatement. She is now universally accepted as one of the best”

“[When] Nicole [subsequently] asked me if I thought she could step up to be a production manager, I had no doubt at all that she could do it, and I told her so.” Within weeks, Leabody was made aware that Billie Eilish needed a new production manager. “Unfortunately, I had other commitments, but when Billie’s manager, Danny Rukasin, asked if I could recommend someone else, I immediately thought of Nicole.” Leabody adds, “To say that Nicole has excelled is an understatement. She is now universally accepted as one of the best, and I am so honoured to welcome her into the community of ‘Gaffers’: the first woman to be invited to join and a fabulous role model.”

Nicole comments, “I’m very proud to be the first female Gaffer, and more so because of the company I’m keeping. I’m just so honoured to join Bill and Jake [Berry] and Chris [Kansy], and all those guys. I’ve known them all for a long time.”

Turning to her first official PM job, Nicole states, “Having the backing of a Gaffer – Bill – on speed dial has been a blessing. I’m so fortunate that I can call upon all kinds of people who I’ve worked with over the years to ask their advice about something. But sometimes I’ll say, ‘This might seem like a stupid idea…’ And it turns out it’s a winner and the feedback is ‘Why didn’t we think of that?!’ So, I’m definitely putting my own stamp on being a production manager.”

She continues, “I’m sure I annoy some crew members because I’m very positive and try to constantly motivate them. I was so involved in dance teams and sports teams growing up that I thrive on the camaraderie. Nobody on tour does this for the crazy hours and the stressful times. They do it because of the people. I look out into that crowd every night. And I look at those kids. And I’m like, ‘Oh my god…’ That’s why I do it!”

As for Happier Than Ever, The World Tour, Nicole has nothing but praise for artists Billie and Finneas after the lengths they went to in order to make sure the crew were kept as active as possible when Covid shut things down very early in the original tour schedule. “We got three shows in, and then the pandemic happened,” says Nicole. “It was pretty scary, and I felt very responsible, trying to make sure that everyone was okay.”

“I look out into that crowd every night. And I look at those kids. And I’m like, ‘Oh my god…’ That’s why I do it!”

Two of the crew were easy enough to keep an eye on – husband Dick, who is Nicole’s production coordinator, and four-legged, tail-wagging production chief, Reggie, whom Mr & Mrs Massey chaperone around the world. “Dick and I worked together on Coldplay, but we were in different offices: he was doing VIP ticketing when I was production coordinator. So, we’ve been out together before, but when Billie was about to go out in 2020, I asked him if he’d come and join me and Reggie in the office.”

Come out and play
Despite the moratorium on live music, Eilish’s core crew were only side-lined for a matter of weeks before a plan was actioned to keep them busy. “We actually started going to LA in July of 2020 because Billie created a whole bunch of different live projects, such as an Amazon project and a Disney project at the Hollywood Bowl,” reveals Nicole.

“Then, when her documentary came out, we did a little video release party. And for all the stuff like that, she used her touring crew: the backline guys, audio control… A small group of us would fly to LA, where we’d quarantine for the first few days, then we’d all test and stay at a hotel that had an outdoor firepit so that, after work, we could sit outside and have a beer, like you would normally, and hang out, distanced but safe. We even agreed that nobody would eat indoors to minimise the chances of catching Covid: those were the rules if you wanted to keep working.”

While the postponed tour dates remained on hold, the various other projects eventually rolled into Eilish’s festival season. “And then that rolled into the tour for this year,” smiles Nicole. “We loaded in for rehearsals in Los Angeles on January 2, so we were pretty fortunate in terms of work compared to a lot of our touring colleagues.”

While Nicole admits she has worked on more fraught tours, the production on Happier Than Ever, The World Tour is a complex affair.

“This show is a beast,” she tells IQ. “Normally, a show comes in, the stage is built at the other end, lighting goes up, stage rolls in. Bam! You have a show. Billie’s production involves lighting coming in, then some of the staging, then lighting deals with some of the moving trusses, then we roll in the diamond part of the stage, then we finish the lighting, then we have the lighting on the sides, then we roll in the thrust. It’s like an onion that you have to just keep peeling, layer on layer.

