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UK prepares for biggest festival weekend in two years

More than half a million people are expected at open-air music events across the UK over the next four days for the biggest festival weekend since summer 2019.

Among the major festivals making their long-awaited, non-socially distanced returns after a year off this long weekend – Monday is a public holiday in England – are Live Nation UK’s Creamfields (Thursday 26–Sunday 29 August), AEG Presents’ All Points East (Friday 27–Monday 30 August), Festival Republic’s Reading and Leeds Festivals (27–29 August) and Superstruct Entertainment’s Victorious Festival (27–29 August), as well as a handful of smaller events.

Citing the success of the national Covid-19 vaccine roll-out, the UK government did away with the last social distancing regulations in England on 19 July (so-called ‘freedom day’) and a number of music festivals, notably Tramlines, Latitude, Standon Calling and Boardmasters, have taken place since, most with a system of Covid-status certification in place based on the NHS (National Health Service) app.

After its cancellation in 2020, Creamfields, the UK’s biggest dance music event, returns to its long-time home in Daresbury, Cheshire, with performances by Basement Jaxx, Jaxx, Tiësto, Peggy Gou, Eric Prydz, Chemical Brothers, Carl Cox, Andy C, Scooter, Paul Van Dyck, Pete Tong, Martin Garrix and more.

Though Creamfields has not announced a capacity reduction for 2021 – a full complement of ten stages of music will be in operation from Friday to Sunday – the event will be fully cashless for the first time, with only electronic payments available at all bars and concessions.

The return of twin festivals Reading and Leeds, Stormzy, Liam Gallagher, Post Malone, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Disclosure and Biffy Clyro, will be “a real[ly] emotional time” for the mainly young people attending, who have had “the worst 18 months for that generation almost since the invention of the teenager in the late 50s, when teenagers became a thing,” Festival Republic MD Melvin Benn tells the BBC.

The festivals will also be home to pop-up vaccination clinics which the NHS says will make it as easy to get a jab as a burger or beer.

“The live music industry is holding itself to a higher standard than any other sector in terms of Covid measures”

London’s All Points East, which this year incorporates Field Day, is AEG Presents’ first festival in the UK since British Summer Time in Hyde Park in July 2019. Moved from its traditional spring dates, the festival opens with London Grammar headlining tonight, with other headliners across the weekend including Jorja Smith, Jamie XX, Kano and Foals, as well as Bicep at Field Day on Sunday.

The festival, held in Victoria Park, will be attended by in excess of 40,000 people a day, having boosted its capacity since 2019.

“We are already experiencing such a great feeling from everyone on site: happy faces of fans, artists and staff coming back together for a brilliant music festival,” AEG’s head of European festivals, Jim King, tells IQ. “There is excitement and anticipation, everyone getting to know each other again and discovering their new favourite artist or looking forward to the big headliners. For us at All Points East, it is our first opportunity to put into practice what we do best and that in itself is a brilliant feeling.

“We have sold 160,000 tickets for four days. It’s clear that everyone is eager to get back to live music and after All Points East being away for 817 days, it is really satisfying to know that. The live music industry is holding itself to a higher standard than any other sector in terms of Covid measures. We can be proud that our industry is leading the way in staff and customer safety.”

In Portsmouth, Madness, the Streets, Royal Blood, Manic Street Preachers, Supergrass and Nile Rogers and Chic are leading Victorious Festival’s return.

Like all the festivals mentioned, Victorious festivalgoers will need to demonstrate their negative Covid-19 status – proof of full vaccination or immunity, or a negative test – to gain entry.

While concerns have been raised about the impact of large events like festivals on Covid-19 transmission, scientists say the trigger points for spreading the virus are public transport and shared cars to get to events, Reuters reports, as outdoor gatherings can be relatively risk free, as demonstrated by pilot events in the UK and elsewhere.


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British fests sell out as more confirm 2021 dates

Three of the UK’s most popular music festivals, Reading Festival, Creamfields and Boomtown, have sold out their 2021 editions in the past 24 hours, underlining the huge demand for festival tickets among locked-down British live music fans.

