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New year, new hope: IQ 96 is out now

IQ 96, the latest issue of the international live music industry’s favourite monthly magazine, is available to read online now.

February’s IQ Magazine details the unique 2021 edition of the International Live Music Conference (ILMC) and offers an exclusive preview of new session Pulse with agent Mike Malak.

Elsewhere, IQ editor Gordon Masson finds out New Zealand’s industry is coping in its post-pandemic bubble, and talks to some of Europe’s biggest venues to find out how they plan to get back up and running, as the European Arenas Association turns 30.

This issue also hears from Crosstown Concerts director Conal Dodds, who details his firm’s creation of a new live-streaming operation, and Nue Agency chief Jesse Kirshbaum, who extols gaming’s ability to introduce artists to new audiences and accelerate career development.

And if you’re curious to know what Rob Challice (Paradigm), Claudio Trotta (Barley Arts), Alan Day (Kilimanjaro Live) and other industry pros are looking forward to most when life gets back to normal, you’ll find the answers in Your Shout.

All that is in addition to all the regular content you’ve come to expect from your monthly IQ Magazine, including news analysis and new agency signings, the majority of which will appear online in some form in the next four weeks.

Whet your appetite with the preview below, but if you can’t wait for your fix of essential live music industry features, opinion and analysis, click here to subscribe now and receive IQ 96 in full.

 


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Crosstown Concerts launches artist management company

British promoter Crosstown Concerts has launched an artist management division, joining forces with Cliff Jones and Mark Bowers (the latter formerly a colleague of Crosstown founders Paul Hutton and Conal Dodds at Metropolis Music) to create Crosstown Management.

The new division – which the company says gives Crosstown a talent development arm that will be “important to its growth plans in the coming years” – is initially looking after artists including Keir, Mauwe, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and, in partnership with Ian Mizen and James Dawson of Jax Management, Paris Youth Foundation.

“The Crosstown team has a heritage in artist management as well as promoting, so it’s great to have that part of the business launched and some great up-and-coming artists under our umbrella already breaking through in the European market,” comments Dodds.

“It’s great to have some great up-and-coming artists under our umbrella already breaking through in the European market”

“We are looking at a huge number of touring dates and festivals this summer under the Crosstown umbrella and we’re inviting artists looking for representation to get in touch, as we are looking at expanding the roster during 2018.”

Adds Bowers: “We are delighted to join Crosstown and launch this new management company. We share a great passion for developing artists and for giving fans a great experience.”

Crosstown Concerts was launched by Hutton and Dodds, both former directors of Metropolis Music, and hotel owner Fraser Duffin in September 2016. Upcoming tours for 2018 include Belle and Sebastian, Franz Ferdinand, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Jack White, the Wombats, the Vaccines and George Ezra, along with festivals Bristol Sounds and the Downs Festival Bristol.

 


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‘We all have a story’: Biz pays tribute to Mark E. Smith

Figures from across the live music industry have shared their memories of Mark E. Smith, the late frontman of UK post-punk pioneers The Fall, who died yesterday after a period of illness.

“Name a promoter you know and we’ve all got a Fall story,” says Crosstown-concerts Conal Dodds, who relates his own. “My gig was 1992 I think, Bristol Victoria Room: Mark E. Smith barging out of the dressing room, beer can in hand, mid-afternoon, moaning, ‘Why is there always a racket going on every day when I’ve finished soundchecking? I want some peace and quiet… I’m not fucking having it!’”

‘That,’ replied Dodds, ‘will be the support band, Mark.’

Tim Hornsby of York venue Fibbers says that “you get warned about doing a show with Mark E. Smith: Late on stage, short sets, pissed, cantankerous…”

Conversely, Hornsby says on the “many times” he promoted Smith (pictured), while “he was very definitely pissed”, Smith “was also a model of good temper and co-operation, performing long sets and even encores. Unbelievably, in recent years, he once stood at the front door shaking hands as people came in.”

“He was a mad, brilliant, intense, horrible genius, and the world was a better place with him in it”

He continues: “Yes, a man with immeasurable man-of-the-people lyricism, oft-impenetrable logic but always with his singular independence, total and undisguised disdain for self-proclaimed authority and the only man to appear on Jools Holland’s show with the stipulation, ‘as long as he doesn’t tinkle along with us on the joanna’ [piano].

“In an era of committee-composed music weak as maiden’s water, little or no imaginative vocabulary or delivery, and samples, samples, samples, Mark E. Smith’s urgent and angsty guitar indie almost entirely stood alone.

“I’m going to miss him getting tangled in mic leads, fiddling with the amps and generally rambling around looking confused, but always in total control of yet another packed house.”

“When I finally met him, sometime in the late ’90s, he was in one of his phases where he was sacking the band on a nightly basis,” recalls Mark Davyd, CEO of Music Venue Trust and co-owner of the Tunbridge Wells Forum. “After an hour and a half waiting, he finally took the stage and proceeded to rant over some improvised rockabilly performed by a drummer he’d met yesterday and a keyboard player who he’d handed a bass to. The show lasted 40 minutes. No one asked for their money back. It was The Fall.

