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DF Concerts celebrates record-breaking summer

Scotland’s DF Concerts has heralded a record-breaking summer, having sold one million tickets between June and August.

The promoter says that, as a result, it has made an economic impact of around £72.4 million on tourism and hospitality businesses in its domestic market.

The Glasgow-headquartered company expects that, by the end of 2022, it will have welcomed over 50% of the population of Scotland to one of its concerts or events.

DF promotes some 1,000 concerts per year, as well as its festivals TRNSMT (Glasgow), Connect (Edinburgh) and Summer Sessions (Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee). In addition, the promoter owns and operates grassroots music venue, King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut (Glasgow).

This year’s sold-out edition of TRNSMT topped DF’s best-selling events of the summer, attracting 50,000 attendees on each of its three days.

Other highlights include two nights from The Killers at Falkirk Stadium (cap. 25,000), and Harry Styles performing to 50,000 people at Glasgow’s Ibrox football stadium.

“It’s looking like it will be more of the same next year”

This summer also saw DF revive Connect, a music festival that originally took place in Argyll, Scotland, in the mid-noughties.

The reboot took place at The Royal Highland Centre (RHC), an exhibition centre and showgrounds located near Edinburgh airport, between 26–28 August.

The Chemical Brothers, The National, Little Simz, Mogwai and Bombay Bicycle Club were among the artists that performed at the camping festival.

In total, DF Concerts had 33 days of outdoor shows from June to August, at venues including Slessor Gardens in Dundee, Edinburgh’s Royal Highland Centre Showgrounds and Princes Street Gardens, SWG3 Galvanizers Yard, Glasgow Green, and Bellahouston Park in Glasgow, plus Hampden Park, Ibrox and Falkirk Stadiums.

“This has been a really special summer season for all involved,” Geoff Ellis, CEO of DF Concerts, tells IQ. “It has seen a seven-figure investment in new events for music lovers across the country, diversifying the experiences available in Scotland.

“With two stadium shows, one greenfield and two festivals already announced for summer 2023 and more to come very soon, it’s looking like it will be more of the same next year.”


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Festival chiefs preview the upcoming season

The cost of living crisis, an oversaturated market and rising costs threaten to create a “recipe for disaster” for the first full festival season since 2019, it has been claimed.

ILMC’s Festival Forum: New lands, new adventures panel heard divergent views from event bosses on prospects for this summer, with the public’s appetite for returning to music shows evident, but two years of lockdown and restrictions throwing up a litany of new problems.

UTA agent Beth Morton moderated the illuminating debate starring Eric van Eerdenburg of Mojo Concerts (NL), Geoff Ellis of DF Concerts (UK), Sophie Lobl of C3 Presents (US), Henrik Bondo Nielsen of Roskilde Festival (DK), Stephan Thanscheidt of FKP Scorpio (DE) and Reshad Hossenally of Festicket’s Event Genius ticketing and event technology platform.

Event Genius COO Hossenally said that, despite the anticipated rush for concert tickets after two lost years to Covid-19, other issues were cropping up.

“People don’t trust that everything is back to normal yet”

“There are a hell of a lot of shows and it’s almost a bit of a recipe for disaster because you’ve got costs going up, a lot of tickets being carried across and a huge amount of competition,” he said. “The other part is people are being told they don’t have any money in the press. I think you’ll see the buying pattern starting to become a lot later. People don’t trust that everything is back to normal yet.

“We ran a global survey and 75% of people said that they want to understand what the cancellation policies are. Before, that would have been an impulse buy – people didn’t even look at terms and conditions beforehand. The decision of buying a festival ticket now is a lot more considered. So as a festival promoter, I suspect it must be quite a scary road to see that we’re not selling as quickly.”

Roskilde head of safety and service Bondo Nielsen referenced complaints from some of his European contemporaries regarding fan behaviour since the restart, with the pandemic resulting in a lag in younger consumers attending their first festival.

