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Pollen teams up with Justin Bieber for Vegas weekender

Pollen, a UK-based startup that develops an ‘influencer marketplace’ for events, has announced its latest artist-curated weekender with Justin Bieber.

The startup, founded in 2014 and previously called Verve, works with organisers, promoters and ticketing platforms to negotiate a certain amount of tickets to an event that will be marketed through the members of Pollen (anyone who books a group experience), according to Tech Crunch.

The members, in turn, decide which events they want to promote to their networks. Those who manage to shift tickets (which are not sold by Pollen but by ticketing partners), get rewards including free trips, VIP upgrades, and private group events. Pollen generates revenue by taking a cut on each sale.

The startup, which raised $60 million in funding in October 2019, has worked with the likes of Live Nation, Ticketmaster, Eventbrite, StubHub and SeeTickets.

The startup has worked with the likes of Live Nation, Ticketmaster, Eventbrite, StubHub and SeeTickets.

Pollen Presents’ Justin Bieber & Friends will take place between 7–10 October 2021 in Las Vegas, with festivities split between the Wynn Las Vegas’ XS Nightclub and Encore Beach Club.

The weekender will kick off with an opening party at XS on Thursday night, followed by a pool party on Friday, and a ‘skate park takeover’ and headline set from Bieber on Saturday.

The first wave of artists for the weekender include The Kid Laroi, Jaden Smith, David Guetta, Kehlani, TroyBoi and Eddie Benjamin – all of whom were selected by Bieber.

Passes for the weekender are on sale via Pollen in three tiers, each of which includes three-night accommodation and event access for two punters, priced between $1,099 (€941) and $1,399 (€1,197).

Other artist-curated weekenders organised by Pollen Presents include Diplo’s Higher Ground festival in Cabo (Mexico), the Kurupt FM Weekender in Amsterdam (the Netherlands) and J Balvin’s Neon Weekender in Las Vegas, US.

 


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Diplo to perform in 60-hour Minecraft music festival

Virtual dance music festival Electric Blockaloo, due to take place in Minecraft in June, has the potential to become the biggest music event ever, as the game’s 112 million active monthly users are invited to attend the three-day festival.

Electronic music promoter Rave Family today (21 May) revealed the first wave of acts performing at the in-game festival from 25 to 28 June, which includes Diplo, Tokimonsta, Jamie Jones and Maceo Plex over the 60-hour event.

Electric Blockaloo is the first in a series of virtual dance music events produced by Rave Family, as the promoter looks to replicate the success of other in-game shows.

Selling more than 200 million copies since being released in 2011, Minecraft has over 40% more monthly users than free-to-play online shooter Fortnite (78.3m), which has hosted record-breaking concerts by rapper Travis Scott and EDM star Marshemello, indicating a potential to draw yet more viewers (although fans did not need to pay to attend the Fortnite shows).

Minecraft first hosted a music event in 2016, and has since provided the setting for virtual festival Fire Festival and, more recently, charity events Block By Blockwest, featuring Pussy Riot, Idles and Sports Team, and Square Garden, with 100 Gecs and Charli XCX.

Artists playing at Electric Blockaloo will be supplied with a unique code to send to fans via a link. The code will give fans access to the Rave Family club, from where players pay an entry fee – either general admission or VIP – to get access to artist-curated Minecraft servers, Discord channels, special streams and releases.

Acts will receive a portion of the revenue generated by fans who followed their link.

“Electric Blockaloo is a place where artists and fans can come together, create shared musical experiences, and reconnect”

All of Minecraft users can sign up to attend, whereas Minecraft laymen can view the festival on the club website via artist livestreams.

The Rave Family training camp will be available to ticketholders in the run up to the festival, for festivals fan unfamiliar with Minecraft.

Electric Blockaloo will be accessible on desktop, mobile, Mac, PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch and VR.

Rave Family, which was founded by tech and investment veteran Jackie McGuire, has previously provided infrastructure support for festivals including Electric Daisy Carnival, Electric Forest and Imagine.

“Everyone asked us, ‘What’s the new normal?’ That normal is one without large festivals for the foreseeable future,” comments McGuire. “Electric Blockaloo is a place where artists and fans can come together, create shared musical experiences, and reconnect with each other in an immersive way.”