“This show just shows what is capable with an amazing team. I relied on my stage manager, Jayy Jutting, and then he relied on the crew chiefs, who were so dedicated – if we didn’t have Mattie Rynes, my head rigger, Jack Deitering, my head carp, Wayne Kwiat on lighting, Scott ‘Bull’ Allen from Strictly FX, Matt McQuaid with audio, Dave Keipert and Racheal Hudson from Team Video, Brian Benauer with Tait Automation… every department needed a strong leader or else we were just going to fail.”

“This show is a beast… It’s like an onion that you have to just keep peeling, layer on layer”

That respect is patently mutual, as Nicole has been affectionately nicknamed ‘The Hammer’ by Billie’s crew members, impressed by the way that the PM quietly goes about making sure her plan is adhered to, without having to raise her voice. “I hate shouters; it’s my pet peeve,” she says. “If you keep it internal and then use your loud voice when you need to, people know that you’re serious.”

Indeed, despite the North American dates requiring crew to wear full PPE to mitigate against Covid-19, Nicole’s strategy for that leg set the benchmark for the entire tour, with zero dates being lost to the virus.

Moving to Europe where restrictions were more relaxed should have been a relief. However, while the majority of American venues have loading bays, the opposite is true in Europe, where new driving regulations further complicated being on the road.

“I had a little breakdown in Dublin,” confesses Nicole. “I was very nervous about a few of the overnighters and worried we weren’t going to make it. So, I got all the crew chiefs together and told them that I needed help. It turned out to be a good moment for me as a production manager – just to gather all the people who I know are really good at their jobs, so we could figure it out together.”

One of the major headaches for the daily routine was dealing with the B stage: a crane that takes Eilish far and wide around venues so that she can literally be just a few feet from fans, even when they are seated in arena balconies.

“That arm weighs 8,000 pounds,” states Nicole. “We took it from the US to Europe to Australia, and it’s now enroute back to Los Angeles for Billie’s December shows at The Forum.”

Explaining the intricacies of dealing with such a massive piece of equipment, she says, “To load the turret you actually have to tilt it on its side because the containers are not wide enough. We even took it to festivals a couple times, like at Austin City Limits. It just makes such a cool impact because the people that Billie is looking right at never thought that they could get the chance to be that close to her. But it’s complicated. In Dublin, for instance, we had to change the orientation of the arm so that it was parallel to the audience because of how short it is inside the 3Arena. Each venue had to be approached on a case-by-case basis, and every day was different because of the elevations of where the seats were, etc. Our programmer, Pat King, did a great job.”

“I got all the crew chiefs together and told them that I needed help. It turned out to be a good moment for me”

As for the tour’s trickiest shows, Nicole cites the visit to the Accor Arena as a date that literally led to sleepless nights.

“My scariest day was back-to-back Cologne then Paris,” she reports. “On that overnight, a couple of us jumped ahead on the catering bus and were in the venue in Paris to start just dumping things as they came in.

“The planning worked well, though. We did a pre-rig and motors were in the air when we got there. But it took a lot: I had the video crew chief walking around checking on all the other departments to see where he could help – people just stepped up to go that extra mile for Billie. I mean, at 5:45pm, I was on my hands and knees doing barricade because I was determined we were not going to be late for doors.”

She adds, “We had to come up with an A, B, and C show because of timing. We knew that it would take minimum two hours and 11 minutes to complete the building of our automated video tile ramp once the main stage was in place. But I have the most amazing head [carpenter] Jack Deitering. If it was not for that man, I really don’t know if the show in Paris would have happened.”

With the spectre of Covid requiring the services of EMT (emergency medical technician) Gordon Oldham, trying to keep crew healthy was a fulltime task. “I’m not gonna lie; I don’t think I ever want to do a tour without some kind of medical person on tour, now,” says Nicole. “Gordon did a great job and proved invaluable for all kinds of things outside of the Covid situation.

“The crew was very international,” she says of a crew that sometimes had to be patched together to deal with Covid absentees. “We had Lithuanians, Polish, Ukrainian drivers, so we had a lot of language and communication issues, but Robert Hewett at Stagetruck was beyond helpful throughout the whole thing.

“In Ireland, we had riggers from Budapest, I believe, and there were one or two places in Europe where we struggled, but surprisingly we were never more than 20 short, so we managed to deal with it.”

