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German gov pledges €80m for festivals and concerts

The German federal government has committed €80 million to organisers of music concerts and festivals from its €1bn Restart Culture programme.

The 12-month Neustart Kultur (‘Restart Culture’) stimulus package includes a total of €150m earmarked for music, with this initial €80m dedicated to events from October 2020 to the end of August 2021. 

The funding is the latest piece of good news for German concert professionals, coming after reports that Germany is likely to extend its coronavirus furlough scheme to 24 months – a proposal that has the backing of the chancellor, Angela Merkel.

This is the result of the negotiations that have been ongoing since the beginning of July between the Federal Association of the Concert and Event Industry (BDKV) and the Ministry of State for Culture and the Media.

“While the funding programme is far from being sufficient to fill the financial holes that the organisers have incurred in the last six months, and which unfortunately will only increase in the coming months, it will at least ensure a certain basic guarantee of the industry’s ongoing attempts to get back to normal,” says Jens Michow, president of the Federal Association of the Concert and Event Industry (BDKV).

“This will at least ensure a certain basic guarantee of the industry’s ongoing attempts to get back to normal”

For events from October 2020 to the end of August 2021, the current programme provides organisers with funding of between €75,000 and €800,000 of future event costs. Festival organisers can receive up to €250,000.

The maximum amount depends on the average number of events and visitors in the years 2017–2019, as well as the average turnover from cultural events within Germany.

Artist management and agents have so far not benefitted from the funding programme, despite being explicitly mentioned as recipients of aid in the Restart Culture programme. Applications will open on 7 September and will be processed through Initiative Musik, the German funding and export office for musicians and music companies.

The Restart Culture package recently announced €27m for small and medium-sized stages, based on the capacity of the space. Complementary funding with other federal funding programs is possible. Applications open on 27 August.

Currently, major events in Germany are banned until the start of November unless organisers can prove that social distancing measures and hygiene protocol can be met.

 


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Live Nation posts record operating income in Q3

Live Nation has recorded its highest-ever quarterly operating income in Q3 2019, clocking in at US$260 million, as the company looks to close the year with record revenue and over 100 million tickets sold.

The live entertainment giant surpassed last year’s record Q3, growing both operating income and AOI (adjusted operating income) from the third quarter of 2018 by 11%, from $234m to $260m and $387m to $427m respectively.

Revenue for the quarter fell short of analysts’ expectations, dipping 2% from Q3 2018 to $3.8 billion. In last night’s (Thursday 31 October) earnings call, chief financial officer Kathy Willard put the revenue decline down to “a foreign exchange negative impact”, which primarily affected the concerts revenue, down 4% from the same period last year.

Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino notes that international concert business has been “particularly robust”, contributing to much fan growth. So far this year, 73m fans have attended over 26,000 Live Nation shows, delivering a year-to-date AOI of $333m for the concert division, a 17% increase on 2018.

International markets have also driven the majority of Live Nation’s sponsorship and advertising growth this quarter, with a special mention given to the recently wholly acquired Rock in Rio festival, which drove sponsorship revenue up 26% over its first weekend in September, and the expansion of the Lollapalooza festival brand.

“As we continue building our expertise on on-site execution, we are finding more opportunities to build new venues or takeover operations of existing venues”

Festivals, say Rapino, are “our most profitable businesses” and remain “the ultimate fan experience”.

Venues appear to be a particular point of expansion for Live Nation this year, with a further 36 venues added to its portfolio, including Belgium’s 23,000-capacity Sportpaleis Arena. A focus on fan experience in Live Nation venues, comments Rapino, has driven up the average spend per customer by $2.50, to $29.

“As we continue building our expertise on on-site execution, we are finding more opportunities to build new venues or takeover operations of existing venues,” says Rapino.

Live Nation-owned Ticketmaster also recorded its highest AOI quarter ever, up 20% from last year and a 6% growth year-to-date. According to Rapino, this growth is facilitating the roll-out of digital ticketing, which is expected to be in place at over 700 venues and used by over 60% of fans by the year end.