“What I hear is that people talk about inexperienced audience and that they are not behaving well,” he said. “My view is that, as a festival organiser, it’s your job to manage the audience that you invite. So if they don’t behave well, you have to teach them.”

“Costs are going up at least 25% from 2019 prices”

Ellis, who heads up events such as Scotland’s Transmt, responded: “You’ve got gig veterans, and then you always get new people coming in – 16 to 17-year-olds coming along for the first time – and I think they get carried along and looked after by the older members of the audience a bit. It is a real community spirit that you get, no matter what the festival is. They’re all there for the same purpose: to enjoy music, and the shared experience of being at an event.”

Ellis considered increasing costs, exacerbated by supply chain and staffing issues, as the biggest challenge for festivals going forward.

“Certainly in the UK, costs are going up at least 25% from 2019 prices, which is really difficult,” he said. “And it’s the scarcity of kit as well, so stages, barriers – we’re having to beg, borrow and steal barriers from different arenas, because there are so many shows on. There are shows that have moved from 2020, and didn’t happen in ’21, all happening, plus the festivals, plus the outdoor business that would have taken place in ’22.

“Also, staff – lots of stewards left the industry during the pandemic. Toilets, again, lots of sporting events are taking certainly the high end toilets, maybe not the actual portaloos but the flushable toilets and trailers, so that’s a real challenge.”

“People have hung on to their tickets for a couple of years, you can’t go back to them and ask for more money”

The promoter added that simply hiking up ticket prices was not an option for this year.

“People have hung on to their tickets for a couple of years, you can’t go back to them and ask for more money,” he said. “And we’re going into a cost of living crisis globally, with people having concerns about how they’re going to pay their energy bills and everything else. So some of it will have to be passed on going forward, but it’s too late for this year.

“I think we all have to try our best to get costs down and look at innovative ways of delivering things as well. We need suppliers to give us a bit of a break really.

“The positive thing is there was a recent survey in America showing what people are looking forward to getting back to most, and concerts was top of the list, so that’s reassuring. Obviously we’re all worried about how they’re going to afford to do it, but at least they want to go to concerts.”

“There are so many artists, coming out of Covid, that haven’t done a hard ticket tour”

The conversation later switched to social media’s influence on programming and its correlation to ticket sales.

“There is so much that we have to take into account that’s not just ticket sales,” revealed C3 and Live Nation global festival talent buyer Lobl. “Obviously socials, obviously TikTok, but the show we’re booking kind of determines what we look at.”

She continued: “There are so many artists, coming out of Covid, that haven’t done a hard ticket tour. If you take someone like Doja Cat, who has been one of our biggest artists at all of our festivals, and probably had the biggest crowd at Austin City Limits and in South America, hasn’t done her own hard ticket run yet.

“It’s also a lot more global now, which makes it more fun. But it also makes it a lot harder to navigate. For us, the Latin market has been huge and there’s a lot more global booking of really sizeable bands.”

“We have also analysing tools for social media,” noted FKP head of festival booking Thanscheidt. “You also have to do look at where are the likes and plays are coming from because if they’re coming from another part of the world, it’s nice for the band, but maybe not for us putting on a festival or a show with them. Also, not every Tiktok hype translates to the festivals we book.

“In general, you don’t want to go away from the history of the festival. But you also want to keep it modern and fresh and cool at the same time. In the end, booking is a process. It is, of course, influenced by other things nowadays, but it’s still a mixture of very different facts coming together.

“It also really depends on the festival – because if you have an older audience, TikTok and all that does not play the biggest role and vice-versa, so you have to look at it very individually to make the right decisions. You have to know your market and  your audiences because sometimes it’s hard to explain, especially to agents, why this act is working and the other one is not.”

“It’s not an exact science and it never has been”

Van Eerdenberg, director of Netherlands’ Lowlands festival, shared his own booking philosophy.

