A Rare Breed: Ginger Owl celebrates 10th anniversary
When you consider the baptism of fire that was Nancy Skipper and Julie Chennells’ entry into the live music industry, it’s no wonder their company became renowned for delivering when the heat is on.
The North London-born pair first met in 1998, working in the hallowed offices of Harvey Goldsmith CBE, the legendary English promoter who has worked with everyone from Madonna to The Rolling Stones but who is perhaps best known for Live Aid and the Teenage Cancer Trust shows.
Though Chennells gained some prior experience in the live music industry, working as a festival production assistant for Mean Fiddler, both women agree that Goldsmith’s office is “where it all began.”
“It was mad,” Chennells tells IQ. “It was a traditional rock and roll company – chaotic, fun, busy. There were lots of big personalities. It was incredible really.”
According to Goldsmith, the company at that time was producing 750-plus concerts a year, with Julie and Nancy supporting Pete Wilson, Dennis Arnold, and Andrew Zweck.
“Harvey [Goldsmith] was a great teacher”
“I worked in all the different departments in that company – from ticketing to production to marketing,” says Chennells. “It was a good exercise in being able to turn your hand to anything. And Harvey was a great teacher.”
Goldsmith, who is known as “our industry dad” to Skipper and Chennells, tells IQ he taught them as much as he could about the touring business: “They have seen it all, every bit of madness that our world offers, and have not only survived but have thrived. They are a great team.”
Chennells adds: “It changed me completely that job – more so than anything else. You had to be really resilient and – to use a cliche – work hard, play hard. I’ve never really experienced a job like that. Everything after that was never quite as mad.”
“Plus, he knows all the music industry legends,” says Skipper who worked as a bookkeeper at a media company in Soho before joining Harvey Goldsmith in 1997. “There aren’t many people in the UK industry of his generation that haven’t worked with him. As a result, we know so many big players in the industry.”
Some of those big players proved to be the stepping stones from Goldsmith’s office to their freelance careers to eventually launching their own company. Skipper left Goldsmith’s operations in 2005 to move to Devon in the southwest of England, and though she’d resigned herself to getting “a regular job,” her fate in the live music industry was sealed.
“When you’re repping on your own, you have to do every single thing, from security briefings to guestlist”
“Paul Loasby, manager to Jools Holland and Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour, kicked off my freelance career,” she explained. He said, “It’s fine if you leave [Harvey], but you can take the work with you and do it remotely.”
“David Gilmour started touring in 2005/06, so I was really busy straightaway. If that hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have had the financial ability to kind of support myself and start my career as a freelancer. Allowing me to work from home was a really progressive approach from Paul. He just wanted to make sure that he had consistency with the people that he was working with.”
Skipper and Loasby went on to produce a Jools Holland tour every single year after that, as well as two more tours for Gilmour. To this day, the pair still look after the famed artists.
Chennells, meanwhile, left Goldsmith’s company in 2004 and also pursued a freelance career, primarily production-repping on behalf of Live Nation and SJM for increasingly large shows.
“I got some real hands-on experience during that time,” she says. “When you’re repping on your own, you have to do every single thing going, from security briefings to guestlist to production load-in. That time really cemented my knowledge of the other side of the industry that maybe I hadn’t got when I was office-based.”
“We did around 11 weeks of back-to-back festivals straightaway… our first year of [Ginger Owl] was incredible”
Though each of the women went their separate ways after the Goldsmith years, their paths crossed more than ever as freelancers. “More and more, Nancy and I got each other into jobs,” says Chennells. “Sometimes clients wanted two of you or sometimes I couldn’t do it and she could do it and vice versa.
“We both always worked as freelance artist liaison reps on the Live Nation festivals (before they became Festival Republic), but then we were asked to take over running the backstage. Between us, we were running all of their festivals that year, and at the same time, we also had other jobs coming in that we worked on together as freelancers.”
Eventually, the pair were working on so many freelance jobs together, forming the company felt like the next logical step. “It took us longer to decide what to call it than it did to decide to do it,” laughs Skipper.
Ginger Owl was officially launched in April 2013 and from the get-go, business boomed. “We did around 11 weeks of back-to-back festivals straightaway… our first year was incredible,” says Skipper. “We got a lot of work from Live Nation that first year. They’ve always been so supportive of us – from the festivals to touring to VIP work to guestlists work, we’ve always counted them as one of our major clients.”
Live Nation and Festival Republic weren’t the only clients that remained loyal to Ginger Owl. The pair retained Teenage Cancer Trust, One Fifteen’s Jools Holland Autumn Tour, The BRIT Awards, Loudsound, Beautiful Days festival, and MTV from their prior era.
“We often get calls where people say: ‘This is going a little wrong, we need a team in here”
And their offering has only gained value with the recent launch of their bespoke software systems, GO Advance and GO Backstage, which streamline event management, accreditation, logistics, and advancing.
On top of that, the pair have continued to build a reputation as ‘firefighters’ of the industry – a skill they believe was honed at Harvey Goldsmiths. “We do have a reputation as fixers,” says Chennells. “We often get calls where people say: ‘This is going a little wrong, we need a team in here.’”
“People come to us in a last-minute situation because they know that we have access to all the people that they need,” adds Skipper.
She recalls a time in the early days of Ginger Owl when she was asked last minute to work on a “wild concert” in Nigeria for an oil and gas company. Her response was classic: “Sounds dangerous; I’m in.”
“Within a week, I had all my jabs done and was on a plane. But I was the only female on a 64-person team when I landed there, so in the dressing rooms it was quite crazy – a real eye-opener.