The number of dynamically priced Platinum tickets sold per show has risen by 54% this year, with Rapino noting the company has been “more effective” in pricing tickets closer to the market value.

“We are confident in the success of our Concert flywheel for 2019,” concludes Rapino. “We will promote more shows, reach more fans, price more effectively and provide a better fan experience at our venues, which will then drive double-digit AOI growth for the business year.”

 


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‘Music is core to us’: Peex CEO on enhancing the live experience

The live music space has been inundated with new technologies in recent years. In an era where virtual reality is bringing live shows to sofas, stages are becoming smartphone-friendly and holograms are bringing lost stars back to life, wearable tech firm Peex is returning the focus to the sound.

Peex, which launched in May 2018, allows fans to personalise the way they hear a concert in real time. Partnering with Sir Elton John on his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour and most recently entering into an agreement with Amsterdam’s Ziggo Dome, Peex technology has been sampled by fans across Europe, the United States and Canada.

The way technology has changed how we live different experiences is “phenomenal”, says Vosgimorukian. However, the live space remains one of the “least disrupted” by consumer-facing technology, as people are wary of taking away from the live performance and diverting attention from the main event.

“We don’t want to distract from the live experience,” Patrick Vosgimorukian, the recently appointed CEO of Peex tells IQ, “we want to enhance it. In a concert hall, there’s always an element of compromise and the sound can’t be perfect for everyone.”

This imperfection is what Peex is striving to overcome, enabling fans to focus on certain aspects of a live show and to improve sound lost due to unavoidable venue limitations, tricky acoustics and, in some cases, noise restrictions.

Wearing a rentable Peex rX device and using the Peex mobile application, concertgoers can select which parts of a performance they wish to have enhanced – be it vocals, guitars, drums or any other element – through five separate premixed channels that are fed in from the sound board.

“In a concert hall, there’s always an element of compromise and the sound can’t be perfect for everyone”

What the company is not trying to do, assures Vosgimorukian, is distance the audience from the live environment.

“Our core ethos is that we do not want to provide a sound-cancelling experience, or isolate the user from the live environment,” says Vosgimorukian. Those using the Peex wearable device still hear everything that’s going on around them, while receiving the personalised, enhanced audio, something that has proved the “greatest challenge” for the Peex team.

The rate of synchronisation has also given Peex an opportunity to expand into another part of the live music space – festivals. “The festival environment is where most sound gets lost so Peex is hugely applicable to that format.”

Festivalgoers would also be able to tune into music at other stages, extending audience reach and allowing fans to make more informed decisions.

Is having a wearable device that works in conjunction with a mobile application not, by its very nature, distracting people from the live experience?

This has been a frequent topic of discussion for Peex, says Vosgimorukian. The fact is, concertgoers are already on their phones: taking pictures, posting to social media or messaging friends. “What we’re doing is focusing them on enhancing the live experience, rather than on escaping from it – harnessing this has been key to our ethos.”

“What we’re doing is focusing them on enhancing the live experience, rather than on escaping from it”

By using wearable tech, Peex is attempting to be as unobtrusive as possible. The device connects via bluetooth to the user’s phone, but the app can easily be closed while users continue to receive enhanced sound.

Customer feedback so far, however, has been mostly positive, with 85% of users reporting they “loved” the experience.

Another revelation is the type of customer interested in Peex, with the company discovering “zero correlation” between satisfaction with the product and age or seat type. “Everyone has a different reason for using it,” explains Vosgimorukian, “just as everyone has a different way of enjoying a concert.”

Usage of Peex devices is currently limited to 1,000 per concert, but the company is “slowly ramping this up”. Concertgoers can rent Peex devices for between €10 and €15 at participating concerts, but the company hopes to sell the devices in the future.

From estimations based on surveys before Peex went to market, between 30 to 40% of fans at any given concert would want to use the product. The product has also been a hit with artists with more “high-calibre” artist partnerships soon to be announced.

