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UTA’s Gary Howard talks the N-Dubz comeback tour

UTA agent Gary Howard is hoping to build on N-Dubz’ success internationally after the trio sold 260,000 tickets for their UK arena comeback tour.

The British hip-hop group – cousins Dappy, Tulisa and Fazer – recently reunited following an 11-year hiatus and Howard tells IQ the enormous public demand for their live shows has left many within in the business eating their words.

“The whole industry thought we were completely mad,” laughs Howard. “An email from one agency, which will remain nameless, said, ‘Gary Howard is off his head, this is no more than a Shepherd’s Bush [Empire level tour].’ And all the record companies were going, ‘This is never going to work.’ But what no one saw at that point was that the mere fact they were all talking about it showed you how big it was.

“There were only three people that really believed this was going to be big if I’m being honest and that was Tulisa, her manager and myself. We knew what would happen.”

“We announced the first 10 shows and they just popped out in minutes, it was unbelievable”

Promoted by AEG Presents, the November/December tour now comprises more than 20 dates, including four nights at The O2 in London.

“We [announced] the first 10 shows and they just popped out in minutes, it was unbelievable,” says Howard. “We then added another seven shows and they all went within 10 minutes.

“Keep in mind, they’d already sold 100,000 tickets, so we announced another seven shows and within 10 minutes, had sold out another two O2 arenas. But we still had half a million people waiting to buy tickets. That was crazy and it was a lovely moment for us all, given the band had had a lot to deal with and some dark moments over the years.

“Of course, at this point, everyone’s calling us now and telling us what geniuses we are all of a sudden! So we put the other six nights on sale and they went as well.”

“Everyone asks me, ‘What’s the secret? Why does it work?'”

Howard represented the band during their first run and has previously guided successful comeback tours by the likes of Craig David and Steps.

“Everyone asks me, ‘What’s the secret? Why does it work?’ And it works because one, they left enough time, which is the first point,” suggests Howard. “But two, what people forget about N-Dubz is they were very ingrained into British pop culture and the kids related to them.

“When the band split up, I knew that if we were ever going to get back together, we needed that long period. Tulisa and Fazer came to see me in 2019 and were like, ‘Gary, we’re ready.’ We started discussing it and I felt there’d be enough water under the bridge and said, ‘You’ll be bigger this time around.’ I knew it because what I’d seen when we brought people like Craig and Steps back is that your audience broadens a lot.”

N-Dubz dropped Charmer, their first single in over a decade, ahead of the tour going on sale in May. The presence of new material was a key part of the promotional strategy, explains Howard.

“When we brought Craig David back it was massive, but this was a different level”

“Obviously, we had [the pandemic], which put us back, and then we were hanging on for the first song, because the whole point of bringing them back wasn’t just a nostalgic trip, it was to make them contemporary again, as we had done with Craig David,” he says. “As soon as we got Charmer ready, we knew we were ready to go and we put everything in place.

“We announced the tour and the swell was unbelievable. I’ve never seen anything like it. When we bought Craig back it was massive, but this was a different level. We expected the audience to be 25 to 35, but 21-year-olds were losing their shit.”

Howard, who reveals the group have outdoor UK shows in the offing for next year (“We’ve got a surprise or two up our sleeve”), is now bidding to guide the trio to the global success that largely eluded them first time around.

“The hope is that we can make N-Dubz international this time around. Nothing would please us more”

“We did some stuff in Greece, Norway and maybe Germany, but there was no real push from the label,” recalls Howard. “Keep in mind that back then, Europeans just weren’t into British urban music, which is what it was called at that point. They weren’t listening to it and didn’t understand why they needed it when they had hip-hop coming out of America.

“When you think of artists now like Stormzy and Dave, what they’ve done internationally is absolutely brilliant, so the hope is that we can make N-Dubz international this time around. Nothing would please us more.”

Howard, who says he is also working on a live comeback by another blast from the past, adds he is staggered by the amount of shows seen in the UK this summer.

“It’s mind blowing what’s going on in the industry right now,” he says. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen as many shows in the summer as I have done in the past month or so. Live music it definitely back and business is great. It’s probably a little bit flooded at the moment, but it’s good to be back.”

