Metropolis Music launches Birmingham summer series
Metropolis Music has announced a new four-day festival series in the heart of Birmingham, UK.
The 4,999-cap Centenary Square Summer Series will debut across the August Bank Holiday weekend, transforming the city’s Centenary Square into a concert venue featuring “world-class” artists.
The outdoor event, which will be powered solely by the national grid and be single use plastic free, is programmed by Live Nation’s Metropolis Music and produced in partnership with Cuffe & Taylor.
“Birmingham and the people of the West Midlands deserve a flagship summer festival series”
“Birmingham and the people of the West Midlands deserve a flagship summer festival series,” says Dan Roberts, series programmer, Metropolis Music. “In that spirit, we are excited to announce the inaugural Centenary Square Summer Series. Thanks to everyone at Birmingham City Council, [music charity] B:Music, friends and residents around the square for supporting this concept. Bookings are complete; we’ve got some amazing artists lined up for you, more news soon.”
Organisers say the series will mirror the format of the Summer Series at London’s Somerset House and The Piece Hall in Halifax, Yorkshire, Artist announcement is scheduled for Friday 1 March.
“The Centenary Square Summer Series will offer Birmingham residents and visitors the opportunity to see high-profile bands and musicians in the heart of the city centre next summer,” adds Cllr Saima Suleman, cabinet member for digital, culture, heritage and tourism. “The city council alongside B:Music and key stakeholders around Centenary Square have supported Metropolis Music to develop this event which we hope will grow to be a key annual event in Birmingham.”
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Scotland’s Summer Sessions expands across UK
Live Nation, DF Concerts and Cuffe & Taylor have announced the expansion of Scotland’s long-running live music series Summer Sessions to five new destinations in England and Wales in 2024.
The new 15,000 to 30,000-cap events will take place in Bedford’s Bedford Park, Chepstow Racecourse, Derby’s Markeaton Park, Plymouth’s The Hoe and Southampton’s Guildhall Square.
The first headliners have been revealed as Nile Rodgers & Chic – who will play Bedford and Southampton on 7 July and 23 June, respectively – and Jess Glynne, who will perform in Bedford on 28 June.
“We see an incredible opportunity to deliver world-leading live shows all around the UK under the Summer Sessions banner”
Founded by DF Concerts back in 2013, Summer Sessions will also return to Edinburgh and Glasgow in 2024, with more cities to be announced soon. Previous headliners have included Eminem, Foo Fighters, Kendrick Lamar, Florence + The Machine and David Guetta.
“The runaway success of Summer Sessions in Scotland has proven the event is one which resonates with music fans and artists alike, whilst also bringing brilliant economic benefits to host cities” says Cuffe & Taylor co-founder Peter Taylor. “We see an incredible opportunity to deliver world-leading live shows all around the UK under the Summer Sessions banner, and very much expect the events to become regular fixtures in music fans’ calendars.”
Next year’s Glasgow Summer Sessions will return to Bellahouston Park after a brief hiatus, while Edinburgh Summer Sessions will now take place at the Royal Highland Showgrounds, which hosted Connect Festival, Paolo Nutini and The Killers in 2023.
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Cuffe & Taylor’s ‘unique’ touring opportunity
Cuffe & Taylor’s Peter Taylor has told IQ about the company’s “unique” touring opportunity after adding Forest Live to its portfolio and soaring past 120,000 ticket sales for The Piece Hall in Halifax this summer.
The Live Nation promoter has achieved huge success by securing big name acts such as Britney Spears, Lionel Richie, Gary Barlow, Sting, Little Mix and Christina Aguilera for UK towns away from the traditional touring circuit.
The firm programmes all live music events at the 5,500-cap The Piece Hall and 8,000-cap Scarborough Open Air Theatre, both in Yorkshire, UK. It also promotes Lytham Festival and Bedford Park Concerts, in addition to events at Cardiff Castle and Chepstow Racecourse.
Earlier this year, it agreed an exclusive seven-year contract to present Forestry England’s outdoor live music series, Forest Live.
“I think the element of sustainability that we’re bringing to those concerts and the ability to add those to our circuit gives us a unique opportunity that no other promoter in the UK has,” Taylor tells IQ. “We now have the most outdoor venues on a permanent contracted basis, so we’re now the number one outdoor summer concert promoter. We’re hugely excited that adding [Forest Live] to the portfolio gives us a great opportunity to tour an artist and to work with us on an exclusive basis.”
“We can play the big venues at the weekend and do midweeks in some of the smaller venues, which really helps artists”
Taylor feels the 6,000-10,000-capacity range represents the company’s “sweet spot”.