“I don’t think I ever want to do a tour without some kind of medical person on tour, now”

Such issues were a piece of cake compared to Australia. “In Sydney, we had only 45 people out of 110 on the load-in,” Nicole says. “Luckily, we had a full load-in day and we organised accordingly: we talked to the crew chiefs and said when they officially really needed the hands, then great. But otherwise, these guys would break off and give lighting six hands, and then the special effects hands would go straight to audio, and we just had to juggle around like that. Sydney and Perth were the only ones where it was a little crazy.”

Male fantasy
Having made the grade as one of the world’s top production managers, Nicole is determined to encourage other women in the business that they have the skills to do likewise. Not that everyone universally recognises her as the production chief, yet. “As a woman, people come up and start to talk to the stage manager before me, because they just think I’m a girl standing there,” she tells IQ. “It happens all the time in the office, where Dick has to say, ‘Have you met Nicole, our production manager?’ It’s ridiculous, but I’m lucky that I have really wonderful people around me that support me in that sense.”

She also namechecks some of the many women who have helped her on her journey and inspired her to aim for the top job. “Working with Marguerite Nguyen on Coldplay, I was given so much of an opportunity to do different things that most coordinators would never do on a tour. So, I feel like I was prepared to take the step up to PM, more than most, because that tour is just so massive.”

Advocating that more tours consider elevating women to production chief, Nicole observes, “We’re multitaskers and organisers. There are lots of amazing female leaders out there – we have Emma Reynolds-Taylor running the production for Glastonbury; Duchess [Sue Iredale] has been running productions forever; Bianca Mauro runs a stage at Austin City Limits. So, we have all these women that are running big festivals and stages and events, and while it just hasn’t happened as much on the road, there are still plenty of amazing women out there, day after day, delivering shows to fans. There just needs to be more, in the crew chief roles and upwards, but also just more women in touring, in general.

“What I think needs to happen is that women need to be trusted with management positions in touring and throughout the music business. We need to start pushing more of these strong-willed women, like myself, forward a bit more. There are lots of them out there who have been working their ass[es] off for years and feeling very good about what they do but who do not necessarily know or believe that they can do what I’m doing. But they can, and it’s a situation that we can all work on together to provide more support and encouragement to drive the change.”

“Women need to be trusted with management positions in touring and throughout the music business”

Indeed, citing one example of where her own personal experience as a dancer came to the fore, Nicole remembers a dilemma ahead of Eilish’s February 2022 concert at Pittsburgh’s PPG Paints Arena. “Billie’s toaster had a power issue,” states Nicole. “It’s the mechanism that allows her to pop-up onto the stage at the start of the show, and we all worked hard to try to fix it, but I finally knew it was time to go and tell her. But before I did that, I went out with the carpenter; we looked at putting a set of stairs in place and a bunch of different things so that I had three options for her to make her entrance.

“I’m not gonna lie; I really was proud of myself in the sense that it was my dance background that made me figure out the best way for her to enter. That was the first time I had that realisation that I can bring things to the table that a male production manager wouldn’t necessarily come up with.”

Breaking such news to the artist may be daunting, but Nicole’s bond with Billie is strong. “She’s an amazing artist,” states Nicole. “The thing that makes Billie so special is she doesn’t need the bells and whistles. So as the tour progressed and that muscle memory, night after night, developed, it was so good to just see her so happy and having so much fun out there.”

Indeed, that respect goes both ways, when Billie asked Nicole to introduce her Grammy performance when the Academy wanted to feature women in touring.

“The Grammy thing was an amazing moment; I had so much fun,” she smiles. “My friend, Patrick Logue from the Rod Stewart Camp, once told me that chewing gum was easier to get off the stage than me – and it’s kind of true; I’m such a ham! But I didn’t realise the impact it would have. Two weeks after The Grammys, when we were at Coachella, I had people I didn’t know coming up to me and thanking me for being the voice of our industry; speaking out for women. So, a really proud moment turned into this thing where I just had people stopping me left and right. And I was so honoured that it was perceived that way because I truly, truly love this industry.”

And having attained the top job, Nicole concludes that it’s given her a newfound understanding of her peers and former PM bosses. “I have so much more respect for all the production managers that I’ve worked with, because I used to keep my inbox as a to-do list, while I’d look at the likes of Bill’s email and think, ‘Oh my god, how can you let get it that way?’ But now I understand – I have 64,000 messages in my inbox now. It’s never-ending.”

