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Our House… Behind the scenes of The 1975’s tour

As one of the biggest arena acts on the planet, The 1975 have been making headlines wherever they go for the past 20 years. Having just brought the curtain down on their third consecutive year on the road, their fanbase continues to grow, making their efforts to rewrite the rulebooks on sustainable touring all the more impressive. Derek Robertson learns just what it takes to take such a cultural phenomenon on the road.

Can you have too much of a good thing? Clearly, The 1975 think not. For an A-list arena band, they have been remarkably prolific – aside from releasing an album every two years since 2016, they’ve also toured behind them relentlessly: 18 months and 150 shows for I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It; a 24-month world tour behind Music For Cars; and a seven-leg, 96-date stint doing their At Their Very Best show. And barely a month after that wrapped on the 13th of August 2023, they were back on the road in Atlanta starting Still… At Their Very Best – another 66-date, worldwide jaunt – in support of their fifth studio album, Being Funny In A Foreign Language.

Even taking into account the enforced breaks during the pandemic, that’s quite a workload – particularly when you consider some of the bands’ struggles with mental health and the pernicious effects of fame. Yet manager Jamie Oborne says that after the Music For Cars tour was interrupted by lockdowns (while first rescheduled, the remaining shows for that tour were ultimately cancelled), “we collectively had a desire to tour, and Matty (Healy, frontman) was very excited about doing a show that was ‘different’ to what people expected or had seen in an arena before. It felt like the right time to get back on the road.”

Work it real good
“The boys love to work,” says Maarten Cobbaut, tour manager. “The first real break they had from their intense schedule was the pandemic, but within a week of restrictions being lifted and everything, they were back in the studio working on new music. They are just so passionate about what they do and put so much of themselves into the music and these shows.”

And these shows for Still… At Their Very Best are, unsurprisingly, fairly close in terms of concept, setup, and logistics as the At Their Very Best show. “An evolution, not a revolution,” as Oborne puts it. “It was part of the same cycle, but so much had happened since the tour commenced that Matty felt a creative need to highlight this evolution. The plan was always to use this tour cycle to market Being Funny In A Foreign Language, so we didn’t really see it as two separate tours.”

“The Finsbury Park show sold out instantly, and it was clear the fanbase was still growing on this cycle”

“Both UK runs were all part of the global touring for Being Funny In A Foreign Language, and weren’t seen as separate projects,” adds Matt Bates of Primary Talent, the band’s agent. “Of course, the first run was billed as At Their Very Best, with the second run having a slightly different name, but they very much coexisted together. And there was a lot of demand – the Finsbury Park show sold out instantly, and it was clear the fanbase was still growing on this cycle.”

Treading the boards
The show itself was certainly “different” – both from what you’d expect from an arena band and from their previous bombastic show for Music For Cars. That tour was “really big and ambitious,” says creative director and show designer Tobias Rylander. “We really went for size and technology with massive LED screens and automated cubes. But for At Their Very Best and Still… At Their Very Best, we wanted to be very analogue – Matty wanted the show and design to be more personal and really show them as a band.”

Healy is, says Rylander, always very conceptual in the approach for each era and tour. While the design for the previous tour reflected social media and internet behaviour, “This time around Matty wanted the show and design to be more personal and show them as a band,” explains Rylander.

“Matty wanted it to reflect their history as friends and a group, while also focussing on them as a live act and musicians. He wanted the stage to reflect how they recorded this last album live, together in the studio. He knew he wanted a house, and some sort of living room. And he wanted it to be focusing on the I-mag camera. No video content: just live camera. That’s how I started to design and look at the house. To always have a good background and setting for the camera shots.

“We looked at anything from Ingmar Bergman to Steven Spielberg for inspiration and references,” adds Rylander; Stanley Kubrick and avant-garde theatre were other touchstones (one review described the show as being: “part performance art, part stage play, part Charlie Kaufman movie about a rock star in crisis.”)

“I always remain amazed by the creative ideas of Matty and the band”

Our house
The design eventually started to take on a life of its own as it developed – it literally became Matty’s “home,” housing his memories. “It’s monochromatic and anonymous at the same time; it can reflect and take the shape of anyone’s childhood memories or their new memories leaving the show,” says Rylander. “It’s a very inviting and inclusive set.”

The first half of the show has almost no “effect” lighting and looks more like classic theatre than a rock show. “That’s something we’ve never done before, and something that’s not very common these days – I think we are the only rock band tour out there that brings a whole ‘Broadway’ set,” says Rylander.

And for the second leg of the tour, they kept all the theatrical parts and added a large, curved video screen behind the set that allowed them to add set extensions and environmental backgrounds. “We could go from night to day in a very beautiful way, but also play some really fantastic bits of video content reflecting older tours and eras from the past,” he adds. “And using the upstage video screen as a theatrical set extension like we do – I don’t think I have seen that on stage before.”

“I always remain amazed by the creative ideas of Matty and the band,” says Matt Bates. “The show was brilliant theatre while not losing the ethos of what makes the band so special in the first place. It truly showed a band at the top of their game creatively and musically, and, in their own words, ‘at their very best.’”

Boys on film
As noted above, video – shot live and intimately – was key to the whole look and feel of the show. Head of video Ed Lawlor has been with The 1975 since 2016 and was tasked with turning concept into reality while ensuring the solution was practical enough for a world tour. “We didn’t want to compromise on providing the best IMAG show possible for the budget – the design brief was ‘cinematic’ – so it was an easy decision to focus on one thing and do it well,” he says.