“We’ve still got our 15 to 20,000 and our 20 to 30,000 [venues], so we’ve kind of got something for everybody,” he says. “We can play the big venues at the weekend and do midweeks in some of the smaller venues, which really helps artists touring on the road. We’re in a really unique position.”
This year’s Lytham Festival in Lancashire featured headline sets by Def Leppard & Motley Crue, Jamiroquai, George Ezra, Sting and Lionel Richie, while Scarborough Open Air Theatre’s summer season has included gigs by Hollywood Vampires, Pulp, Rag’N’Bone Man and Blondie.
Elsewhere, The Piece Hall is set for its biggest ever year after ticket sales for this summer programme smashed the 100,000 mark. The West Yorkshire venue welcomes Limp Bizkit tomorrow, with Boygenius set to perform two dates from 22-23 August, before its 2023 line-up closes with Orbital (25 August) and The Charlatans and Johnny Marr (26 August).
Cuffe and Taylor, which was founded by Taylor and co-owner Daniel Cuffe, was acquired by Live Nation in 2017 and secured an exclusive five-year deal to programme live music events in the courtyard of The Piece Hall – the world’s only remaining Georgian cloth hall – in 2022.
“It’s taken on a life of its own and I think that’s down to that space and how unique it is”
“I don’t think I’ve ever done as many shows in the second year at a new venue,” says Taylor. “It’s got 22 shows this year [compared to] 12 last year, so it’s been quite a jump, but the thing about this venue, and you don’t take it for granted, is that the audience are incredibly engaged. It’s been a case of you put a show on and it sells out.
“Agents are starting to hear about the place and now, certainly from this year and even more for next year, they’re coming to us. It’s taken on a life of its own and I think that’s down to that space and how unique it is. I would like to hope that in a few years, The Piece Hall is seen as the UK’s premier outdoor music venue. It’s in a league of its own.”
Acts to have performed at the site from June to August include Queens of the Stone Age, George Ezra, Sting, Madness and James.
“The people who buy the tickets seem to crave different things,” adds Nicky Chance-Thompson MBE DL, CEO of The Piece Hall Charitable Trust. “This year, we had Boygenius, Queens of the Stone Age, Sting, Madness, and all of them sold out. There’s something about being in this beautiful building and enjoying the concert that really resonates with people.
“It’s often said to me by local people, ‘I can’t believe who you’ve brought to Halifax.’ But I’ve always thought the venue, the town and the borough deserve it. It is an amazing building, being utilised in the right way – a living heritage, as opposed to museum heritage.”
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Can’t drag us down
As numerous US states make moves to ban live drag performances, Werq the World, the official RuPaul’s Drag Race tour, is defiant in its success. Lisa Henderson speaks to the pioneers behind the multimillion-dollar world tour, as well as some of the drag promoters working outside of the RuPaul world.
With 380,000 tickets sold and more than 100 shows booked, Werq the World 2023 is the largest drag tour to ever take place. Launched in 2017, the annual outing showcases a medley of drag queens from Ru-Paul’s Drag Race, the smash-hit reality TV series in which queens compete to become America’s next drag superstar. The award-winning show, which has launched spinoffs in several other countries, sees drag icon RuPaul and a roll call of guest judges critique the queens on runway walks, lip-sync battles, and impersonations. Since the TV show launched in 2009, it has racked up 16 seasons and become a global phenomenon. With the TV show producing a fresh conveyor belt of talent and hordes of new fans each year, an annual companion tour was a no-brainer for Werq the World producer Voss Events.
“Someone like Beyoncé or Lady Gaga has to make a whole album before they tour – which could – and does – take years,” says Voss Events CEO, Brandon Voss. “Instead of making an album, we make a TV show that comes out every single year, so the numbers are a lot bigger than you might think because we’re constantly touring. We’re doing 4,000-6,000-capacity venues in the US and 8,000-seaters in Europe – which are big numbers in and of themselves, but we’re doing it annually, too. As soon as this tour wraps, we’re planning the next one with a new batch of queens that are on season 16 [of RuPaul’s Drag Race] right now.”
This self-perpetuating cycle – along with the increasing popularity of the TV show – perhaps explains how Werq the World has snowballed from selling 30,000 tickets to 380,000 in just five years. This autumn, the multimillion-dollar production is visiting arenas and large theatres in 23 countries across five continents, with some markets welcoming drag acts for the first time ever. But, as Voss points out, his company became a purveyor of drag entertainment long before it was popular or lucrative…
“The tour, like the TV show, has grown tremendously”
Start your engines
When RuPaul’s Drag Race launched in the late noughties, the prize for the winning drag queen was significantly more modest than this year’s $200,000 jackpot and a spot on the Werq the World tour. The initial bounty was a PR package that included the opportunity to perform in New York nightclubs, then owned by Brandon Voss – a former investment banker turned night-life impresario, and a longtime fan of drag. “At that stage of drag, performing at one of our clubs was considered a big deal because we had the biggest parties in the city,” says Voss.
