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Our House… Behind the scenes of The 1975’s tour

As one of the biggest arena acts on the planet, The 1975 have been making headlines wherever they go for the past 20 years. Having just brought the curtain down on their third consecutive year on the road, their fanbase continues to grow, making their efforts to rewrite the rulebooks on sustainable touring all the more impressive. Derek Robertson learns just what it takes to take such a cultural phenomenon on the road.

Can you have too much of a good thing? Clearly, The 1975 think not. For an A-list arena band, they have been remarkably prolific – aside from releasing an album every two years since 2016, they’ve also toured behind them relentlessly: 18 months and 150 shows for I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It; a 24-month world tour behind Music For Cars; and a seven-leg, 96-date stint doing their At Their Very Best show. And barely a month after that wrapped on the 13th of August 2023, they were back on the road in Atlanta starting Still… At Their Very Best – another 66-date, worldwide jaunt – in support of their fifth studio album, Being Funny In A Foreign Language.

Even taking into account the enforced breaks during the pandemic, that’s quite a workload – particularly when you consider some of the bands’ struggles with mental health and the pernicious effects of fame. Yet manager Jamie Oborne says that after the Music For Cars tour was interrupted by lockdowns (while first rescheduled, the remaining shows for that tour were ultimately cancelled), “we collectively had a desire to tour, and Matty (Healy, frontman) was very excited about doing a show that was ‘different’ to what people expected or had seen in an arena before. It felt like the right time to get back on the road.”

Work it real good
“The boys love to work,” says Maarten Cobbaut, tour manager. “The first real break they had from their intense schedule was the pandemic, but within a week of restrictions being lifted and everything, they were back in the studio working on new music. They are just so passionate about what they do and put so much of themselves into the music and these shows.”

And these shows for Still… At Their Very Best are, unsurprisingly, fairly close in terms of concept, setup, and logistics as the At Their Very Best show. “An evolution, not a revolution,” as Oborne puts it. “It was part of the same cycle, but so much had happened since the tour commenced that Matty felt a creative need to highlight this evolution. The plan was always to use this tour cycle to market Being Funny In A Foreign Language, so we didn’t really see it as two separate tours.”

“The Finsbury Park show sold out instantly, and it was clear the fanbase was still growing on this cycle”

“Both UK runs were all part of the global touring for Being Funny In A Foreign Language, and weren’t seen as separate projects,” adds Matt Bates of Primary Talent, the band’s agent. “Of course, the first run was billed as At Their Very Best, with the second run having a slightly different name, but they very much coexisted together. And there was a lot of demand – the Finsbury Park show sold out instantly, and it was clear the fanbase was still growing on this cycle.”

Treading the boards
The show itself was certainly “different” – both from what you’d expect from an arena band and from their previous bombastic show for Music For Cars. That tour was “really big and ambitious,” says creative director and show designer Tobias Rylander. “We really went for size and technology with massive LED screens and automated cubes. But for At Their Very Best and Still… At Their Very Best, we wanted to be very analogue – Matty wanted the show and design to be more personal and really show them as a band.”

Healy is, says Rylander, always very conceptual in the approach for each era and tour. While the design for the previous tour reflected social media and internet behaviour, “This time around Matty wanted the show and design to be more personal and show them as a band,” explains Rylander.

“Matty wanted it to reflect their history as friends and a group, while also focussing on them as a live act and musicians. He wanted the stage to reflect how they recorded this last album live, together in the studio. He knew he wanted a house, and some sort of living room. And he wanted it to be focusing on the I-mag camera. No video content: just live camera. That’s how I started to design and look at the house. To always have a good background and setting for the camera shots.

“We looked at anything from Ingmar Bergman to Steven Spielberg for inspiration and references,” adds Rylander; Stanley Kubrick and avant-garde theatre were other touchstones (one review described the show as being: “part performance art, part stage play, part Charlie Kaufman movie about a rock star in crisis.”)

“I always remain amazed by the creative ideas of Matty and the band”

Our house
The design eventually started to take on a life of its own as it developed – it literally became Matty’s “home,” housing his memories. “It’s monochromatic and anonymous at the same time; it can reflect and take the shape of anyone’s childhood memories or their new memories leaving the show,” says Rylander. “It’s a very inviting and inclusive set.”