“It was clear early on that the band and management wanted larger than normal IMAG screens, and we wanted the classic projection look rather than LED”

“It was clear early on that the band and management wanted larger than normal IMAG screens, and we wanted the classic projection look rather than LED. On the initial US tour, we specified two Panasonic PT-RZ31K projectors per side on a 24’ Stumpfl screen from PRG rental stock, which was the largest off-the-shelf option available,” he adds. “On returning a year later to larger venues, the management requested a bigger option – at that point, we commissioned a 32’ Stumpfl screen, which was the largest practical option in a fast-fold product. This required an increase to 3x PT-RZ31K per side, which is the brightest arena IMAG projection I’ve heard of in a while.”

As for the cameras, Lawlor decided to do 3G well rather than 4K on the cheap, so specified four Sony HDC-2500 channels and a Ross Carbonite 2 M/E PPU from PRG UK. This was augmented with four Panasonic AW-UE160 and an RP150 control panel, with additional fixed shots from Marshall CV503-WPs.

Screen time
Those IMAG screens are very much larger than normal for arena touring, and so Lawlor and his crew worked closely with both PRG and AV Stumpfl to find a solution that allowed for rear projection in a fast-fold type frame with no central member that would obscure the beam. PRG have also been working with The 1975 since 2016 and, says Stefaan Michels, sales director for PRG UK, “our partnership has grown stronger over the years – we’ve fostered a close relationship with their tour and production management team, and one that extends beyond their time on the road.”

PRG’s brief was scalability, and the integration of new equipment tailored specifically for this production. Michels had to ensure the duplication of rig setups between Europe and the US, as well as customising equipment to meet the tour’s unique requirements. “Implementing A-B-C rig configurations was essential for maximising efficiency and flexibility throughout the tour,” he says, “and we made specific equipment choices based on detailed specifications provided.”

For example, one significant consideration was the need for different sizes of projection screens to suit the dimensions of various venues. For larger arena shows in the US and UK, they incorporated a large USC Hi Res LED wall to deliver high-resolution visuals that could effectively engage the audience across expansive spaces. Additionally, custom-made, large projection screens equipped with additional 31K laser projectors were also used, particularly in venues with specific lighting conditions or sightline challenges.

“We had to come up with a system that kept Matty safe but also ensured that, if the worst happened, it was safe for a rescuer to go out and assist”

Another specific choice was the decision to utilise Ereca Stage Racer 2s, a decision driven by the need to minimise the deployment of copper cabling on a daily basis. “This choice not only reduces setup time but also enhances flexibility, allowing for swift adjustments as tour requirements evolve, as they inevitably do over the course of an extensive tour like this one,” says Michels. “Moving multiple 3G video signals even over medium distances caused problems on the first leg of the tour, as it required coaxial cable to be both modern and in good condition, which is a challenge to maintain on tour when local labour is in use,” adds Lawlor. “This was another factor in the decision to adopt the Stage Racer 2s.”

Hanging about
All in all, this setup provided a modest challenge for head rigger Simon Lawrence – “simply 120 points going to the roof and a relatively small weight of 50 tonnes.” But there was one area of concern – at one point, Healy climbs upon onto the roof of the “house” to perform a song, on top of the front apex. “Like any artist, Matty wants to be as free as possible when performing, and initially, he felt he should have no safety systems at all, but when he is nearly six metres up in the air above the stage, this is not possible,” says Lawrence. “So we had to come up with a system that kept Matty safe but also ensured that, if the worst happened, it was safe for a rescuer to go out and assist.”

Rounding out the suppliers, All Access provided the front of house mix position stage (a B stage set piece) and built a custom lift for this, while TAIT provided a TAIT Mag Deck rolling house stage. “The Mag Deck design incorporates magnetic corner blocks for alignment and a shear keyway to reduce the number of legs needed to support the decking structure,” says Bullet,
TAIT’s business development manager – UK. “This reduced the amount of product that needed to travel on the road and the time needed to load in and load out, ultimately saving on costs.”

On the road again
Moving all this around was the responsibility of Natasha Highcroft, director of Transam Trucking. “We supplied 15 low-ride height production trucks, plus one merchandise truck for the UK, and eight production trucks plus one merchandise truck for the European leg of the tour, all superbly handled by our lead driver, David Isted,” she says. “As with most tours, keeping to the EU legislation on drivers’ hours and statutory weekly rest periods can prove difficult when parking and access is restricted. Fortunately, with an understanding production and accommodating promoters, we were able to facilitate breaks whilst keeping to budget.”

Bussing was provided by Beat The Street; in total, they ran four 16-berth double-deck Setra’s for the crew and two 12-berth Van Hool Super-highdeckers for the band. “Plotting band bus moves can be a bit of a challenge when day drivers are mixed in with overnight drivers, as it becomes difficult to get the drivers their required weekly breaks,” says Garry Lewis, the company’s transport manager. “So, it was agreed to add a second driver to each band bus, which gave us the flexibility to make it work as seamlessly as possible for the band party.”