After hosting and promoting the crowning events of Drag Race season one and two winners, BeBe Zahara Benet and Tyra Sanchez, Voss was hired by RuPaul’s Drag Race producer, World of Wonder, to start producing mini tours as a means to promote viewership and to grow the show. “So, these events were actually more like marketing tools,” explains Voss. “We’d call them Meet the Queens, and we’d take the cast out to about eight cities and perform in small music venues – under 1,000-cap – and then it grew from there.”
Meet the Queens became Werq the World in 2017 and, in partnership with World of Wonder and Viacom, shifted 30,000 tickets. The year after that, it sold 100,000. 2019 marked the tour’s graduation from small clubs to theatres – a decision that paid in kind, with 185,000 tickets sold. While 2020 and 2021 were null and void due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Werq the World bounced back with its best-ever year in 2022; 230,000 tickets sold. “The tour, like the TV show, has grown tremendously,” notes Voss.
But the success of the CAA-represented tour shouldn’t be quantified by numbers alone. As Voss tells IQ, his company is the first to bring drag queens to many markets. “We were the first to enter Stockholm, Oslo, Copenhagen, Warsaw, Finland, Italy – and we’re getting farther into Europe,” he says. “Asia was a really impressive one for us, this year. We sold out all those dates in ten minutes – and there was a 3,500-cap in Tokyo.”
“The cast changes from leg to leg throughout the tour, which naturally requires a large amount of time invested in rehearsals to ensure smooth rotation”
Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve & Talent
With mammoth glitter-encrusted chains, pyro, confetti blasts, aerialists, elevators, hidden turntables, and endless costume changes, Werq the World 2023 could give Cirque du Soleil a run for its money. And if that wasn’t entertainment enough, all the glitz and glamour is tied together by this year’s theme: The Matrix.
“All the queens are trapped in this simulated reality, and they have to use their Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve, and Talent – an acronym used on the TV show – to free themselves from the network of evil machines that have tracked them,” explains Voss. “It’s a concert format but with a storyline, and we have custom music in the show – which is different from our competitors. Plus, creative control is shared between producers and queens – it’s collaborative.”
Tour manager Simon Parkinson adds: “It’s a wild show. The show itself never loses its intensity from beginning to end. The queens, dancers, and aerialists perform full tilt for over two hours. Each dancer has about ten costume changes, and the main cast has around five. Even this year’s props are a whole new monster – literally! For this tour, we have huge eight-foot, four-legged stilt creatures created by Synthesys LLC in Brooklyn.”
But of course, it’s the queens that are the crowning glory of this production, and with a rotating cast of 22 performers, there’s no shortage of talent. Werq the World 2023 includes Jaida Essence Hall, Angeria, Aquaria, Bosco, Daya Betty, Kandy Muse, Rosé, and Ginger Minj – queens spanning seasons 10 to 14 of Drag Race. “The cast changes from leg to leg throughout the tour, which naturally requires a large amount of time invested in rehearsals to ensure smooth rotation,” explains Parkinson. “Coordinating the logistics for the new cast turnover is challenging at times, but it ultimately pays off by keeping the show fresh all the way around the world. Showcasing different queens in territories they may not have performed in before adds a level of excitement.”
“We have a crew of 25 people. We have two to three tour buses. It’s big. I mean it’s a multimillion-dollar production”
Working with a large, rotating cast, as well as a bumper production has presented unique tests for Celine Royer, lighting designer and programmer for Werq the World. “The first challenge for me is trying to fit lighting in the set and not block zones or areas where queens and props need to come in and out from the stage. The second challenge is the lighting itself, which is more complex than lighting up a band playing on stage; there are activities, movement on stage, a story to tell, and a lot of numbers are also medley songs, which makes it more complex to programme with more lighting cues.”
It’ll come as no surprise that talent is by far Voss’s biggest cost – and it’s not cheap to transport hordes of queens and their wardrobes either. “It’s very expensive,” says Voss. “In Europe, the trucks are smaller, so it’s a five-truck tour. In the US, it’s three or four trucks. We have a crew of 25 people. We have two to three tour buses. It’s big. I mean it’s a multimillion-dollar production.”
Phoenix Bussing was enlisted in 2022 to cover a handful of dates during their busy summer period. Since then, the company has served two tours (September 2022 and April 2023) and is now gearing up for the UK and Europe legs of the forthcoming Werq the World tour.
“The company will provide one sleeper bus for the artists and one sleeper bus for the crew, both in 16-berth formation, and one with a trailer for extra luggage,” explains Phoenix’s Andy Gray.