The first half of the show has almost no “effect” lighting and looks more like classic theatre than a rock show. “That’s something we’ve never done before, and something that’s not very common these days – I think we are the only rock band tour out there that brings a whole ‘Broadway’ set,” says Rylander.

And for the second leg of the tour, they kept all the theatrical parts and added a large, curved video screen behind the set that allowed them to add set extensions and environmental backgrounds. “We could go from night to day in a very beautiful way, but also play some really fantastic bits of video content reflecting older tours and eras from the past,” he adds. “And using the upstage video screen as a theatrical set extension like we do – I don’t think I have seen that on stage before.”

“I always remain amazed by the creative ideas of Matty and the band,” says Matt Bates. “The show was brilliant theatre while not losing the ethos of what makes the band so special in the first place. It truly showed a band at the top of their game creatively and musically, and, in their own words, ‘at their very best.’”

Boys on film
As noted above, video – shot live and intimately – was key to the whole look and feel of the show. Head of video Ed Lawlor has been with The 1975 since 2016 and was tasked with turning concept into reality while ensuring the solution was practical enough for a world tour. “We didn’t want to compromise on providing the best IMAG show possible for the budget – the design brief was ‘cinematic’ – so it was an easy decision to focus on one thing and do it well,” he says.

“It was clear early on that the band and management wanted larger than normal IMAG screens, and we wanted the classic projection look rather than LED”

“It was clear early on that the band and management wanted larger than normal IMAG screens, and we wanted the classic projection look rather than LED. On the initial US tour, we specified two Panasonic PT-RZ31K projectors per side on a 24’ Stumpfl screen from PRG rental stock, which was the largest off-the-shelf option available,” he adds. “On returning a year later to larger venues, the management requested a bigger option – at that point, we commissioned a 32’ Stumpfl screen, which was the largest practical option in a fast-fold product. This required an increase to 3x PT-RZ31K per side, which is the brightest arena IMAG projection I’ve heard of in a while.”

As for the cameras, Lawlor decided to do 3G well rather than 4K on the cheap, so specified four Sony HDC-2500 channels and a Ross Carbonite 2 M/E PPU from PRG UK. This was augmented with four Panasonic AW-UE160 and an RP150 control panel, with additional fixed shots from Marshall CV503-WPs.

Screen time
Those IMAG screens are very much larger than normal for arena touring, and so Lawlor and his crew worked closely with both PRG and AV Stumpfl to find a solution that allowed for rear projection in a fast-fold type frame with no central member that would obscure the beam. PRG have also been working with The 1975 since 2016 and, says Stefaan Michels, sales director for PRG UK, “our partnership has grown stronger over the years – we’ve fostered a close relationship with their tour and production management team, and one that extends beyond their time on the road.”

PRG’s brief was scalability, and the integration of new equipment tailored specifically for this production. Michels had to ensure the duplication of rig setups between Europe and the US, as well as customising equipment to meet the tour’s unique requirements. “Implementing A-B-C rig configurations was essential for maximising efficiency and flexibility throughout the tour,” he says, “and we made specific equipment choices based on detailed specifications provided.”

For example, one significant consideration was the need for different sizes of projection screens to suit the dimensions of various venues. For larger arena shows in the US and UK, they incorporated a large USC Hi Res LED wall to deliver high-resolution visuals that could effectively engage the audience across expansive spaces. Additionally, custom-made, large projection screens equipped with additional 31K laser projectors were also used, particularly in venues with specific lighting conditions or sightline challenges.

“We had to come up with a system that kept Matty safe but also ensured that, if the worst happened, it was safe for a rescuer to go out and assist”

Another specific choice was the decision to utilise Ereca Stage Racer 2s, a decision driven by the need to minimise the deployment of copper cabling on a daily basis. “This choice not only reduces setup time but also enhances flexibility, allowing for swift adjustments as tour requirements evolve, as they inevitably do over the course of an extensive tour like this one,” says Michels. “Moving multiple 3G video signals even over medium distances caused problems on the first leg of the tour, as it required coaxial cable to be both modern and in good condition, which is a challenge to maintain on tour when local labour is in use,” adds Lawlor. “This was another factor in the decision to adopt the Stage Racer 2s.”