“We had discussions in our programming team about this, and we ended up saying quality is not the thing we measure, but whether people are reacting and responding to it,” he said. “You have to work with what you see happening online. But it’s difficult to determine the value of an act, especially when agents are very convincing.”

Ellis pointed out that hard ticket sales were not always a barometer of an artist’s value to a festival because their audience might steer away from outdoor shows.

“It’s not an exact science and it never has been,” he added. “It’s always been a bit of gut feel, a bit of scarcity – if somebody’s not doing shows they’re more valuable to a festival than if they are doing shows because there’s a pent up demand to see them.

“Over the years at T in the Park, an act like Tom Jones went down an absolute storm. His audience wouldn’t have particularly come to a music festival, but… we had 50,000 people in front of the main stage, singing along to him, and none of them had ever seen him before. With that kind of booking, if you tried to look at the TikTok figures, it wouldn’t have synced. There was a gut feel that it would go down well, and it went down well, but sometimes we get those things wrong and nobody’s watching the act.”


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DF Concerts reveals venue for Connect festival reboot

DF Concerts has announced the location for its revival of Connect, a music festival that took place in Argyll, Scotland, in the mid-noughties.

The reboot will take place at The Royal Highland Centre (RHC), an exhibition centre and showgrounds located near Edinburgh airport.

With more than 18,000m2 exhibition space and 110 acres of land, the RHC is said to be Scotland’s largest indoor and outdoor venue.

Festival manager Kate Lingard says the unique site will give them the opportunity to create a sustainable approach to the festival experience.

“One of the biggest attractions of our new home is the site’s permanent infrastructure and existing facilities. These play a crucial role in realising our sustainability ambitions for the festival,” says Lingard.

“One of the biggest considerations we had was around public transport and ensuring the event was accessible”

DF Concerts & Events CEO Geoff Ellis says the site’s accessibility by public transport will also feed into the festival’s green ambitions.

“One of the biggest considerations we had was around public transport and ensuring the event was accessible to festivalgoers from across the country,” he says.

“The Royal Highland Centre provides a purpose-built event site that is readily accessible by public transport for each of the three days. This not only makes it easy for festivalgoers to attend but hugely supports our ambition to deliver a more sustainable festival now and into the future.”

The festival, announced in November 2021, is slated to take place between 26–28 August 2022 but the line-up is yet to be announced.

DF says it will feature “the best in leftfield talent from grassroots through to the biggest names in the world”.

The promoter’s stable of events already includes Summer Sessions and TRNSMT, which will return to Glasgow Green in 2022 with headliners Paolo Nutini, The Strokes and Lewis Capaldi.


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Campaign to make Glasgow UK’s top music city

A new tourism campaign has launched to promote Glasgow’s music scene to potential visitors from across the UK.

Developed by Glasgow Life’s Destination Marketing team, the Glasgow: Music Nonstop initiative is designed to showcase the energy and vibrancy of the city’s live music offering, positioning it as a first-choice short break destination for music fans.

Created with £90,000 from VisitScotland’s Destination and Sector Marketing Fund, it is aimed at supporting the recovery and restart of Glasgow’s music and night-time industries in the wake of the pandemic, as well as spreading the wider message that the city’s tourism and hospitality sector is open for business.

Jim Clarkson, regional leadership director (West), VisitScotland, says the funding “will help to accelerate the sustainable recovery of the tourism sector in the Glasgow City Region in the medium to long-term, helping to reach new audiences within the domestic market”.

Running until the end of March, the scheme features a mix of targeted digital and social media advertising, PR activity and new music-themed content on the city’s official visitor website. A dedicated campaign landing page is available here.

“We’re on track to have the busiest summer on record for live music in Scotland”

Glasgow is Scotland’s only UNESCO City of Music and hosted an average of 130 gigs and music events every week, pre-Covid, contributing an estimated £75m each year to the city’s economy.

