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Futures Forum: Closing the Generation Gap

The fascinating differences between the generations on the professional side of the business were explored during ILMC’s Futures Forum.

The OK, Boomer: Closing the Generation Gap, Part II session was chaired by Debbie McWilliams, from the Scottish Event Campus, and leaned on the experiences of CAA agents Maria May and Bilge Morden, and promoters Raye Cosbert (Metropolis Music) and Peter Thomsen (Kilimanjaro Live).

While May and Cosbert harked back to a time when their generation helped make the rules and by definition had to be entrepreneurial, Morden noted that millennials and Gen Z staff desire more feedback from their elders, hoping to be guided through their careers, rather than being allowed to follow the wrong path and waste any time.

“The review we get once a year doesn’t really work for millennials – it’s very important to keep them motivated and engaged, otherwise they are likely to move on,” warned Morden. “Millennials will leave a job for less pay, if it has more purpose.”

But underlining just how much busier today’s live music environment can be, Morden disclosed, “We have the Helter Skelter [agency] roster framed on the office wall, and that entire roster is probably smaller than the roster that many agents personally have today.”

“Women in live did not really exist back in the day – and that was the same with colour, people with disabilities… The change has all been positive”

May acknowledged that the commitment to invest in people’s success has brought about significant changes in the business. “We need to create an environment where we can retain staff,” she said. “We spend so long investing in them that you want to keep them and develop them into future bosses.”

However, sounding a note of caution for younger people who want to climb the ladder quickly, May admitted, “It took me about ten years to become a really good agent – and I wasn’t firing on all cylinders until I was six or seven years in. But those years allowed me to make mistakes and learn from that, so it was good that it took a moment.”

Thomsen, who started at Kilimanjaro as an intern, told Futures Forum delegates, “The internship was super-helpful, but very much [because] I figured out how to make it work for me: I sat next to ticketing and learned about that; I asked marketing if they needed help… so, I got to know how the company worked, and when they were hiring promoter reps, I told them that’s what I wanted to do, and they fortunately gave me the break.”

Thomsen also applauded Kilimanjaro for the way it emboldens staff to be creative. “It’s about making sure everyone feels that they contribute, and their ideas can be heard. There’s a lot of intelligence and creativity at all levels of employee,” said Thomsen.

Cosbert pointed out that it has been the younger generation that has driven change when it comes to concerns like gender balance, equality and diversity. “Women in live did not really exist back in the day – and that was the same with colour, people with disabilities,” said Cosbert. “It’s the younger generation that have made my generation embrace that a lot
more. The change has all been positive – being more inclusive. People did not consider it years ago.”

“WhatsApp does not work for me. I urge my team to pick up the phone because you can solve multiple things quickly, rather than send multiple emails”

Such concepts, said Cosbert, are also changing the way companies conduct themselves strategically. “Rather than think what’s the best for your company, the change is that you need to think what is best for your people,” he stated.

May agreed, “We need young people to come into the business and work with us: it’s the job of senior management to adapt and make that happen… People are choosing to work at different places based on how the [employers] treat their workers.” Indeed, May urged young delegates at Futures Forum to “Ask questions in interviews – what is your gender split? What is your diversity policy?”

While CAA colleague Morden admitted to liking the office environment, he observed that many younger people do not feel the need to be in an office to get the job done. May opined, “If we’re together three days a week, we can see where things are going wrong and can help each other.”

On communications, she added, “WhatsApp does not work for me. I urge my team to pick up the phone because you can solve multiple things quickly, rather than send multiple emails.”

On the related subject of the work/life balance, each guest spoke about music being a vocation, meaning those working in live music often view that balance in a different way. Thomsen summed this up by saying, “Our work and personal life intertwine and it depends how people handle that from person to person. If I only think about and care about music, that does not make me the most productive person.”

“My advice to younger folk is if in doubt, ask. There’s always someone who will have an experienced view that you can use”

Addressing mental health and the work/life balance, May, concurred it can be a tricky tightrope. “When I was in my 20s, in the 1990s, it was a bit of a blur, so I’ve realised I need to take breaks – a week here, three days there. But even then, I’m still on my phone quite a lot. I’m trying to reach that place where I do have balance – but I love what I do, so I think I do have balance.”

While Cosbert and May urged others to use their ears, rather than rely too heavily on data, the latter conceded that technology had undoubtedly made their lives easier. “Leading a department that churns out thousands of contracts, tech has obviously made that easier,” she said. However, she countered, “Sometimes it turns me off when people are spouting data rather than talking about a track and how it makes them feel.”