Hanging about
All in all, this setup provided a modest challenge for head rigger Simon Lawrence – “simply 120 points going to the roof and a relatively small weight of 50 tonnes.” But there was one area of concern – at one point, Healy climbs upon onto the roof of the “house” to perform a song, on top of the front apex. “Like any artist, Matty wants to be as free as possible when performing, and initially, he felt he should have no safety systems at all, but when he is nearly six metres up in the air above the stage, this is not possible,” says Lawrence. “So we had to come up with a system that kept Matty safe but also ensured that, if the worst happened, it was safe for a rescuer to go out and assist.”

Rounding out the suppliers, All Access provided the front of house mix position stage (a B stage set piece) and built a custom lift for this, while TAIT provided a TAIT Mag Deck rolling house stage. “The Mag Deck design incorporates magnetic corner blocks for alignment and a shear keyway to reduce the number of legs needed to support the decking structure,” says Bullet,
TAIT’s business development manager – UK. “This reduced the amount of product that needed to travel on the road and the time needed to load in and load out, ultimately saving on costs.”

On the road again
Moving all this around was the responsibility of Natasha Highcroft, director of Transam Trucking. “We supplied 15 low-ride height production trucks, plus one merchandise truck for the UK, and eight production trucks plus one merchandise truck for the European leg of the tour, all superbly handled by our lead driver, David Isted,” she says. “As with most tours, keeping to the EU legislation on drivers’ hours and statutory weekly rest periods can prove difficult when parking and access is restricted. Fortunately, with an understanding production and accommodating promoters, we were able to facilitate breaks whilst keeping to budget.”

Bussing was provided by Beat The Street; in total, they ran four 16-berth double-deck Setra’s for the crew and two 12-berth Van Hool Super-highdeckers for the band. “Plotting band bus moves can be a bit of a challenge when day drivers are mixed in with overnight drivers, as it becomes difficult to get the drivers their required weekly breaks,” says Garry Lewis, the company’s transport manager. “So, it was agreed to add a second driver to each band bus, which gave us the flexibility to make it work as seamlessly as possible for the band party.”

“Our focus, as a community of creatives, is always to try and limit the negative impact touring has on the environment”

Sustainability has long been an issue dear to the band’s heart, and on this tour, they were determined to do all they could to lessen its carbon footprint and impact on the environment. “The set design put a real focus on the structural elements being reusable or recyclable, and many of the items that make up the set-build will end up back in stock at the supplier end – this is quite unique,” says Oborne. “Our focus, as a community of creatives, is always to try and limit the negative impact touring has on the environment. It’s by no means a perfect solution, but we are pretty committed to chipping away at our impact on the environment.”

Indeed, the modular nature of the set is something of a first. “It’s a renewable scenic technology, and this is the first time this product has been taken out for a live touring show,” says production manager Josh Barnes. “We wanted something that would really give us the aesthetic finish that we were looking for, in terms of being robust and feeling like the walls are actually the walls of a house and not just a flimsy, flat set. But also, be something that could be transported in the most sustainable, cost-effective way possible and be renewed or recycled at the end of the campaign.”

He goes on: “We ended up partnering up with PRG scenic through their Belgium and Las Vegas offices and worked with them on creating the house out of a product called InfiniForm – basically, it’s a 50 x 50 mil aluminium box section that allows you to cut it and add corners, reels, braces, fixings, or whatever you need. Then, once the frames are made, they were clad in aluminium honeycomb, which is a lightweight, hard-wearing wall surface.

“And, at the end of the campaign, they’re just going to be stripped back into component parts and used by the next project. There’s no ongoing storage needed, and there’s no waste in terms of bits and pieces that would just normally get thrown away if it were a custom build.”

This also meant that the band was able to drop their air freight requirements from 40 pallets down to just 17 for the entire show. Coupled with the decision to carry a smaller production around mainland Europe, requiring only eight trucks instead of 16, this allowed the production team to significantly cut the tour’s carbon footprint and make some impressive cost savings.

“One of the things that we’ve really focussed on for this tour is crew welfare, and trying to look after people’s mental health”

Take a break
Looking after the planet is a noble endeavour, but the band are also at pains to look after people – specifically, their people. “One of the things that we’ve really focussed on for this tour is crew welfare, and trying to look after people’s mental health,” says Barnes. This effort started before the tour even hit the road – after rehearsals, several training days were scheduled with an American organisation called Safe Tour, covering topics such as wellness on the road, mental health first aid, pronoun training, and some bystander intervention training. “It was really beneficial to everybody involved in the project to set them up for success on what was, and still is, quite a long run,” he adds.