Glasgow Life has engaged with partners throughout the planning process, involving music industry figures in creative briefings; hosting a workshop to inspire businesses to come together and create new bookable music-themed visitor offers; and inviting businesses to have their say.

“Glasgow is a city world-renowned for its music scene, so it’s fantastic to see this investment from Glasgow Life to help support the recovery of the industry,” says Geoff Ellis, CEO of promoter DF Concerts. “We’re on track to have the busiest summer on record for live music in Scotland so it’s vitally important now that Glasgow’s music offering is put in the spotlight, which this campaign aims to do.”

Andrew Fleming-Brown, founder and MD of Glasgow venue SWG3, adds: “It’s been such a difficult couple of years for the sector so it’s really great to see music taking centre stage in the city’s marketing as we emerge from the pandemic. We’re very excited about our upcoming programme at SWG3 which we hope will not only attract the people of Glasgow, but also visitors from throughout Scotland, the UK and internationally.”


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Scotland to implement vaccine passports for large events

Vaccine passports may be legally required to enter certain events in Scotland from later this month, in a bid to ‘help stem the recent surge in the number of Covid cases’.

Pending approval from MPs, the new vaccine certification rules will mean people over the age of 18 will need to show they have had both doses of the vaccine before they are allowed entry to:

Medical exemptions will apply but proof of immunity or a negative test will not be accepted – something which DF Concerts boss Geoff Ellis disputes.

“It’s important that the [passport] includes lateral flow testing and immunity as well as double vaccination + 2 weeks for reasons of practicality and non-discrimination,” Ellis tells IQ.

“If [vaccine passports] are necessary then it should also be applied widely and not just for live music and nightclubs”

“If it’s necessary – which we are led to believe in Scotland that it is – then it should also be applied widely and not just for live music and nightclubs.

“That way it will be more effective in reaching [the government’s] goals by keeping the virus to manageable levels. If that’s the case then I think the live industry as a whole will support this as a temporary measure – DF Concerts certainly will,” Ellis concludes.

The government have not announced a specific date for the introduction of vaccine certification but they have stated this will only happen when all adults have been given the opportunity to receive both vaccines later this month.

Scottish MPs are due to debate and vote on the regulation in parliament next week. If the policy is passed, it will be reviewed every three weeks in line with other Covid regulations.

A similar debate is underway in England, where the government has said it will press ahead with plans to introduce vaccine passports for nightclubs and other crowded indoor venues from the end of next month.

Scottish MPs are due to debate and vote on the regulation in parliament next week

John Sharkey, executive VP, European operations, ASM Global, commented for IQ: “We believe that public health and the safety of our patrons should be at the forefront of everyone’s thinking as we begin to live with Covid in society. However, our industry, which has been largely closed for nearly 18 months, should also have equality and proportionality applied to it in line with other parts of the economy such as retail, transport and other areas of public life.

“If the government is looking to implement measures that are beyond this equity and proportionality test then they should be clearly stating why the measures are needed and also provide support to the industry in the implementation of such measures.”

A spokesperson from the O2 in London added: “The O2 has taken the decision to implement the NHS Covid Pass and we’ve found strong fan support and compliance with this measure since our events restarted and we will continue to apply it moving forward.

“There are however a number of unanswered questions about how those unable to obtain a vaccination are to be handled, so we urge the government to consult constructively with the industry to iron out these circumstances before any plans are finalised.”


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Scotland’s TRNSMT festival permitted to go ahead

Scotland’s biggest music festival, Glasgow’s Trnsmt, has been permitted to go ahead this September with up to 50,000 non-socially distanced fans per day.

The festival has been awarded the status of ‘gateway event’ by the Scottish government because of its place as ‘an internationally significant flagship event’.

This status exempts Trnsmt from the current 5,000-person capacity limit on outdoor events.

The three-day music festival will take place at Glasgow Green between 10–12 September with headliners Courteeners, Liam Gallagher and The Chemical Brothers.

