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Ireland’s MCD projects 3m ticket sales for ’24

MCD Productions expects to sell three million tickets in Ireland in 2024 – 50% more than last year – according to co-founder Denis Desmond.

The country’s biggest promoter, which was acquired by the UK-based Live Nation-Gaiety joint venture in 2019, has a host of major events coming up, including three shows by Taylor Swift at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium in June and four nights with Coldplay at Croke Park in August/September.

The JV sold more than two million tickets in Ireland last year, generating $133.48 million (€122.7m), according to Pollstar data. Desmond says he was pleased with the sales, highlighting Harry Styles and Irish singer/songwriter Dermot Kennedy, the latter of whom sold 155,000 tickets in his home market in 2023.

“Harry Styles at Slane Castle and Dermot Kennedy at Marlay Park and Thomond Park shows were special,” says Desmond, as per RTE.

Desmond speaks of “new opportunities” in Limerick and Cork, as well as a series of marquee shows the firm is presenting with acts such as Madness, The Waterboys and Fatboy Slim at Galway Airport.

“The biggest problem is hotels quadrupling their rates on the back of concerts and sporting events”

“The live music business continues to grow,” he says. “The audience age is six to 76-plus.”

Desmond also defends the price of concert tickets, pointing out they are cheaper than for many West End and Broadway theatre productions. A ticket for an MCD show in 2023 cost €58 on average.

“Ticket prices are affordable,” says Desmond. “There is a huge cost in putting on shows be it insurance, ferries, flights, hotels, wages etc.”

Indeed, the biggest problem for the industry, he adds, is surging hotel prices around shows. Desmond is calling for government intervention on the matter.

“The biggest problem is hotels quadrupling their rates on the back of concerts and sporting events,” he says. “The government should step in and make it illegal to increase published rate card.”

 


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LIVE launches new UK live music awards ceremony

A new awards ceremony has been launched to celebrate outstanding individuals and companies across the UK’s live music sector.

The LIVE Awards will take place at The Brewery in London on Tuesday 13 December, and are being introduced by trade body LIVE to celebrate the highs of the year and toast the endurance of the sector, amid the dual battles of Brexit and Covid.

Categories will be open to all across the industry and will celebrate classical alongside grime, production heroes alongside promoters.

“After a year like no other, the world class UK live music scene is getting together to celebrate the fantastic work delivered in 2022, while looking towards what’s to come in 2023,” says LIVE CEO Jon Collins.

“The awards offer a fantastic opportunity to recognise our world-leading talent and bring all corners of the industry together, while doing what we do best – throwing a fantastic party.”

“It is the right time to celebrate the best in our sector”

The awards will bring the business together in December, serving as an end of year celebration for all of those responsible for stages, venues and festivals across the UK. The ceremony will take place annually, and span a range of achievements including sustainability credentials, marketing prowess and regional performance, to ensure that the very best of the industry is celebrated.

“Live Nation is delighted to support these awards,” adds Denis Desmond, Live Nation UK & Ireland chair. “Live is vital to artists and musicians and creates a vibrant economy in which thousands of jobs are supported. It’s the right time to celebrate the best in our sector.”

Judged by a panel of industry professionals, the awards will be presented in front of an invited industry audience, with hundreds expected to attend.

“The inaugural LIVE Awards will be a welcome and valued addition to the industry calendar, providing an opportunity to celebrate those who have worked incredibly hard during the last few most challenging years for our industry,” adds Royal Albert Hall artistic director Lucy Noble. “It will be fantastic to end the year with a celebration of our world class industry.”

Applications are open now and will run to 30 September, with full details available at www.theliveawards.com. The categories include:

· The LIVE Green Award

· The LIVE Workforce Award

· Venue of the Year

· Grassroots Champion

· Multinational Booking Agency

· Independent Booking Agency

· National Promoter of the Year

· Regional Promoter of the Year

· Top Ticketing Service

· Major Festival of the Year

· Festival of the Year

· Production Supplier

· Brand Partnership

· The LIVETime Achievement Award

 


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Live Nation acquires stake in Boomtown Fair

Live Nation has acquired a minority stake in the UK’s largest independent festival, Boomtown Fair, IQ can reveal.

First held in 2009, the Hampshire festival has hosted acts such as Gorillaz, Lauryn Hill, M.I.A., The Streets, Wu-Tang Clan, The Specials, Cypress Hill, Limp Bizkit, Chase & Status and Madness down the years.

Documents filed with Companies House show Live Nation’s UK & Ireland chair Denis Desmond and COO Stuart Douglas were appointed as directors of both Boomtown Festival UK and parent company Circus of Boom last month.

The duo join the event’s co-founders Luke Mitchell and Christopher Rutherford, and finance manager Mark Nicholls on the board.

Neither Live Nation or Boomtown have commented on the deal.

Boomtown was awarded £991,000 last year via the UK government’s Culture Recovery Fund

Having been forced to cancel its 2020 and 2021 edition due to the pandemic, Boomtown was awarded £991,000 last year via the UK government’s Culture Recovery Fund, which organisers said would secure the future of the festival.

The most recent edition of the 76,999-cap event took place this past weekend (10-14 August) at the Matterley Estate near Winchester. Entitled Boomtown Chapter One: ‘The Gathering’, artists included Shy FX, Kool & The Gang, Four Tet, De La Soul and Kae Tempest.

Live Nation UK hired IME Music owner Ian Evans earlier this year, while the company has further bolstered its ranks in the past few months by acquiring London-based music and arts live events company Parallel Lines Promotions and elevating Maddie Arnold to promoter in its concerts division.

Stephen Vondy of Liverpool Sound City and I Love Live Events also recently joined the firm as a promoter.

 


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Live Nation to host 6m fans across UK this summer

Live Nation UK is on track for its biggest outdoor season ever, with the promoter saying it will host nearly six million fans at live shows this summer.

According to LN, four million people will attend one of its festivals or outdoor events, while close to two million will attend an indoor show.

After welcoming a total of 200,000 fans to the new Creamfields South in Hylands Park, Chelmsford and Liam Gallagher’s two-night stand at Knebworth (cap. 80,000) over the Queen’s Jubilee weekend, the company went on to attract hundreds of thousands of people to its Download and Parklife festivals this past weekend.

Staged over three days, Download saw headline sets from Kiss, Iron Maiden, Biffy Clyro at Donington Park, while Manchester’s two-day Parklife featured headliners 50 Cent, Chase & Status, Tyler, The Creator and Bicep at Heaton Park.

“This will be a summer to remember”

“It is wonderful to see fans reunited with the artists they love, and new bands forging their futures,” says Denis Desmond, chairman Live Nation UK and Ireland. “This will be a summer to remember.”

Live Nation is organising more than 100 events this summer, including tours by the likes of Harry Styles, Lady Gaga, Eagles, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Billie Eilish over the next few weeks. In Scotland, meanwhile, it reports that 24% of the population will attend a DF Concerts show or festival this summer.

Although certain other UK promoters report more mixed fortunes, there have been positive signs internationally. Austria’s Nova Rock became the latest festival to report a record sell-out, while Germany’s Rock am Ring recently announced that a record 90,000 weekend tickets had sold for its 2022 edition. Elsewhere, twin festival Rock im Park shifted more than 70,000 tickets and Belgium’s Rock Werchter and Brazil’s Rock in Rio sold out in record time.

Live Nation boss Michael Rapino recently said the company’s Q1 business “greatly surpassed” expectations after delivering its best Q1 performance ever.

Its Ticketmaster division reported sales of 70 million tickets for its 2022 concerts – up 36% compared to the same point in 2019, and Rapino said all leading indicators pointed towards double-digit growth and fan attendance for LN over the course of the year.

 


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Spend, no-shows and demand all up in UK, say promoters

Leading promoters in the UK live industry say they’re experiencing mixed fortunes following the full reopening in England on 19 July.

As the sector launches into recovery mode, executives are reporting high levels of pent-up demand for many shows.

Denis Desmond, chairman of Live Nation UK and Ireland, says: “Artists, promoters, production and marketing teams are champing at the bit and ready to meet the demands.

“Thankfully our festivals happened, and we were very pleased with sales which proves that the demand for live music is still going strong. Now we’re moving into touring season and we have a busy schedule lined up for the rest of the year and into 2022.”

As the live sector prepares for what looks to be its busiest year ever from 1 January, promoters say the UK’s next challenge will be keeping up with demand given that much of the supply chain has yet to recover.

“We’ve got 18 months of touring coming up across the UK and all of the suppliers are going to be hugely stretched,” says Richard Buck, CEO of TEG MJR, the UK subsidiary of Sydney-based live entertainment and ticketing firm TEG.

“Artists, promoters, production and marketing teams are champing at the bit and ready to meet the demands”

Desmond agrees, adding: “Going forward there are still challenges including issues with the supply chain and many talented specialists have been forced to leave the sector, plus there remain complexities for touring in Europe post-Brexit.”

And as an autumn period of touring kicks off, the ongoing spectre of Covid-19 is a continued source of uncertainty for promoters who say the rate of no-shows at concerts is far higher than usual.

Buck reports “anywhere up to 50% no-shows, especially on postponed shows. It’s a little less if the show is taking place closer to the time when it was announced but at sell-out shows, there has been significant no-attendance”.

Buck believes the no-shows are down to an “amalgamation of low confidence, forgotten tickets and isolating” and predicts three to six months for the levels of attendance to go back to what they were pre-pandemic.

UK-based promoter and venue operator DHP Family is also experiencing high rates of no-shows and says it’s increasingly hard to predict attendance post-Freedom Day.

“[Attendance] varies by artist and how many times the show has been rescheduled etc,” says DHP’s director of live, Anton Lockwood.

“[There has been] anywhere up to 50% no-shows, especially on postponed shows”

“We’ve seen 20–30% on bigger shows. Typically smaller shows are less predictable; it can be 100% attendance or, if it’s the kind of show where the artist has been relying on their friends and family to turn up, it can be up to 75%. It’s all over the place.”

While refund requests are reportedly very low, most events are currently offering a refund to ticket holders who can’t attend due to a Covid-related illness on a discretionary basis.

“If it’s a rescheduled show, you’re entitled to a refund, the end,” says DHP’s Lockwood. “But there’s a debate about if you’ve got Covid, whether you’re entitled to a refund or we should just give a refund out of kindness.”

Fortunately, DHP has also not seen huge numbers of refund requests so far: “It’s not caused a problem but it is a worry because if you settle the show with the artist and then some of the refunds come in, you’ve got a problem.”

Buck says TEG MJR is being “lenient” when it comes to refunds but they are dealing with it on a case-by-case basis.

“We’re being a lot more liberal with refunds because we want people to buy in confidence when the market opens which is a slight double-edged sword,” he explains.

“2022 and 2023 sales have been disproportionately strong… probably 20-25% up on forecast”

“Previously, if you had a sold-out show it was sold out. Now, it’s a lot more difficult to settle on the other side because you’ve got refunds post-event,” Buck concludes.

But while Covid continues to cause operational complexities, Buck says the increase in spend-per-head at concerts is “dramatically up” versus pre-Covid and ticket sales for new shows have soared.

“2022 and 2023 sales have been disproportionately strong,” he says, “Probably 20-25% up on forecast.”

And with the threat of last-minute venue closures due to staff being ‘pinged’ (told to self-isolate by the NHS app) or contracting the disease, alongside similar worries with touring parties, many say recovery feels like a gradual process.

“We don’t know whether the shows are going to happen or not, whether the artist is going to be able to travel or they end up catching Covid,” says Lockwood.

“People assume it is all back to normal but everything is just much harder. It’s great to be back, don’t get me wrong, but the uncertainties have ramped up.”

 


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Ireland’s MCD: “We are angry and disappointed”

MCD Productions boss Denis Desmond says the Republic of Ireland’s live sector is “frustrated, disappointed and angry,” by the prolonged shutdown of the industry.

Industry representatives held a two-hour meeting with ROI’s minister for arts yesterday (18 August) but still, no date was set for the return of live concerts and cultural events.

“There are 35,000 people who are employed in the sector who haven’t worked in 525 days and it’s terrible,” Desmond tells IQ. “It’s very hard on people who have families and mortgages to pay. The government support is a small amount of money. A lot of people are struggling – not only financially but mentally.”

In comparison, the UK’s live industry has been fully open for a month and Scotland lifted most restrictions on 9 August.

Festival Republic director Melvin Benn told RTÉ’s News at One that the failure to allow live music events to return, including Electric Picnic (co-promoted with MCD), is “unnecessary and wrong,” given Ireland’s high vaccination rate.

He went on to say that Ireland’s situation contrasted with “political leadership” in other countries, including the UK. “It isn’t a different virus [in Ireland].”

“What we really need is a full reopening and a government-backed insurance scheme, similar to the UK”

The promoters’ comments come after their event, Electric Picnic, was denied a licence by the local council on the grounds of the current restrictions.

“We’re still looking at the options and we have written to the government asking why they made the decision. We’ve been assured that we’ll get an answer by next Monday so we’ll wait until we get a reply to review what happens next,” says Desmond.

The government has also promised a roadmap for reopening by the end of next week but it won’t be a silver bullet for the industry, says the MCD boss.

“What we really need is a full reopening and a government-backed insurance scheme, similar to the UK,” he tells IQ. “The most important thing about the UK’s scheme is that the insurance package is valid for 12 months because Covid is not going away. We’ve got to learn to live with it but there needs to be support for businesses.”

Desmond believes the lack of support for Ireland’s live music industry – and other markets in Europe – is down to a lack of understanding. “The reality is, there is little understanding of the contribution this industry makes to the economy and to the wellbeing of people,” he says.

The Republic of Ireland’s perceived lack of understanding is likely exacerbated by a lack of representation in political spheres. It was recently revealed that minister for arts Catherine Martin – whose plan to reopen the sector was snubbed by government – is not yet on the cabinet committee on Covid-19.

The Music and Entertainment Association of Ireland (MEAI) says the lack of representation is “disastrous” for the industry.

 


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Festivals cancelled as Ireland outlaws events over 5k

The Republic of Ireland’s major summer festivals, including Longitude, All Together Now, Life Festival, Body & Soul and the new-for-2020 Sunstroke, have been called off after the Irish government confirmed there would there would be no licences issued for events over 5,000 people until the end of August.

A statement issued by the Irish prime minister (taoiseach), Leo Varadkar, says while licensing decisions in Ireland are usually reserved for local councils, local authorities “have been advised by government that event promoters should be informed that events requiring licences in excess of 5,000 will not be considered for the period up to the end of August”.

MCD Productions, which promotes Longitude (3–5 July) and Sunstroke (13–14 June), as well as Electric Picnic on 4–6 September, says while it is “obviously devastated” Longitude isn’t going ahead, “the health and safety of our fans and staff is paramount and we fully respect the government’s decision. We would like to take this opportunity to thank the frontline workers currently giving their all to keep us safe.”

Longitude’s 2020 line-up featured headliners Kendrick Lamar, Tyler the Creator and Asap Rocky, along with Mabel, Young Thug, J Hus and Charli XCX.

As for Electric Picnic, MCD head Denis Desmond says: “It’s a long shot. The chances of it happening are not good.”

“The health and safety of our audience, team and performers takes total precedence at this time of global crisis”

Restrictions on major events are also in place in the Netherlands, where large events are banned until 1 September; GermanyBelgium and Denmark, where a ban is in place until 31 August; and Luxembourg and Finland, which have prohibited mass gatherings until 31 July. France, meanwhile, has given mid-July as the earliest date when events could go ahead, while Austria has identified the end of June.

The restrictions across Europe are in line with the latest European Union guidance.

“Like everyone across the world, we’ve been watching the ongoing effects that Covid-19 is having on our everyday lives,” say All Together Now (31 July–2 August) organisers Pod Concerts and Aiken Promotions, which had booked Iggy Pop, Lauryn Hill, Mura Masa, Goldfrapp and more for its third edition. “The health and safety of our audience, team and performers, plus the extended communities to which they belong, takes total precedence at this time of global crisis.

“Being ‘All Together’ has never been more poignant. While for now, we can’t be together physically, we must be together in spirit by following HSE [Health Service Executive] and government guidelines [and] supporting frontline staff, our local communities, independent businesses and artists who need our support more than ever.”

Avril Stanley, promoter and festival director of Body & Soul (19–21 June), says: “While we may not be able to gather in person this summer, we are with you in spirit. We’re not going anywhere.”

 


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LN-Gaiety’s purchase of MCD cleared by CMA

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has cleared the acquisition of Ireland’s MCD Productions by the UK-based Live Nation-Gaiety joint venture, after finding last month the merger does not raise competition concerns in Britain.

The UK competition watchdog referred the merger for an in-depth, ‘phase-2’ investigation, after finding the coming together of Live Nation and MCD could lessen competition in Northern Ireland.