“The thing that makes Billie so special is she doesn’t need the bells and whistles”

My future
As for what’s next, Nicole reveals that industry nepotism has benefitted her once more, while the enforced time off that she and Dick enjoyed at the start of the pandemic has made her a little more relaxed about looking at next year’s employment contracts.

“After Billie’s hometown shows in December, the crew will all go our separate ways, but we’ve also got a little Finneas tour in Australia starting in January, where he’s doing the Laneway Festivals. So, we’ll get back together for that. And then we’ll come back to do some rehearsals before Billie heads to Latin America, then have a break in April.

“After that… I don’t really know, there’s nothing 100% confirmed, so I’m just going to play it by ear. Everybody keeps asking me what I’m going to do when The Happier Than Ever Tour ends, but I don’t stress about stuff like that anymore.”

Unsurprisingly, remaining in the camp for whom she described at The Grammys as “The best 20-year-old boss in the world,” would be top choice for Nicole, who concludes, “When it comes to work, I trust my gut and am hopeful that it means we’ll get to continue working with Billie.”

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Inside The O2’s ‘year of two halves’

The O2’s Steve Sayer has reflected on a “year of two halves” for the London venue in a new interview with IQ.

The 21,000-cap arena is finishing 2022 strongly following a difficult first few months, initially due to the spread of the Omicron variant and then damage caused by Storm Eunice, which caused it to close for a week in February.

“Overall, we’re really happy with the year and we’re ending on a high,” notes Sayer, The O2’s VP and general manager. “We’ve had some incredible shows but it was only 10 months ago that we were dealing with the storm ripping into the tent. We were just coming out of Covid wave number four or five with a lot of new team members and contractors, so it was a challenging start to the year.”

The venue, which celebrated its 15th anniversary this year, recovered to host a string of triumphant shows by the likes of Dua Lipa, Kendrick Lamar, Billie Eilish, Rod Stewart, Lewis Capaldi, Travis Scott, Diana Ross, Little Mix and a 10-night stint by Queen + Adam Lambert.

“I think the recovery from Covid is going to take a little bit longer than we all anticipated… It’s just the aftermath that we’re now dealing with”

“By the time we got to Queen + Adam Lambert for those 10 shows in June, Diana Ross, which was another highlight, and Billie Eilish and the Overheated climate conference, I said to the team that it felt like we were getting back into our groove – and we’ve kicked on since that point,” adds Sayer.

“I don’t think anyone anticipated coming out of the global pandemic into the economic environment that we find ourselves in, so there are plenty of headwinds. We have some challenges around the cost base that are no different to any other venue and we’re working hard to figure out how we can mitigate that, so there’s still a little bit of uncertainty ahead. But then when I look at the diary, I think it’s going to be a solid year.”

Shows lined up for 2023 include Panic! at the Disco, George Ezra, Lizzo, Tom Grennan, Michael Buble, Elton John, Sam Smith, Paramore, Maroon 5, Kiss and Iron Maiden, among others, along with a monthly residency by comedian Peter Kay that stretches all the way to 2025.

“In terms of the number of shows that are already confirmed or strong pencils, we’re exactly where we need to be,” says Sayer. “I think the recovery from Covid is going to take a little bit longer than we all anticipated. I think the C-word is pretty much done, it’s just the aftermath that we’re now dealing with.

“We know that there is still a lot of pent-up demand from the fan for tickets. Some shows are doing incredibly well and there are one or two shows that perhaps aren’t doing quite as well as they would have done in normal times, but that might be a function of ticket price and cost of living, but what we have seen is that when fans are coming into The O2, they’re still spending money.

“What I take confidence from is that at times of recession, in recent memory, it tends to be that sport and music is the stuff that people don’t want to give up on. So I feel reasonably confident, but of course we have questions about how next year will play out.”

“We’re planning to deliver a net zero show. If we can prove the model for a single night, I’m pretty sure we can scale it up and replicate it over the medium and long term”

Sayer also discusses the knock-on effects of Eilish’s multi-day climate festival Overheated, which coincided with the singer’s six-night residency at the venue. The O2 implemented various changes within the arena to reduce single use plastic, promote a plant-based menu, and better enable customers to make informed and responsible choices.