“The live entertainment industry is a happier place to work in than it was ten years ago. Change is happening, and it’s so rewarding to be a part of that movement”
“Luggage would be the biggest challenge for the driver. Other than that, no real challenges so to speak; the Voss team are great and dealing with [tour manager] Simon Parkinson is so easy. And the queens and crew are all great for the drivers to work with.”
Parkinson can testify to Gray’s praise of the crew, adding: “Behind the scenes, we have a talented technical crew and incredible assistants who quick-change, zip, spray, towel down, and tuck the performers… okay, maybe not tuck, but you get it!
“Our current cast and crew for this tour is roughly 80% LGBTQIA+. This number blows my mind. Both Voss Events and I strive to employ and train as many young, keen talented people so the next generation of touring personnel is more diverse and colourful. The live entertainment industry is a happier place to work in than it was ten years ago. Change is happening, and it’s so rewarding to be a part of that movement. Werq The World is trailblazing that change to happen. I’m so proud to be a part of it.”
You better work
Up until 2019, Voss Events promoted the Werq the World tours entirely in-house, in addition to managing the routing, ticketing, marketing, and booking. Even the artist management of the queens was happening under the same roof, through Voss Management, and still does today. The company also owns a slate of other touring properties including the Drag Race Vegas residency, which is formatted as a live version of the TV show, and international tours in countries including Australia, Mexico, Brazil, Canada, and France. Now, there are eight to ten people working at the New York offices of Voss Events, and the company has finally started to enlist the support of promoters around the world.
“We do some direct buys with theatres, some AEG shows, some Live Nation shows, we work with local promoters, and we still self-promote if we don’t get the offer we want”
“It wasn’t because we needed their promotional power,” Voss explains. “It was more that we didn’t have the bandwidth in-house to route and market 100 shows… we had to bring in extra people to scale it. Now, we do some direct buys with theatres, some AEG shows, some Live Nation shows, we work with local promoters, and we still self-promote if we don’t get the offer we want.”
On Werq the World 2023, Live Nation is responsible for numerous dates, some of which are promoted via the behemoth’s subsidiaries such as Cuffe and Taylor.
Washington DC-based Charlee Vasiliadis, from Live Nation, has worked with Voss on two editions of Werq the World as well as the company’s Night of the Living Drag tours. “Following the success of the first show we did with Voss in 2021, [Voss senior producer] Jon Norris and I collaborated on exploring options in other markets with Live Nation in the northeast, south, and west,” she says. “As a DC buyer primarily, it’s exciting to be part of the conversation around bringing shows to other markets where I can contribute to the growth of this genre nationally and help foster new relationships.”
“I’ve loved developing Live Nation’s partnership with Voss Events and collaborating together on these shows. Since they’re promoters themselves, we speak the same language. They pay attention to detail and understand the nuances, which I genuinely appreciate.”
“A lot of economies are in the dumps right now, so I don’t know if people have $100 to spend on a drag show. But we can’t do it for less because expenses have doubled”
While this year’s tour is expected to be another sell-out success, Voss, like many other promoters, have had to deal with some pushback from fans about raising their ticket prices. “We’ve raised our ticket prices 20-30% this year and now people think it’s too expensive,” says Voss. “There are a lot of larger macro issues at play. A lot of economies are in the dumps right now, so I don’t know if people have $100 to spend on a drag show. But we can’t do it for less because expenses have doubled. We couldn’t operate without substantially raising our prices but that has made sales harder so it’s a Catch-22.
“We get a lot of grief about it because our fans are very price-conscious, but our top-tier tickets are around $100. Look at any other touring artists, like Beyoncé, she’s selling tickets for $5,000. I just saw Janet Jackson; her tickets were $800. I’m seeing Madonna next week; I paid $900. They all have fans in marginalised communities, too.”
While Voss is no different to other promoters in experiencing rocketing expenses and pushback on ticket price increases, one of their challenges is not so universal. In the last few months, Republican states such as Florida, Montana, and Tennessee have introduced or proposed legislation designed to restrict drag performances in public. The new laws prompted a raft of rebuttals from artists including Madonna, Lizzo, Paramore’s Hayley Williams, Sheryl Crow, and Maren Morris – many of whom performed at protest concerts or invite drag queens onstage for their own shows. Civil rights groups, meanwhile, criticised the laws as a violation of free speech.
While Voss says its shows are continuing as normal, the new laws have left the company with little choice but to raise the age limit of the US leg. “Some venues, namely in Florida, are apprehensive to host us unless the show is restricted to adults only,” explains Voss senior producer, Jonathan Norris. “While we consider our show all-ages, we’ve opted to make the show 18+ nationwide this year, which is upsetting for a lot of our younger fans. Other smaller shows in certain states have been subject to protests and even threats because they allow children in. We don’t want to subject our fans, cast, or crew to that type of negativity.”