“I was the only female on a 64-person team when I landed there, so in the dressing rooms it was quite crazy”
“There we really did face issues with me being a female – they just weren’t used to having a woman ask or tell them things at all. Obviously, the international team was absolutely fine – they were quite used to it – but dealing with the artist side was very hard. It was a real baptism of fire. I think that’s where my addiction to really difficult shows started,” she laughs.
It may be that addiction that led Ginger Owl to take on their biggest international client yet – MDLBEAST, the Saudi Arabia-based entertainment company behind Soundstorm Festival and XP Conference.
Contrary to what one might think, Skipper says that Ginger Owl’s challenges in the market have “nothing to do with them being female and everything to do with Saudi being a really new market.”
“They just have a completely different way of working,” she explains. “They will phone you at four in the morning and tell you that one of the artists wants to go on a trip into the dunes the next day and expect it done. At first, we fought against it, but it’s actually just a cultural difference.
“I think, in a slightly sick way, I quite enjoy the challenge”
“You still have to do your prep, but you also have to be ready to deal with anything. We get calls for Soundstorm where they say the head of a tech company is on his way, and he’s going to need cars, hotels, and visas, and his jet lands in however many hours. And there’s nothing you can do except just get on with it. I think, in a slightly sick way, I quite enjoy the challenge,” she laughs.
With MDLBEAST demanding ample time and manpower, Ginger Owl has set up a whole team in Saudi led by Skipper, who now splits her time between Riyadh and Suffolk while Chennells manages the UK side of the business.
In the last two years, the Ginger Owl team has grown to 12 full-time staff, as well as a raft of multiskilled industry professionals on a freelance basis.
Last year, that team worked on 85 events including 39 festivals, 20 awards shows and TV productions, 6 tours, 11 unique events, 6 film/ TV premieres, 2 landmark sporting events, and the state funeral. And with 2023 looking to be just as busy for Ginger Owl, IQ asks Chennells and Skipper what’s next for them.
“We’re trying to step back and be more strategic and let our managers run the festivals, and then we can oversee it all… I think we’d like to do less firefighting,” laughs Chennells.
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Live music to set the stage for COP26 Glasgow
Live music will play a supporting role in the United Nations Climate Change Conference (aka COP26), in Glasgow, this month.
The summit will take place between 31 October and 12 November at the Scottish Event Campus, the site of the nation’s flagship live music venue, the newly renamed OVO Hydro (cap. 13,000).
Running alongside the conference is a three-day fringe festival, Beyond The Green, celebrating music, the arts and sustainability.
The fringe festival will include a not-for-profit event combining live performances and conference sessions, led by sustainable events specialist UMA Entertainment (UMAE).
The 6 November event will involve a day of panels from climate experts and thought leaders across NGOs, youth activism, music and the entertainment industry, including several LIVE Green working group members.
UMA Entertainment’s event will feature performances from acclaimed artists Aurora, Sam Fischer and BEMZ
Speakers include A Greener Festival director Teresa Moore, Beggars Group head of sustainability Will Hutton, Tyndall Centre deputy director Professor Carly McLachlan and Groove Armada’s Andy Cato.
Performances from acclaimed artists Aurora, Sam Fischer and BEMZ will be followed by an after-show event with sets from Cato, Sarra Wild and Darwin.
UMAE, which is chaired by Live Aid promoter Harvey Goldsmith, is working on the event with partners including Future for Humanity, Ivy Farm, Stabal, PRS, PPL, Ecosia, Count Us In, Bluedot Festival, Julie’s Bicycle, LIVE Green, and Featured Artists Coalition.
“We are thrilled to be leading on the conversation of culture and entertainment and the role it plays in driving change at scale at COP26, a pivotal event in the climate crisis,” says Harvey Goldmsith. “This event is the cornerstone of what’s to come from UMA in our mission to produce events that push the global climate agenda forward.”
LIVE Green chair John Langford added: “In the wake of Live Green unveiling a suitability charter for the live music industry, it’s encouraging to see so many artists, their representatives and other influential personalities taking a clear stand against climate change at COP 26.”
Earth Aid, Music Managers Forum, Positive Impact, Exit [Live], EarthPercent, Music Declares Emergency and Beggars Group are also associated.
All profits from the ticketed event will be donated to official charity partner EarthPercent founded by Brian Eno, and social impact charities in Glasgow.
Also running alongside COP26 is a new concert series to help “turn the tide on the climate crisis”, organised by leading Scottish promoter DF concerts and Project Zero.
Concerts for Climate will feature some of the biggest names in Scottish music including Twin Atlantic and Admiral Fallow
The series, Concerts for Climate, will feature some of the biggest names in Scottish music including Twin Atlantic, Admiral Fallow, the Ninth Wave, Rachel Sermanni, Rura, Blue Rose Code, Tamzene and The National Youth Pipe Band.
The event will take place at Scottish venue King Tuts Wah Wah Hut on 11 November, and is set to become the first in a series of global music events produced by Project Zero.
All proceeds from the Concerts for Climate series will fund a global network of projects that protect and restore the ocean and blue carbon ecosystems (mangroves, seagrass meadows and tidal marshes).
“We are honoured to host the very first Project Zero Concert at King Tut’s, in the host city of COP26, Glasgow,” says Susan Kerr, King Tut’s.
“It is so important that we tackle climate change now and, this concert series will help draw attention to the fact our oceans are our biggest weapon in fighting the climate emergency.”