“It’s been a real catalyst for us and has stimulated at least one if not two conversations with artist management about shows next year where the act has a particular leaning towards climate activism and the climate agenda,” reveals Sayer. “Whilst we probably won’t repeat the Overheated model, we’re planning to deliver a net zero show. If we can prove the model for a single night, I’m pretty sure we can scale it up and replicate it over the medium and long term.”

Last week, The O2 became the first arena in England to achieve its Greener Arena certification thanks to its sustainability practices and commitments.

“We’ve reduced the amount of meat we’re serving around the campus with out catering partner Levy UK & Ireland, and have been developing a Green Rider,” adds Sayer. “We appointed Jamal [Chalabi] and A Greener Festival to work with us on that and turn all of those learnings from the shows we’ve been running where the artist had a real leaning towards doing the right thing when it comes to sustainability.

“We’ve brought in an energy manager and AEG Europe is soon to be appointing a director of sustainability, who will support The O2 in 2023 and give us some additional expertise in terms of building our plans. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but I think both of those hires are going to be key for us.”

“We’re going to be improving our premium spaces… Our new super-club lounge concept on level 3 is going to be the best place to watch a show”

Having served as a transformative force in the venues sector ever since opening in 2007, Sayer is adamant The O2 is not about to rest on its laurels.

“It’s just about not being complacent,” he explains. “We’re going to be improving our premium spaces; we’re removing 12 suites and putting a new super-club lounge concept on level 3, which will have an incredible view of stage and is going to be the best place to watch a show.

“We’re planning a number of investments to ensure that our back of house areas are renovated and brought up to an even better standard. We’re investing in the fan experience – introducing kiosk ordering in some of our busy bar areas to try and reduce the queues – and are also planning to introduce  frictionless payment kiosks in a couple of areas. We invested in Evolv Express security scanning technology earlier this year, which continues to keep everybody safe but also ensures that fans get into the building a lot quicker.”

Sayer continues: “We’re also upgrading our Wi-Fi over the next six months and rolling out 5G across the venue because, while we don’t want fans to spend all their time on their phones, we know they want to put stuff on their social media channels and we want to give them the best experience to do that.”


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Billie Eilish to headline Prince William’s climate change event

Billie Eilish is set to headline the second edition of Prince William’s climate change event, the Earthshot Prize awards.

The prize was founded by the Prince in 2020 and is described as “an ambitious global environmental prize which aims to discover and scale the best solutions to help repair our planet within the remainder of this decade”.

Annie Lennox, Ellie Goulding and Chloe x Halle are also slated to perform at the ceremony, scheduled for 2 December at MGM Music Hall in Boston.

Clara Amfo and Daniel Dae Kim will present the ceremony and closing remarks will be delivered by Sir David Attenborough.

Five individuals will win an Earthshot Prize at the ceremony, along with £1 million each to help support and scale their green innovations.

Amfo said in a statement: “What an honour to return for a second time to host The Earthshot Prize awards, this time from America! I was so inspired by last year’s winners, and I’m looking forward to celebrating and sharing the incredible work of the 2022 Finalists with the world.”

Five individuals will win an Earthshot Prize at the ceremony, along with £1 million each

Her co-host Dae Kim added: “I’m honoured to be co-hosting this year’s Earthshot Prize. The ground-breaking, innovative work of the 2022 Finalists leaves me inspired and hopeful that we can solve the significant challenges facing us today. Whether it’s taking care of our planet or healing our communities, each of us can and must step up to do our part. Thank you to this year’s Finalists for leading the way.”

The awards will air on Sunday, 4 December at 5.30 pm GMT on BBC.

Earlier this year, Billie Eilish announced details of Overheated, a multi-day climate-focused event that took place around her multi-night residency at The O2 in London this summer.

Overheated brought together climate activists, musicians and designers at venues across The O2 to “discuss the climate crisis and the work they are doing to make a difference”.

Last week, the first speakers were announced for the Green Events and Innovations Conference (GEI 15), set for 28 February 2023 at the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London.

For more information on the conference, or to purchase tickets, click here.


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Billie Eilish tour ‘can serve as blueprint’

The sustainability efforts of Billie Eilish’s Happier Than Ever Tour can serve as a “blueprint” for future tours, according to Live Nation promoter Kelly Chappel.