 


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Jem Music Group appoints Naz Idelji managing director

International artist management company Jem Music Group has announced the appointment of Naz Idelji to the position of managing director.

In addition to heading up Jem Music Group, Idelji will also oversee TS5 Presents, the joint venture between Jem Music Group founder Colin Lester and singer Craig David.

Idelji has over 15 years’ experience as a senior executive within the UK music industry. She began her career as an intern at Warner Music, later taking on more senior positions at Warner, Universal Music, Sony Music UK and Ministry of Sound.

The new Jem Music Group managing director has coordinated projects with artists including N-Dubz, Craig David and Skepta, as well as creating and building a range of brands for Ministry of Sound and Clubland.

“Bringing in someone of Naz’s amazing experience, skillset and pedigree sets out a very clear mandate for our future, which is shaping up to be very exciting,” comments Lester.

“Bringing in someone of Naz’s amazing experience, skillset and pedigree sets out a very clear mandate for our future, which is shaping up to be very exciting”

“Naz will be responsible for expanding our operations into new international markets and will consolidate Craig David’s existing successes in a range of markets, which include France, Belgium, Australia and Southeast Asia,” adds Lester.

“I have worked with Colin for many years on a range of campaigns and have seen first-hand how passionate he is about maximising success for the artists he represents and about growing the Jem Music Group presence around the world,” says Idelji.

“This is an exciting opportunity at an exciting time for the music industry and I am very much looking forward to helping to build on the company’s existing successes.”

Jem Music Group has also appointed Jack Balsam to oversee its north London-based recording studio complex. Balsam will be responsible for both of the company’s recording studios, having previously engineered sessions with Craig David, DJ Oliver Heldens and Big Zuu. He will work closely with the management team at Jem Music Group and TS5 Presents.

 


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Promoter facing prosecution over ‘illegal’ Rita Ora posters

Leicester city council in the UK has warned the promoter of an upcoming Northampton show by Craig David and Rita Ora could face prosecution for unauthorised postering.

David and Ora, supported by Samantha Harvey and Bobii Lewis, will play Northampton’s 6,500-cap. County Ground on 1 November, promoted by Liz Hobbs Group. According to the council, which governs neighbouring Leicester, the show is being advertised using large posters which have been put up without permission and are obstructing the view of motorists.

As the posters are allegedly being displayed without permission, the council says it intends to take legal action against the promoter.

IQ has contacted Liz Hobbs Group for comment.

“The posters are being removed as we find them,” reads a statement given to the Northampton Chronicle & Echo. “Due to their size and location on the roadside they could be distracting to drivers and obstruct views, so are being removed by city wardens using powers under the Highways Act.

“They are being displayed without permission and we will be aiming to take action against the promoter, who could be liable to a fixed penalty of £80 per poster or prosecution in court, where the penalty can be up to £2,500.”

 


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We Are Fstvl 2017 increases cap after sell-out

London dance music event We Are Fstvl has agreed an increase in capacity to 29,000 after selling out of its original ticket allocation on Monday night.

The independently promoted festival, which has taken place at the Damyns Hall aerodrome in Upminster, east London, since 2013, this year adds a 5,000-cap. campsite, expanding its non-music offering to include glamping facilities, hot tubs, a “woodland spa”, giant pillow fights and a ‘We Are Houseparty’ on the campsite each night. Musical headliners are Craig David’s TS5, Carl Cox, Dizzee Rascal and a DJ set by Basement Jaxx.

“Due to unprecedented demand for our fifth anniversary, We Are Fstvl 2017 has seen record-breaking sales and a demand for tickets like never before,” comments festival director Reece Miller.

“We are delighted to announce an extension to our licensed capacity so that more fans from around the world can experience We Are Fstvl for the very first time”

“We’ve been working hard on very detailed plans and a large amount of improvements with all local authorities and the Met police for several months, and are delighted to announce an extension to our licensed capacity so that more fans from around the world can experience We Are Fstvl for the very first time.

“I would like to place on record our sincere thanks to all those behind the scenes for making this possible for the greatest dance music fans on the planet.”

We Are Fstvl 2017 takes place from Friday 26 to Sunday 28 May.

 


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