A portion of each ticket sale for electric Blockaloo will go to Bye Bye Plastic, a charity that aims to eliminate single-use plastic from(non-virtual) music festivals by 2025.

Electric Blockaloo will take place daily from 25 to 28 June from 10 a.m. EST to 6 a.m. More information is available here.


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California’s SnowGlobe to settle benzene lawsuit

MTV’s Snowglobe Music Festival has reached an agreement with an environmental non-profit organisation that initiated court proceedings against organisers over the amount of benzene – a toxic hydrocarbon – produced by the event.

Founded by Chad Donnelly in 2010, SnowGlobe is a 20,000-capacity festival taking place over the new year’s period in South Lake Tahoe, California, each year. MTV acquired the festival in 2018.

Following the 2018 edition of the event, which saw performances from Diplo, Eric Prydz and Gorgon City, US non-profit organisation the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) raised concerns that the use of “a variety of diesel-powered items” at the festival was producing high levels of benzene, a known carcinogen.

The CEH found that the levels of benzene emitted by the festival exceeded the level set by California’s Proposition 65, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act. In January 2019, the organisation served SnowGlobe with a 60-day notice of violation of the act, later filing a lawsuit against the festival at the end of last year.

A SnowGlobe representative tells IQ that a lack of proper signage warning about benzene levels “ultimately triggered the claim” by the CEH.

“SnowGlobe disputes that the 2018 Festival operations released ‘significant amounts’ of benzene, as CEH alleged, or any amount of benzene above California’s highly conservative ‘safe harbor’ [sic] levels,” continues SnowGlobe’s statement.

“SnowGlobe also disputes that CEH used a valid method for determining benzene exposures at the 2018 festival. In 2019, as a precautionary measure to avoid further litigation, SnowGlobe posted warning signs. Because of SnowGlobe’s commitment to the environment and to avoid litigation with this environmental group, it has entered into a settlement with CEH regarding the Proposition 65 warning sign requirements.

“Our long-term goal for SnowGlobe is to transition into a completely sustainable event”

“Our long-term goal for SnowGlobe is to transition into a completely sustainable event – an ambition inspired both by the South Lake Tahoe community’s culture of environmentalism and our team’s personal belief in the importance of conscientious and ethical event planning. We’re happy to report that with guidance from the amazing team at Waste Free Earth, we’ve made significant steps year over year towards reaching our goal.”

SnowGlobe is now working in conjunction with the CEH, looking into alternative ways to power the festival, such as using biodiesel and connecting electric power to the site. A motion for a consent judgement – in which two parties resolve a dispute without admission of guilt –  has now been filed.

“Many music festivals use a variety of diesel-powered items including the generators and buses and trucks,” CEH senior scientist Caroline Cox told the Tahoe Daily Tribune.

“We were really focusing on the reproductive harm [from benzene] because the typical audience at a music festival is younger people, so there are a lot of young women that either could be pregnant or want to get pregnant so we’re concerned about protecting those people.”

A court date for the consent judgement will take place on 17 March.

A 2019 report found that festivals in the UK alone use 380 million litres of diesel a year, mostly through the use of diesel-powered generators.

The sustainability of live music events will be discussed at the Green Events and Innovations Conference (GEI) on Tuesday 3 March, presented by A Greener Festival and the International Live Music Conference. Tickets to the event are available here.

 


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‘People say, “Is that Coachella? I didn’t know they had festivals like that in Africa…”’

Chin Okeke – one of the men behind arguably the most important of Africa’s new breed of music festivals – has spoken of the growing appetite for live music in the last major frontier for the international concert business.

Eclipse Live co-founder Okeke, who established Gidi Culture Festival in Lagos, Nigeria, in 2014, has seen great success with what he calls a festival created “for Africa”, by Africans – but which is also increasingly attracting both patrons and performers from further afield, reflecting broader changes in the African market.

Historically, for touring artists, “Africa was always just a big paycheque,” Okeke tells IQ. “You get in, get your money and get out. It was never about the growth potential.”

That, says Okeke, is changing, owing to a new generation of entrepreneurs who are focused on creating a sustainable touring infrastructure in the emerging African market.