Tickets for Concerts for Climate go on sale tomorrow (22 October) at 10.00 BST.
COP26 comes a month after LIVE Green launched the ‘Beyond Zero Declaration’ to reduce net emissions across the UK’s live music business to zero by 2030. The declaration and charter has been signed by the 13 key associations representing the various sectors of the business.
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UK stars weigh in on ‘final countdown’ for insurance
UK superstars have joined the chorus of industry experts and trade associations calling on the UK government to commit to underwriting cancellation costs of events such as music festivals and tours, to enable the restart of the live entertainment sector from this summer.
Jools Holland, Depeche Mode, Johnny Marr, Sir Cliff Richard, Robert Plant, Roger Daltrey, Amy McDonald, The Chemical Brothers, Frank Turner and Judas Priest are among those who have weighed in on the ongoing petition for a government-backed insurance scheme, similar to those launched in Norway, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Belgium.
The industry’s call-to-action comes days before chancellor Rishi Sunak is set to unveil the Budget. Alongside a government-backed insurance pot, the industry is also urging the chancellor to grant extensions on the 5% VAT rate on ticket sales; employment support; and business rates relief for shuttered venues.
The industry deems event cancellation insurance the ‘last remaining barrier’ to planning events this summer after British prime minister Boris Johnson announced a ‘cautious’ reopening roadmap that could allow festivals to take place after 21 June, but says the window of opportunity for this summer ‘will slam shut very shortly’.
“With the cut-off point for many organisers at the end of the month, this really is the final countdown for many businesses”
Paul Reed, AIF CEO, says: “The prime minister has set out a roadmap and a ‘no earlier than’ date for festivals, and audiences have responded, demonstrating a huge appetite to be back in the fields this summer. But we need government interventions on insurance and VAT before the end of this month when festivals will need to decide whether they can commit to serious amounts of upfront capital.
“Now that we have a ‘no earlier than’ date, insurance is the last remaining barrier to planning. We know that government is aware of the insurance issue and AIF has provided evidence and data to support the case. Having injected huge consumer confidence, government should intervene at this stage and ensure that our culture-defining independent festivals can mobilise and plan for this summer. With the cut-off point for many organisers at the end of the month, this really is the final countdown for many businesses.”
AIF, whose members include Boomtown Fair, Shambala, Boardmasters, End of the Road and Bluedot, recently conducted a member survey in which 92.5% of respondents confirmed they cannot stage events without insurance and described insurance measures as ‘vital’ not optional.
“The window of opportunity for this summer will slam shut very shortly. The government needs to act now”
Tim Thornhill, director of Tysers Entertainment and Sport Division, is working closely with the live entertainment insurance industry and live music industry umbrella organisation Live, to urge the government to work with industry to find a solution.
Thornhill comments: “The government has successfully created a scheme that has enabled the film and television industries to get back to work. Now they need to do the same for the live events industry. But the window of opportunity for this summer will slam shut very shortly. The government needs to act now.
“The live events industry is a massive employer and a significant generator of economic activity. Music alone employs over 200,000 people, with music tourism contributing £4.7bn to the UK economy*. The new YouGov survey shows that demand is there – they will buy tickets and spend on accommodation, food and drink. The government can unlock this boost to the economy at no cost to themselves, just a commitment to help underwrite the cost of cancellations should they occur.”
“This cover will allow our business to function as soon as it is safe for us to do so”
Jools Holland comments: “The solution to this problem could be simple – and what’s more, it doesn’t involve the government paying out money now. Maybe not even in the future, unless Covid strikes again. All we need from the government is the commitment to help if necessary.”
Roger Daltrey CBE comments: “The music business and arts have been enormously affected by the Covid-19 virus, with the ongoing health issues plus the problems thrown up by the government’s essential decision to close our places of work. The government however needs to understand how our industry functions. Promoters, especially those with festivals, bands and any touring acts have enormous outlays before commencing a tour, so insurance for these costs is paramount.
“Insurance companies will no longer cover these costs for Covid-19, which will render much of our business unviable as no promoter can risk setting up an event or tour without this cover. All we ask of our government is to put in place an insurance policy that, in the event of this situation happening again, will cover these costs. As it may be 100 years to the next pandemic it is extremely unlikely that this will involve the government paying out any money, but this cover will allow our business to function as soon as it is safe for us to do so.”
“We have seen the impact on the many people who help make the live shows happen”
The Chemical Brothers comments: “Like many other people we have had to put a lot of work on hold in the last year, and we have seen the impact on the many people who help make the live shows happen. Thousands of jobs have already been lost across the UK live music industry, with many more at risk. The UK government has already provided a financially backed scheme for the film industry, which has allowed production to resume. All we ask is that the same approach be taken to help those in the live events industry, which needs the support too and provides so much to the UK economically as well as culturally.”
Sir Cliff Richard comments: “The live events industry has suffered hugely as a result of the pandemic and has been shut down for nearly a year. Venues, performers and crew have all been badly affected. People’s jobs and income have vanished almost overnight. OUR BUSINESS BRINGS INSPIRATION AND HAPPINESS INTO PEOPLE’S LIVES. WE CAN MAKE THEM SMILE WHEN THEY ARE SAD AND WE CAN HELP THEM SING WHEN THEY HAVE NOTHING TO SING ABOUT! We need the government to help us plan for when it is safe to resume OUR business.”
“The industry is facing near catastrophe without adequate government support”
Amy MacDonald comments: “When people attend a gig they buy a ticket, turn up and enjoy the show. What they don’t always understand is the months of preparation that went on behind the scenes to get to that particular point. Thousands of emails and phone calls, meetings, site visits and not to mention huge amounts of money spent to just get to a point where the tickets are on sale. Another important aspect of preparing for a show is the need to ensure the event but it’s now impossible to get any insurance to cover these shows.
“As we have seen from the recent cancellation of Glastonbury, the live industry cannot even plan to start up again because it is too much of a risk without any insurance. The live industry has been put on hold for nearly a year and with no date for a return and no chance to even plan a return, the industry is facing near catastrophe without adequate government support. Nobody wants to live in a world without live music.”
“Can the PM tell us why he won’t help an industry that contributes billions to the UK economy each year?”
Robert Plant comments: “We all desperately want the UK live industry back on its feet again, so we can enjoy our favourite bands or sports event. Yet without insurance to cover these events, these things can’t happen. So please, can the PM tell us why he won’t help an industry that contributes billions to the UK economy each year?
“We’re not asking for any money, just a commitment to help if Covid ever strikes again. We don’t want a hand-out, we just need a hand up.. to help us get back on the stage. I’ve spent 55 years performing in halls, clubs, theatres and concerts halls across the UK. Now we’re in unchartered waters, soon there will be nowhere left to play. So I’m lending my voice to this campaign in the hope that the government will see sense and lend support before many of our beloved music venues disappear forever.”
Harvey Goldsmith CBE, promoter, comments: “As promoters and producers of live concerts we cannot produce tours without insurance against Covid. We are the risk takers and often have to pay considerable sums upfront to be able to create the tour. If the government at any time decide it is unsafe to continue, or commence a tour, we must be able to take insurance to protect us, as any normal business would expect. If no insurance is available our business will collapse.”
“The single most powerful measure the government could take is to underwrite any losses from Covid-19 cancellations”
Philip McIntyre, promoter, comments: “I would like to support your campaign to have the government underwrite any losses suffered from Covid 19 cancellations whilst the pandemic is still prevalent. My company is in the top five of all live entertainment groups in the UK we are obviously keen to start operating again but we worry about uninsured risk. Now we have a plan to come out of lockdown the single most powerful measure the government could take is to underwrite any losses from Covid-19 cancellations after June this year.
“This would give the risk takers so much confidence they the live arts would return to normal by December this year. If there are claims they would more than likely be on a regional basis and not onerous and the business generated in town and city centres would more than cover them in my estimation the government would be in profit 12 months ahead of a no action situation.”
Frank Turner comments: “It cannot be exaggerated, the devastation caused in my industry by the pandemic. We’re doing what we can to hang on and plan for a better future. An insurance plan will help us survive and come back quicker, and it doesn’t involve the government paying out any extra money now (or possibly ever). It would make an enormous difference.”
“Every effort is made to reduce the costs of a cancelled concert including trying to reschedule a date”
Johnny Marr comments: “The solution to getting music back up safely is easy and it doesn’t involve the government committing money now. All we need from the government is the commitment to help if necessary with an insurance scheme backed by them, and that will get our crews and suppliers back working. The government would only have to pay out in the worst case.”
Barrie Marshall MBE, promoter, comments: “The tremendous work of the NHS and the vaccination programme means that live events can start soon, this gives us hope that we can begin to share those magical moments and wonderful concerts once again. However, we need the government to help us by providing financial backing in the form of an insurance fund. This is needed to cover the costs of an event if it must be cancelled as a result of a Covid outbreak. Every effort is made to reduce the costs of a cancelled concert including trying to reschedule a date in the future but there are some circumstances where this is not possible.”
“We help to get our industry back on track and to help restart live events in a safe, effective way once it’s possible to do so”
John Giddings, promoter, comments: “Our industry has been hit immeasurably over the past year and we need to get it back up and running again. The government has got to help!”
Judas Priest comments: “The world has been more or less brought to its knees because of Covid-19 in this past year. It has affected so many people and businesses in all walks of life in so many ways. Our industry, the entertainment industry (which is a multi-billion dollar business), is suffering massively. It isn’t just affecting us – a band who want to get back out on the road, performing to our fans around the world – but it is affecting mainly our crew (and all the other crews), the venues and their staff, cleaners, security, caterers, local crew, bus drivers, truck drivers, lighting and video personnel, stage set designers and stage set builders. The list is endless.
“We need help, for the venues to be able to put on shows and the artists to be able to perform we all need to get tour insurance that will cover Covid-19 so shows can go ahead. Now we have the vaccine things should be on the way up but we need your help urgently, please!”
Depeche Mode comments: “With the live music industry in the UK shut down for over a year, our crew, our fans, venues, and everyone else who makes shows possible has been badly affected. Jobs and income have vanished almost overnight, and fans and artists alike have been left wondering when live shows will be possible again. We need the government to help us get our industry back on track and to help restart live events in a safe, effective way once it’s possible to do so.”
Government-backed insurance funds will be explored at ILMC during Insurance: The Big Update, while lessons that can be learned from 2020’s lost festival summer will be discussed during Festival Forum: Reboot & Reset.
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Harvey Goldsmith: ‘Crew are the engine of our business’
Legendary promoter Harvey Goldsmith CBE was among the UK’s leading live industry figures who attended the #WeMakeEvents campaign in London last night (11 August).
The UK-wide initiative, organised by the Professional Lighting & Sound Association (Plasa), was launched in a bid to draw attention to the struggling freelancers who work across the live events and entertainment sector.
Shows of support took place in towns and cities such as Bristol, Liverpool, Leeds and Bristol and Manchester, where hundreds of out-of-work crew workers took part in a silent march past the city’s closed venues.