Crew rest was another priority, something that’s always a struggle given the nature of long days on the road. “Getting the right amount of rest between shows is really important,” says Barnes. To that end, they’ve been careful not to set loading times for arrival or very early in the morning, instead choosing “about an hour after we expect to arrive, to give the crew enough time to actually plan their mornings. We can also adjust show and door times as well, to assist if we need to leave slightly earlier one night or start later the next day.”

The quality of crew rest has been improved, too. “So not just a single day off where you arrive at a hotel, but a day where you can sleep in a bed and not set an alarm,” says Barnes. “Effectively, two days off, or one full day off, every few weeks – that was a real win being able to work that into the schedule.” Hotels are pre-booked, so people can access their rooms direct on arrival at 10am or whenever and are required to have a number of amenities to help the crew unwind; a gym, a sauna, a pool, spaces to relax, and convenient access to nature, parks, or wildlife. “Options beyond just sitting in a bar drinking.”

And this emphasis on physical health extends to the available food, with nutritionally balanced meals available on the buses and through catering, plus plenty of non-alcoholic beverages and 0% beers. Crew members can make individual food choices through an app, and while the band themselves tour with a personal trainer to keep them in shape, things like being able to walk to a venue from the hotel, and that downtime is actually downtime, are prioritised. “These things help in a number of ways – it’s financial, it’s sustainability, and it’s improving welfare,” adds Barnes. “They’re all important aspects to us.”

Much in demand
As one of the most popular acts of the new millennium, the band is in tune with its global fanbase, striving to make its touring activities as sustainable as possible and speaking out on issues on behalf of underrepresented communities. An infamous onstage kiss in Malaysia between Healy and bassist Ross McDonald last July continues to have repercussions, but that hasn’t stopped promoters internationally from booking the act.

“We sold out four O2 Arena shows this time, plus 40,000 tickets on this album campaign in the UK alone”

Unsurprisingly, given the stature and popularity of the band, Still… has been a roaring commercial success, too, with sold-out shows all across the globe. “We sold out four O2 Arena shows this time, plus 40,000 tickets on this album campaign in the UK alone,” says Bates. “Their fanbase continues to grow year on year, and while that does make the tours easier to sell, we like to launch the show with significant marketing for the first announcement,” says Luke Temple of SJM Concerts. Both Arena Birmingham and the two Manchester dates sold out in a weekend; Temple says the plan was always to do two at the latter, “but I’ve no doubt they could have sold out a few more.”

It was a similar story north of the border, in Glasgow. “The band played Glasgow Hydro in January 2023, then headlined TRNSMT Festival in July 2023,” says Dave McGeachan of DF Concerts. “We were thinking we would leave Glasgow off the 2024 tour, but we decided to add a show at the OVO Hydro. Then we had to add a second night due to demand, which also sold out – quite incredible sales within 13 months.”

In Sweden, the band sold out Stockholm’s Tele2 Arena – “their biggest show in our territory yet,” says Natalie Ryan-Williams of Luger. “Over the years, their fanbase has expanded, and with them being the phenomenon they now are, we knew people were going to travel in from all over Sweden – and even some internationally.”

The possibility of multiple shows in Spain was considered, but, says Cindy Castillo of Mad Cool, venue availabilities and logistical constraints prevented it. “The demand was certainly there, indicating the band’s strong draw in this area,” she says.

Two nights were possible at Amsterdam’s AFAS Live – even if they were nearly a month apart – and, says Friendly Fire’s Roel Coppen, “they were the band’s fastest-selling arena headline shows to date. They played Best Kept Secret in 2023, but we had no issues with these new dates – we could cater to different audiences with different shows within 12 months.”

“You can just about see anyone attending a The 1975 show nowadays – they really attract people from all backgrounds and generations”

Even in more developing territories, these shows have really connected to local fans. “The situation in continental Europe is quite different from the UK, especially in Central Europe,” says Anna Vašátková, head of marketing and PR for Rock For People in Czechia. “The band isn’t played on the radio very often and there’s not as much media coverage, so we’ve had to do all the heavy lifting ourselves. We did quite a massive marketing campaign, including outdoor, radio spots, and extensive use of online media.”