Festival Republic’s Reading Festival, which normally has a capacity of 105,000, was one of several festivals to confirm this week they intend to go ahead in 2021, taking place alongside its sister Leeds Festival in the last weekend in August.

All weekend tickets for Leeds Festival (75,000-cap.) are also gone, according to the festivals’ Twitter account, with only limited Friday and Sunday day tickets remaining.

Dance music festival Creamfields, promoted by Live Nation UK’s Cream Holdings, says it sold out in record time ahead of its return this summer. The festival, which has run since 1998 (since 2006 in its current location on the 70,000-capacity Daresbury estate in Cheshire), also takes place across the August bank holiday weekend (26–29 August).

That many fans held onto their 2020 tickets, says Cream, is “positive news for the live music industry, which has largely remained closed over the last 12 months. The news follows the prime minister’s ‘roadmap’ address on Monday that allows the safe return of large-scale outdoor events this summer.”

“This is positive news for the live music industry, which has largely remained closed over the last 12 months”

British prime minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday (22 February) that all lockdown measures should be lifted in England from 21 June, theoretically allowing large outdoor events such as festivals to take place with no restrictions. Industry response to the announcement was largely positive, though live music businesses and associations are seeking more clarity as to what will be possible.

Among the 300 artists and DJs performing at Creamfields 2021 are Bicep, Afrojack, Alesso, Carl Cox, Pete Tong, pendulum, Gorgon City, Sub Focus, Claptone, Sigma, Andy C, Martin Garrix, Sigma and Nina Kraviz.

Independent festival Boomtown, which typically has a capacity of more than 70,000, has scaled down its event for this year’s ‘Chapter One: The Gathering’-themed festival, which celebrates a “post-pandemic world” of “connection, community and celebration”. The line-up will also be kept secret until around a week before the festival.

Explaining the decision last year, organisers said: “[T]here are many aspects to the way the music industry runs that don’t work for independent festivals. The complex process of releasing a music line-up, with the exclusivity, billing and escalating costs ,has led us to decide this is the time to rethink the way we approach it and explore new ways of doing things.

“We have always been a creatively led festival and people attend Boomtown because of the overall experience.  We will continue to book incredible headline artists, and all the festival favourites, but by approaching our programming announcements in this radical way, we can create line-ups that are even more phenomenal and diverse than we have ever been able to before.”

“The anticipation to get back to showcasing the best in new music has never been greater”

Fans responded to the change, with over 90% of 2020 ticket holders declining a refund, and tickets for the 2021 edition, held as usual near Winchester in Hampshire, selling out last night.

Also riding the wave of fan demand is London’s Field Day, which announced just before 9pm yesterday (25 February) that it, too, had sold out its 2021 edition and second outing at the post-industrial Drumsheds venue in Enfield, north London.

Like its cancelled 2020 festival, Field Day 2021 will be a one-day, electronic music-focused event headlined by DJs Bicep. Other performers playing the Drumsheds, which has a capacity of 25,000, include Maribou State, Ross from Friends, Floating Points and Adelphi Music Factory.

The sellouts come as more festivals confirm they will be going ahead later this summer, with Liverpool Sound City, Gala Festival, Wilderness and Mighty Hoopla all announcing or re-confirming their 2021 dates in the wake of Johnson’s announcement.

“I can’t believe that it’s been nearly two years since the last time we came together at Sound City, and the anticipation to get back to showcasing the best in new music has never been greater,” says Sound City MD Becky Ayres. “Enjoying amazing new artists in incredible venues is what makes Sound City great, and we’re excited to bring together genre-pushing favourites, thrilling live bands and must-see moments this October.”

Sound City 2021 takes place from 1 to 3 October with artists including the Lathums, Rejjie Snow, the Mysterines, Red Rum Club and the Murder Capital.


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The decade in live: 2012

The start of a new year and, perhaps more significantly, a new decade is fast approaching – and while many may be thinking ahead to New Year’s Eve plans and well-meaning 2020 resolutions, IQ is casting its mind back to the most pivotal industry moments of the last ten years.

As in the previous 12 months, 2012 saw the live music industry still grappling with the effects of the global economic crisis, with many countries just beginning to clamber out of recession and others heading for dreaded ‘double dips’.