Asked why the device is proving so popular, the Peex CEO has a simple answer: “Music is core to us – the live experience is what we and our customers all have in common.”

 


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Anti-facial recognition campaign gains artist support

A coalition of musicians including Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello and band Speedy Ortiz have joined a campaign to oppose the use of facial recognition technology at live music events.

Biometric identification technology has been used at live events over the past few years, in a bid to speed up entry into shows and detect troublemakers.

Digital rights group Fight for the Future is leading the charge against the technology, which it deems inaccurate, invasive, discriminative and dangerous.

On Monday (9 September) the group launched a campaign to mobilise “artists, fans and promoters to speak out against the use of facial recognition technology at live music events.”

“Music fans should feel safe and respected at festivals and shows, not subjected to invasive biometric surveillance,” writes Fight for the Future, warning that the use of the technology at live events could lead to deportation, arrest for minor offences, misidentification and permanent data storage.

“Music fans should feel safe and respected at festivals and shows, not subjected to invasive biometric surveillance”

The group argues that there is “no evidence” that the technology will keep fans safe, adding that “mass surveillance is largely ineffective at preventing violent crimes.”

Artists including singer Amanda Palmer, hip-hop duo Atmosphere, rock band Downtown Boy and Slovenian producer Gramatik have all voiced their support for the campaign, as well as the team behind Summer Meltdown, an AEG-promoted festival.

However many, including event security platform Vertus Fusion, state the technology could be integral for enhancing the safety of fans.

A hidden facial recognition camera was used to detect stalkers at Taylor Swift shows in 2018 and the technology was used to screen guests at this year’s Brit Awards. Live Nation-backed biometrics company Blink Identity recently began to roll out its facial recognition system in a pilot programme for Manchester City football club.

The role that facial recognition technology plays in event security will be discussed at the Event Safety and Security Summit (E3S), which takes place on 8 October at the Congress Centre, London.

 


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Cheap Live Nation tickets for Tinder users

Live Nation has announced a new partnership with mobile dating app Tinder, providing users of the app with US$30 tickets to concerts by the Chainsmokers, Asap Ferg and more for an “epic first date”.

To access the discounted tickets, Tinder users in the United States must swipe right when they come across a tour profile card. A link will then lead to a landing page featuring all tour and ticket information. The promotion will run until the end of October.

Tickets are available in select US cities for twelve concert tours for shows by the Chainsmokers, Asap Ferg, Logic, Lukas Graham, Meek Mill, Gesaffelstein, Gloria Trevi, Gryffin the Head and the Heart, Sabrina Claudio and Young Thug.

Users can also access discounted tickets for the alchemy tour, featuring Nghtmare and Slander.

The initiative is not the first partnership between the dating app and live music giants. In May, Tinder teamed up with Live Nation and AEG to create “Festival Mode”, allowing users to match with fellow festivalgoers before attending events in the United States, the UK and Australia.

 

 


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Big Hit reports record H1 results amid future plans

The first half of 2019 has proved extremely profitable for Big Hit Entertainment, the company behind K-pop stars BTS, generating revenues that almost surpass last year’s total.

The Seoul-based company reported record revenues of KRW 200.1 billion (US 166.4 million) in the first half of 2019, not far from the KRW 214bn ($178m) generated in the whole of 2018. Operating profits were also up from the same period of last year, at KRW 39.1bn ($32.5m).

Speaking at the company’s ‘Big Hit corporate briefing with the community’ at the Korea Textile Centre, Big Hit CEO Bang Si-Hyuk said that enhancing brand power through artists such as BTS was at “the core of Big Hit’s IP [intellectual property] business vision”.

Big Hit plans to develop a new TV drama series based on the BTS Universe (BU), a fictional storyline told through the band’s music videos, for the second half of 2020.

The company is also working on a new BTS-themed game project in collaboration with Korean game publisher Net Marble, adding to its growing presence in the music gaming sector.

Bang also stated that new kinds of customer experience would help boost revenues and expand the whole market further. Part of this strategy includes changing the way fans experience concerts.