Coppen also noted something else on this run – a broadening of their fanbase. “I do see there’s been a steady, growing interest from other demographic groups and also journalists have been getting more excited about the band in recent years,” he says. Ryan-Williams has noticed something similar. “You can just about see anyone attending a The 1975 show nowadays – they really attract people from all backgrounds and generations, which is a beautiful thing to see.”

“The 1975’s appeal spans various age groups and genders, and their music has definitely attracted a diverse audience transcending age and gender boundaries,” adds Castillo. “It resonates with listeners across generations, from teenagers to older adults, probably thanks to its relatable themes and catchy melodies.”

Success is no accident
Beyond the accolades and acclaim, beyond the facts and figures, this tour has been a resound- ing success. And not just for the legions of happy fans. Everyone IQ speaks to has high praise for the way the band and their team have gone about everything and how they treat all those who encounter them. “Over the years, The 1975 has evolved into more than just a client; they have become like a second family to me,” says Michels. “The professionalism, collaboration, and welcoming spirit displayed by everyone involved transcend mere business relationships.”

“It is always our pleasure to work with The 1975, their production, and their management teams,” says Meegan Holmes of 8th Day Sound, a sentiment echoed by Roy Hunt, Christie Lites’ global account manager. “Every individual involved has demonstrated a high level of professionalism, commitment, and passion that has made this journey memorable,” he says. “The synergy between the band and the crew created an atmosphere of mutual respect and cooperation, while management has been nothing short of supportive, ensuring a seamless and enjoyable tour. Overall, it has been a remarkable experience that speaks volumes about the dedication and talent of everyone involved.”

Fittingly though, band manager Oborne attributes the success to all of those who work so hard to make the shows happen – and who help the band shine. “When I think about The 1975 touring, I can’t help but think about how dedicated and committed to the show our crew are,” he says. “The professionalism and dedication are something we simply could not be without. I am very grateful to all those behind the scenes who turn up day in day out and make the entire thing work. It’s quite something to witness.”

 


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ILMC 36: Festival heads discuss headliner drought

European festival organisers came together at ILMC 36 to discuss the sector’s biggest challenges, including the lack of available headliners.

Cindy Castillo, Mad Cool (ES), Jim King, AEG Presents (UK), Jess Phillips, Untitled Group (AU), Jan Quiel, Wacken Open Air (DE) and Annika Hintz, Superbloom (DE) took the stage for Festival Forum: Headline Topics, moderated by UTA’s Jules De Lattre.

“The challenge across all my UK business has been the availability of headline talent,” said King. “When they’re prepared to confirm, how we can get that show announced and then the sales window that we’re dealing with. The shows we’re putting up are selling very strongly. The demand is there, it’s supply that’s an issue.”

Castillo added: “The most difficult thing this year has definitely been booking headliners and being able to deliver a good lineup. The time between sending our first offer and getting a headliner confirmed was the longest period ever. This is due to many circumstances: the cost, production, dates, not wanting to tour, saturation of the market.”

“The demand is there, it’s supply that’s an issue”

De Lattre suggested the lack of headliners was partly down to the boom in arena and stadium tours.

“Major artists have less of a financial incentive to play festivals since the headline touring business is more rewarding than ever,” he said. “You’ve got higher income on a headlining tour, you’ve got better routes and full control of your production.”

King added: “More acts need to tour festivals and that’s the most urgent issue we have to address.”

Phillips, from Australian promoter Untitled Group, added that it’s not just the availability of headliners that’s an issue but the “astronomical” cost of bringing them to her country. “The problem with that is our breakeven just skyrockets,” she said.

Phillips believes this is the reason why festival cancellations in Australia are mounting: “What we’ve seen recently is festivals putting all their money into securing a good headliner and then collapsing eight days after going on sale because they can tell from that they’re not going to get anywhere near that breakeven.”

“We worry too much about ticket price and not enough about the value of the ticket”

While rising costs are still an ongoing concern in the sector, panellists said they were determined to find solutions.

“There are bits and pieces to cover those costs,” said Jan Quiel. “We’ve been doing VIP packages and making a little extra on glamping, which we only started doing a couple of years ago.”

Castillo adds: “The only possible solution is to get creative about it and face new challenges with new solutions. We can’t control the situation because it’s a world thing, not a local thing.”