This continuing economic uncertainty naturally bit into the leisure spend of discriminating ticket buyers with a variety of entertainment options – though the world did not, as predicted by some long-dead Mexicans, come to an end.

Elsewhere, the weather gods interfered with yet more festivals, while Hurricane Sandy had a devastating effect on the industry in the New York area. In the UK, meanwhile, the Olympics scored on many levels, but provided far too much competition for many.


2012 in numbers

The top 50 worldwide tours grossed a combined US$3 billion in 2012, according to Pollstar, down around 2% from $3.07bn in 2011.

Madonna’s MDNA tour was the clear No1, grossing $296.1 million, ahead of second-placed Bruce Springsteen, whose E Street Band earned $210.2m. Both acts played to more than 2m fans worldwide 2012.

Roger Waters’ The Wall generated $186.4m to come in at No3, and was also the highest-ranking hold-over from the 2011 chart, where he placed No5 with a gross of $103.6 million.

Reflecting the lingering impact of the financial crisis, the total tickets sold by the top 50 tours was 34.9m, which continued the decline from 35.5m the previous year (and well off the pace from 2009, when the top 50 sold 45.3 million, says Pollstar).


2012 in brief

FKP Scorpio buys a stake in Utrecht-based booking agency and artist management company Friendly Fire.

Touring festival Big Day Out calls time on its New Zealand leg after promoter Ken West admits that falling audience numbers have made the Auckland show unviable.


Madonna sparks controversy when she tells Newsweek  magazine fans should “work all year, scrape the money together” for a $300 ticket to her MDNA tour.

Private-equity firm CVC Asia Pacific puts its Australian ticketing company, Ticketek, and Sydney’s Allphones Arena up for a sale in a bid to reduce a A$2.7bn (€2.1bn) debt run-up by Nine Entertainment, which owns the assets.

Stuart Galbraith buys out AEG’s 50% stake in Kilimanjaro Live for an undisclosed sum. Both parties say they will continue to work together on events in future. (Kili later cancels the 2012 edition of Sonisphere at Knebworth, which was to have featured Kiss, Faith No More and Marilyn Manson.)

Ebay-owned secondary ticketing service, StubHub, launches operations in the UK and admits it is looking at further expansion across Europe.

Roger Waters's The Wall tour was the third most lucrative of 2012

Roger Waters’s The Wall tour was the third most lucrative of 2012 (© Brennan Schnell/ Commons (CC BY 2.0))

Serbian authorities arrest the venue owner and other individuals following a fire at the Contrast nightclub in Novi Sad that leaves six people dead.

Tupac Shakur, who died 15 years previous, is the main talking point at Coachella, as a multimillion-dollar hologram of the rapper appears on stage alongside Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg.

Viagogo raises eyebrows by shifting its operational base from the UK to Switzerland, amid speculation it wants to resell tickets for the Olympic Games without falling foul of British law.

Investment firm Silver Lake Partners completes a transaction to acquire a 31% stake in William Morris Endeavor.

Former AEG Germany CEO Detlef Kornett forms a venue consultancy, Verescon, with DEAG with Peter Schwenkow.

Swedish telecom operator Tele2 pays an undisclosed sum to secure naming rights for Stockholm’s new 40,000-capacity stadium, operated by AEG.

Paul McCartney, Mike Oldfield and Dizzee Rascal performed at the London 2012 opening ceremony
Paul McCartney, Mike Oldfield and Dizzee Rascal performed at the London 2012 opening ceremony (© Matt Deegan/Flickr (CC BY 2.0))

Live Nation appoints former CAA exec David Zedeck to the role of executive VP and president of global talent and artist development.

Artists including Paul McCartney, Mike Oldfield, Dizzee Rascal and Emeli Sandé are each paid £1 for their performances at the Olympics opening ceremony. The show attracts 26.9m viewers in the UK alone, and billions more worldwide.

Three members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot are jailed for two years each, after staging an anti-Vladimir Putin protest in a Moscow cathedral.

AEG drops its claim against Lloyd’s of London on a multimillion-dollar insurance policy, following the death of Michael Jackson.