“Ten years ago every promoter had connections to either the government or to big brands,” he explains, “putting on million-dollar shows” for top-level acts – often as a money-laundering exercise – while largely ignoring the building blocks of the industry. “But the new wave is interested in building up the ecosystem.”

While Nigeria, and west Africa more widely, still have their share of “brand activations, weddings and corporate events”, Okeke says there is a growing recognition that side of the market “isn’t the core of the business” – although, he adds, it’s still a challenge to persuade artists “not to always go for the highest-paid gigs”, which are largely brand-backed corporate affairs. Gidi Culture has a one-month exclusivity clause; as Okeke explains, “No one wants to pay to see if you if you’ve just played for free at a club or a Heineken event.”

Gidi Culture, often dubbed ‘Coachella in Lagos’, brings together some of the biggest names in African music, alongside select interested outsiders – most notably, in 2017, American EDM superstar Diplo.

“We can’t look at the West as a saviour. We’ve realised we don’t have to seek validation from anyone”

Selling tickets, Okeke reiterates, is “the sign of a real live music market. With ticket sales, the only risk is the fans: you’re not messing around meeting with brand managers, who can change jobs every month…”

Okeke reveals Gidi is yet to break even, although he hopes it will do so in a couple of years. Part of that process, he explains, is changing Nigerians’ buying habits: “Presales are a big deal. People used to just show up on the day, but that’s slowly changing. We sold just over 3,000 tickets in advance this year, which is a big deal for a market where, previously, you’d be lucky to sell anything before two days in advance.”

“The inability to break even, because of challenges along the value chain, has led us to develop other business opportunities,” he adds, “such as ticketing, venues, et cetera. Using our own ticketing platform, SeatGate, we sold over 40% of presale tickets for all our events in the last year.”

Returning to the topic of Gidi Culture’s international contingent, Okeke says: “Diplo’s doing a lot to drive African music forward. He did an African tour and he wanted to play. This year we didn’t have an international headliner, as [Nigerian afrobeats singer] Wizkid can headline in his own right, and we don’t want the only draw to be international acts.”

That reluctance to rely too heavily on input from outside Africa is a theme that pops up repeatedly throughout IQ’s conversations with Okeke, who says he once saw his and his colleagues’ mission as promoters to “change the perception the world has of us [Africans]”.

“There are a lot of interested and willing parties that see the opportunity in Africa,” he explains.”The fact that we can even have those conversations without me knocking on doors, and having to pitch – that’s a real step forward.

“But it comes down to the right partners. With Gidi Culture we’ve had interest from [a number of the big US agencies], and I say to them, ‘Give me someone who is interested in actually building the market’ – Diplo, for example.”

Ultimately, says Okeke, “it comes down to the artists. Where the artists want to go, the industry will follow.”

“There are a lot of interested and willing parties that see the opportunity in Africa”

In addition to Gidi Culture, and the events Eclipse produces for other people, which include Nigeria’s Palmwine Music Fest and Nativeland, Okeke says his focus is on building a sustainable touring network throughout Africa. “They won’t be big arenas and stadia, like in South Africa, but we’re looking at smaller venues specifically for music.

“Some African acts can do 40,000-capacity stadia – Wizkid, Davido – but the production isn’t there: most countries can’t meet the riders for those larger acts. There’s also the safety and security aspect if you’re playing a venue that isn’t designed for those kind of shows, like a football stadium.”

For the next edition of Gidi Culture, Okeke is aiming for 10,000 people (it was 8,000 in 2018), with a long-term goal of 15,000 in the years ahead.

“There’s a lot of work to be done, but it’s moving in the right direction,” he comments. “Gidi is the most important festival for African music culture – and as afrobeats, and the African music movement, become more popular, people want to discover the origins of it.”

“What’s important,” Okeke concludes, “is that we can’t look at the West as a saviour. We’ve realised we don’t have to seek validation from anyone. Once we wanted to change how people saw us, but now we’ve changed how see ourselves – and we’ve got a lot more attention as a result.

“People see live streams [of Gidi Culture] and say, ‘Is that Coachella? I didn’t know they had festivals like that in Africa…”

“Look at China ten years ago,” he adds, comparing Africa to another formerly underdeveloped market which is now poised for massive growth. “No one would go.

“And then Lady Gaga said, ‘Fuck it’, and the rest is history…”

 


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