That struck a chord with Cosbert. “The younger generations have access to immediate information that I did not have coming up through the industry,” he said. “But there’s so much information coming in now, it’s about putting filters in place… [In turn] I have to pass on my knowledge correctly to help them grow. My advice to younger folk is if in doubt, ask. There’s always someone who will have an experienced view that you can use.”

While the session’s panellists highlighted a slate of differences between the ways that each generation operates, Cosbert concluded, “Our priorities and pathways and goals are pretty much aligned. The live business is a people business. We get paid for doing something we love, but we often tend to forget how it can affect you when you are engrossed in it, and how it can burn you out.”

 


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OVO Hydro introduces self-ordering technology

The Scottish Event Campus (SEC) has launched new self-ordering technology for customers at Glasgow’s OVO Hydro.

The fleet of 18 kiosks, introduced in collaboration with catering partner Levy UK + Ireland, is designed to enhance the guest experience and speed of service at the 14,300-cap venue.

Initially launching on level 2 of Scotland’s home of live entertainment, the kiosks will replace the traditional bar service, with guests able to order drinks from the terminals and collect their drinks from the six collection points. Guests will also be able to reorder a second round of drinks to collect later in the evening.

“The introduction of the self-ordering kiosks means audiences will experience quicker service allowing more time to enjoy the shows”

“As one of the busiest entertainment venues in the world, we are always looking for innovative solutions to support us in delivering the best guest experience,” says Debbie McWilliams SEC’s director of live entertainment. “The introduction of the self-ordering kiosks means audiences will experience quicker service allowing more time to enjoy the shows.”

Earlier this year, the SEC and Levy joined together with venue partner OVO Energy to launch a reusable cup scheme to eliminate single use plastic from the venue, helping reduce the venue’s carbon footprint significantly. They’ve also joined forces to work on a sustainable food strategy to reduce food waste and serve lower carbon food across the campus.

“As a business Levy UK+I is all about improving the guest experience and we pride ourselves in utilising technology to help achieve this,” adds Levy UK COO Matthew Lewis. “We have seen the success of self-order units in the stadia world and believe that OVO Hydro customers deserve to enjoy the same innovations. Technological enhancements continue to drive and improve the customer journey across our venues and we’re really excited with the continued transformations across SEC venues.”

The OVO Hydro has upcoming shows with the likes of Bon Iver, Billy Idol, Deep Purple, Robbie Williams, Kendrick Lamar, Kasabian, Biffy Clyro and N-Dubz.

 


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OVO Hydro achieves A Greener Arena certification

Glasgow’s OVO Hydro has been announced as the first arena in the world to achieve A Greener Arena (AGA) certification for its commitment to sustainability.

Awarded by A Greener Festival (AGF), AGA takes a holistic approach to sustainability, not only looking at emissions and environmental impacts but also people, inclusion and wellbeing.

The award was officially presented to the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) venue at today’s Green Events and Innovations Conference (GEI), presented by AGF in partnership with the International Live Music Conference (ILMC)

Assessors highlighted the Hydro’s commitment to reducing emissions, enhancing local biodiversity, and being an instrument of positive change on the arena tour circuit. They also praised the venue’s use of 100% renewable electricity, elimination of single use plastic cups at live events saving two million cups per year, campus wide sustainable food strategy and expansion plans for electric vehicle charging points, in addition to its “outstanding” programme for inclusion, health and wellbeing for staff through the dedicated people department.

“Being the first arena in the world to accomplish this is a huge achievement”

“More than ever we are focused on the impact our business has on the planet and are proud to be awarded A Greener Arena certification,” says Debbie McWilliams, the SEC’s director of live entertainment. “Receiving such an accolade is further proof of our commitment to delivering a greener future for our events.

“Being the first arena in the world to accomplish this is a huge achievement and we hope this paves the way for others to follow. It is a significant milestone on our journey towards net zero by 2030, and a real credit to the team who work so passionately on implementing our sustainability strategy.”

Title partner OVO Energy supported the venue’s goal to achieve ‘Greener Arena Certification’ through funding of specific carbon-reduction and environmental initiatives. As part of the assessment, AGF will also share actionable recommendations with the Hydro team that are designed to further evolve the venue’s ongoing certification assessments in years to come.

“We’re delighted for the team at the OVO Hydro, and we hope that this leads the way for more arenas to get involved in the process”

“We’re proud to work with partners who support our commitment to drive progress to zero carbon living,” says James Watts, OVO Energy’s head of PR & sponsorships. “By becoming the world’s first arena to achieve the ‘A Greener Arena’ certification the OVO Hydro is sending a clear signal to the industry that lower-impact live events are possible.

“We will continue to support the OVO Hydro to further reduce its carbon footprint, so fans and artists alike can perform in a venue that’s supporting our collective goal; saving the planet.”

The milestone supports the SEC’s overall sustainability ambitions and adds to the moves it has already made towards reducing its carbon footprint and achieving net zero by 2030.

AGF co-founder Claire O’Neill adds: “A Greener Festival was launched in 2007 and since then we’ve assessed over 1,000 events, tours and venues across five continents, providing the first and only sustainable event certification including on site assessment of practical implementation and independent verification across 11 categories of event analysis, and the first dedicated arena certification. We’re delighted for the team at the OVO Hydro, and we hope that this leads the way for more arenas to get involved in the process.”

 


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“Bluffing is an essential talent”: Tom Windish and more talk breakthroughs

Hard work, knowing the right people and a slice of good luck can all play a part in getting a proper footing on the career ladder. IQ puts more ILMC regulars in the spotlight and asks them to share their breakthrough moments…

 


Ed Bicknell, Damage Management
The day after I arrived at Hull University (UK) in October 1966, they were running a freshers’ ball. As I entered the students’ union, a tannoy message was being repeated: “If anyone in the building can play drums, please come to reception.” Since I was standing right next to the receptionist, without thinking, I just said, “Yes, I can.”

It turned out the drummer for the band they’d booked was too sick to play, and they didn’t have any records to dance to. I was led off to the dressing room to meet the Victor Brox Blues Train, who coincidentally had played my hometown, Tadcaster, the previous week. I was duly introduced to the band.

“Are you any good?” they asked. “Yes, okay, I think. By the way, I know you lot. You played my local hall last week. How much are you going to pay me?”  After much haggling, we settled on £5. My first deal.

Once that had been sorted, I thought I should confess. “I didn’t actually go to your gig last week, I just saw the posters up around town. What songs do you play?” They were highly amused and, thankfully for me, it was the classic soul of the time – stuff I’d played hundreds of times.

So, I did the gig: two 45-minute sets, no screw-ups. Big hugs, £5 pocketed, off to the bar.  Malcolm Haigh, the university’s social secretary, asked if I wanted to be on the entertainment committee and join his jazz group (of which he was the sole member).

After much haggling, we settled on £5. My first deal

And then a tall, sun-tanned girl appeared. “Hi. I really enjoyed your playing. My name’s Trudy.” After a couple of lager and limes she invited me back to her student house “for coffee.”

Just as we were leaving, a flashgun went off in my face and a greasy-haired bloke jumped out. “I’m from Torchlight, the student union magazine. We’re going to put you on the front cover next week. What’s your name? What course are you on? Were you nervous? How did you know the songs?”

So, first night at uni and I’d played in a band, made five quid, got onto the entertainment committee, joined a group, ended up on the cover of the student union magazine and had a cup of Nescafé. With powdered milk.

In October 1967, I took over as social secretary, and after a stunning gig by the Who in May the following year, decided on a career in showbiz, which, as it turned out, worked out okay.

In life you need a bit of luck. And in music, bluffing (read: fibbing) is an essential “talent.”

In music, bluffing – fibbing – is an essential ‘talent’

Tom Windish, Paradigm Talent Agency
In 1999, I started getting into electronic music. Prior to that I exclusively worked as an agent for rock and jazz bands. One of my favourite artists was named μ-Ziq (pronounced “music”). There was another agent in North America who represented all of the “IDM” [“intelligent dance music”] musicians of that era. μ-Ziq didn’t have an agent and I pushed and pushed the label and manager to choose me, but they went with the guy who had all the electronic artists.

I went to see μ-Ziq perform at the first Coachella. About three months later I got a call from his label, Astralwerks. They asked if I still wanted to book a tour for μ-Ziq: the other agent simply “forgot” to book the tour he was supposed to book around Coachella. I said, “absolutely”, and got to work.

Within a few weeks, I had put together a tour everyone was happy with, including a routing with reasonable distances between shows, reliable promoters, contracts, etc. This was how I’d done business since I started, but in dance/electronic music it was more rare than the norm. The tour sold out every show and everyone was happy.

A month later, I got a call from Ninja Tune asking me if I wanted to book their tenth anniversary tour featuring Coldcut, the label founders. A few months after that, I got a call from Steve Beckett at Warp Records asking if I wanted to book a tour for Autechre.

From there, my electronic roster grew and grew. It led to signing Diplo, then a Ninja Tune artist; also Aphex Twin, St Germain, M83 and many more. Electronic music has been a big part of my roster since then.

The other agent simply ‘forgot’ to book the tour he was supposed to book around Coachella

Debbie McWilliams, Scottish Event Campus
My career-defining breakthrough moment was in 2012 when the master plan for the SSE Hydro was approved. I joined the SEC in 1989, as assistant to the operations director, and quickly became part of the team who established the venue box office. As a music fan, it was a dream opportunity, and my aspirations were simply to learn everything about this fantastic business from the ground up.

Soon, our box office had become one of the most respected ticketing operations in the UK, and I learned from some of the best people in the industry. We understood what our clients required and put them first always.

From that point on, it was straight in at the deep end as the SEC grew [and] the plans for the Hydro were approved. Ticketing events for the new arena was a huge part of the project, as the level of business almost doubled overnight. Putting events on sale for a venue yet to be built proved the ultimate challenge. But we had a wealth of experience to draw from – making right things that had not worked for us in the past. All this was achieved while still having to deliver, day to day, on events for other parts of the campus.

Experience was crucial as the window of time for the delivery of the Hydro was very short. I spent many long hours poring over the manifest and attending meetings with architects. This was all happening when the arena was under early construction, but I realised at the time this would be a key component to its success. It gave me a great platform to showcase my abilities, as well as an opportunity to learn and develop new skills.

When Rod Stewart performed the inaugural concert at the arena, I felt a real sense of personal pride

When Rod Stewart performed the inaugural concert at the arena on 30 September 2013, I felt a real sense of personal pride. It was a very emotional and rewarding experience. As the 13,000-capacity audience took their seats with ease, there was an undeniable sense of achievement.

Now, the Hydro is consistently ranked in the top-ten busiest venues worldwide. Its success, while deserved, has surpassed everyone’s expectations.

Reflecting on my own personal journey, progressing from being a young office administrator to director of live entertainment, is a real accomplishment.

Of course, there have been lots of other highlights, but I truly think that any individual success stories are often hugely supported by a strong, motivated team, which I am very lucky to have here at the Scottish Event Campus.

 


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SEC makes new live entertainment appointments

The Scottish Event Campus (SEC) Glasgow has announced today two new live entertainment appointments in the areas of ticketing and programming.

Julie Carson has been promoted to head of ticketing, taking responsibility for maximising ticketing delivery across the SEC, which comprises the SSE Hydro (13,000-cap.), SEC Armadillo (3,000-cap.) and SEC Centre (13,000-cap.).

In another internal move, James Graham becomes the new head of live entertainment programming and will be responsible for driving content to optimise sales profitability across live aspects of the business.

“The success of live entertainment presents an opportunity to acknowledge team members who have contributed significantly to the growth and delivery in this sector”

The announcement follows the appointments of Debbie McWilliams as director as live entertainment at SEC on 1 March, and of John Watson to the SEC board on March 18.

“The success of live entertainment presents an opportunity to acknowledge team members who have contributed significantly to the growth and delivery in this sector,” says Mcwilliams.

“I am delighted that James and Julie’s dedication to this area of the business has been recognised and that they have accepted these well-deserved promotions”.

McWilliams told IQ‘s European Arena Yearbook 2018 that “arena business continues to be buoyant in Glasgow”, with SEC’s SSE Hydro finishing the year at number four in the Pollstar arena rankings and taking the top spot on Billboard’s list.

The Hydro celebrated its fifth anniversary in September and renewed its partnership with AEG’s venue management division, AEG Facilities, in October. Hugh Jackman, Michael Bublé, Westlife, Kiss and Ariana Grande are among the artists performing at the Hydro in coming months.

 


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Debbie McWilliams appointed director of SEC Glasgow

Glasgow’s Scottish Event Campus (SEC) has promoted Debbie McWilliams to director of live entertainment, effective immediately.

McWilliams, who was previously head of live entertainment and ticketing at the SEC (formerly the Scottish Exibition and Conference Centre, or SECC), will be responsible for overall management, commercial delivery, event booking and content creation at Scotland’s largest entertainment centre, which also includes the AEG-run SSE Hydro arena (13,000-cap.).

Peter Duthie, the SEC’s chief executive, says: “We are delighted that Debbie has accepted the position of director of live entertainment. Debbie has been instrumental in the growth and success of the live entertainment sector of our business.

“Debbie has been instrumental in the growth and success of the live entertainment sector of our business”

“She played an integral role in the delivery of Scotland’s largest music venue, the SSE Hydro, in 2013. Debbie’s extensive knowledge, experience and proven track record across all aspects of live entertainment will be invaluable to the role.“

“I am excited to be taking up this new position and honoured to be given the opportunity to play a part in the future of live entertainment at the SEC,” comments McWilliams. “Live entertainment is a sector which is challenging, but also very rewarding, and I look forward to working with the team to build on the incredible success that that we have achieved to date.”

The Hydro celebrated the fifth anniversary of its opening last September, with more than 5 million people having attended an event in that time.

 


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