London’s display saw thousands of professionals from the sector dress in red and line the banks of the River Thames and the surrounding bridges near Royal Festival Hall, the National Theatre and the Tate. The venues were lit in red to signal a “red alert”.
The finale saw a red-hued boat, carrying some of each industry’s most renowned figures including Goldsmith as well as singer-songwriter Frank Turner and Level 42 bassist Mark King, speed past the venues while the professionals and volunteers symbolised the “throw us a line” theme.
“These people here are the engine of our business. Without them, we don’t have a business,” Goldsmith told IQ.
“Making events is their livelihood so I’m all for events like this and I’m 100% behind what they’re doing. What they’ve done tonight with #WeMakeEvents is fantastic,” he concluded.
“None of us is worried about the future, we just all want to make sure we can get there”
Audiotonix CEO James Gordon delivered a keynote speech on the boat, relaying the top three objectives of the #WeMakeEvents campaign. The demands include a sector-specific furlough scheme, an extension to the self-employed and income support scheme for freelancers, and grants instead of loans for businesses in the supply chain that have been out of work.
“None of us is worried about the future, we just all want to make sure we can get there and return to being one of the fastest-growing sectors consistently in the UK,” Gordon said.
The UK’s live music sector, in particular, is currently pushing the government for a provisional date to reopen, a multi-year extension of the cultural VAT rate reduction beyond January in line with DCMS’s recent recommendations, and a government-backed reinsurance scheme to allow shows to go ahead.
UK venues were preparing to reopen from 1 August but the government pushed back the next step of lockdown easing by at least two weeks. Goldsmith says he hopes live shows will return without social distancing in the winter but the industry needs the green light first.
“We want a target date. We need four months to get ourselves together, in order to get back,” he tells IQ.
“We need to test out different systems for before people arrive at gigs. Social distancing doesn’t work. We want to do a test gig where we can use all of the available safety opportunities to prove that we could do it, like testing and tracking. And then once people are inside they’re inside. I’m working with some venues and we have everything lined up and ready to do a test show in November. We just need a target date.”
#WeMakeEvents follows on from the UK’s initial campaign, Let the Music Play, which highlighted the urgent need for government support to sustain the live industry’s broader ecosystem.
The initiative put forth a social media campaign and a letter laying out the necessary support measures, signed by artists and industry professionals, which was delivered to UK culture secretary Oliver Dowden.
Festicket receives $4.6m funding from Edge Investments
UK-based festival travel portal Festicket has secured a funding round of US$4.6 million from creative industries investment specialist, Edge Investments.
The investment from venture-capital firm Edge brings the total raised by the festival and travel company to nearly $30 million, following a series-D funding round led by venture-capital firm Beringea in December and investments from merchant bank Lepe Partners and multiple venture-capital firms.
The injection of funds has enabled Festicket to expand globally. The company, which partners with festivals to provide travel packages for festivalgoers, works with more than 2.5 million customers and 1,200 festivals across 50 countries worldwide.
Festicket now has offices in San Francisco, Amsterdam, Berlin and Porto, in addition to its London headquarters.
With Edge’s investment, Festicket hopes to expand into new North American and Asian markets, as well as further developing its technology platform. Additional plans include the building of an exclusive membership tier with added benefits for its users.
“We are excited to partner with such a fast-growing company,” says Edge investment director David Fisher, who led the investment with Festicket.
“Festicket solves an everyday millennial pain-point by streamlining, personalising and curating live experiences”
“The experience, events and festival markets continue to grow exponentially and Festicket is strategically positioned to benefit from these combined trends as a horizontally integrated platform,” says Fisher.
Festicket founder and chief executive Zack Sabban says that the investment comes “at a really important time for Festicket”, commenting that Edge “feels like the perfect match” for his company.
“Edge has a unique network and wide music industry knowledge, as well as an excellent understanding of our approach to content and community – a crucial ingredient in our growth recipe,” says Sabban.
Edge’s team of music industry specialists includes music impresario Harvey Goldsmith and former music industry lawyer David Glick.
Edge chief executive Glick comments on Festicket’s “talented and committed management team,” led by co-founders Sabban and Jonathan Younes and joined by recent hires from companies such as Live Nation, Eventbrite and Channel 4.
“[Sabban and Younes] know why they are building Festicket into a huge business, solving an everyday millennial pain-point by streamlining, personalising and curating thousands of live experiences for millions of customers,” says Glick.
“It was madness”: New book profiles production pioneers
Veteran tour manager Richard Ames, who has worked with the likes of Fleetwood Mac, the Who, Kate Bush, Wings, XTC, Duran Duran and Mike Oldfield over five decades in the business, has released Live Music Production, the first book covering the early years of the production sector in the UK.
“I hope that this book as a piece of social history will inform, entertain and delight those who were either there, or on the periphery of, or are of an age when rock music was on its meteoric rise,” explains Ames, who initially worked as a PM from 1972 to 1986, when the business was in its infancy.
“Just as equally, I hope that this will become supplementary reading for tomorrow’s students, so they can see how the foundations of this remarkable industry were forged with the 24/7 strength and spirit of these pioneers.”
Alongside the book, published last September by Routledge, Ames also documents his stories from live on the road at his Road Stories website.