“Our focus, as a community of creatives, is always to try and limit the negative impact touring has on the environment”

Sustainability has long been an issue dear to the band’s heart, and on this tour, they were determined to do all they could to lessen its carbon footprint and impact on the environment. “The set design put a real focus on the structural elements being reusable or recyclable, and many of the items that make up the set-build will end up back in stock at the supplier end – this is quite unique,” says Oborne. “Our focus, as a community of creatives, is always to try and limit the negative impact touring has on the environment. It’s by no means a perfect solution, but we are pretty committed to chipping away at our impact on the environment.”

Indeed, the modular nature of the set is something of a first. “It’s a renewable scenic technology, and this is the first time this product has been taken out for a live touring show,” says production manager Josh Barnes. “We wanted something that would really give us the aesthetic finish that we were looking for, in terms of being robust and feeling like the walls are actually the walls of a house and not just a flimsy, flat set. But also, be something that could be transported in the most sustainable, cost-effective way possible and be renewed or recycled at the end of the campaign.”

He goes on: “We ended up partnering up with PRG scenic through their Belgium and Las Vegas offices and worked with them on creating the house out of a product called InfiniForm – basically, it’s a 50 x 50 mil aluminium box section that allows you to cut it and add corners, reels, braces, fixings, or whatever you need. Then, once the frames are made, they were clad in aluminium honeycomb, which is a lightweight, hard-wearing wall surface.

“And, at the end of the campaign, they’re just going to be stripped back into component parts and used by the next project. There’s no ongoing storage needed, and there’s no waste in terms of bits and pieces that would just normally get thrown away if it were a custom build.”

This also meant that the band was able to drop their air freight requirements from 40 pallets down to just 17 for the entire show. Coupled with the decision to carry a smaller production around mainland Europe, requiring only eight trucks instead of 16, this allowed the production team to significantly cut the tour’s carbon footprint and make some impressive cost savings.

“One of the things that we’ve really focussed on for this tour is crew welfare, and trying to look after people’s mental health”

Take a break
Looking after the planet is a noble endeavour, but the band are also at pains to look after people – specifically, their people. “One of the things that we’ve really focussed on for this tour is crew welfare, and trying to look after people’s mental health,” says Barnes. This effort started before the tour even hit the road – after rehearsals, several training days were scheduled with an American organisation called Safe Tour, covering topics such as wellness on the road, mental health first aid, pronoun training, and some bystander intervention training. “It was really beneficial to everybody involved in the project to set them up for success on what was, and still is, quite a long run,” he adds.

Crew rest was another priority, something that’s always a struggle given the nature of long days on the road. “Getting the right amount of rest between shows is really important,” says Barnes. To that end, they’ve been careful not to set loading times for arrival or very early in the morning, instead choosing “about an hour after we expect to arrive, to give the crew enough time to actually plan their mornings. We can also adjust show and door times as well, to assist if we need to leave slightly earlier one night or start later the next day.”

The quality of crew rest has been improved, too. “So not just a single day off where you arrive at a hotel, but a day where you can sleep in a bed and not set an alarm,” says Barnes. “Effectively, two days off, or one full day off, every few weeks – that was a real win being able to work that into the schedule.” Hotels are pre-booked, so people can access their rooms direct on arrival at 10am or whenever and are required to have a number of amenities to help the crew unwind; a gym, a sauna, a pool, spaces to relax, and convenient access to nature, parks, or wildlife. “Options beyond just sitting in a bar drinking.”

And this emphasis on physical health extends to the available food, with nutritionally balanced meals available on the buses and through catering, plus plenty of non-alcoholic beverages and 0% beers. Crew members can make individual food choices through an app, and while the band themselves tour with a personal trainer to keep them in shape, things like being able to walk to a venue from the hotel, and that downtime is actually downtime, are prioritised. “These things help in a number of ways – it’s financial, it’s sustainability, and it’s improving welfare,” adds Barnes. “They’re all important aspects to us.”

Much in demand
As one of the most popular acts of the new millennium, the band is in tune with its global fanbase, striving to make its touring activities as sustainable as possible and speaking out on issues on behalf of underrepresented communities. An infamous onstage kiss in Malaysia between Healy and bassist Ross McDonald last July continues to have repercussions, but that hasn’t stopped promoters internationally from booking the act.

“We sold out four O2 Arena shows this time, plus 40,000 tickets on this album campaign in the UK alone”

Unsurprisingly, given the stature and popularity of the band, Still… has been a roaring commercial success, too, with sold-out shows all across the globe. “We sold out four O2 Arena shows this time, plus 40,000 tickets on this album campaign in the UK alone,” says Bates. “Their fanbase continues to grow year on year, and while that does make the tours easier to sell, we like to launch the show with significant marketing for the first announcement,” says Luke Temple of SJM Concerts. Both Arena Birmingham and the two Manchester dates sold out in a weekend; Temple says the plan was always to do two at the latter, “but I’ve no doubt they could have sold out a few more.”

It was a similar story north of the border, in Glasgow. “The band played Glasgow Hydro in January 2023, then headlined TRNSMT Festival in July 2023,” says Dave McGeachan of DF Concerts. “We were thinking we would leave Glasgow off the 2024 tour, but we decided to add a show at the OVO Hydro. Then we had to add a second night due to demand, which also sold out – quite incredible sales within 13 months.”

In Sweden, the band sold out Stockholm’s Tele2 Arena – “their biggest show in our territory yet,” says Natalie Ryan-Williams of Luger. “Over the years, their fanbase has expanded, and with them being the phenomenon they now are, we knew people were going to travel in from all over Sweden – and even some internationally.”