C3 Presents’ Lollapalooza debuted in Brazil in AprilC3 Presents’ Lollapalooza debuted in Brazil in April (© Henrique Oli/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0))

Glastonbury Festival takes just 100 minutes to sell out all 135,000 tickets for next summer’s event, despite not naming a single act on the 2013 bill.

C3 Presents extends an arrangement with Globo Organization’s GEO for more events in Brazil, following a successful Lollapalooza.

AEG is awarded the contract to take over shows at London’s prestigious Hyde Park, ending Live Nation’s decade-long relationship with the 80,000-capacity space.

Frank Barsalona, founder of Premier Talent, dies aged 74. Premier was the first agency to work exclusively with rock artists, with clients including the Yardbirds, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, U2 and Van Halen.

The Wall Street Journal reports that a number of bidders are in contention to acquire AEG, despite a reported $10bn asking price.

Irving Azoff unexpectedly resigns as chairman of Live Nation and CEO of its Front Line Management Group, to concentrate on his own artist management company.


Whitney Houston

Who we lost

Notable industry deaths in 2012 included South by Southwest creative director Brent Grulke, Lasse Ollsen of Swedish promoter Viva Art Music, Jon Lord of Deep Purple, Armin Rahn, founder of Munich-based Armin Rahn Agency and Management, Radiohead drum tech Scott Johnson, Perth Arena general manager David Humphreys, R&B legend Etta James, pop powerhouse Whitney Houston, the Bee Gees’ Robin Gibb, disco diva Donna Summer, the Monkees’ Davy Jones and legendary agents Armin Rahm and Frank Barsalona.


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Live Nation Asia launches creative agency in HK

Live Nation has partnered with Hong Kong-based marketing agency EX-R Consulting to launch Live Nation Connects, a new creative and brand marketing company aiming to connect brands with music fans across Asia.

Headquartered in Hong Kong, the marketing agency will serve brands regionally, focusing on China, Japan, Korea, Singapore and Taiwan.

“By combining EX-R’s vast experience in brand activations and our expertise in live entertainment, Live Nation Connects will bring a unique offering to brands across Asia,” says Paul Antonio, president of Asia and Middle East at Live Nation.

The agency aims to enable brands to reach fans through creative experiences, using original and branded content, experiential events and production, digital and social media, fan intelligence, artist relations and technology such as virtual reality and multicasting.

“The opportunity for meaningful connections between brands and fans is at an all-time high and Live Nation Connects will do just that by delivering authentic brand partnerships via creative and experiential marketing,” comments Colleen Yu, founder and principal of EX-R Consulting.

“Live Nation Connects can enable brands to be a meaningful part of culture and engage with fans through the power of live”

“Our proven track record working with Live Nation over the years provides a solid foundation for Live Nation Connects and we are very proud to be partnering with them to work with agencies and brands across Asia.”

“Live music fans are among the world’s most receptive audiences with 90% of fans believing that brands can enhance the live experience,” adds James Dick, SVP at marketing partnerships at Live Nation Asia.

“Live Nation Connects can enable brands to be a meaningful part of culture and engage with fans through the power of live.”

Live Nation Asia has promoted tours by the likes of Backstreet Boys, Green Day, Maroon 5, Troye Sivan and U2, along with festivals including Creamfields Hong Kong and Download Japan.

The marketing division has partnerships with Budweiser, Pernod Ricard, SingTel, Hilton, Monster Energy, Citi, Amex and Mercedes-Benz.


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Creamfields invests £2m in festival site

The team behind electronic music event Creamfields has announced a £2 million overhaul of the brand’s flagship festival in Cheshire, north England.

Creamfields, which began as a one-day dance music event in 1998, is now a 70,000-capacity, four-day camping festival that takes place every August bank holiday weekend.

The overhaul comes as the festival prepares to celebrate its 15th year at its site in Cheshire, which has been its home since 2006.

The improvements will usher in a “new era for Creamfields”, say organisers, and will include increased camping space, additional security and staffing, the installation of a new water supply and more water points, better signage, improved shower and toilet facilities, more welfare staff, 24-hour manned information hubs and a minimisation of environmental impact on site.