“I hope this book become supplementary reading for tomorrow’s students”
Live Music Production is divided into nine chapters – covering lighting, sound, stage design, full production services, rigging, trucking/outdoor staging, bussing/catering and travel agencies – featuring interviews with industry trailblazers such as Bryan Grant (Britannia Row), Del Roll (Edwin Shirley Trucking), Jon Cadbury (PRG), tour/production manager Roger Searle and late stage designer Ian Knight, as well as a foreword by promoter Harvey Goldsmith.
Ames began writing the book 11 years ago (“I’ve always wanted to tell the story of how this extraordinary industry that I have spent 40 years of my own professional life in came about”), and says he hopes Live Music Production will open the door for other similar ‘social histories’ of the live music business.
“I don’t believe that social history in my industry has really taken off yet,” he continues. “The benefits of knowledge of the past, in so many different spheres, can’t surely be disputed – but as for now, I hope to see more and more factual history research published for future generations to appreciate. [So the book is] pioneering, I hope.”
See below for selected (and frequently hilarious) extracts from the book, or buy your copy from Routledge. IQ readers can benefit from 20% off by entering the discount code HUM19 at checkout.
In 1970, Jon Cadbury carries Pink Floyd’s gear to the Netherlands for a festival – with no paperwork…
“Jeff [Torrens, friend and Roundhouse colleague] and I were going to go off and tour Europe with our truck, and Ian [Knight] said, ‘Well, why don’t you just come and take the lights to this festival for us, and then go off on your travels?’
“I hadn’t actually worked out that if you take the lights out there then you are probably going to have bring them back again. Of course, we didn’t think about things like carnets, so we got on the ferry at Harwich got off at the Hook of Holland and customs impounded everything!
“The guys who became Mojo Concerts, Berry Visser and Léon Ramakers, eventually sorted it out; they were the people who promoted that festival [Holland Pop Festival 1970]. They paid some sort of bond that got the lights in and got them out again. I actually took the truck to Schiphol airport to collect the Floyd’s equipment when it came in, and had the band’s entire equipment in this seven-and-a-half-ton truck…
“There was no carnet, so I had to do a deal with the customs agent at Schiphol – which was basically, ‘I have got to get this to the site: they’re the headline act on this bill!’ My deal with this customs officer, who was a young guy who was into music, luckily for me, was that he would release the equipment and he would come to the site with me as long as he could collect a bond.
“So I went to the site and told the organisers and [Floyd manager] Steve O’Rourke that we couldn’t actually unload the truck. I said I wouldn’t let it out of my truck until the customs officer had got his bond – which was probably exceeding my brief somewhat – but we got there. Everyone was passing the buck to someone else to pay the bond and I said, ‘Well, I’ll have to take it back to the airport, then. That was the deal I made with this guy, so if you don’t sort it out…’
“So they did pay the bond and it did happen,the Floyd made an album with all of their equipment lined up in a great photo on an aerodrome [the back sleeve of Ummagumma]. That was that equipment and those were the roadies who were dealing with it. It’s extraordinary.”
“Of course, we didn’t think about things like carnets…”
It’s 1973, and then-junior lighting crew member Brian Croft is on a Lockheed L-749 Constellation from Hawaii to Australia on a Rolling Stones tour…
“It was unbelievable – it was cold, there was no heating, no soundproofing, you couldn’t speak to anybody, couldn’t read really or anything – but it became a big thing and we had a tongue painted on it when we were in Sydney, and then we flew all round Australia. Of course, the band, [including] Keith [Richards, along with] Bobby Keys and Jim [Price] the trumpet player, all came on the plane, and then we are halfway across from Perth back to Sydney and Keith says he has had enough.
“‘I’ve had fun, drunk all the beer’, and all that, but you look down and there is nothing but desert. ‘Well, you can’t stop here, Keith – it’s a long way, it’s like 12 hours!’ So that was a bit of a nightmare. Up until now I’d been doing a lot of straight theatre, and it was almost like an out-of-body experience seeing these mad frontiersmen and hippies, and I’m part of it and risking my life for the glory of the Rolling Stones.
“It’s like madness when you think about it now, but we had some great fun. The important thing about that tour was when the entourage – the whole group: crew, band, roadies, tour manager, probably 22 people – would all go and have dinner together. That was what was nice about it: you would all sit down and have dinner together because it wasn’t an unmanageable number, whereas it’s hundreds now in the touring party.”
“it was almost like an out-of-body experience seeing these mad frontiersmen and hippies”
In 1976, travel agent Mike Hawksworth goes into his office, shared with the Who’s manager, Bill Curbishley…
“At about nine o’clock the phone started ringing. [Curbishley’s] receptionist wasn’t in, so I went to pick up the phone, and it was one of those old phones […] where you have to take the receiver off to dial a number. I’ve gone to pick up the phone receiver and the whole unit comes up – the receiver hasn’t come off; the whole unit has lifted off the desk.
“I said, ‘What the hell?’, but it kept ringing and ringing, so I went over to the next one and try to pick up the receiver, and the whole unit comes up again.
“There are six phones in the office [glued together] like this, out of seven phones: [The Who’s drummer, Keith Moon] had left one unstuck.
“I answered it and Keith said, ‘It took you long enough to answer the bloody phone, didn’t it? If this is the service I’m going to get, then I’m going elsewhere!’ and he put the phone down.”
“We ended up with a gladiatorial match between a forklift truck and an old car”
Led Zeppelin rigger Jon Bray recalls crew days off Knebworth in 1979…
“We had a long gap between the first and second show. The site was sort of empty, apart from a handful of us living there with our caravan. We had some very interesting times there.