The possibility of multiple shows in Spain was considered, but, says Cindy Castillo of Mad Cool, venue availabilities and logistical constraints prevented it. “The demand was certainly there, indicating the band’s strong draw in this area,” she says.

Two nights were possible at Amsterdam’s AFAS Live – even if they were nearly a month apart – and, says Friendly Fire’s Roel Coppen, “they were the band’s fastest-selling arena headline shows to date. They played Best Kept Secret in 2023, but we had no issues with these new dates – we could cater to different audiences with different shows within 12 months.”

“You can just about see anyone attending a The 1975 show nowadays – they really attract people from all backgrounds and generations”

Even in more developing territories, these shows have really connected to local fans. “The situation in continental Europe is quite different from the UK, especially in Central Europe,” says Anna Vašátková, head of marketing and PR for Rock For People in Czechia. “The band isn’t played on the radio very often and there’s not as much media coverage, so we’ve had to do all the heavy lifting ourselves. We did quite a massive marketing campaign, including outdoor, radio spots, and extensive use of online media.”

Coppen also noted something else on this run – a broadening of their fanbase. “I do see there’s been a steady, growing interest from other demographic groups and also journalists have been getting more excited about the band in recent years,” he says. Ryan-Williams has noticed something similar. “You can just about see anyone attending a The 1975 show nowadays – they really attract people from all backgrounds and generations, which is a beautiful thing to see.”

“The 1975’s appeal spans various age groups and genders, and their music has definitely attracted a diverse audience transcending age and gender boundaries,” adds Castillo. “It resonates with listeners across generations, from teenagers to older adults, probably thanks to its relatable themes and catchy melodies.”

Success is no accident
Beyond the accolades and acclaim, beyond the facts and figures, this tour has been a resound- ing success. And not just for the legions of happy fans. Everyone IQ speaks to has high praise for the way the band and their team have gone about everything and how they treat all those who encounter them. “Over the years, The 1975 has evolved into more than just a client; they have become like a second family to me,” says Michels. “The professionalism, collaboration, and welcoming spirit displayed by everyone involved transcend mere business relationships.”

“It is always our pleasure to work with The 1975, their production, and their management teams,” says Meegan Holmes of 8th Day Sound, a sentiment echoed by Roy Hunt, Christie Lites’ global account manager. “Every individual involved has demonstrated a high level of professionalism, commitment, and passion that has made this journey memorable,” he says. “The synergy between the band and the crew created an atmosphere of mutual respect and cooperation, while management has been nothing short of supportive, ensuring a seamless and enjoyable tour. Overall, it has been a remarkable experience that speaks volumes about the dedication and talent of everyone involved.”

Fittingly though, band manager Oborne attributes the success to all of those who work so hard to make the shows happen – and who help the band shine. “When I think about The 1975 touring, I can’t help but think about how dedicated and committed to the show our crew are,” he says. “The professionalism and dedication are something we simply could not be without. I am very grateful to all those behind the scenes who turn up day in day out and make the entire thing work. It’s quite something to witness.”

 


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Best Kept Secret festival targets next generation

Best Kept Secret festival director Maurits Westerik tells IQ the event is targeting new audiences for its landmark tenth edition this summer.

Disclosure, Justice, Paolo Nutini, PJ Harvey and St Vincent are among the acts on the bill from 7-9 June in Beekse Bergen, Hilvarenbeek, the Netherlands.

This year, promoter Friendly Fire is introducing New Generation tickets, priced €199, for people up to 21 years old. The 30% discount is being offered to combat the rising cost of living. Ticket buyers must be born on or after 8 June 2002.

“In the last couple of years, I had three interns aged between 18 and 22 and they had never been to a festival because it was so expensive for them, and I felt a little bit heartbroken about that,” explains Westerik. “When my team and I were that age, we saw all these bands performing live for the first time and it was mind-blowing, so we thought, ‘Maybe we should just do a discount on the weekend tickets for people until the age of 22 and see what happens?’

“I’m very pleased it’s been received well and people are coming down for the first time.”

“We’re not that headliner-driven anymore. It’s not all about those one-and-a-half to two-hour slots”

General weekend camping tickets cost €285 for Best Kept Secret, which was named Best Medium-Sized Festival at the 2023 European Festival Awards.

Since launching in 2013, the Dutch gathering has hosted artists including Arctic Monkeys, Radiohead, The Strokes, A$AP Rocky, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Bon Iver, Kraftwerk, LCD Soundsystem, Arcade Fire, Run the Jewels, Beck and The National.

However, Westerik says the BKS programme places less emphasis on headliners than in the past.

“We’re not that headliner-driven anymore. It’s not all about those one-and-a-half to two-hour slots,” he notes. “I’m trying really hard not to keep putting ticket prices up, and if all the money is going to go out to the main acts then a lot of the art, decoration and new areas will disappear, and that’s not enough for us. There’s lots to see and I feel that maybe 20% to 40% of the acts on the smallest stages will become way more popular in the future and return.

“People are coming to discover new acts and to see bands like Big Thief or Porridge Radio or Sampa the Great for the first or second time in the Netherlands, so that really drives us. We had Aphex Twin as a headliner last time and it was packed. Ticket sales are going better than last year so we feel good to go for 25,000 per day with this edition. Although, of course, Radiohead are welcome again!”

“It gets trickier on a yearly basis, because socials are taking over”

Other acts on the 2024 lineup include Vince Staples, The Mary Wallopers, Slowdive, St Paul & the Broken Bones, Jockstrap, The Mysterines, Floating Points, Viagra Boys, Omar Apollo, Amyl & the Sniffers, Libianca, Baxter Dury, CMAT and Australian duo Royel Otis, whose cover of Sophie Ellis Bextor’s Murder on the Dancefloor went viral on TikTok.

“We booked them for an area that is quite small and intimate but because of their viral hit there will be a lot more people wanting to see them,” reflects Westerik. “It gets trickier on a yearly basis, because socials are taking over. It’s not about radio or record shops anymore, or Paul Weller recommending a new band.

“Of course, an underplay feel is always good for your festival. Lizzo was [originally] booked for one of the smaller venues [in 2019] and then it went through the roof.”

While Westerik is coming up to five years in the role, the 2020 and 2021 festivals were cancelled due to the pandemic.

“It was quite a ride,” he says. “I started the job in our last pre-Covid edition in 2019, and then the whole shebang started. It was pretty rough but we managed to survive and are really back on track. It was great to build it up again and it’s going better than ever.

“There are always issues, whether it’s Brexit, war, rising steel prices – and it’s harder for artists to afford travel costs – but we’re in a good position.”

To celebrate its tenth edition, the festival is also presenting three exclusive BKS TEN events in April and May, based on its pillars of music, food and culture, visiting Muziekgieterij in Maastricht (13 April), The Goat, Rotterdam (20 April) and Pier15, Breda (3 May).

 


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FKP Scorpio promotes duo to international board

FKP Scorpio has bolstered its international operations with the appointments of Rauha Kyyrö and Rense van Kessel as presidents touring & artist development.

Founders of Finland’s Fullsteam and the Netherlands’ Friendly Fire, respectively, Kyyrö and Van Kessel have worked with more than 3,000 artists combined since entering the business in the early 2000s.

The duo have been appointed to FKP’s international board and will be in charge of developing the group’s artist booking and promoter activities across Europe.

“Rauha and Rense’s work has been a vital part of our success for several years now”, says FKP boss Folkert Koopmans and CEO Stephan Thanscheidt. “Their new roles as presidents touring & artist development are the next step in strengthening our natural growth and diverse portfolio, with the aim of being the best partner for artists and music fans alike.”

In addition, the firm has recently appointed new directors in Finland (Aino-Maria Paasivirta, head promoter, Fullsteam Agency), Netherlands (Lauri van Ommen, head of promoted shows and Age Versluis, head of touring, Friendly Fire) and Germany (Inga Esseling and Ben Rodenberg, directors touring, FKP Scorpio).

Founded by Koopmans in 1990, Germany-headquartered FKP is part of the global CTS Eventim Group and works with acts such as Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift, The Rolling Stones, Noah Kahan, Foo Fighters, Sam Fender, Kraftwerk, Phoebe Bridgers, James Blunt, George Ezra and Mumford & Sons.

FKP is also expanding its collaboration with DreamHaus to co-promote the Rock am Ring/Rock im Park and Hurricane/Southside festivals

Its domestic festival portfolio includes festivals such as Hurricane, Southside, Highfield, M’era Luna, Elbjazz and Deichbrand Festival, while international brands include Greenfield (CH), Syd For Solen (DK) , Best Kept Secret (NL), Lido Sounds (AT), Rosendal Garden Party (SE), Live Is Live (BE), Provinssi and Sideways (FI).

In other news, FKP will expand its collaboration with CTS stablemate DreamHaus by forming a strategic partnership to co-promote the Rock am Ring/Rock im Park and Hurricane/Southside festivals together in the future. Previously, DreamHaus and FKP Scorpio had already jointly organised the Tempelhof Sounds Festival in Berlin in 2022.

“We have always valued FKP Scorpio as a partner and are very much looking forward to further expanding our trusting cooperation,” says DreamHaus CEO Matt Schwarz.

The operational planning and implementation of the respective twin festivals will remain unchanged. FKP Scorpio will continue to act as head promoter and main contact at Hurricane/Southside and DreamHaus in cooperation with eventimpresents and Argo Konzerte at Rock am Ring/Rock im Park.

“We have worked closely with DreamHaus as equals from the very beginning,” adds Koopmans. “We face similar challenges at the festivals, and it is only logical that we use synergies to position ourselves even better on the market.”

 


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Friendly Fire promotes Lauri van Ommen and Age Versluis

Dutch promoter Friendly Fire has promoted Lauri van Ommen to head of promoted shows and Age Versluis to head of touring, effective 1 March.

van Ommen started at Friendly Fire in 2016, assisting managing director Rense van Kessel. Soon after, she was made a promoter and is now going to head that same department.

As head of promoted shows, she will be responsible for all Friendly Fire shows in arenas and stadiums, including Ziggo Dome, AFAS Live, Johan Cruijff Arena and Ahóy.

van Ommen has worked on shows with a.o. Snoop Dogg, Noah Kahan, Hans Zimmer, Mäneskin and many others.

Versluis celebrated 10 years at Friendly Fire last November, starting as an intern for the company’s first edition of Best Kept Secret festival, assisting at the touring department and creating a personal roster of touring artists including Cigarettes After Sex, Mitski, Fontaines D.C., Khruangbin, Black Pumas and Lizzy McAlpine.