However, the findings of the phase-2 inquiry said the opposite: that the merger is “not likely to raise competition concerns, as Live Nation would not be expected to have the incentive to harm rival music promoters by making it harder for them to sell tickets through Ticketmaster”.

“Having consulted on this provisional finding”, the CMA today (19 December) confirms the merger has been cleared.

“Having consulted on” its provisional findings, the CMA has formally cleared the merger

LN-Gaiety Holdings – a joint venture between Live Nation UK and Denis Desmond’s Gaiety Investments – announced last August it planned to acquire Desmond’s company MCD Productions. Cork-born Desmond succeeded John Probyn as Live Nation’s chairman in the UK and Ireland in 2015, although MCD – founded by Desmond and Eamonn McCann in 1980, and now co-owned by Desmond and his wife, Caroline Downey – remained independent of Live Nation/Gaiety.

The company is one of the big two promoters and venue operators in the Irish republic, alongside Peter Aiken’s Aiken Promotions.

The LN-MCD merger has already been cleared by the CCPC, the CMA’s counterpart in the Republic of Ireland.

 


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LN-MCD merger doesn’t raise competition concerns after all, says CMA

The latest phase of a Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) inquiry has found that the acquisition of MCD Productions by Live Nation-Gaiety does not raise competition concerns, paving the way for regulatory approval of the long-delayed merger in the UK.

The CMA’s preliminary ‘phase-1’ inquiry found, somewhat implausibly, that a merger of Live Nation and MCD could lessen competition in Northern Ireland by restricting the ability of rival promoters to sell tickets through LN-owned Ticketmaster.

The preliminary findings of the regulator’s in-depth, ‘phase-2’ investigation, however, say the opposite: that the merger is “not likely to raise competition concerns, as Live Nation would not be expected to have the incentive to harm rival music promoters by making it harder for them to sell tickets through Ticketmaster”.

The UK competition watchdog is asking for views on its provisional findings by 28 November, with the deadline for final report set for 8 January 2020.

LN-Gaiety Holdings – a joint venture between Live Nation UK and Denis Desmond’s Gaiety Investments – announced last August it planned to acquire Desmond’s company MCD Productions. Cork-born Desmond succeeded John Probyn as Live Nation’s chairman in the UK and Ireland in 2015, although MCD – founded by Desmond and Eamonn McCann in 1980, and now co-owned by Desmond and his wife, Caroline Downey – remained independent of Live Nation/Gaiety.

The company is one of the big two promoters and venue operators in the Irish republic, alongside Peter Aiken’s Aiken Promotions.

The LN-MCD merger has already been cleared by the CCPC, the CMA’s counterpart in the Republic of Ireland.

 


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Arenal Sound promoter acquires Benicassim

Spanish promoter the Music Republic has acquired the Festival Internacional de Benicàssim (FIB) from Maraworld.

The Music Republic, owned by brothers David and Toño Sánchez, promotes festivals including Arenal Sound, Viña Rock, Granada Sound and Madrid Salvaje.

In a statement, the Sánchez brothers state they will “take over the festival and run it for successive years.” The new FIB owners also note they intend to “maintain [FIB’s] essence and position it once more as a leader on the global scene.”

According to El Mundo, the acquisition of FIB signals the end of Maraworld, which is majority owned by MCD Productions and SJM Concerts.

“We have been told that we are shutting down but we do not have any more details,” a representative from Maraworld’s offices in Madrid told the publication.

“We intend to maintain [FIB’s] essence and position it once more as a leader on the global scene”

Former FIB festival directors José Luis and Miguel Morán founded Maraworld in 1997. Irish promoter Vince Power acquired the company in 2009, selling his share to MCD Productions owner Denis Desmond and SJM Concerts director Simon Moran four years later, after encountering financial difficulties.

With Festival Republic’s Melvin Benn as festival director, the new team revived the struggling festival, putting on “the best FIB of the decade” in 2017, which saw 177,000 festivalgoers view performances by Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kasabian and Foals, among others.

The 25th edition of FIB took place from 18 to 21 July 2019 and was attended by 114,000 people, almost 30% less than the previous year’s 160,000. The festival saw performances from Kings of Leon, Lana del Rey, George Ezra, Jess Glynne and the 1975.

Live Nation and SJM Concerts declined to comment.

 


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