“One night, things got rather out of hand and we ended up with a gladiatorial match between a forklift truck and an old car. Somebody tried to do donuts with the car on stage. I don’t know how nobody got killed, actually – we must have been fairly out of it. The car ended up being absolutely destroyed…”
Goldsmith launches Nvisible: “an agency for agencies”
Veteran concert promoter Harvey Goldsmith has announced the launch of a new specialist events agency, Nvisible, in a bid to create an expert service to help agencies seeking live events success.
Goldsmith heads a team of specialists in his role as chairman at Nvisible, offering creative, design, production and project management services to agencies within the live events and experiential marketing industries.
Nvisible aims to be the “unseen partner” behind popular live experiences, lending an expert hand to event agencies in need of extra help. The agency specialises in live music, sport and entertainment events.
“I am confident Nvisible will be the unseen partner behind some of the most successful events in 2019 and beyond”
Mark Bustard helps lead the team as managing director, building on experience accrued as creative producer for U2. The team’s creative director is Grant Campbell, who has extensive experience in advertising and in the creation of live sport and entertainment experiences. Production director Jim Baggott, project director Luke Carr and technical director Tim Spears complete the executive team.
“Collectively and individually, this team has worked on myriad world-class and iconic live experiences,” says Goldsmith. “I’ve brought them together to create a ‘best in class’ service for agencies wanting to achieve success through live events.”
Goldsmith launches Nvisible with over 50 years of industry experience under his belt: “It feels like the perfect time for Nvisible; I am confident we’ll be the unseen partner behind some of the most successful events in 2019 and beyond.”
Drape, Measham, Lord named NTIA Ambassadors of the Night
Ground Control Productions/Broadwick Live’s Jon Drape, the Warehouse Project’s Sacha Lord, Fiona Measham of drug-testing service the Loop and veteran promoter Harvey Goldsmith are among the UK industry figures recognised as the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA)’s first ‘Ambassadors of the Night’.
At its Ambassadors of the Night event at Red Bull Studios London last night (5 December), the association honoured key figures for their contributions towards developing and protecting Britain’s £70bn night-time economy.
Also recognised were the We Love Hackney campaign, which led the fight against the borough’s controversial new curfews, Jamal Edwards, founder of urban music platform SBTV, and, posthumously, late Kiss FM DJ Paul ‘Trouble’ Anderson.
“These awards … represent the enormous steps forward we have made”
“These awards across a cross-section of stakeholders, recognising police forces, council leaders, business improvement districts, mayors and citizens, as well as music and nightlife industry, represent the enormous steps forward we have made in Britain,” comments Alan Miller, chairman of the Night Time Industries Association.
“Nightlife lights up our streets, brings revenue and jobs, promotes culture and is a part of who we are. Let’s all be Ambassadors of the Night.”
The full list of winners are:
- Chris Hill, Greater Manchester Police
- Jon Drape, Ground Control Productions
- Sacha Lord, the Warehouse Project
- Fiona Measham, the Loop
- Jamal Edwards, SBTV
- Nicola Johnston, Aberdeen Inspired
- We Love Hackney campaign
- Michael Smith, Brixton BID
- Susan Aitken, Glasgow City Council
- Norman Jay
- Mirik Milan, Amsterdam night mayor
- Harvey Goldsmith
- Paul ‘Trouble’ Anderson
Amazing Artistic Achievements: Triple A Entertainment at 20
If Pete Wilson and Dennis Arnold of Triple A Entertainment were writing their own 20th anniversary testimonial, it might go something like: “Twenty years of promoting and producing events. Not rocket science. Let’s not (ironically) make a big song and dance about it.”
In an industry with plenty of big talkers and impresarios, Triple A are the least self-promoting promoters you will find. They don’t put their name on the poster, they don’t tend to do interviews (they would have been just as happy, you suspect, not to do this one) and you’ll search in vain for a website. And in a world of corporate power and shareholder value, they do what they fancy doing, keep things sensible and run their business the way they want to.
Together, promoter Wilson and production man Arnold have run tour after tour for acts like Eric Clapton, Roger Waters, Paul Weller, Ray Davies, the Beach Boys, and The Cure; organised the 2002 Royal Albert Hall tribute to George Harrison; sold a million tickets for Steps; and guided Boyzone, Kylie, Jason Donovan, Five, Westlife, Blazin’ Squad, Lord of the Dance, WWE, Shaolin Monks, Harlem Globetrotters and many others through the arenas of this land.
But for some reason, the story Wilson tells that seems to make the most meaningful point about the particular way they do things involves boisterous, Test Match Special anecdote machine, Henry Blofeld. “We did his 70th birthday at the Albert Hall,” says Wilson. “There were 2,000 tickets, it needed 1,800 to break even and I think it did 1,750, so it lost a little bit of money. But it’s something we wanted to do,” he explains. “We’re cricket fans.”
Wilson and Arnold do a lot of work in that kind of spirit, from bailing out and professionalising Oxfordshire’s Cornbury Music Festival, just because they liked it, to faithfully promoting much-loved established acts of a more modest size who might not strike a different kind of company as being worth the sweat.
“There are a lot of things we do because they need to be done,” says Wilson. “And it’s our money. We don’t have masters; we don’t have shareholders or some American saying, ‘listen, this has got to make a certain amount.’ We have shows that the odd one doesn’t do very well but we don’t pull the ads – we keep advertising. Which probably isn’t a great business decision, but that’s how we do things.”
The world has plenty of principled little indies of a certain age – for the time being, at least – but Triple A isn’t just that. Powered by a team of six – Wilson, Arnold, Jeanne White, Fiona Atwood and longstanding freelance producers Dan Scott and Jolyon Burnham – they were the 25th-biggest promoter in the world last year, with 650,000 tickets sold, according to Pollstar.