Eilish, who will become the youngest ever headliner of Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage this Friday, partnered with environmental nonprofit Reverb to make the tour more sustainable and empower her fans to take action for people and the planet. The link-up extended to cross-campus climate festival Overheated at London’s The O2, which began on June 10 during Eilish’s dates at the venue.

The O2 has presented the 20-year-old with a special First Time Award to celebrate her six night sell-out residency at the arena, which wraps up this weekend.

“I’m personally so proud of our six Billie Eilish shows at The O2,” says Chappel, Live Nation’s EVP of global artist development and global tour promoter. “I’d like to thank everyone who was involved in delivering this tour. It’s testament to thoughtfulness and hard work, and it can serve as a blueprint for future arena tours, as this proves that artists performing on large scale tours can make vital changes to aid sustainability and be friendlier to our planet.”

Inspired by Eilish’s passion for sustainability, the award features a unique design and has been created using Jesmonite, a sustainable material which can be crushed and reused. It also features a piece of The O2’s own tent fabric that was retrieved following Storm Eunice, as well as photographs from her first show at the venue.

“The fight against climate change is incredibly important to us and with these initial steps and conversations there is now a chance to build on this”

Christian D’Acuña, senior director of programming at The O2, says: “It’s been incredible to welcome Billie Eilish to The O2, and we’re so proud to have hosted not only six incredible debut shows at the venue, but also the Overheated festival, which has sparked important discussions around making both our planet and our industry more sustainable.”

In conjunction with Eilish’s show dates, and the Overheated festival, The O2 also made several commitments to make the venue more sustainable, and in response to Eilish’s Green Rider, including offering a fully vegan menu in The O2 arena for all of Eilish’s show dates. The O2 also introduced recyclable paper cups and recycled PET fabric wristbands in the arena for the first time.

“A special thank you to The O2 for hosting us over what has been six incredible shows and the opportunity to create meaningful change through the launch of Overheated,” adds Eilish’s agent Mike Malak of Wasserman Music. “The fight against climate change is incredibly important to us and with these initial steps and conversations there is now a chance to build on this.”

The Happier Than Ever Tour continues its European stretch next week with stops in Belgium, Germany and Switzerland, before concluding in Australasia in September.

“This partnership allows us to continue investing in improving the customer experience”

Meanwhile, The O2 has also announced a multi-year partnership with instant commerce firm Gopuff, which has been named as the venue’s principal partner and official grocery, food and beverage delivery partner.

The deal, which was brokered by AEG Global Partnerships, means fans visiting the venue can now bypass concession lines through rapid click-and-collect services in The O2 app powered by Gopuff. It will also provide artists with instant access to their performance essentials while onsite.

“This partnership allows us to continue investing in improving the customer experience for our fans and premium clients, and with digital ticketing and other innovative solutions available for all customers via The O2’s app, we’re making the concert-going experience as seamless as possible through digital means,” says AEG Global Partnerships EVP Paul Samuels. “We are confident that over the next few years, Gopuff will significantly boost the onsite experience both for fans and artists, and we’re delighted to have them on board.”


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Billie Eilish hosts Overheated Climate Session

Over 250 music professionals and sustainability specialists came together at The O2 in London for a series of debates and performances today (16 June).

The event, which took place alongside Billie Eilish’s Happier Than Ever tour, was hosted by the BBC’s Abbie McCarthy (BBC), with representatives from REVERB, The Big Climate Thing, Live Nation, Julie’s Bicycle and The O2.

During the discussion titled Taking Charge – Efforts to Decarbonise Events, The O2’s VP and general manager Steve Sayer described the changes that hosting the Eilish tour had seen at the venue, including going fully vegan for the duration.

“We had Morrissey here five years ago and the question about whether we sold burgers was a huge topic, but on this tour, it wasn’t,” he said. “Going fully vegan was the right option for this tour and we’ll be entirely open with other venues about the results from that.”

The O2 recently committed to removing meat burgers from its menu, but other moves include installing water filling stations, and recyclable wristbands for floor-standing guests.

“We’re planning forward in partnership with our caterers, Levy, who are committed to being net zero by 2027,” he said. “As a flagship site for them, we’re aiming for 2025.”