“Drag isn’t going anywhere regardless of how much they attempt to denigrate the drag entertainers across the United States and beyond”
Parkinson is similarly concerned with the safety of the cast, crew, and fans, adding that anti-drag culture in the US is becoming “an increasing challenge”. “It’s upsetting to have meetings in some states with police and security personnel to discuss bomb and gun threats, as well as protest lines, and what to do in the event that a serious incident unfolds,” he says.
“This is a new confrontation that I haven’t experienced in my 20 years in the industry. It is a shame that a beautiful and historic art form is getting so much negative coverage by small groups of conservative individuals. A great deal of love goes into what we do.”
Drag promoters outside of the Werq the World tour are similarly anxious about upcoming dates in some US states. “We’ve had some problems along the route, from picketed events to abuse being hurled at us,” says Nathan Stone, CEO of UK-based LGBTQ+ talent management company, Gallos Group. “In July/Aug 2023, we have dates in Texas, so we shall have to see how the impending drag bans and tensions play out. We have a great North American promoter (Five Senses Reeling/Obsessed) that is very knowledgeable in this niche, so security is everyone’s top priority.”
Norris is defiant in his message to the US law-makers: “They should understand that drag isn’t going anywhere regardless of how much they attempt to denigrate the drag entertainers across the United States and beyond. Therefore, we call on the lawmakers in our corner to VOTE NO on any anti-LGBTQ+ legislation; they also should be educating their family, friends, and circles on the experiences of LGBTQ+ folks and our history, as well as elevating the initiatives and organisations that keep trans people and the LGBTQ+ community at large safe.”
Drag entertainment isn’t exclusive to the Drag Race brand, nor is it limited to drag queens
Werqing outside the world
It’s safe to say that what RuPaul’s Drag Race and Werq the World have done for the awareness and acceptance of drag queens is unrivalled, but it’s important to note that drag entertainment isn’t exclusive to the Drag Race brand, nor is it limited to drag queens.
Juno Birch, an English drag queen, sculptor, and YouTuber with 460,000 followers, is a shining example of an artist that has built an impressive career outside of RuPaul’s world. Alongside her unique drag aesthetic, which features pastel “alien skin,” yellow hair, dishwashing gloves, and retro sunglasses, Birch is known for her eccentric YouTube videos, which range from makeup tutorials to Sims play-alongs.
“She’s got such an amazing following that I think she’s one of the few [queens] that doesn’t need to go on the show,” says AEG Presents’ Eliza-Jane Oliver, who promoted Birch’s most recent UK tour.
Birch’s manager, Nathan Stone from Gallos Group, adds: “She fared well from the lockdowns, with her YouTube presence and socials skyrocketing with her incredibly clever harnessing of pop culture and character creation. Within a few months of signing her, we put a key focus on the first world tour once the restrictions were lifted, which we were happy to complete with a 45-date tour of the UK, Australia, and North America in 2022. Each outing – whether that be a concert, a convention, or a brand partnership – is documented.”
“Not everyone can be [one of Ru-Paul’s best-known drag queens] Bianca or Trixie or Katya, but there’s a lot of room for queens to establish themselves at a theatre level and make a really nice career of it”
Birch recently completed a UK tour promoted by AEG Presents, which encompassed four venues ranging from 1,000- to 1,500-capacity. While it didn’t sell out, Oliver is sympathetic to fans’ tightened purse strings, as well as a dip in consumer confidence.
“There’s still a lot of ground to be made up in the drag live industry,” says Oliver. “I know there are queens that have not been paid for their work, and there are still shows getting cancelled at the last minute, which has caused a lack of faith among fans. We need to make sure the shows happen and that they’re good quality, and I think people will respond to that in time.”
Voss testifies: “You see a lot of promoters and producers that aren’t there for what it truly is, which is a great drag show. Some are looking to make a quick buck from these queens. They see something that is successful, and they try and take advantage of it.”
Despite these challenges, Oliver is optimistic about the growth of the drag market, across all levels. “Werq the World and the UK Drag Race tour are doing great guns with taking drag to the next level, but what I’m really excited about and primarily interested in is the mid-range theatre/ big-club level – I think there’s a lot of growth in that part of it. Not everyone can be [one of Ru-Paul’s best-known drag queens] Bianca or Trixie or Katya, but there’s a lot of room for queens to establish themselves at a theatre level and make a really nice career of it. I think there’s a lot of room for growth in the drag market, and I think it’s going to be really exciting to see how it goes in the next 12–18 months.”