“They are extraordinary promoters, and incredibly modest – they just keep themselves in the background”
At the time of writing, current projects are as diverse as shows for David Crosby, Paul Weller and Roger Waters, the touring production of Dirty Dancing and new WWE dates. Ask around and you hear it again and again: they’re not flash about it but they’re very good at what they do.
“Pete is definitely one of the best promoters in the country, by far,” says United Talent’s Gary Howard, a friend since his days as a young club agent in the 1990s. “His knowledge is second to none and he is one of the best marketing guys in the business. Everything I have ever done with them has always been a huge success.”
ILMC founder and former Primary Talent MD Martin Hopewell concurs: “They are extraordinary promoters, and incredibly modest – they just keep themselves in the background,” he says. “I like a lot of the people in the business who are larger than life. But Pete and Dennis are the opposite of that, and really they don’t get the recognition they deserve. Because when you look at the artists they have worked with and the things they have pulled off, it’s quite incredible.”
Wilson has a matter-of-fact explanation. “We have been doing it for a long time,” he says. “We know what works and what doesn’t work.” Certain things typify the Triple A approach. They retain a fondness for traditional advertising, and they don’t much love social media. They hang onto their friends for a long time, and don’t poach anyone else’s artists. They don’t do much dressing-room schmoozing. And, setting aside the recent retirement of finance man Martyn Stanger, one of the three founding ‘A’s, they are lifers, doing it because they love it.
“Everyone they take on, they are passionate about,” says Dan Scott. “They will do all manner of things but usually there’s an interest behind it: music they like, something they find exciting or they can see an opportunity in it.”
Some of their eye for an opportunity they picked up under Harvey Goldsmith, for whom Wilson worked for 18 years, Arnold for nine. “I used to run a stagehand company before that,” says Wilson. “I actually built the Wall at Earl’s Court – I physically put the bricks in. And then a year later I was the promoter that was selling it.”
Continue reading this feature in the digital edition of IQ 78, or subscribe to IQ here
Rock in the USSR: SAV Entertainment at 30
Russia, to quote American writer Ralph Peters, has “long been a land of contradictions layered upon contradictions.” Straddling East and West, democracy and absolutism, collectivism and capitalism, the world’s largest country has always been a nation of stark contrasts – and never more so than in 1987.
Thirty years ago, as the ruling Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) celebrated the 70th anniversary of the October revolution, Russian society stood at a crossroads. A year earlier, general secretary Mikhail Gorbachev had used the 27th congress of the CPSU to introduce a range of reforms, including glasnost (openness), perestroika (restructuring) and demokratizatsiya (democratisation), paving the way for reduced state censorship, a degree of political liberalisation, and, ultimately, the fall of the Soviet Union and an independent Russia’s transition to a market economy.
Not, then, the kind of stable political environment in which most people would think to start a new company – especially one engaged in the inherently risky business of promoting live music – but then Nadia Solovieva, co-founder and CEO of Moscow-based SAV Entertainment, isn’t most people.
Solovieva, for four decades the matriarch of the Russian live music industry, tells IQ that SAV was initially conceived as a vehicle for promoting Russian artists in the West, capitalising on the USSR’s appeal to capitalist audiences amid the glasnost-era thaw in East–West relations. “The initial idea for SAV was the opposite of what it eventually became,” she explains. “Russia was hip at the time! But we gradually realised there wasn’t much of a business there, and started bringing foreign artists to Russia instead.”
Solovieva cut her promotion teeth at Gosconcert, the Soviet state concert monopoly, where she worked in the late 1970s and early 80s as a tour manager and translator. The first Western artist she worked with at Gosconcert was Elton John, who toured Russia with Harvey Goldsmith in 1979. Solovieva has promoted Sir Elton on numerous occasions since (he played the 7,500-cap. Crocus City Hall in Moscow with SAV on 14 December), but the British singer’s famous first visit to Russia – which set the stage for a lasting friendship between Solovieva and Goldsmith – was actually something of an accident, as the latter recalls.
“Elton went onstage [at Wembley] in 1977 and announced he was never going to tour again,” explains Goldsmith. “Later, we had lunch and he said, ‘I’ve got a new album coming out and I’ve promised to do a show in Paris for the record company – but I’m not touring.’
“Before then, there were no businesses except those owned by the state – even the word ‘business’ was new!”
“Over lunch, he kept saying, ‘I’m not touring, I’m not going to all those places I normally go,’ and that he wanted to play new places: Russia, Israel, Egypt… In the end, ‘not touring’ ended up being 18 months on the road!”
The genesis of SAV – originally Seabeko Alla Venture, after the company’s initial partners, Canadian investment firm Seabeco Group and singer Alla Pugacheva – came in 1987 when Gorbachev legalised private enterprise. Unlike their counterparts in Europe and North America, Russia’s fledgling promoters had little experience of the international live music industry – and, crucially, even less experience running a business, with private enterprise having been illegal since Stalin’s abolition of the New Economic Policy in 1928.
“We were, all of us together, learning how things worked,” Solovieva explains. “Before then, there were no businesses except those owned by the state – even the word ‘business’ was new, for God’s sake!
“Of course, now everything is here: the hotels, the transfers, the infrastructure… The only thing the promoter has to have is the ability to be music-orientated – and have money, of course. But when we started out, we had to learn everything from scratch.”
Continue reading this feature in the digital edition of IQ 75: