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Talking points: Looking ahead to ILMC 35

With the days counting down to the 35th edition of ILMC at London’s five-star Royal Lancaster Hotel, we spoke to a handful of the individuals who will be chairing sessions in the main room during the 28 February–3 March conference to quiz them on their expectations for their respective debates…

1 MARCH | 14:00–15:00

You have speakers on your session from a good mix of independent events and festivals owned by conglomerates – what do you think are the main shared challenges for everyone working in the festival sector in 2023?
For the European Festival Report 2022, we carried out a survey with around 200 festivals, and the top challenges that people identified were: the rise in production costs, increasing artist fees, selling tickets, staffing, and supply chain issues. However, we have to consider who was answering our survey, and had it been different people, would they have identified some other topics? And, if there were regulations in place for carbon budgets, for instance, then that would become a main topic if your event was not already prepared.

Every year there seem to be more people who bravely decide to launch a new festival, despite a very crowded landscape. What advice would you give to anyone contemplating such a risk in the year ahead?
Does “Really?! Why?” count as advice? In all seriousness, I would ask them if they had properly done their market research and identified that they have an audience for the event. I personally come from the independent festival sector, so I operate with a live-and-let-live philosophy. So, I would ask people to honestly look at whether their new event was going to compete with any existing well-established festival and to think twice about purely launching a new festival just to try to grab market share. I don’t think playing that game benefits anyone in the end.

“I hear very different things from all over Europe: events that are selling out faster than before but also other festivals that are not selling as well as they did before the pandemic”

This summer will see more stadium tours than ever before making their way through Europe. Will this added competition for consumers’ disposable income be one of the topics you address with your guests – and how do you think the festival sector can best promote the value for money that it offers to music fans?
I hear very different things from all over Europe: events that are selling out faster than before but also other festivals that are not selling as well as they did before the pandemic. I’m not sure there’s a formula to explain that. I’d argue that those stadium tours are maybe competition for each other, rather than the festivals, because we can plainly offer value for money by giving people the chance to see lots of different acts over a weekend, or sometimes a whole week, for a similar ticket price. But maybe some of our panellists who have events that also book those superstar acts as their headliners will have a very different view on the summer ahead. It will be an interesting discussion.

1 MARCH | 15:30–16:30

Social media is undoubtedly changing the way in which promoters do their marketing for events. What areas of communication will you be exploring with your guest speakers?

Marketing overall is undergoing some massive transformations in how we reach and connect with fans. New digital and social platforms can embrace an even more authentic way of communicating. Across channels there are new tools, requirements and platforms which will set the way communication will connect with consumers. How we all connect with fans is always key.

Marketing doesn’t all fall upon the promoters these days – how important is it for promoters, agents, artist management and ticketing companies to work together on the same, coherent plan?

Marketing is and always has been an ecosystem of touch points and communication. The challenge is to build a strategy which can cut through a saturated world of marketing messages and resonate with the audience. An artist marketing programme for touring and festivals needs a coherent plan across the activities scheduled, with all key marketing elements working as one.

“How we adapt and flex our reach by communicating with our audience is changing rapidly”

What are you hoping that delegates attending your Marketing 3.0 session will learn?

How we adapt and flex our reach by communicating with our audience is changing rapidly. Marketeers need to be aware of new digital platforms and how they are impacting consumers. We all need to watch and learn to help ensure we can use all marketing channels and platforms to help deliver for the artist and their fans.

2 MARCH | 14:00–15:00

You have studied the economics of the business. What insight will you be able to provide to delegates about the boom in large-scale shows internationally?
The first one is the complementary relationship between the resurgence in streaming and expansion of live shows. It’s like gin and tonic. Here in the UK, we saw streaming take off in 2015, and that’s exactly when box office spend really began to rally.
Up until the pandemic, consumer spend on both live and recorded was capturing an increasing share of an increasing wallet – to be clear, there was more disposable income and more of that was being spent on music. Now we’re all getting back to normal, albeit adjusting to a different crisis, it’s important that we see how these two forms of entertainment can grow each other’s gardens.

“I’d caution against this recession-proof argument, simply because no two recessions are the same”

We’re in a cost-of-living crisis, but many live music industry veterans believe that our business does well in recession years. Is there any evidence to suggest this will remain the case in 2023 and beyond?
I’d caution against this recession-proof argument, simply because no two recessions are the same. I’d also caution heavily against putting too much faith in government statistics – as the digital economy is not being captured effectively. Nevertheless, the signals so far are positive – none of the big four streaming services are struggling to grow subscribers, (the words ‘net-churn’ have yet to appear in the same way as they did for Netflix et al) and demand for concerts remains strong. I really believe music is (a) a bargain and therefore (b) resilient to downturns. We should be confident about the months ahead and in no way curtail our ambitions because of doom-and-gloom headlines.

With stadium shows competing with festivals in terms of ticket prices, will you be exploring with your guests the impact of these top-tier shows on the rest of the live entertainment market?
We’re one year away from the 20th anniversary of the 2004 article ‘The Long Tail’ – the idea that when you offer more choice, consumers take that choice and demand moves away from the head and down towards the tail. Since tackling this topic in 2008, we’ve seen the long tail turn on its head – when you offer more choices, people want more hits. In the UK, we’ve seen the head of the long tail, that is stadiums and festivals, increase their market share of box office from a fifth to almost half in under a decade – we need to dig deep into this cultural phenomenon at ILMC to tease out the economics for the audience to learn from.


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