Biggest crowds yet for Lytham Festival
Lancashire’s Lytham Festival attracted its biggest attendance yet, as a capacity crowd of 22,500 witnessed rock legends Def Leppard and Mötley Crüe bring the curtain down on its 2023 edition.
Promoted by North West-based Cuffe & Taylor, the long-running festival welcomed 100,000 people to Lytham Green over five days for headline sets by Jamiroquai, George Ezra, Sting and Lionel Richie.
Special guests and support acts through the week included Blondie, Kaiser Chiefs, Gabrielle, Scissor Sisters’ frontman Jake Shears, Fun Lovin’ Criminals, Cat Burns and Kim Wilde.
“What an incredible five days we have had,” says festival co-founder Peter Taylor. “Twenty artists have graced our stage and we are thrilled with the success of this year’s festival, it has been phenomenal.”
The event, which has welcomed the likes of Kylie Minogue, Rod Stewart, Stereophonics, Diana Ross, The Strokes, Lewis Capaldi, Snow Patrol, Nile Rodgers & Chic, Paul Weller and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, previously hosted up to 20,000 fans a night.
“We increased our capacity to 22,500 for both Sting and Def Leppard and Mötley Crüe, making both nights our biggest ever”
“We increased our capacity to 22,500 for both Sting and Def Leppard and Mötley Crüe, making both nights our biggest ever and we are delighted with how successful they were,” adds Taylor. “The positive feedback from both customers and artists has been humbling and when you are welcoming global icons to your hometown that is very special indeed.
“We have some very special names already lined up for next year so our five-day passes are great value for those people wanting to secure their place, regardless of who’s on the line up. The five-day passes have gone on sale and we can’t wait to do it all over again.”
Lytham Festival will return from 3-7 July 2024, with the line-up due to be announced later this year.
Halifax Piece Hall passes 100k ticket milestone
Halifax Piece Hall is set for its biggest ever year after ticket sales for this summer programme smashed the 100,000 mark.
The 5,500-cap West Yorkshire, UK venue will host 21 nights of live music throughout June, July and August with headline shows from the likes of Sting, Queens Of The Stone Age, George Ezra, Madness, Limp Bizkit, The Lumineers, Rag’n’Bone Man, Hozier, Boygenius, Orbital and James.
Live at The Piece Hall co-promoters, The Piece Hall Trust and Live Nation-owned Cuffe and Taylor, have revealed this year’s ticket sales have broken box office records.
“Last year we broke box office records when we sold 60,000 tickets,” says Cuffe and Taylor co-founder Peter Taylor. “To now top 100,000 sales – even before our first show with Madness on June 16 – just shows what a truly special venue this is.
“The music industry has certainly sat up and took notice and huge stars – from across many diverse genres from pop to rock to legendary dance acts – want to come and play here. Together with The Piece Hall Trust, we will continue to strive to bring the biggest names in music to Yorkshire and this incredible venue.”
“Our strong partnership with Cuffe and Taylor means we are able to bring world class artists to our iconic venue”
The Grade I listed Piece Hall originally opened in 1779 for the trading of ‘pieces’ of cloth produced by Yorkshire’s famous woollen mills and is the only remaining Georgian cloth hall in the world. It has welcomed more than 10.5 million visitors through its gates since reopening in 2017.
“What a phenomenal milestone to have reached,” adds Nicky Chance-Thompson DL, CEO of The Piece Hall Charitable Trust. “Our strong partnership with Cuffe and Taylor means we are able to bring world class artists to our iconic venue, and these sales prove just how big the appetite is for quality live music at The Piece Hall.
“This is a huge deal for Halifax and Calderdale in terms of the visitor economy, investment into the area and creating a powerful feeling of pride in place.”
Since 2016, Cuffe and Taylor, which entered into a co-promoter partnership with The Piece Hall Trust last year, has exclusively programmed all live music events at the 8,000-cap Scarborough Open Air Theatre – including massive headline shows by the likes of Britney Spears, Lionel Richie, Kylie Minogue, Christian Aguilera, Biffy Clyro, Sam Fender and Lewis Capaldi.
The Olivier Award-winning promoters are also responsible for staging UK tours with Britney Spears, Rod Stewart, Mariah Carey and Little Mix, while also festivals such as Lancashire’s Lytham Festival.
Top UK festivals report strong ticket sales
BST Hyde Park, TRNSMT and Lytham festivals have all reported strong sales following another huge weekend of live music in the UK.
Held for the first time since 2019, AEG’s 65,000-cap BST series in London expanded to three weekends, selling 530,000 tickets across nine shows and welcoming a further 70,000 people to its Open House programme of free events between the weekends.
Adele, the Rolling Stones and Pearl Jam each headlined two nights, with Elton John, Eagles and Duran Duran also headlining shows. Support acts included Pixies, Stereophonics, Johnny Marr, Cat Power, Laura Mvula and Phoebe Bridgers.
“The demand for tickets was huge and we are very proud to have sold out the series”
“Like everyone in the festival business and across live music we are so happy to be back doing what we love and seeing music fans experiencing these great shows,” says AEG European Festivals CEO Jim King. “The calibre of artists we have had in Hyde Park was incredible with so many outstanding performances. The demand for tickets was huge and we are very proud to have sold out the series.”
In Scotland, DF Concerts’ three-day TRNSMT in Glasgow hosted 50,000 fans per day to see homegrown headliners Lewis Capaldi and Paolo Nutini, plus The Strokes and a supporting line-up including Sam Fender, Foals, Wolf Alice, Nile Rodgers + Chic, The Snuts, DMA’s and Sigrid.
“What an incredible weekend we’ve had,” says festival director Geoff Ellis. “We had the sun shining on Glasgow Green, a fantastic line up of over 70 artists across four stages and 50,000 incredible fans every day – we really couldn’t have asked for more.”
“TRNSMT marks the halfway point in Scotland’s record-breaking summer of music”
DF pressed ahead with a UK-heavy bill for TRNSMT last September after cancelling in 2020 due to Covid-19, but was able to return to business as usual this year.
“It was great to welcome back international artists to Glasgow Green, but also to see excited music fans enjoying our best homegrown talent, with Paolo Nutini closing day one and The Snuts getting the crowd going on Saturday,” adds Ellis. “TRNSMT marks the halfway point in Scotland’s record-breaking summer of music and I’d like to thank the artists, the fans and everyone who works extremely hard behind the scenes to make this festival happen.”
TRNSMT’s 2023 edition has been confirmed for 7-9 July next year, with ticket prices frozen for a limited time.
“It has taken us three years to bring Lytham Festival back and we came back in style”
Elsewhere, Live Nation’s Cuffe and Taylor attracted almost 200,000 fans over 10 days to its flagship Lytham Festival in Lancashire, which returned from 28 June to 10 July after a three-year absence, headlined by Diana Ross, Lewis Capaldi, Snow Patrol, Duran Duran, Nile Rodgers + Chic, Simply Red, Elbow, The Strokes, Alison Moyet and Paul Weller. The 20,000-cap event will revert to five days next year.
“More than 30 artists presenting 10 nights of live music has been absolutely phenomenal,” says co-founder Peter Taylor. “It’s taken us three years to bring Lytham Festival back and we came back in style. It has also been an absolute joy to see tens of thousands of people joining together with their friends and family to experience some of the best nights of their lives.”
The latest success comes on the heels of what is believed to be the Britain’s biggest weekend of live music ever at the end of June, with more than one million people attending concerts.
Scarborough OAT to smash 100k ticket mark for ’22
Ticket sales at the UK’s Scarborough Open Air Theatre (OAT) this summer are set to smash the 100,000 mark for the first time ever.
Sam Fender launches the 8,000-cap venue’s 2022 season with a sell-out out show on Friday (27 May).
More than 97,000 tickets have already been sold for this year’s 17 shows – breaking the North Yorkshire venue’s sales record of 91,431 set in 2018 – including headline concerts from the likes of Bryan Adams, Christina Aguilera, Lewis Capaldi, Westlife and George Ezra, which is programmed by Live Nation’s Cuffe & Taylor.
This year marks the 90th anniversary of the first ever concert at the council-owned OAT, which originally closed in 1986 before reopening in 2010 following a £3.5 million refurbishment.
“To break the attendance record this year is something we are really proud of”
“What a summer it’s going to be as we celebrate the 90th anniversary of this brilliant venue,” says Cuffe & Taylor director Peter Taylor. “We pride ourselves on bringing music’s biggest stars to Scarborough and delivering a diverse programme that has something for everyone. This is reflected in the fact almost 100,000 music fans already have their tickets ahead of our first show of the year.
“These shows are really important, not only for music fans and the venue – which is a jewel in the Yorkshire coast’s crown – but for the local economy and the many thousands of people who work in visitor-related industries.
“It has been a tough few years for live music and the hospitality sector so to break the attendance record this year is something we are really proud of.”
This summer’s programme also includes headline shows from Tom Jones, Elbow, The Script, Tears For Fears, Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, Crowded House, Michael Ball and Alfie Boe, Simply Red, A-ha and Jane McDonald’s special Platinum Jubilee Concert in honour of The Queen on 4 June.
North West-based Cuffe & Taylor also secured an exclusive deal to programme live music events at the 5,500-cap Piece Hall in Halifax earlier this year.
The promoter’s flagship Lytham Festival is also returning after a two-year absence as an expanded 10-day event between 28 June and 10 July with headliners Diana Ross, The Strokes, Lewis Capaldi, Snow Patrol, Nile Rodgers & Chic, Duran Duran, Elbow, Simply Red, Tears For Fears and Paul Weller.
Cuffe and Taylor to programme Halifax’s Piece Hall
Live Nation’s Cuffe and Taylor have secured an exclusive five-year deal to programme live music events at The Piece Hall in Halifax, UK.
The North West-based promoter will co-promote its biggest ever summer season of live music in 2022 with The Piece Hall Trust, with headline shows by Jessie Ware, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Nile Rodgers & Chic, Pete Tong & The Heritage Orchestra, Tom Grennan, Paloma Faith, Paul Weller, Primal Scream and Tom Jones.
The Live at the Piece Hall series will take place within the venue’s 5,500-cap courtyard across June and July.
“We are beyond delighted to confirm we have entered into an exclusive five-year agreement with The Piece Hall Trust,” says Cuffe and Taylor founder Peter Taylor. “This historic and iconic Yorkshire venue is simply stunning. We pledge to build on the work already undertaken by the Trust and deliver an exciting programme which has wide appeal for music fans.
“Cuffe and Taylor have an amazing track record in delivering live shows at iconic and historic venues across the UK”
“Live Nation work with some of the biggest music acts in the world and we cannot wait to bring major artists here to Halifax to play this special venue.”
Since 2016, Cuffe and Taylor has exclusively programmed all live music events at the 8,000-cap Scarborough Open Air Theatre, also in Yorkshire, including headline shows by the likes of Britney Spears, Lionel Richie, Kylie Minogue, Stereophonics, Biffy Clyro, Duran Duran and Lewis Capaldi.
They have also staged UK tours with Britney Spears, Rod Stewart, Mariah Carey and Little Mix, while also curating major festivals and events such as Lancashire’s Lytham Festival and Greenwich Music Time.
“Cuffe and Taylor have an amazing track record in delivering live shows at iconic and historic venues across the UK, and we look forward to working with them to build on our great track record to date,” adds Piece Hall CEO Nicky Chance-Thompson.
Sam Griffiths joins growing Cuffe and Taylor theatre division
Cuffe and Taylor has hired Sam Griffiths as a senior promoter in its theatre touring division, following a successful 12 months for the fledgling business unit.
Griffiths (pictured) joins the British concert and event promoter from Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG), where he programmed several No1 musical theatre and play tours, as well as looking after music, comedy, tribute and variety one-nighters at ATG’s 21 theatres and concert halls.
“I am excited to be joining the theatre division of this growing company, at a time of exponential growth in the live entertainment industry in the UK and internationally,” he comments. “After working with large-scale touring productions, I’m looking forward to bringing this experience to the team, and to start developing new talent and productions to enhance Cuffe & Taylor’s fantastic portfolio of live concerts and theatre productions.”
Cuffe and Taylor’s theatre division, based at parent company Live Nation’s offices in Argyll Street, London, launched last summer and is headed up by director of theatre touring Ben Hatton. A year on, it has sold more than 180,000 tickets to shows including John Barrowman, Sarah Brightman, Lea Salonga, Britain’s Got Talent star Robert White and new Tina Turner musical What’s Love Got to Do with It?.
Upcoming projects include Whitney: Queen of the Night, which will tour the UK in 2020 following its debut at London’s Savoy Theatre in March, and new dance show Heartbeat of Home, from the producers of Riverdance.
“Stepping into theatre production has long been the aim”
“We’re approaching 400 shows for our first year, and are still taking bookings in 2019,” says Hatton, which is a great testament to how well these tours are doing – that venues are wanting to add us to their calendar at this stage in the year.
“We’ve got one of the most varied rosters out there; from comedians touring to small venues up and down the country, to tribute shows selling out in the West End and multiple productions being staged at iconic venues such as the Royal Albert Hall and the London Palladium.
“With Heartbeat of Home coming up in the autumn, we have our eyes on further West End opportunities, and are planning our debut at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for this summer.”
Working alongside Griffiths is senior promoter Cheryl Nicholls. She comments: “Cuffe and Taylor has been creating and promoting incredibly successful theatre tours alongside huge outdoor concerts for several years now, and it is exciting to see where we will go in the next year, with new projects constantly in discussion and development.
“Stepping into theatre production has long been the aim. We are producing and promoting shows for all ages and interests, and I can’t wait to bring our first residency to the West End with Heartbeat Of Home, while continuing to develop new and exciting productions into 2020 and beyond.”