The improvements will usher in a “new era for Creamfields”

Part of Live Nation’s Cream brand and promoted by Scott Barton-led Electronic Nation, Creamfields has become one of the world’s largest electronic music events, with spin-off festivals in Chile, UAE, Spain, Malta, Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Australia, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

The Creamfields team is also responsible for Steel Yard, a 15,000-capacity dance arena structure, which hosts shows by the likes of Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike, Eric Prydz, Faithless and Carl Cox in London and Liverpool.

The sold-out 2019 event saw performances from Calvin Harris, the Chemical Brothers, Bicep, Deadmau5, Matin Garrix, Tiesto, Camelphat and Fatboy Slim.

Creamfields returns to Daresbury in Cheshire from 27 to 30 August 2020. Tickets go on sale at 9 a.m. (BST) on Friday 27 September. Fans can sign up for pre-sale here. A full line-up will be announced soon.


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Live offers escape in “hurting” Hong Kong

As weeks of anti-government protests continue in Hong Kong, the city’s live music scene is a tale of mixed fortunes.

Millions of Hong Kong citizens have participated in ten weeks of protests, sparked by the introduction of a controversial extradition bill. The proposal has since been retracted, but protests for democratic reform continue.

One Hong Kong live music industry insider, who asked to remain anonymous, tells IQ that venues in the vicinity of the protests have been temporarily shut down, leading to the rescheduling or cancellation of multiple shows.

It has also been difficult to shift tickets for some events, says the source, with much of the concert-going demographic occupied with protest activities or “not in the mood” to attend a show.

“Audience buying motive is very low,” the insider tells IQ, “no-one knows if a show scheduled for next month or even next week will go ahead, so people are not willing to buy tickets in advance.”

Nick Willsher, founder of event consultancy firm Entertaining Asia and nightlife guide HK Clubbing, agrees that uncertainty is leading to some event cancellations.

“Audience buying motive is very low – no-one knows if a show scheduled for next month or even next week will go ahead”

“Chvrches were meant to perform here next week,” Willsher tells IQ, “but they cancelled the show due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’”.

American singer-songwriter Alec Benjamin and K-pop star Daniel Kang also cancelled upcoming shows in the city, in light of disruptions caused by the protests at Hong Kong airport.

While Willsher points out that most large scale events scheduled for the coming months – such as Clockenflap and Live Nation festivals Creamfields Hong Kong and the recently launched Rolling Loud – are still going ahead, he questions whether more international acts may be deterred by the footage they see online.

At the best of times, says Willsher, it can be hard to book certain artists due to the lack of medium-sized and multifunctional venues in Hong Kong. It is also “costly” to put on an event in the city, as little pre-existing event infrastructure exists, driving up ticket prices.

“Peoples’ attentions are understandably focused on other things right now,” Justin Sweeting, co-founder of Hong Kong festival Clockenflap and music director at promoter Magnetic Asia tells IQ.

“Although, with our own shows,” Sweeting adds, “we’ve seen an uplift in ticket sales over the period,” reflecting continued local demand despite the political uncertainty.

Magnetic Asia has promoted shows including Yo La Tengo, Yaeji, Alvvays and American Football in the past weeks, “which have all either been sold out, or close.”

“Peoples’ attentions are understandably focused on other things right now”

Although Sweeting notes a “more muted response on announcement” and a “slower sales arc than normal” in a city with already relatively late purchasing trends, he states that all shows picked up closer to the time.

Strong sales have not been the case across the board, however. Sweeting admits that some smaller capacity events have been selling more slowly than expected, with some other promoters’ events “being cancelled or more often postponed”.

International industry support for those in Hong Kong has been in no short supply. “I’ve had messages from industry people from around the world, asking if I’m safe,” says Willsher, adding that “we’ve just got to be positive and hope it all gets sorted out.”

For Sweeting, it has been “heartwarming” to hear from friends and peers in the international industry community, whereas another source says some artists are trying to organise benefit concerts to raise money for “arrested protestors and independent media”.

A recent event raised over HK$50,000 (US$6,400) in support of protestors.

In the long term, Sweeting states that civil unrest insurance cover for this year has skyrocketed.