“Big Hit is committed to turning the host city of a concert into a festival, improving inconvenient and unfair elements and enhancing the overall customer experience,” explains Lenzo Yoon, chief executive of Big Hit’s business contents.

“Big Hit is committed to turning the host city of a concert into a festival, enhancing the overall customer experience”

The company plans to expand its ticket raffle system to counter touting, facilitate quick-and-easy merchandise sales and establish a ‘play-zone’ for concertgoers to pass the time before music begins.

For those not attending a show, Big Hit intends to put on live viewings near concert venues, introduce real-time streaming and set up pop-up shops and exhibitions on concert days, to turn the area around a venue into a ‘city of celebration’.

Fan community platforms, such as Weverse, Weply and BTS Fan Cafe, are another area with potential to improve customer experience, according to Steve Seo, chief executive of Big Hit subsidiary Benx.

The platforms can serve as a “one-stop service in the music industry”, integrating the whole process for customers, “from ticket purchase to identity verification, special event interaction and buying merchandise.”

Two million people have signed up to Weverse, which facilitates fans-to-artist interaction, since it launched in June.

Currently on an “extended” break, BTS return on 11 October, with a show in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, before a three-night run at Seoul’s 69,950-capacity Olympic Stadium. Tickets for the Korean shows are available here for KRW 110,000 ($91).

 


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Africa: the power of music

I’ve been watching the African music scene very closely for many years – not because my family’s from Tanzania or because I think African artists need my help, I do it because the music market that’s developing over there has enormous potential for growth.

Africa’s sounds have long been audible on every continent – as sources of inspiration, in samples, and through collaborations. Now the artists themselves are making the leap so that they can take Europe and the rest of the world by storm with their songs.

The African music industry also offers incredible economic opportunities. It’s a source market for selling African music in Germany, Europe and the world, and a target market where increasing digitalisation, new business models like streaming, and an ever-expanding middle class, promise additional potential for sales. What’s more, as the home market of African artists, Africa is extremely attractive to African audiences. A healthy, vibrant domestic market is ultimately still the best environment for helping the stars of tomorrow to grow.

One of the most important factors for developing young talent in Africa (as elsewhere) is the live music scene. Especially at the start of their career, artists have to be able to try things out and play in front of audiences so that they can grow creatively. Unfortunately, the infrastructure needed for this, like venues and a solid network of promoters, can’t always keep up with the speed at which the industry is developing. That’s why Universal Music itself is increasingly getting involved in the concert and festival scene in countries like South Africa. It’s also now behind 11 live music venues in West African countries including Senegal, Cameroon, and Ivory Coast.

“The image of a place ravaged by famine and violence is being replaced by one of a continent filled with opportunities and looking to a prosperous future”

As the world leader in music-based entertainment, it’s in our own interests to actively further our artists’ home markets. Incidentally, my colleagues are doing this so successfully that many artists who aren’t part of the Universal Music world choose to collaborate with us for live shows. In South Africa alone, we booked over 600 artists for shows in 2017, and we’re on track to exceed that figure this year. It’s therefore no coincidence that U Live – a division of Universal Music South Africa – is the booking agent for The Voice of South Africa. U Live Africa also produces live concerts and festivals in Nigeria. These include Runway Jazz, Cocktails & Wine, and the first Nigerian concert by US music project Major Lazer.

Creative products like music are some of the most valuable and definitely the most sustainable resources that countries in Africa possess. We help our artists and local partners to develop and harness their own creative and economic power. We expand their reach and help them tap into their transcontinental potential. Above all, we work with our artists as equals because the success they have achieved in their home markets rightly makes them self-assured professionals who are secure in their own careers.

Concerts and festivals are the best places for us to see how much traction an artist has with the audience. In a way, it’s like we can watch new trends being born. We’re really excited to see the momentum that genres like hip-hop, gqom (a relatively new hit genre from Durban), and house have gained. Things are pretty much the same in the pop world. Africa might well be made up of many different countries that each have different traditions and music, but just like any other continent, stars come along who are universally awesome and work just as well in Cape Town as they do in Nairobi or Berlin. That’s the level we’re looking for, and we keep on finding it.