“The solutions are there, and amazing simple, but you have to get people to move past where they are right now”

Sayer also outlined that all National Arena Association member venues will be banning non- biodegradable confetti over the coming months.

With much of the day detailing myriad practical steps now available to tour and events on their sustainability journey, Chiara Badialli, music lead of Julie’s Bicycle, listed carbon offsetting as one of the most exciting.

“If these costs are factored into tour planning – and an example is that Pearl Jam has recently committed to paying $200 per tonne of carbon emissions – it gives artists a budget at the start of their tour to actively reduce emissions,” she said.

A focus of the discussion was collaboration across the business to bring change. And while Sayer insisted that senior management at each company must be engaged in the conversation, it was bottom-up pressure that instigated it.

“The most powerful agent of change was when our employees started coming to The O2 and AEG management team to ask what we were doing,” he said. “That employee push was incredibly powerful.”

And Jamal Chalabi of Backlash Productions reported that there are open ears across the supply chain now as well.

“It’s the culture change, particularly within crew and production houses. The solutions are there, and amazingly simple, but you have to get people to move past where they are right now,” he said.

“It’s a system change,” added Badialli. “You have to ask how we can do things differently.”

The event included performances from Sigrid, Nick Mulvey and Love Ssega, while Billie Eilish took the stage to thank the room for attending.

“I want to thank you all for informing people like me, and for everything you’re doing,” she said. “It doesn’t go unnoticed. It might sometimes fell like what you’re doing is pointless, but it’s not. There is a point and it’s really important.”

The conversation came just weeks after the 14th Green Events & Innovations Conference (GEI), the leading gathering for sustainability at live events.


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The O2 enhances sustainability measures

The O2 in London has announced a series of new sustainability measures as it prepares to host multi-day climate festival Overheated.

Overheated is set to take place across six days  – 10-12, 16 and 25-26 June – during Billie Eilish’s Happier Than Ever, The World Tour dates at the AEG-operated venue.

The O2 will be implementing various changes within the arena to reduce single use plastic, promote a plant-based menu, and better enable customers to make informed and responsible choices. Working with the singer and her tour team on their Green Rider, it has committed to going 100% vegan on all available food items for the six shows,

Following Eilish’s residency, The O2 will continue with a plant-forward philosophy, which will see the concession stand staple ‘beef burger’ being removed from the menu permanently.

“We’re proud to be leading the charge as a company”

“Finding ways to make both our venues across Europe and worldwide, as well as the wider live entertainment industry, more sustainable has never been more important,” says AEG Europe COO John Langford. “We’re proud to be leading the charge as a company to help find and trial innovative solutions and help reduce our impact on the planet.”

Throughout The O2 arena, the venue will be installing several water dispensers for fans to easily access on their visit, thereby reducing the need for plastic water bottles. Visitors to the arena will be encouraged to bring soft, reusable water bottles which will need to be emptied prior to entry and fully collapsible.

The O2 is also taking strides to reduce the amount of single-use plastic used in the arena moving forwards and has committed to using recyclable paper cups in all areas of the arena, including backstage. It has also removed all plastic bags from merchandise units and is implementing fabric wristbands made from 100% recycled PET plastic for standing arena attendees for the first time this month.

“As one of the world’s leading venues, it’s important that we help drive industry change in the space of sustainability”

“We’re so proud to be taking real strides this month to becoming an even more sustainable venue here at The O2,” says Steve Sayer, the 21,000-cap venue’s VP & general manager. “Going fully vegan in the arena for six sold out show dates with Billie Eilish is no small task and is something that we know will really resonate with fans attending the shows.

“The reduction in single use plastic in The O2 arena is another huge step forward for us, as we work towards our A Greener Arena accreditation, and ultimately one day towards becoming net zero as a venue. As one of the world’s leading venues, it’s important that we help drive industry change in the space of sustainability and show that we can all make a difference, whilst continuing to still provide a best-in-class experience for the fans and artists.”

Through its partnership with catering partner Levy, The O2 is also working with Klimato to calculate, communicate and report the climate impact of the food available for fans to purchase. Levy has committed to reaching net zero at the arena by 2025 – an integral part of The O2’s overall strategy to hit net zero.

The O2 and AEG Europe are currently working with A Greener Festival on establishing an accurate scientific baseline for scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions before publishing its full plan for net zero later this year.


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