King argued that festival organisers should be “concentrating more on value than they do on cost”.

“We need to convince people that going to a festival will be just as much of an enriching experience as going on holiday”

“The first natural reaction when costs go up is to have less – less stages and smaller production,” he said. “If you reduce the value, you reduce the experience and then you’re on a downward spiral. I think if you look at the most successful festivals, they’re actually adding more value to the ticket. We worry too much about ticket price and not enough about the value of the ticket.”

“That doesn’t address the attrition rate, which is always going to be high. There will be more shows that fail because the barrier to entry, financially, is so high and the risk point is so high. I think it’s devastating. But that’s the direction of travel. I think it’s very difficult to change.”

Phillips agreed, adding that the value of a festival needs to match that of a holiday: “It can’t just be a stage and a hotdog stand, fans need to see an immersive experience. We need to convince people that going to a festival will be just as much of an enriching experience as going on holiday or spending your money on something else.

“We project the message that live music is just one element of our festivals and that there are many other activities. We want to deliver a whole other world, like a holiday destination. And that’s what we’re seeing is the most successful outcome.”

 


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Festival bosses talk cash flow, artist fees

The second IQ Focus festival panel, Festival Forum: The Next Stage, saw festival leaders from around Europe discuss the thorny issues of refunds and insolvency, as well as the outlook for 2021, in what should have been the halfway point of the 2020 season.

Hosted by IQ Magazine editor Gordon Masson, the panel welcomed Mad Cool’s CIndy Castillo, Isle of Wight Festival/Solo Agency’s John Giddings, ARTmania’s Codruta Vulcua and Goodlive’s Stefan Lehmkuhl, two months on from the initial virtual Festival Forum session.

The current situation, said Giddings, has made it “blatantly obvious” that the business has an issue with cash flow and that many promoters don’t have any kind of “war chest to go forwards”.

“I don’t understand how you bankrupt companies by refunding tickets,” he said. “You shouldn’t be spending the ticket money on costs – you need to be in the position to be able to refund all the money. We have a responsibility to the audience.”

Giddings noted that some promoters have got into the habit of “taking money from the future to pay the past”, and it has become clear that this doesn’t work.

“This may teach people a lesson on how to run a business,” he said.

The other panellists agreed to an extent, but noted that a lack of support and clarity from the authorities has complicated matters in a lot of cases.

“This may teach people a lesson on how to run a business”

“Our government hasn’t even declared force majeure yet for live events”, said Castillo, who promotes Madrid’s Mad Cool festival. “This has put us in a very tricky legal situation.”

The Mad Cool team only started its refund period last week, explained Castillo, but is allowing people to make the decision on whether to hold onto tickets for next year or refund them until after the full 2021 line-up is revealed.

In Romania, said Vulcu, an immediate reimbursement “would have bankrupted many organisers”, as the government is implementing new restrictions every two weeks.

“There are companies with shows built up, everything ready and paid for, and then suddenly it had to be cancelled,” she said. A voucher scheme implemented by the government, allowing promoters to offer credit for shows or merchandise in place of cash refunds, has been a lifeline for many.

ARTmania did choose to offer refunds, but only received 43 requests. “Our decision to trust our audience really worked for us,” said Vulcu, adding that this tactic may “work for rock and metal audiences perhaps more than for others.”

Lehmkuhl, who runs German festivals including Melt, Splash, Superbloom and With Full Force, added that a lot depends on how long the shutdown continues for.

“So far, we have been able to spend our own money,” he said,” but the next step would be to touch the ticket money, then to get low-interest credit from the government in case it takes longer.

“What happens if it takes longer than a year?” he asked. “Few companies will be able to survive for longer than a year.”

“Our decision to trust our audience really worked for us”

Mindful of cash flow, Goodlive has asked for deposits back from acts it booked for this year. “There is mutual understanding there,” said Lehmkuhl. “We are trying to rethink our festivals for next year, adjusting dates and concepts. We will start from scratch in some ways next year.”

As the promoter of Isle of Wight Festival, Giddings said he also asked for deposits to be returned. “We are doing contracts going forward for next year and will pay the deposit then.”

In terms of being an agent, Giddings said he is not going to take a fee reduction for artists. “I would rather they didn’t play than take a reduction on my act,” he said.

“As an agent I wouldn’t book an act for festival next year unless they’re going to pay me the same money,” he said, “and we’ve done the same thing as a festival.”

Ticket prices will also have to stay the same, as so many fans are rolling over their tickets to next year. “Anyone raising ticket prices is insane,” said Giddings. “We need to get an audience back first before charging more.”

Vulcu, who said she left the money with the agencies when rescheduling, agreed that she will not be paying artists less money, “but we will definitely not pay more”.

“Romanian audiences will have a lot less money and the priority will not be going to festivals,” she said.

“As an agent I wouldn’t book an act for festival next year unless they’re going to pay me the same money, and we’ve done the same thing as a festival”

Castillo said her experiences have been “positive” with every agent. “We are looking out for each other to prevent the industry collapsing,” she said.

The Mad Cool booker admitted that it will be “really hard” to get the same audiences next year, “so we need help with fees to make things happen”.

“We are running a big risk with the festival next year”.

The recovery of the music business in Spain “hasn’t event started yet”, said Castillo, as “you first have to understand our business model, identify problems and offer solutions – and we haven’t been offered any solutions yet.”

Vulcu added that support packages offered by governments in western European countries such as Germany and the UK may put newer markets at a disadvantage, as they are less likely to receive support.

Giddings replied that, although the recent culture funding package announced by the UK government is sizeable, “we have no idea who it’s going to go to and how it will work”. He added that it was more likely to benefit venues than agents or promoters.

Sponsors are another issue for 2021. “Investing in events is risky now,” said Castillo, “and this is definitely affecting us.”

Vulcu said that, while ARTmania has secured its main sponsor for next year, “it is very difficult to get new sponsors”.

“Investing in events is risky now, and this is definitely affecting us”

Most Isle of Wight Festival sponsors have also “stuck with us” said Giddings, who believes that sponsors will start to come back in once it’s clear the event is going to happen, although they may be “different kinds of sponsors relating to our changing normal”.

Giddings added that he is “praying” for some direction on what will happen next year by Christmas, with clear information needed by March at the latest.

For Lehmkuhl, the key for the “new normal” is a high level of flexibility and an ability to keep running costs very low.

The Goodlive co-founder said that the idea of testing at festivals “is one of the few realistic plans [for getting event up and running] nowadays”, provided that the government is able to provide tests for free.

“It is hard for me to imagine that we will be able to do festivals as normal next year,” he admitted, “but one thing’s for sure, I will not be doing them with social distancing.”

The next IQ Focus session State of Independence: Promoters will take place on Thursday 16 July at 4 p.m. BST/5 p.m. CET. To set a reminder head to the IQ Magazine page on Facebook or YouTube.

Watch yesterday’s session back below, or on YouTube or Facebook now.


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IQ Focus returns with ‘Festival Forum: The Next Stage’

After a week’s break, IQ’s virtual panel series – IQ Focus – is back with Festival Forum: The Next Stage, which sees representatives from a handful of European festivals give an update on the state of the sector.

The ninth panel of the popular IQ Focus series, the session will be streamed live on Facebook and YouTube on Thursday 9 July at 4 p.m. BST/5 p.m. CET, building on a previous Festival Forum panel almost two months on.

Midway through what would have been this year’s festival season, it’s a summer like no other. But are we midway through the crisis, or is there still further to go before the festival sector can confidently progress into 2021?

How confident are promoters feeling about next year, and are artists and audiences ready to return?

With a number of government support packages in place, and much of this year’s line-ups transplanted to next year, how confident are promoters feeling about next year, and are artists and audiences ready to return?

IQ Magazine editor Gordon Masson hosts this IQ Focus discussion with panellists Cindy Castillo of Spain’s Mad Cool festival; John Giddings of the Isle of Wight Festival and Solo Agency; Stefan Lehmkuhl who promotes Splash, Melt, Superbloom and With Full Force festivals at Germany’s Goodlive; and Codruta Vulcu of Romania’s ARTmania Festival.

All previous IQ Focus sessions, which have looked at topics including diversity in live, management under lockdown, the agency business, large-scale and grassroots music venues and innovation in live music, can be watched back here.

To set a reminder about the IQ Focus Festival Forum: The Next Stage session on Thursday head to the IQ Magazine page on Facebook or YouTube.

 


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