“Stars like Vanessa Mdee from Tanzania, and Mafikizolo and Nasty C from South Africa, are the new heroes of the continent”

International artists are also helping to develop Africa’s music industry. South Africa, for instance, has long been home to an excellent promoter scene, that in turn attracts other players.

Tanzania will be the fastest growing media and entertainment market in the world up to 2021. South Africa’s music market is expected to see constant growth in excess of 5% over the coming years. And Nigeria, which ranks number two in Africa, should even see ongoing double-digit growth. As well as making the eyes of dedicated A&R managers light up, that’s also music to accountants’ ears.

Yet music can do so much more than just business. African stars are creating a new face for their continent and changing the way people see it. The image of a place ravaged by famine and violence is being replaced by one of a continent filled with opportunities and looking to a prosperous future.

Stars like Vanessa Mdee from Tanzania, and Mafikizolo and Nasty C from South Africa, are the new heroes of the continent. Their power, their star appeal, and their presence, tell of a continent that wants more and is demanding a seat at the main table in the music industry. And for my colleagues in both Africa and Europe, it is a pleasure and an honour to support them on this journey.

 


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Fewer dates for music at Wembley Stadium

Wembley Stadium’s head of business development, Jim Frayling, will leave after 13 years at the end of this month as the London venue plans to limit the amount of dates available for music programming.

It’s understood that Frayling has exited during a restructure as a result of an increased focus on football at the stadium, with a Spurs residency currently taking place. Events director Lindsey Jackson left in December.

Frayling has played an intrinsic role in securing gigs with Oasis, Coldplay, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Ed Sheeran, Muse, Beyonce, Global’s Capital Summertime Ball, U2, Foo Fighters, The Stone Roses, Jeff Lynne’s ELO and Adele in recent years.

The latter three are set to play in June and July, and Adele is a European stadium exclusive with four dates on June 28/29 and July 1/2. Last year Wembley had six different headliners playing a total of ten shows; making it their best year for music since the new stadium opened in 2007. This year they’ve got three headliners playing a total of six shows. Frayling joined in 2004.

“It’s been brilliant but all good things come to an end. We’ve achieved everything we set out to achieve and the Adele shows are going to be a culmination of that.”

“It’s been brilliant but all good things come to an end,” Frayling tells IQ. “I have loved doing what I do, playing a very small part in putting on these huge events has given me a massive kick. We’ve achieved everything we set out to achieve and the Adele shows are going to be a culmination of that. It feels like I’m going out on a high with Adele, The Stone Roses and ELO.

“It was years ago when I was getting my hair cut that Chris Evans told Jeff Lynne he should play Wembley and my phone went mental so to get that done is huge. In the end it took a week from definite enquiry to announced, contracted and on sale, which fulfilled an ambition. Wembley can genuinely claim to be a world-class stadium now.”

Wembley Stadium will continue to host gigs, but within a more limited window of time, and partnership development manager Danielle Russell is now taking charge of bookings. “I’m leaving things in really good hands with Danielle. She is brilliant,” Frayling adds.

“She took Ed Sheeran from start to finish with me in the background during his run of three shows in 2015 and she is more than ready to do more. Along with Danielle and the events team, I know people will be in good hands.”

Frayling has yet to decide what he’ll do next and is open to opportunities in sport and/or music. “If I could do both I’d be delighted but either one would be fantastic,” he says. “Whatever I do next I will remain a huge fan of live music and the industry itself.”

 


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Pakistani artists not welcome in India, says political party

A spokesman for extremist Indian political party Shiv Sena has said artists from Pakistan aren’t welcome in India after its activists were been spotted tearing down posters for an upcoming concert by Pakistani singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan.

Ali Khan (pictured), a performer of qawwali devotional music, is scheduled to play in the city of Ahmedabad on 30 April.

Shiva Sena – an ultranationalist party with a significant presence in the Maharashtrian regional assembly, as well as in India’s national parliament, where it has ministers in government – also led protests on Friday against a concert by another Pakistani artist, Ghulam Ali.

“We will attack all [Pakistani] artists if they come. We will tear down all posters of them”

“There is a problem of drought here,” said the Shiv Sena spokesman. “There are so many problems in the country [India]. It is very condemnable that in such a situation Pakistani artists are coming,” he said.

“The Shiv Sena” – which translates as ‘Army of Shiva’ – “is opposed to Pakistani artists coming to India. The people, who are business-concerned, are calling these artists for their motives. We will attack all artists if they come. We will tear all posters of him.”

Ali Khan will perform at The O2, the world’s most successful arena, on 14 August.

Prince: A lust for live

Prince, who died yesterday, was many things to many people: A sex symbol who defied social, racial and gender norms; a self-taught musicians’ musician who mastered “thousands” of instruments, including bass, piano, drums, various synthesisers and percussion and – of course – guitar; an early advocate for artists’ rights who fought his major label, Warner Bros, for ownership and artistic control of his own music.

To many in the concert business, however, Prince (born Prince Rogers Nelson on 7 June 1958) will be remembered for the joy he took from simply playing live. Standing only 5’2″ tall, Nelson was nevertheless a giant on stage, a combination of his charisma, sex appeal, dazzling musical chops (an apocryphal tale has Eric Clapton, when asked what’s it like to be the best guitar player alive, responding: “I don’t know; ask Prince”) and four-inch high heels lending the diminutive singer, songwriter and producer a towering stage presence that transcended mere inches.

And after no less than 28 concert tours – including the unplugged Piano & A Microphone tour, ongoing at the time of his death – the 57-year-old showed no signs of a desire to stop touring. Nor did audiences show any signs of a desire to stop listening: the dates comprising his final completed tour, the spontaneously plotted Hit and Run trek of 2014–15, were consistently sold out and generated huge critical acclaim for the artist and his touring band, 3rdeyegirl.

One of Prince’s most memorable highlights in the world of live performance remains his landmark 21-night residency at The O2 in 2007, which paved the way for similar residencies by Bon Jovi, the Spice Girls, One Direction, Beyoncé and Michael Jackson

One of Prince’s most memorable highlights in the world of live performance remains his landmark 21-night Earth Tour residency at London’s O2 Arena in 2007, which changed the touring landscape irreversibly, paving the way for similar arena residencies by Bon Jovi, the Spice Girls, One Direction, Beyoncé and Michael Jackson with the ill-fated This is It.

“Everything’s changed this summer,” he told the cheering crowd, without a hint of hyperbole, at the time. “It doesn’t matter who came before or who comes after. From now on, The O2 is Prince’s house.”

The O2’s general manager, Rebecca Kane Burton, said this morning: “We are all shocked and deeply saddened to hear the news that Prince has died. […] [He was a] true artist and musical genius. RIP.”

Cameron Strange, CEO of Warner Bros Records, with which Prince repaired his relationship in recent years, said in a statement last night: “He leapt onto the scene in 1978 and it didn’t take the world long to realise that pop music had changed forever. He played the studio like an instrument and shattered the definition of live performance. He defined a new kind of superstardom, with a transformative impact not just on music, but on video, film, and style.

“Prince was the epitome of cool and mystery – an inspirational soul who created his own universe by bringing together different genres, races and cultures with a purity of sound and spirit unlike any other. His visionary gifts as a songwriter, vocalist, musician, performer and producer placed him in a league all his own.”

“He played the studio like an instrument and shattered the definition of live performance”

A statement from the 4,678-capacity Fox Theatre in Atlanta, where Prince played his last live show on 14 April, said: “Prince was a music pioneer, innovator and cultural icon. His music moved and inspired many, including the fans that were able to join him as he took the stage for his final performances last week…

“We, along with the world, mourn the loss of a music legend.”

Watch Prince performing one of his signature songs, ‘Purple Rain’, at the Fox, courtesy of gig-goer Jake Reuse, below: