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Global hails successful festival debut as profits rise

Global, the UK’s second-largest festival operator, recorded its eighth consecutive year of growth in 2016–17, increasing earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) 4.4% to £74.5 million.

Through its subsidiaries Global Festivals Ltd and Global Live Ltd, Global – formed by Ashley Tabor in 2007, and known primarily for most of its existence as Britain’s largest commercial radio operator – made several acquisitions of festival promoters in the year ending 31 March 2017, cementing its status as Live Nation’s nearest competitor for control of the UK festival market.

They were: Count of Ten (100% stake), on 4 June 2016; Broadwick Live, on 31 May 2016 (49% stake) and 20 September 2016 (a further 7.6%); Lock’n’Load Ltd (75.7%) and Waxarch Ltd (80.6%), both on 3 October 2016 (full story here); Victorious Festivals Ltd (65.5%), on 17 October 2016; and Lakeside Creatives Ltd (66%), The Hideout Festivals LLP (80%) and Moving Music Ltd (75%), all on 21 February 2017.

Global Festivals Ltd also absorbed Global 05699567 Ltd, a holding company formerly known as Ugly Duckling Investments Ltd, on 21 February.

The combined success of its radio business and its “successful entry in the festival sector” represented an “extremely successful year” for Global

The main reason for the increase in profitability was growth in commercial revenues. While Global director and CFO Darren Singer, in his preface to the Global group’s 2016/17 accounts, writes that the “full financial impact of these acquisitions will be reflected in the group’s 2017/18 financial results, because the majority of the acquired festivals took place before the group had acquired the festival entities”, the combined success of its radio business and its “successful entry in the festival sector” represented an “extremely successful year” for Global.

The accounts also reveal that one of Global’s motivations for getting into festivals is a weak advertising market, with a portfolio of music events allowing the company to offer “tailored solutions to advertisers, […] enhanced during the year with the addition of a number of music festivals.”

Total 2016/17 revenue was also up, to £302.6m – an increase of 9.6% on 2015/2016’s £276.2m – although Singer notes that the company “continues to make a statutory loss”.

IQ revealed last September that Global is scaling back its Global Live touring operation to focus on its festivals business, which holds an 8% marketshare in the UK less than two years after launch.


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Global scales back touring business as live team joins LN

Global Entertainment, the UK’s second-largest festival operator, is downsizing its touring business in favour of a renewed focus on its portfolio of festivals, following former Global Live chief Sam Bush and promoter Joe Schiavon’s move to rival Live Nation, IQ has learnt.

While some sources tell IQ Global’s decision came as a result of Bush and Schiavon’s departure, the company says the reorientation is down to “significant growth” in its festivals division, with the business now holding 8% marketshare in the UK less than two years after its launch.

“Two years after we made our first move into the festivals business, we’re the second largest operator in the UK, and we’re seeing significant growth,” says the spokesperson. “We’ve therefore made the decision to focus on this part of the business, and while we will still do some touring, we’re prioritising growing our festivals business. As a result, Sam and Joe have moved on, and we wish them all the best.

“We’re continuing to expand the festivals business in the UK and internationally. All the festivals have their own established bookers, who will continue to programme the festivals and book acts.”

Global Live launched as a division of Global Entertainment in April 2015, with Bush, formerly head of live music at AEG UK, as director. Global Entertainment – which also includes music publishing and management divisions – was initially headed up by former AEG CEO Randy Phillips, although he exited after seven months, with his role being absorbed by Global founder Ashley Tabor (Phillips later turned up at SFX Entertainment successor LiveStyle).

“While we will still do some touring, we’re prioritising growing our festivals business”

The company entered the festival business in June 2015, buying into Broadwick Live (Festival №6, Snowbombing, Boardmasters), and recently grew its portfolio to a total of 17 events by by acquiring majority stakes in Hideout Festival in Croatia and Victorious Festival in the UK.

Bush, who is now Live Nation’s president of UK touring, and Schiavon, who continues in a national promoter role, join Live Nation UK after a record summer for the company, with more than three million people attending its events, including a string of sell-out stadium shows and several successful festivals.

They are joined by new promoters Kamran Haq – who cut his teeth as a local promoter in Manchester, before moving on to work with acts such as Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes, Creeper, Neck Deep, State Champs and Basement – and Sean Ryman, who joins from Academy Music Group, where he promoted nationally shows by Taking Back Sunday, Slaves, Less than Jake and The Used.

All four new hirings underscore Live Nation UK’s “commitment to invest in and develop new talent”, says the company. Recent LNUK artist break-outs include Dua Lipa, Giggs, Pvris, Creeper, Mura Masa and Nothing but Thieves, while upcoming shows by emerging artists include Sigrid, Stefflon Don, Blackbear, Lil Peep, Tom Tripp, Greta Van Fleet and Rolling Blackouts.