“We are very proud that coworkers who have been loyal to our organisation can rise up to these key positions”

He is the programme lead for the successful open-air theatre concert series, Live At Amsterdamse Bos. Age was nominated at the Arthur Awards for Tomorrow’s New Boss in 2022.

As head of touring, Versluis will be responsible for the international touring roster of Friendly Fire and the bookers that work internationally, whilst maintaining his own roster of artists.

“We are very proud that coworkers who have been loyal to our organisation can rise up to these key positions within the company,” says managing director Rense van Kessel.

“Friendly Fire has been growing steadily the last few years and we are very happy to add Lauri and Age to our leadership team, to help manage that growth.”

Friendly Fire, which celebrates its 15th anniversary this year, represents both domestic and international talent, alongside organising festivals, managing artists and booking theatres.

The Dutch office of FKP Scorpio reported more than 2,000 bookings in theatres, venues, clubs, arenas and festivals in 2023.

 


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The New Bosses 2023: Anouk Ganpatsing, Friendly Fire

The 16th edition of IQ Magazine’s New Bosses was published in IQ 121 this month, revealing 20 of the most promising 30-and-unders in the international live music business.

To get to know this year’s cohort a little better, IQ conducted interviews with each one of 2023’s New Bosses, discovering their greatest inspirations and pinpointing the reasons for their success.

Catch up on the previous interview with Alfie Jefferies, programming administrator at The O2 in London, UK, here. The series continues with Anouk Ganpatsing, booker at Friendly Fire in the Netherlands.

Anouk Ganpatsing is a dynamic and multifaceted music industry professional who is currently working as a booker at Friendly Fire. She graduated from the University of Arts Utrecht with a degree in Music Management in 2019. After graduating she gained experience as a production assistant at Melkweg Amsterdam, booking assistant at Greenhouse Talent, and royalty & copyright assistant at Armada Music.

Anouk is currently working as a booker at Friendly Fire. She joined the company at the beginning of 2022 supporting Roel Coppen’s and Age Versluis’ roster. Together they worked on numerous successful concerts from artists such as Khruangbin, Giant Rooks, Wallows, SYML, Beabadoobee, Pixies, Wolf Alice and many more. Furthermore, Anouk also works on other projects for Friendly Fire like Best Kept Secret, Tuckerville, and Live At Amsterdamse Bos. Her future aspiration is to build her own booking roster some day with diverse artists spanning genres of country, pop, indie, rock and R&B.


IQ: You graduated just before Covid hit. What did you do during the coronavirus situation to set yourself up to develop your career once the pandemic was over?
AG: Well, after I graduated, I started working at Greenhouse Talent as a booking assistant. Unfortunately, the outbreak of COVID-19 led to the non-renewal of my contract, resulting in a weird and uncertain period. I missed the concerts and the joy of getting to do something that you love. In my pursuit of staying connected to the music industry, I explored other opportunities and eventually found a role as a Royalty & Copyright assistant at Armada Music, a dance record label. I learned a lot about record labels and how that branch of the music industry works. But it wasn’t meant for me though! I missed working with other people who loved concerts and festivals as much as I do. In May 2022, as concerts returned to their regular form, I joined Friendly Fire.

Do you have a mentor, or people you can trust to bounce ideas off?
That is Age Versluis. His guidance and support have been invaluable to me, both in my professional and personal life. His advice is spot-on, helping me navigate challenges and grow as an individual. He has a lot of knowledge about the live music industry and is eager to share that with me. His passion for music is contagious and I love to work with people like that!

You have ambitions to develop your own roster. How do you go about discovering new talent who might become artists you will work with in the future?
I try to stay updated on the latest developments and news in the live music industry. I also never stop listening to (new) music and I am always happy to find a new artist that I like. It is an endless discovery!

“Melkweg was the place where my love for the business side of music started!”

You worked at Melkweg for a while. Was there any lessons you learned from being in a venue that have helped you in your work at Friendly Fire?
Working at a venue gave me so much valuable information about the industry. As a booker, you work with numerous venues across the Netherlands, and it is great to know how all the departments inside a venue work. I was a production assistant at the production/program department. Among all the departments within a venue, the production and program departments have been the ones I’ve worked with most closely as a booker. Melkweg was the place where my love for the business side of music started!

Despite the pandemic, you have managed to pack quite a lot into your career to date. What advice could you offer to others who are trying to get a foot in the door of the music industry?
If you want to work in the music industry, you got to start somewhere (even if it is small). I started working as an intern. That is a great place to gain practical experience and it also presents a chance to expand your professional network. The spot for my internship didn’t even exist once I got it. One day, while at a record store, I happened to spot the director of Melkweg. Feeling bold, I approached him and asked if he had any open spots for a music management student like me. And he did! One week later, I had an internship at the department that resonated with me the most at the venue that I loved. Sometimes, if direct internships aren’t available, volunteering at a venue or festival can be another fantastic way to get involved.

As a new boss, what one thing would you change to make the live entertainment industry a better place?
I would love to see more women in high positions at music companies. It’s quite surprising, that when I attend (international) conferences or festivals, the number of women I come across is noticeably low. Let’s work towards a more inclusive and diverse industry!