The festival, which would usually take place with up to 150,000 people in July, has not been held since 2019. The 2020 event was cancelled in April last year, a month after the first Covid lockdown was announced.

“I’m delighted to confirm that Trnsmt has been given approval to take place this year due to its status as a gateway event”

This year, promoter DF concerts is working with the Scottish government and Glasgow City Council to deliver the event.

Geoff Ellis, chief executive at Trnsmt and CEO at DF Concerts, says: “I’m delighted to confirm that cinch presents Trnsmt has been given approval to take place this year due to its status as a gateway event, with permission to host up to 50,000 fans per day over the weekend of 10–12 September. We’re looking forward to working in partnership with the Scottish government and Glasgow City Council in delivering the festival.”

The news comes after the first minister announced on Tuesday (3 August) that most Covid restrictions would be lifted from Monday 9 August.

Capacity limits of 2,000 people indoors and 5,000 people outdoors will remain in place beyond Monday although some exceptions may be possible on a case by case basis.

“This will allow us and local authorities to be assured of the arrangements in place to reduce risk,” the Scottish government said in a statement.


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UK festival pilot builds hope for reopening

A successful outcome from yesterday’s 5,000-person Sefton Park Pilot in Liverpool will provide a lifeline to the entire UK live music business by proving that festivals can go ahead safely with no social distancing this summer, organiser Melvin Benn has said.

Featuring music from Zuzu, the Lathums and Blossoms, the one-day music festival took place on 2 May as part of the British government’s Events Research Programme (ERP), following two 3,000-person club nights, dubbed The First Dance, held at Liverpool’s Bramley-Moore Dock on 30 April and 1 May. Like all ERP events, there was no requirement to socially distance or wear a face covering at the three pilots, though all ticketholders required a negative Covid-19 test to gain entry.

Festival Republic MD Benn described the model as a “prototype” to reopen the industry after more than a year without any significant live music events. “Will we always need it? I hope not,” he told IQ, “but we’ve learnt a lot and we’re ready to pass it onto the industry.”

For the Sefton Park event, attendees and guests underwent a supervised lateral-flow test (LFT) at a local tennis centre up to 32 hours before the event. Each test was registered directly with the National Health Service (NHS), and results communicated via text and email within 30 minutes, with a negative test result activating each ticket. An additional testing site was positioned directly outside Sefton Park.

Alongside the lateral flow test, attendees were also encouraged to carry out a government PCR test, mailed by post, with a second test completed up to five days after the show. To motivate fans to complete the post-show test, Festival Republic offered a range of festival ticket prizes as an incentive.

Testing for staff, guests and press was overseen by Caroline Giddings and Solo Agency, one of a number of live music businesses to offer its support to the event, which was pulled together in the space of three weeks. (That’s not quite a record, said Benn – the One Love Manchester show with Ariana Grande was organised in even less time – but it was “pretty quick!”.)

“It’s important for the industry … that events like this happen”

In addition to Festival Republic, “there are people working on it from SJM, from DF, from Cream, from Isle of Wight Festival – it’s a bit of an industry effort,” explained DF Concerts’ Geoff Ellis. “It’s important for the industry and for fans that events like this happen to help us get there.”

For Ellis, who described Sefton Park Pilot as a “monumental occasion”, it was “really surreal being here because it feels dreamlike,” he said. “You’re seeing people from the industry and you bump into them and you’re wondering, ‘Wow, is this really happening?’”

Speaking to IQ, Benn related the event in similar terms, saying organisers, fans and artists alike were conscious of participating in a “historic moment” paving the way towards an overdue return to something approaching normality.

Benn is as confident as he was in summer 2020 that rapid testing (now coupled with vaccinations) is the key to unlocking the return of live events. “It’s something I’ve been saying since June last year, and it’s taken a long time for government to listen, but I think they do believe in it now,” he explained. “They did have faith in this [Sefton Park Pilot], and certainly [from conversations with] the scientific teams from government and outside of government that I’ve been working with, the modelling of this seems to suggest to me that it can work.”