Andy Copping, Live Nation executive president of touring, UK, comments: “It is with great pleasure that I welcome Sam, Joe, Kamran and Sean to Live Nation. Following our partnership with Metropolis Music this year and the addition of these hires, we have further strengthened a formidable promotions team who are dedicated to breaking artists, building careers and bringing even more incredible live experiences to fans in the UK.”


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AIF urges fresh CMA inquiry as LN marketshare nears 25%

The UK’s Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) has written to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to urge it widens its investigation of Live Nation’s acquisition of Isle of Wight Festival to include an inquiry into US promoter’s “position in the [UK] market overall”.

AIF, which represents more than 60 British music festivals, made the recommendation after publishing research that shows Live Nation either owns or holds a majority stake in nearly a quarter (23%) of all UK events with a capacity of over 5,000.

In total, Live Nation controls 28 UK festivals, including eight of Britain’s nine largest outdoor events (the exception, of course, is Glastonbury) – almost three times more than its nearest competitor, Global, which AIF says holds 8% marketshare.

The only non-Live Nation festival in the ten biggest “major-owned” festivals in the UK is AEG’s 65,000-cap. British Summer Time, which is in sixth position, behind Creamfields.

Commenting on what he calls the “profound and serious consequences of Live Nation’s vertically integrated approach”, AIF’s general manager, Paul Reed, says: “For the sake of its future health and diversity, it is vital that the UK’s live music sector remains open and competitive. We continually need new artists to break through and entrepreneurs to launch fresh and exciting events.

“The live music sector is fiercely competitive, but data we have published today rings several alarm bells – highlighting that a single transnational corporation is fast headed towards widespread dominance. For independent festival operators, a Live Nation monopoly would quite simply be a stranglehold with profound and serious consequences.”

“For independent festival operators, a Live Nation monopoly would be a stranglehold with profound and serious consequences”

Of particular concern, says AIF, is Live Nation’s “deep-rooted influence across the live music sector, from venue and festival ownership” – the company owns a network of small- and mid-sized venues through Academy Music Group and the former MAMA & Company venues – “through to control of ticketing with Ticketmaster, ownership of two of the ‘big four’ secondary ticketing sites and security and management businesses”.

“The complaint we hear privately from a growing number of AIF members is about the collateral damage caused by the imposition of hugely restrictive exclusivity deals,” continues Reed. “By their nature, these deals are anti-competitive, restraining when and where even the smallest artist can perform and significantly diminishing the pool of talent that non-Live Nation promoters can draw upon. On this basis, we have urged the CMA to extend their investigations beyond acquisition of the Isle of Wight Festival and into Live Nation’s position in the market overall.”

One festival promoter, who wishes to remain anonymous, says such exclusivity deals constitute anti-competitive behaviour on the part of Live Nation. “An as independent music festival under 10,000 capacity, we come up against huge challenges as a result of the exclusivity clauses put in place by Live Nation. The majority of artists booked by Live Nation for their festivals are on some sort of exclusivity clause.

“There were 40-plus acts in 2017 alone that booking agents told me I would not be able to book as a result of these ‘unofficial’ clauses. This has a detrimental effect on up and coming artists and independent festivals alike and is clearly anti-competitive behaviour.”

Live Nation declined to comment.


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Festivals “more safe” following year of terror

Music festivals “have to see the positives” in the recent wave of terror in Europe, the promoter of Belgium’s Rock Werchter has said, with festivals now better prepared for any future incidents as a result of increased security.

Speaking on the Festival 2020: The Long View panel at the International Festival Forum (IFF) in London, Herman Schueremans said Rock Werchter – which, along with five other Belgian events, implemented bag checks and a raft of other security measures for 2016 – said: “Everything negative has something positive. The bottom line is, we learnt from it. Festivals can say they are more safe now.”

Stephan Thanscheidt, managing director of Hamburg-based FKP Scorpio, was less optimistic, saying that the threat of terror “will remain a problem for us” and revealing that in the wake of four terrorist incidents in Germany in the space of a week in late July, ticket sales to its August festivals “went down to almost zero. The fear of terror was enormous for a while.”

He said there were “huge traffic jams” caused by the beefed-up security (“the things we needed [to implement] were crazy, but necessary”), although Schueremans countered that “extra checks don’t always mean long queues. By anticipating and doing pre-checks, you can even save time.”

“Everything negative has something positive. The bottom line is, we learnt from it”

Former AEG UK director of live music Sam Bush, now director of Global Live, whose portfolio includes Festival №6, Snowbombing and Electric Elephant in Croatia, said it’s important festivalgoers aren’t put off by terror, but that there’s only a certain amount festivals – like any major public gathering – can do: “Our foremost concern is festivalgoers’ safety,” he said. “But the reality is that it’s world we live in today. As long as we’ve got everything covered [from the security side], there’s nothing more we can do.”

Schueremans agreed on the importance of festivals in combating fear of terrorism. “Festivals are about uniting people, bringing them together,” he said. “Politics and religion divide people. Festivals unite people.

“And we’re the lucky bastards that can get youngsters together, new generations together, under the banner of music. Isn’t that fantastic?”


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