“One of my primary goals is to create a larger platform for country music in the Netherlands”

As a young person looking to make a name for themselves in the business, are there any particular events, forums or platforms you visit to meet peers in the industry to expand your network of contacts?
I think it is important to attend the showcase festivals and conferences like Eurosonic Noorderslag, The Great Escape, IFF, ILMC. These events offer valuable opportunities to connect with new people in the industry and strengthen existing relationships with those you are currently working with.

Friendly Fire works across a number of disciplines in the music industry. Where would you like to see yourself in five years time?
In five years, I would like to have built my own roster with the artists and genres that I like (country, pop, r&b, indie). One of my primary goals is to create a larger platform for country music in the Netherlands and actively contribute to the growth of this genre. Yeehaw!

 


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NL’s Friendly Fire reimagines Loose Ends festival

Dutch promoter Friendly Fire has announced a second edition of its garage, punk, post-punk and wave festival Loose Ends.

The one-day festival debuted in 2019 and saw acts including Fontaines DC, Metz, Sleaford Mods, Personal Trainer, Pip Blom and Iguana Death Cult perform at NDSM Wharf in Amsterdam.

After three years on the shelf, Friendly Fire is breathing new life into the festival with a new location and a renewed focus.

This year, Loose Ends will take place at the Beton-T – a city square in Utrecht transformed into a creative hub – in collaboration with local music venue TivoliVredenburg.

“We’re aiming a little more at the bottom of the bill but we will focus on the acts which will explode within a few months”

“The festival will be a bit more intimate than on the NDSM Wharf,” says TivoliVredenburg programmer Lisa de Jongh. “We are aiming for 2,000 visitors and two stages where alternating acts will play. In that sense, we’re aiming a little more at the bottom of the bill than the edition in 2019, but we will focus on the acts which will explode within a few months. We’re looking for the must-see acts in garage rock, post-punk and sleaze, as well as quite a few local bands.”

The first names for Loose Ends 2023 will be announced soon and ticket sales will start on 2 June. Ticket prices will be “below €30 to make the festival as accessible as possible”.

Amsterdam-based Friendly Fire promotes festivals including Best Kept Secret, Tuckerville, Indian Summer, Ramblin’ Roots and Hit the City.

The company also promotes concerts for domestic and international acts such as The 1975, Mäneskin, A$AP Rocky, Blink-182, Bloc Party, Childish Gambino and Christine and the Queens.

 


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Friendly Fire ups Pien Feith to head of booking

Amsterdam-based promoter Friendly Fire has upped Pien Feith to head of its Dutch booking department.

In her new position, Feith will lead the team of Dutch bookers and will therefore be responsible for the entire Dutch booking roster, which includes Kensington, Danny Vera, Yade Lauren, Ilse DeLange, Krezip, Jonna Fraser, Sigourney K and Sophie Straat. She also joins the company’s management team.

“In recent years, Pien has shown that he is not only an extremely good booker with an eye and heart for talent and development, but also has very strong management capabilities and vision,” says director Rense van Kessel.

“Pien has shown that he is not only an extremely good booker, but also has very strong management capabilities”

“We are very happy that she wants to fill this position and that the department can go into the future under her leadership. We are confident she will be a valuable addition to our management team.”

Within Friendly Fire, Feith has been actively developing the careers of Dutch artists for seven years now. Having joined in 2015 as a booking assistant, Feith quickly developed into an independent booking agent.

In that role, she has been responsible for the live careers of, among others, Merol, Personal Trainer, WIES, Sophie Straat, Nana Adjoa, Sef and Roxeanne. Hazes.

In addition to her booking work, Pien is involved in programming for Friendly Fire’s festivals, including Tuckerville, Best Kept Secret and Indian Summer. She will continue to combine her programming and booking work with her new position.

 


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New Bosses name one thing industry must change

Alumni from IQ Magazine‘s most recent class of New Bosses have identified areas of improvement for the international live music business.

A handful of the next-gen leaders shared their thoughts during Meet the New Bosses: The Class of 2021, at last month’s International Live Music Conference (ILMC).

Theo Quiblier, head of concerts at Two Gentlemen in Switzerland, believes the one thing the industry needs to get better at is normalising failure.

“We are in a fantastic industry where everyone is signing the new top artist or selling out venues or sealing huge deals with festivals but that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” he says. “I feel that we’re all a bit afraid of saying, ‘I went on sale with my favourite band and it didn’t go well’ – as simple as that.

“I feel that we’re all a bit afraid of saying, ‘I went on sale with my favourite band and it didn’t go well'”

“As a promoter, I could say, ‘Oh, I work with this top band,’ and people think, ‘That’s amazing, he must be rich,’ and, in reality, it’s your biggest loss of the year. We need little reality checks, and to say ‘I’m doing my best but I’m not the best’. Sharing insecurities is great because failure happens to everybody.”

Flo Noseda-Littler, agency assistant at Wasserman Music (formerly Paradigm UK), called for better pay for junior staff so more people can viably start their careers in the industry.

“Fair salaries for junior staff and internships so that it enables people in those positions to live in the cities in which they work,” comments Noseda-Littler. “By providing a free internship or a low paid job, you’re cutting off so many people who don’t have the ability to still live with their parents or be subsidised by their parents. And then you’re just reducing the number of people you can recruit and missing out on potentially really ambitious and amazing people.”

Anna Parry, partnerships manager at the O2 in London, echoed Noseda-Littler’s thoughts, adding that companies also need to improve their recruitment strategies in order to reach a more diverse pool of talent.