“What we are learning is that a festival isn’t going to need to look different to how it did look, or behave different to how it behaved,” pre-coronavirus, he continued. “Putting on a festival, as any festival promoter will tell you, is a series of hurdles, and we’ve all learnt how to jump every single hurdle that’s ever put in front of us. Covid one is another one. We’ll find ways of overcoming.”

The other hurdle at present, of course, is the non-availability of event cancellation insurance, though Benn expects more news on that front in the coming weeks.

“What we are learning is that a festival needn’t look different to how it did”

“The government provided insurance for this event, to give us the backing we needed, and in doing so they demonstrated there’s a need for insurance,” he explained. “There’s a team working very hard to find a way […] out of this, and hopefully by the beginning of June there’ll be something in place.”

As in Barcelona, where a recent pilot arena show demonstrated a lower incidence of Covid-19 than in the city as a whole, Sefton Park Pilot needn’t record zero cases to be considered a success, Benn continued. “It’s not necessarily about no infections,” he said. “The ideal outcome is that there is no greater spread of the virus in Liverpool than there already was. We want to prove you can have these events and it doesn’t present a greater risk to the area than already exists.”

While interim findings from the ERP events will be reported to the prime minister in a matter of weeks, Benn revealed that a second FR-organised outdoor pilot show is in the pipeline. While details are yet to be announced, it will likely be similar in format to Sefton Park Pilot, and “greenfield, for certain”, according to Benn.

Like Sefton Park Pilot, that second pilot event will again mobilise an army of festival staff and music fans in numbers not seen since the summer of 2019. But Benn, like everyone involved with the pilots, is hopeful those events won’t be a one-off.

“There have been a huge amount of people who made the effort to give up their time for this, and they all put an enormous amount of work into it,” he said. “So what we’re learning, we want to tell everybody – because this is for the whole industry.”


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Scotland’s Trnsmt 2020 cancelled

Scotland’s biggest music festival, Glasgow’s Trnsmt, has called off its 2020 edition following comments made yesterday (23 April) by the country’s first minister which suggested public gatherings were likely to be banned for the foreseeable future.

Large events such as sporting matches, concerts and festivals may not be permitted for “some months to come”, said Nicola Sturgeon, who explained: “I cannot conceive that in the near future we will be going back to having large numbers of people gathering together at large events, given the need to keep some kind of social distancing.”

Trnsmt, launched in 2017 as an unofficial replacement for DF Concerts’ T in the Park, was this year scheduled for 10–12 July, with headlines Courteeners, Liam Gallagher and Lewis Capaldi.

In a statement, DF says: “We are absolutely gutted to announce that, due to the comments made by the first minister of Scotland during the daily briefing on 23 April, Trnsmt will be unable to go ahead as planned in July 2020. We did not want to take this step but it is unavoidable.

“We are working hard to try to get the 2021 line-up as close to this year’s as we can”

“The health and safety of our fans, artists, staff and community will always be our top priority. We are now working hard with all the artist teams to try to get the 2021 line-up as close to this year’s as we can, and will be able to update on this fully over the next two weeks. We’d like to thank the artist teams for their hard work in helping us to try and achieve this.”

Fans are urged to hold onto their tickets for next year’s event (9–11 July 2021), though refunds are also available.

At press time, DF Concerts’ other major summer event, 8–20 August’s Summer Sessions in Edinburgh, is still on – as is as is Kilimanjaro Live’s Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival (30 July–1 August), though organisers concede cancellation is “looking more likely as time progresses”.

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the world’s largest arts festival, was called off on 1 April.