“Name a promoter you know and we’ve all got a Fall story”

“We ended the evening together in a romantic fashion, him chasing me round the dressing room trying to hit me with £3,000 in cash. At least a dozen other promoters could tell you a similar story.

“He was a mad, brilliant, intense, horrible genius, and the world was a better place with him in it. Thanks, Mark.”

Enter Shikari manager Ian Johnsen says he was “13 years old when I accepted Mark E. Smith into my life. Like most fans, I have stories. Some of them from my own first-hand experience – others legends passed down from those that came before me.

“I saw The Fall countless times. No matter what, I never left disappointed. (Though last time I saw them I left halfway through as it upset me too much, but that’s different to disappointment, yeah?)

“I hope Mark E. Smith is remembered for what he actually was, not the caricature that is so easy for people to fall back on. A fantastic life.

“‘Ours is not to look back. Ours is to continue the crack…’ And this, always…”

“I hope Mark E. Smith is remembered for what he actually was, not the caricature that is so easy for people to fall back on”

Finally, paying tribute to her ex-husband, Brix Smith-Smart, The Fall’s guitarist from 1983 to 1989, says: “Mark defied convention and definition – he was a true artist. When I arrived in Manchester – a young American – he introduced me to pickled onions, pubs and punk. He was my music mentor, my cultural anchor and my first love.

“I feel deeply saddened by his passing but I feel a greater joy for having shared his journey. He never once compromised; how many others can leave this life with such a singularity of vision?

“‘Check the guy’s track record, he is not appreciated’ – now at last he is…”

 


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Why hasn’t dynamic pricing taken off in music?

If 2016 will be remembered in the live music business for any one thing, it will be as the 12 months in which the pitchforks well and truly came out against secondary ticketing.

It was the year of the Waterson report and the Bots and Boss Acts, of FanFair and #ResaleNO, and the year in which Italy surprised the world by announcing plans to outlaw ticket touting altogether.

Although most of the industry – with, of course, the exception of the secondary sites themselves – agree on the desirability of minimising touting, it remains divided on the best way to do so. Italian-style legislation is one possibility; as is blocking individual sites, as has happened in Belgium.

Another is the dynamic pricing of tickets, in which prices fluctuate based on market demand – already common for sporting events, as well as in the booking of airline tickets and hotel rooms. Despite market leader Ticketmaster throwing its hat in the dynamically priced ring for select tickets in 2007 – followed by then-CEO Irving Azoff calling for more dynamic pricing in music – the practice has yet to find widespread acceptance in the live music industry, despite its obvious potential for making the for-profit secondary market far riskier for touts, if not redundant altogether.

The reason for that, says Barry Kahn, the CEO of Qcue, a leading developer of dynamic pricing software, is primarily logistical: “From our side, it’s a challenge working with [concert] promoters because ticketing relationships run through venues: for example, Madison Square Garden with Ticketmaster,” he explains. “If you’re an artist coming through MSG you don’t touch the ticketing system.”

Kahn says the majority of his current clients are sports teams, with “not a lot of dynamic pricing on the concert side”. While he is clear he “[doesn’t] want to say it doesn’t justify the fees” – “I’ve never seen a client that didn’t have a large positive on ROI [return on investment],” he says – he admits “it is a more expensive proposition” to dynamically price tickets, and for that reason is more popular for long runs at a single venue.

“I’ve never seen a client that didn’t have a large positive on ROI”

Manager Adam Tudhope – co-founder of Everybody’s (Mumford & Sons, Laura Marling, Keane) and a prominent anti-touting campaigner – says he “doesn’t doubt that it [dynamic pricing] might be one of the tools that people use alongside other ones [to minimise touting] – and I say good luck to them”.

Tudhope says it’s important that artists and promoters are upfront with their audience – that if they do decide to dynamically price, they let fans know the reason ticket prices are fluctuating – and that the ‘demand’ determining prices isn’t fixed by the secondary market.

“The ethical stance when selling tickets to fans is to be as transparent as possible,” he says. “If an artist and their business advisors think the audience can afford to pay more – and they want to make more money out of the show – then as long as they’re straightforward with their audience about what their offering is, I don’t see a problem with dynamic pricing.

“Doing it via secondary is underhand and rips off the fan, because they don’t know what the whole market has to offer.”

Ticketmaster UK, which dynamically prices most of its high-profile shows under the Ticketmaster Platinum banner, tells IQ its Platinum tickets aren’t pegged to how well shows are telling on its secondary platforms (Seatwave, Get Me In!). “Platinum prices are based on the demand,” explains managing director Andrew Parsons. “We place a portion out for sale starting at what we estimate market price to be; this is based on previous experience and our data tools. We also gauge market price on how quickly the initial allocation sells – we change price as we release more seats.”

Parsons says dynamic pricing is suitable for multi-venue tours, as opposed to just residency-style shows, explaining that the company can easily “manage it across multiple promoters and venues”.

“There are often many decision-makers involved … It can sometimes be challenging to get everyone on the same page”

While Parsons says he’d “love to think” there will be a time when Ticketmaster’s general-admission (GA) tickets are also dynamically priced, he explains it’s much easier to implement with premium seats. “With Platinum there’s a clear differentiating element: you’re selling the best seat,” he says. “That’s understood by both consumers and artists. It’s harder to do when it’s GA.”

Greg Loewen, CEO of Qcue rival Digonex, says he believes take-up of dynamic pricing in live music is being affected by a false belief among many promoters that dynamic pricing is an unreliable or unproven technology.

“Pricing is really hard, especially for a tour,” Loewen tells IQ. “Every night is in a different market and a different venue. Optimising pricing under those conditions is extraordinarily time-consuming and challenging, and not many dynamic pricing tools are designed to handle that level of complexity, so promoters may assume there is no reliable way to dynamically price a tour.” He insists that isn’t the case: “We hope to talk to those folks!”

One of Digonex’s live-entertainment partners is a well-known American comedian, who has seen significantly increased ticket revenues as a result of adopting dynamic pricing. “When we started out, his manager was concerned about the price going up too much,” explains Loewen. “But because of his popularity, we’re now seeing significant growth in ticket price – and we haven’t had a single complaint from any consumers.”

Despite the success stories in sports and live comedy, both Loewen and Kahn admit dynamically pricing live music is more difficult.

“There are often many decision-makers involved: promoters, agents, venue management, artists,” says Loewen. “It can sometimes be challenging to get everyone on the same page regarding a significant change like adopting dynamic pricing. It takes time.”

“As promoters we spend far too much time having to discuss ticketing and allocations – time that could be better spent on marketing and selling shows”

Former Metropolis Music director Conal Dodds – now running Crosstown Concerts with Paul Hutton and Fraser Duffin – says he can’t see it becoming commonplace in touring. “I think [it] works on theatre runs, and could work on festivals and residencies, for instance, but it would be incredibly complicated to strike a deal on the basis of one-off shows or tours where more than one promoter is involved,” he explains.

While Crosstown is committed to minimising touting for its shows – and has an exclusive ticketing partnership with Songkick to that end – Dodds says, as a promoter, he just isn’t interested in getting into the nitty-gritty of ticketing, gradually or otherwise: “As promoters we spend far too much time having to discuss ticketing and allocations – time that could be better spent on marketing and selling shows, which is where we all earn our monies.”

Kahn believes in order for dynamic pricing to see wide adoption in live music, “you need a restructuring in contracts”, with promoters “properly incentivised to take more risks” via a more generous share of the show’s revenue. At the moment, he says, there’s “too much risk and not much upside for the promoter”, leading to the temptation to “purposefully” pass tickets to secondary sellers.

There’s also the thorny issue of the potential for dynamic tickets to drop in price if the demand isn’t there. “Bands,” says Kahn, are simply “unwilling to drop prices… How often does that happen?”

Parsons says the eradication of ticket touting is “very much up there” in the considerations of those artists who do opt for at least partial dynamic pricing. “We’ve had discussions with artists who think it’s a problem,” he explains. “There’s a growing appreciation that you do need to take some steps [to minimise resale], and one of them is dynamic pricing.”

He adds there’s still “almost a stigma” about taking more money from fans, even in a “world where there’s no [income from] recorded”: “If you [artists and promoters] don’t take this money, other people will – you’re the ones with the creativity and who are taking the risk.”

“If you don’t take this money, other people will”

Loewen, too, is firmly in the Michael Rapino/Professor Waterson camp when it comes to the pricing of primary tickets, opining that “the level of activity in the secondary market suggests that many tickets are not priced efficiently”.

“Many view dynamic pricing as code for ‘price gouging’,” he says, “and are concerned about alienating their loyal fans with primary ticket prices that are perceived as too high.

“This is an understandable concern, although we all see that in instances of excess demand many fans will still pay the higher price – the only difference being that more of the profit is captured by the secondary market as opposed to the artists.”

He adds that dynamic pricing “isn’t only about increasing prices: sometimes it’s about lowering them too.  It’s about finding the ‘right’ price that more accurately reflects true market demand and is fair to consumers.”

Tudhope, however – who has spoken of his wish to see ticket touting criminalised in the UK – isn’t wholly convinced. “Dynamic pricing, ethically done, might be appropriate for some of my artists’ audiences, and not for others,” he concludes. “This is the main point, and an important argument to make against the secondary sites who say ‘put on more shows!’ and ‘make your ticket prices higher!’.

“If the artist and I decide that there should only be one show, and that it be priced reasonably, that should frankly be our choice – not down to a market that is completely skewed by the often-illegal practices of touts.”

 


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