“This is a job that costs you a lot of time at your desk and a lot of time in your head”

“Companies really need to put more effort into understanding why people aren’t applying for these jobs, and then they need to create a lower barrier of entry for those types of people,” says Parry. “It’s not just saying, ‘Oh okay, well we posted the job on a different forum than we usually would’. It’s going to take a lot more of that to actually make a difference. We need to focus on that because it’s important our industry is representative of the artists we represent.”

Age Versluis (promoter at Friendly Fire in the Netherlands) on the other hand, is petitioning for a four-day workweek: “This is a job that costs you a lot of time at your desk and a lot of time in your head. Since Covid, we’re seeing a lot of people burning out and having trouble getting to that fourth or fifth gear.

“We forget that moving shows for two years to the same months is quite stressful. I think we could use some extra ‘me’ time.”

Tessie Lammle, agent at UTA in the US, echoed her peers’ points, adding: “I was going to say diversity or work-life balance but Theo’s point is huge. I think the younger generation is getting much better at [sharing insecurities].”

Each of the panellists appeared as part of IQ Magazine‘s New Bosses 2021, an annual list celebrating the brightest talent aged 30 and under in the international live music business. See the full list of the distinguished dozen here.

 


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The New Bosses: Remembering the class of 2021

The 14th edition of IQ Magazine‘s New Bosses celebrated the brightest talent aged 30 and under in the international live music business.

The New Bosses 2021 honoured no fewer than a dozen young executives, as voted by their colleagues around the world.

The 14th edition of the annual list inspired the most engaged voting process to date, with hundreds of people taking the time to submit nominations.

The year’s distinguished dozen comprises promoters, bookers, agents, entrepreneurs and more, all involved in the international business and each of whom is making a real difference in their respective sector.

In alphabetical order, the New Bosses 2021 are:

Subscribers can read full interviews with each of the 2021 New Bosses in issue 103 of IQ Magazine.

Click here to subscribe to IQ for just £5.99 a month – or check out what you’re missing out on with the limited preview below:

 

 


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The New Bosses 2021: Age Versluis, Friendly Fire

The New Bosses 2021 – the latest edition of IQ’s annual celebration of the brightest young talent in the live business today, as voted for by their peers – was published in IQ 103 this month, revealing the 12 promising promoters, bookers, agents, entrepreneurs that make up this year’s list.

To get to know this year’s cohort a little better, IQ conducted interviews with each one of 2021’s New Bosses, discovering their greatest inspirations and pinpointing the reasons for their success.

Catch up on the previous 2021 New Bosses interview with Jenna Dooling, agent at WME in the UK here.

As one of the worst drummers in his hometown, Utrecht, Age Versluis realised that organising shows was a better option. During his music management studies, he interned for a festival, a venue, a record label and a promoter to help him decide what his next step would be.

Having interned at the first edition of Best Kept Secret festival in 2013, Versluis remained at Friendly Fire, where he became a promoter five years ago. He has since developed a roster that includes Khruangbin, Fontaines D.C., Black Pumas, Cigarettes After Sex, Phoebe Bridgers and many others.

Friendly Fire also runs an open-air venue in Amsterdam throughout the summer, which Versluis operates.


Do you have a mentor or anyone you turn to for advice?
Roel Coppen [agent, promoter, co-owner, Friendly Fire] has taught me everything about spotting talent and working out a long-term approach for an artist. For the last couple of years, I have been learning more about bigger shows and collaborations from Rense van Kessel and Lauri van Ommen in our office.

What has been the highlight of your career, so far?
The biggest highlight is convincing an artist to trust and play multiple shows in the Netherlands early on in their career and then to see that confidence pay off. For example, with two amazing sold-out nights for Khruangbin in Paradiso, December 2020.

“Go to shows, lots of them, talk with the people at the door, at the stand, at the FOH, production staff, everyone”

What advice would you give to anyone trying to find a job in live music?
Go to shows, lots of them, talk with the people at the door, at the stand, at the FOH, production staff, everyone. Volunteer for as many things as you can sustain. Go to conferences, panels, and try to get a quick meeting in for some advice/feedback with someone that inspires you.

The pandemic has been hard on us all – are there any positive aspects that you and Friendly Fire are taking out of it?
Yes, it’s been hard but we’ve also seen relationships improve with the people we work with. We’ve tried out new things, dipped our toes into livestreaming, have unwillingly learned everything on socially distanced shows and have kept on a few of those new things.

As a new boss, what one thing would you change to make the live music industry a better place?
Several things. We should work to diversify the people we work with and in all aspects of what we do, in regards to underrepresentation.

“We have all been busy juggling shows and limitations, now it’s important that we plan for shows that are actually happening”

Also, accommodating and setting boundaries for work and personal life – although that’s been getting a lot better the past years. As a young new promoter with no network, I loved gaining managers’ and agents’ trust at that earliest stage. I believe in spreading out who you work with, so you can learn from all sorts of people.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I’d love to work on new outdoor concepts and specialise in that part of live music, as I really like the novelty of it. So far the majority of my shows were in the Netherlands, but we are doing more outside our territory now, and that’s something that I hope is going to stick.

What’s the biggest challenge for you and the Friendly Fire team now that the business is emerging from lockdown restrictions?
We have all been very busy juggling shows and limitations, now it’s important that we focus and plan a workflow for shows that are actually happening. The biggest challenge will be building up customer trust to buy tickets again.


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