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Wee will rock you: Scotland market report

Let’s talk about Scottish independence. We’re referring, obviously, to Gerry Cinnamon, the staunchly indie, Glaswegian guitar-basher who has packed a career’s worth of touring milestones into the past two or three years.

There was the pair of sold-out shows at Glasgow’s Barrowland Ballroom in 2017 – the first unsigned artist to manage such a feat. Then Cinnamon really went up in the world, with two Christmas 2019 gigs at Glasgow’s SSE Hydro and one at Aberdeen’s 15,000-capacity P&J Arena – the biggest indoor show ever in Scotland. And, surely capping it all off, next summer’s show at Hampden Park: 50,000 tickets… all long gone.

“He grew up literally a stone’s throw away from Hampden, in Castlemilk,” says Geoff Ellis, CEO of DF Concerts. “We sold it out in a day.”

The fact that Cinnamon has also quickly converted local-hero status into arena-filling UK and Ireland success underscores Scotland’s status as a rigorous proving ground for its own artists, of whom he and Lewis Capaldi, are just the latest to break in a big way.

“If you go down well here, you are not going to be too shabby when you go out in the rest of the world,” theorises Hold Fast Entertainment’s Donald MacLeod, who operates Glasgow venues the Cathouse and the Garage.

Scotland in 2020 isn’t necessarily an easy place to get ahead, but it is bursting with local talent, busy promoters and full venues. The nation’s live industry added £431 million to the broader economy last year and sustained 4,300 full-time jobs, as well as drawing 1.1m music tourists – a jump of 38% from 2017 [source: UK Music].

Scotland in 2020 isn’t necessarily an easy place to get ahead, but it is bursting with local talent, busy promoters and full venues

There are all sorts of storylines in the wider drama of Scotland’s live music business. Edinburgh is on the up, with the tantalising prospect of an arena on the horizon at last. Glasgow, traditionally a supercharged music city with a perpetual tendency to steal the thunder of the more genteel capital, a 45-minute journey away, still does the business, but it isn’t having its best moment after losing the pivotal O2 ABC to a devastating fire last year.

Meanwhile, the festival scene evolves – out with T in the Park, in with TRNSMT and others. The Highlands, islands and notable towns and cities work hard to make the case that there is life outside the Central Belt. And Scotland’s thriving trad scene makes the case that there is more to life than pop.

But still the talent keeps coming. “We are not short of talent and bands coming up. We punch well above our weight,” says MacLeod.

Biffy Clyro, Franz Ferdinand, Calvin Harris, Young Fathers, Chvrches, Paolo Nutini, Amy Macdonald and Tom Walker have all attested to that in recent years, and Scottish venue calendars are reliably stuffed with local favourites: Capaldi, Simple Minds, Texas and Deacon Blue at the SSE Hydro this year; Jesus & Mary Chain and The Twilight Sad at Barrowlands; Edwyn Collins and Susan Boyle at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall.

And new artists, too: “Walt Disco, Slow Readers Club, Tamzene, The Snuts, The Dunts – are all selling out venues above 1,000-cap,” says Ellis. “We have got a really good, healthy scene at club level and that gets people engaged a bit more in terms of live music.”

“We have got a really good, healthy scene at club level and that gets people engaged a bit more in terms of live music”

You might imagine Scottish promoters were a tough, rivalrous bunch, but a photo tweeted by Donald MacLeod in December was a picture of harmony: the key figures from DF Concerts, Regular Music, PCL Presents and Triple G, smiling on the fairway at Loch Lomond Golf Club at an away-day put on by SSE Hydro.

“Aye, that was a good laugh,” says MacLeod, who in addition to his Glasgow clubs is a director of promoter Triple G, chair of Nordoff-Robbins Scotland and a columnist for The Sunday Post. “It’s a lot of promoters for the size of the market. But we all get on well. We are not bitter rivals, we are frenemies. We will all, at times, work with each other.”