“More broadly speaking,” says Sweeting, “the city is hurting, and the root causes don’t have quick fixes.”

“We believe that it is more crucial than ever that Clockenflap exists, giving the opportunity for people to come together for collective, positive inspiration”

Although it is “not easy to find positives at this time”, Sweeting hopes that “great art” may come from “great pain”. Recent concerts have provided a noticeable “release” for Hong Kong citizens, “with more energetic and enthusiastic audiences coming out.”

“We believe that especially given the current situation, it is more crucial than ever that Clockenflap exists,” continues Sweeting, “giving the opportunity for people to come together for collective, positive inspiration and quite frankly to have something to look forward to.”

The Clockenflap co-founder says sales for the festival are up 17% from the same period last year and audience feedback on the first line-up announcement has been the “most positive yet”.

“We will continue on our path, with sensitivity, and mitigate the risks wherever we can,” says Sweeting.

Taking place from 22 to 24 November, the Clockenflap line-up so far features artists including Mumford and Sons, Halsey, the Kooks, Superorganism, Lil Pump and Babymetal. Past headliners include the Chemical Brothers, New Order, Interpol and the Libertines.

Tickets for Clockenflap 2019 are priced from $104 for a day ticket and $177 for a weekend pass.


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Scott Barton to lead LN UK’s Electronic Nation

Live Nation has launched Electronic Nation, a new electronic music-focused division, in the UK.

Led by Scott Barton, managing director of Live Nation’s Cream brand, Electronic Nation will be based in London and will be responsible all electronic music activities at Live Nation UK, including the Creamfields festival, touring, shows and clubs.

Creamfields (70,000-cap.), launched in 1998, is one of the biggest electronic music events in the world, and has spawned spin-offs Chile, Abu Dhabi, Ibiza, Malta, Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Australia and Hong Kong. Taking place in Cheshire over the last weekend in August, 2019 performers include Swedish House Mafia, Calvin Harris, Tiesto, Skrillex, the Chemical Brothers and the Chainsmokers.

The Creamfields also birthed Steel Yard, a 15,000-capacity arena structure which hosts shows by the biggest names in dance music in London and Liverpool.

“This new division is a major advance for Live Nation and for artists and acts in this genre”

“With Scott’s outstanding record managing global brands Cream and Creamfields, this new division is a major advance for Live Nation and for artists and acts in this genre,” comments Denis Desmond, chairman of Live Nation UK and Ireland.

Barton – whose older brother James, co-founder of Cream, now leads fast-expanding European festival operator Superstruct – says he hopes to drive Live Nation’s  “continued expansion into the electronic arena, with the aim of connecting big-name dance acts to more fans across the UK through tours and festivals”.

“Electronic music has always been at the heart of what we do,” he says. “We have a dedicated team who work hard to connect fans to electronic music events across the UK. As the scene continues to grow, the knowledge and experience we have is key to our success.”

Live Nation formed a similar division in east Asia, Live Nation Electronic Asia, in August 2017.


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Jim Wong to head up new Live Nation Electronic Asia unit

Live Nation has formed a new electronic music division, Live Nation Electronic Asia, in response to what it calls “the region’s rising demand for electronic dance music”.

The new venture is headed up Jim Wong, an independent Hong Kong-based promoter who has promoted and booked more than 500 acts in Hong Kong and mainland China over the past three years.

He comments: “I am excited to join Live Nation, especially considering the enormous potential this new venture creates for electronic music fans and artists. My team and I are passionate about electronic music and we are committed to contributing to the growth of this community in Asia.”

The first event for Live Nation Electronic Asia will be Tïesto’s Clublife China tour, which visits eight cities in China from 13 to 21 October, with Creamfields events in Hong Kong and Taipei following in December.

“Our overarching goal is to connect artists and fans for unparallelled live music experiences,” says Alan Ridgeway, Live Nation’s president of international and emerging markets, “and it’s undeniable that fans in Asia, especially China, are eager for more electronic music.

“Combining Jim’s experience with Live Nation’s network and resources allows us to accelerate our presence in this genre, giving fans even more electronic music performances through both concerts and festivals.”

Live Nation is active in eight other markets in Asia, including Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand.


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