Glasgow-based DF, part of LN-Gaiety Investments since 2008, is Scotland’s largest promoter, proprietor of the three-year-old TRNSMT at Glasgow Green, and the Summer Sessions series in Edinburgh and Glasgow each August, as well as shows from club- to stadium-level, and the celebrated King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut on St Vincent Street in Glasgow.

“2019 was a great year for us as a business,” says Ellis. “I think it was great for the market generally in Scotland. But it’s not easy – you have to get the pricing right, and you have to really work it. Scotland is only five million people. If you are doing a show at the Hydro, you are selling to all of Scotland.”

There are numerous independents, including PCL, Triple G, Synergy, 432 Presents, EDM specialists Fly Events and Electronic Edinburgh, and Highlands and islands specialist Beyond Presents.

“Scotland is only five million people. If you are doing a show at the Hydro, you are selling to all of Scotland”

But the largest is Edinburgh’s Regular Music, which continues to do large-scale business. Its properties including the annual concerts at Edinburgh Castle’s Esplanade and Summer Nights at Kelvingrove Bandstand in Glasgow. Eleven of the latter’s twelve 8,500-cap nights sold out in 2019, with stars including Teenage Fanclub and Hue & Cry, plus Suede, Patti Smith, Burt Bacharach and The National.

“We only promote in Scotland, and that’s our identity,” says Regular’s John Stout. “We are always conscious that Live Nation and AEG can offer Europe-wide and kind of exclude us. But we have got good relationships with a lot of bands that come back to us year after year. Stereophonics come back to us every time; we are working with Bon Iver and Lana Del Rey, so it’s not all going to the big guys.”

Another Regular regular are local boys The Proclaimers, who are in a career purple patch. “In Scotland alone, between September 2018 and September 2019, we did just over 70,000 tickets,” says Stout. “That includes two sold-out Edinburgh Castle shows, a sold-out Hydro, and a theatre tour. They will tour any town that has a 500-capacity venue. They have built that audience through hard work and quality.”

Beyond Events, which operates from Ullapool on the north-west coast, 45 miles from Inverness, has operated for 20 years across the great open spaces outside the two largest cities, from festivals down to tiny rooms, and latterly sometimes in Glasgow and Edinburgh, too.

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Third outing cements Trnsmt as Glasgow staple

The third edition of DF Concerts’ Trnsmt took place at Glasgow Green over the weekend, with headliners Stormzy, Catfish and the Bottlemen and George Ezra playing to sold-out crowds.

Around 150,000 festivalgoers descended on the event from 12 to 14 July to see acts including Lewis Capaldi, Bastille, the Snuts, Gerry Cinnamon and Years and Years. Organisers confirmed the return of the event immediately after the close of the main stage on Sunday, projecting the 2020 dates onto buildings in the centre of Glasgow.

“After three hugely successful years, Trnsmt is now an established part of Glasgow’s annual cultural calendar,” says festival director and DF Concerts chief executive Geoff Ellis.

“This year’s sold-out festival was the best yet with so many highlights. We can’t wait to return to Glasgow Green next summer for another phenomenal weekend of music.”

“Trnsmt is now an established part of Glasgow’s annual cultural calendar”

The festival was smaller in scale than the 2018 event, which took place over two consecutive weekends. A new addition to the 2019 festival came in the form of the female-only Queen Tut’s stage, which aimed “to close the gender play gap”.

Trnsmt launched in 2017, after DF Concerts put major camping festival T in the Park on hold due to “onerous site restrictions”. Ellis recently confirmed that T in the Park would not be making a return.

“It’s all about Trnsmt for us now,” states Ellis, who last year told IQ that the appetite for large-scale camping festivals in Scotland had declined.

Trnsmt also garnered the support of the local council, with Glasgow city council leader Susan Aitken naming Trnsmt an “integral part” of the city’s offering and commending the “vibrancy and enjoyment” it provides.

Trnsmt 2020 will take place from 10 to 12 July on Glasgow Green.


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