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IFF announces details of landmark 10th edition

The International Festival Forum (IFF) celebrates its 10th edition this year, as it returns to a campus location at South London music venue Omeara from 24-26 September.

This year’s event will see 1,000 professionals attend with around 60 countries representing over 700 festivals and thousands of artists. The 2024 edition will take place with a campus format for the second year, mixing booking agency showcases, pop up offices, speed meetings, conference debates, parties and more.

An invitation-only event organised by the International Live Music Conference (ILMC), IFF has become the leading annual gathering for festivals and booking agents since launching in 2015, bringing the industry’s principal buyers and sellers together for 2.5 days each autumn, when conversations about the following year’s festival line-ups are well underway.

Booking agency partners on this year’s IFF include CAA, WME, Primary Talent, ATC Live, Wasserman Music and many more. Previous editions of IFF have included early performances from Lewis Capaldi, Tom Grennan, Yonaka, Bob Vylan, Sam Ryder, Slaves, Raye, Black Midi, Loyle Carner, Dermott Kennedy, Shame and others.

“It’s hard to imagine that when we launched IFF 10 years ago it would become such a central fixture in the festival calendar”

“It’s hard to imagine that when we launched IFF 10 years ago it would become such a central fixture in the festival calendar,” says ILMC head Greg Parmley. “This year, between expanding the campus, a new venue for the conference debates and the world’s top agencies and festivals getting involved once more, it already looks like our best yet.”

This year’s IFF is presented in association with TicketSwap for the third year running.

“As we support IFF’s continuous path of innovation and expansion, we are pleased to collaborate with such a significant conference and be among the key industry leaders that IFF attracts,” says TicketSwap CEO Hans Uber comments.

Full details, including how to apply to attend are at www.iff.rocks. Meanwhile, the 2023 aftermovie can be viewed here.

 


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The heat is on: extreme weather and live music

How the industry can best cope with the increasing number of extreme weather events impacting festivals and open-air events was a major topic of conversation during this month’s ILMC in London.

Presented by GEI, The Heat Is On: Extreme Weather & Live Music session was chaired by veteran tour and production manager Jamal Chalabi of A Greener Future and included a presentation from Met Office meteorologist Prof Richard Betts on changing climate patterns.

The debate also featured May Ling of Australia’s Chugg Entertainment and freelance festival security and safety consultant Alexandra Von Samson, as well as Wacken Open Air co-founder Thomas Jensen.

“I do find it quite amazing in this industry that we still think we have a choice to deal with climate change, we clearly don’t have a choice,” said Chalabi, who gave a sample of events around the globe to have been hit by the elements over the past 12 months.

The list included Primavera Sound Madrid, Awakenings in the Netherlands, Slovenia’s MetalDays, the UK’s Kaleidoscope, shows by Louis Tomlinson show and Ed Sheeran in the US, Burning Man, Taylor Swift in Brazil, Elton John in New Zealand and Wacken Open Air in Germany.

“We’d had bad weather in the past, but last year was kind of different”

Jensen recalled Wacken’s near-catastrophic weather-related struggles last summer, which saw the festival proceed at reduced capacity after the site was hit by rain and thunderstorms in the days leading up to it, leaving the camping areas “impassable”.

“We’d had bad weather in the past, but last year was kind of different,” said Jensen. “There was a long dry period, leading up to the festival from mid June until early July, right when we started to set up the production. And then it started to rain, up to when the fans were arriving.

“The whole traffic system basically collapsed. It got really dramatic. Everything got stuck.”

Around 30,000 ticket-holders were subsequently denied entry after organisers allowed no further admission due to the adverse conditions.

“In over 30 years, it was the hardest decision I ever had to make,” said Jensen. “We’re in the music industry and timing is is crucial, and so we made the decision to have an ingress stop, which was very hard. At the end of the day, it’s debatable: could we have let a couple of more people in or not? Had we been strict enough? But I think, in principle, it was the right decision.”

“Thirty years ago, it was mostly the rain, but it’s now changed to raining one second and being 35 or 40°C suddenly after that”

He added: “We always say the ones that stayed home made the festival possible, at the end of the day, and they saved the insurance companies a lot of money. They made it possible for the other two-thirds to have a party. That’s why we’re extremely grateful.”

The Diplomat reported last week that more than 40 Australian music festivals have been cancelled, postponed, or evacuated due to heat, fires, rain or floods over the past decade, with more than 20 such incidents occurring in 2022 alone, amid record rainfall in the eastern states.

Ling told the session that extreme weather “has always been a part of what we have to deal with” in the region.

“Thirty years ago, it was mostly the rain, but it’s now changed to raining one second and being 35 or 40°C suddenly after that,” she said. “Even if we prepare for everything, you still can’t really control that.

“One thing we always did was have a meteorologist on site at our big outdoor shows. We also had the fire department in extreme heat conditions, and would have them hose the front of the crowd because those kids couldn’t get out to get water. You can give away as much free water as as you want, but those kids are not losing their spot before Guns N’ Roses comes on stage.”

“A 100% safe event is not existing in this world”

She continued: “Another huge safety concern that people forget about and it’s that everybody at the front of the stage can get electrocuted if a flash flood happens, and  you have to know when to pull the plug basically so that all these kids don’t get electrocuted.”

Von Samson recommended the business should learn from each other, adding that communication is crucial at all levels.

“It’s great if you have your plans, but it’s not so great if not everyone knows about them – and I’m including audience in that as well,” she said. “Make them aware they are part of the festival. I strongly believe in informing them as much as much as you can to keep them self-aware and empowered.

“You don’t want to be the festival or the promoter where something really bad happens. No one wants that, so you have to set up risk assessments. A 100% safe event is not existing in this world.”

Offering her final thoughts, Ling said battling the increasingly unpredictable conditions was a fact of life as an outdoor event organiser – but employing the right people behind the scenes is still paramount.

“We’re all about adaption – that’s why this industry can adapt quickly to this situation and be a leading light to change”

“As best you can prepare, when when an emergency happens, you just have to have good people that are safety conscious, know what they’re doing and act quickly, and they keep the crowd and the bands safe. Weather is a thing that is not going away, no matter what extremes it goes to. And as an outdoor event person, you have to deal with it.”

Betts called upon the music industry to lead the way in taking steps to help combat the climate crisis.

“The live music sector can play a really important role in setting an example about how to live with the weather we’ve made more extreme, but also stopping it getting more extreme, and stopping climate change by being more sustainable in the industry,” he said.

Chalabi brought proceedings to a close on a similarly positive note.

“Our community in the music industry, we’re the best,” he said. “We’re all about adaption – that’s why this industry can adapt quickly to this situation and be a leading light to change.”

 


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Behind the scenes of P!nk’s Summer Carnival

The team behind P!nk’s Summer Carnival Tour gave a unique glimpse behind the scenes of the global trek at the recent ILMC Production Meeting (IPM).

Marshall Arts’ Barrie Marshall, Craig Stanley and Anna De Neiderhausen were joined by Gaffer Award-winning production manager Malcolm Weldon for the special session, moderated by Okan Tombulka of eps at the Royal Garden Hotel in London.

The speakers discussed the planning and execution of the tour, which now stretches until late 2024 and has already broken multiple records. Just last weekend, P!nk – real name Alecia Moore – became the first female headline artist to grace Auckland’s Eden park in New Zealand in the venue’s 120-year history, hosting more than 100,000 fans over two nights.

Weldon, who joined the panel remotely from the ANZ leg of the jaunt, started off by explaining how the singer’s live vision (and renowned acrobatics) comes to life.

“They come up with the ideas and the concept, and I try to pull it off”

“It all starts with [P!nk], [show director] Baz Halpin and [manager] Roger Davies,” he said. “They come up with the ideas and the concept, and I try to pull it off. It’s their dreams and so my job is to make sure that I can get it from point A to point B to point C, to try to make sure that I can give her the same show every night.”

He continued: “The biggest challenge that we have is because of the acrobatics, everything that’s above us has to correlate precisely on the ground. It’s not like a rock and roll show, where it’s just some guy standing there playing guitars or beating on drums, it’s a theatrical pop show. So you’re trying to get all of those elements to align every show, they have to be where they have to be.

“The majority of everything she asked for is there. The only time that we can’t give it to her is when we’ve done some festival dates – because the show is an intricate show and certain things wouldn’t work – but that hasn’t caused too much of a problem. With Alecia, once you can explain to her why she can’t have something on a certain date, she understands. She may not like it, but she understands.”

Below is a selection of other takeaways from the in-depth chat…

Picking the right cities…
Barrie Marshall:
“A lot of it’s done by Roger Davies, because he knows exactly what he wants to do and where he wants to play. In the case of Alecia, she’s so successful… there’s no problem where you’ve got some countries that are weaker than others. It’s quite useful if we can start here [in the UK] sometimes, because a lot of the equipment comes from here… so that means access is easier. Although things have become so sophisticated now, it seems to me that you can get most equipment you need in most territories, so it’s not critical.”

Venue availability…
BM: “I find it difficult because the pandemic changed many, many things. There were no shows, everything stopped. Everybody was at the bus stop and the bus never came, so there was no way to accommodate people’s needs. We all stayed at home and waited, tried to do things, but waited until it was clear enough for us to go back to work. That meant then there were for two and a half years, maybe three years, a backlog of artists who definitely wanted to get out and tour, so you tried to put three years of touring into a year. It’s beginning to ease up a bit, but it’s still very difficult, so venues are in great demand.”

“It is complicated because now there’s so much legislation and each country is different”

Licensing issues…
Craig Stanley: “A few years ago… we would leave it until fairly late to be able to pass all the information to the licensing authorities, recognising that the artist is also making up her mind – quite rightly – of the show she wants to present. Now, you start your licence applications six, seven, eight months ahead, and then through Europe it’s exactly the same story. But it is complicated because now there’s so much legislation and each country is different. Even within Germany, Munich is just a different universe in requiring certain paperwork. Here in the UK, Scotland is completely different to England. You think you’ve got everything down, and then the licensing officer changes and you have to go back to square one.”

Anna De Neiderhausen: “We have to appease the local authorities, so we are ultimately the middleman. Sometimes local authorities are a little bit unrealistic and maybe don’t really have the experience, [whereas] some of them really are all over it. So it’s just finding that balance trying to not make Malcolm’s life hard, but at the same time, making sure the show goes ahead.”

CS: “Part of my role is to go around Europe, and the advance trip is absolutely crucial. Malcolm and his team are brilliant at actually going there, meeting with the local people and explaining what he needs, understanding their problems, and we find some middle ground.”

Malcolm Weldon: “In 2023, I felt like I was a step behind because we didn’t know what the show really was until we got to Bolton and built the whole show, so you’re kind of learning as you go. And then as you get more shows under your belt, you go, ‘Okay, this is what this is.’ And then you leave Europe and go to North America, and now you’re on a different stage and you’re playing baseball stadiums, which no show of this size should be playing. But they bought tickets, they’re showing up and so we make it happen.”

“You can’t change the ticket price once you’ve charged for the ticket. You have to somehow try and make those budgets work”

Maximising capacity…
BM: “
One of the great advantages with Alecia is her performances are phenomenal, she’s never in one place for very long, so therefore the sightlines in the stadium are such that you see her a great deal of the time. That’s a big advantage to having an artist who’s performing in a certain position all the time, more or less. She moves around a lot and she’s very aware of her audience. She has a great sense of humour and also has a particularly unique way of talking to her audiences, it’s very personal. And the screens we’ve got now are superb so the quality of the video content is phenomenal.”

Budget concerns…
BM:
“You can’t change the ticket price once you’ve charged for the ticket. You have to somehow try and make those budgets work. Artists put a lot of money in to production and give the very best they can, and they don’t want to fall short. And Malcolm, in his position, can’t and won’t let the standard down.”

MW: “I [was once working with a very famous artist] and I was trying to stay within budget. They went outside the budget, so I said, ‘That’s going to be more expensive if we do it this way.’ And that artist told me, ‘Don’t worry about how I spend my money, Malcolm.'”

“It’s very easy to think you’re just selling the show, you’re actually supporting the artist’s career”

The importance of the collective…
MW: “It’s a total group effort. If you have somebody on the crew whose job is just doing towels and water, the most important person to the artist at the point when they got sweat in their eyes, or they’re thirsty, is the person that puts out the towels and water. It’s all a group effort.”

BM: “We all work for the audience and the artist at the end of the day, so we all contribute to that and we all have respect for that. We just all have to look after each other in the best way we can and we’ll get the best results.”

CS: “It’s also about… working with our colleagues and understanding how the marketing is done. The marketing is to sell tickets absolutely, but it’s also about respecting the artist and working with the record company. It’s very easy to think you’re just selling the show, you’re actually supporting the artist’s career. One reason why Marshall Arts has incredibly long relationships with the artists – we’ve worked with P!nk for 22 years – is understanding what the manager, as well as the artist, needs to actually help build the career. And now we’re at the stadium level, we don’t take anything for granted.”

 


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TEL panel breaks down ‘The State of the Nation’

Industry leaders in live entertainment production gathered to kick off ILMC’s inaugural Touring Entertainment Live (TEL) and share their thoughts on ‘The State of the Nation’.

Chaired by Imagine Exhibitions’ Tom Zaller, the panel — which included guest speakers Liz Koops (Broadway Entertainment Group), Jenny Sirota (RoadCo Entertainment), James Harrison (ASM Global) and David Pitman (Cirque du Soleil) — discussed topics such as booming demand and higher costs, technological advancements, an over-reliance on established IP, and a lack of venues.

Zaller started by bringing up the effects of a post-Covid environment.

“Consumer demand is booming in certain areas, and inflation is causing issues for some of us in certain places,” he explained. “We’re also seeing different types of ticketing deals and dynamic pricing, but we’re also seeing production, operational, and labour costs rise.”

Koops, whose Broadway Entertainment Group has established itself as a key player in the Middle Eastern market with their productions of Disney classics, reckoned that while the increasing interest in the Gulf states is always a positive (“Doing 77 shows of Shrek across the region and within three cities in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Dubai, and Qatar was phenomenal!”), there was still a problem affecting the burgeoning territory.

“The touring world and circuit is getting smaller, unfortunately”

“There’s been genuine interest in developing the market, but while there are many more opportunities nowadays, there aren’t enough venues to accommodate the increasing demand,” she said.

That sentiment was shared by Pitman, who referenced certain geopolitical factors to explain dwindling availability in territories Cirque du Soleil used to sell out in.

“We used to tour Russia for 12 weeks, which isn’t going to happen for a long time now,” he said. “Prior to Covid, we held our ice show Crystal in Ukraine, the big venue in Helsinki [Helsinki Halli] is still shut, and there’s the situation in Israel as well to consider. The touring world and circuit is getting smaller, unfortunately.”

Another major point of discussion was the reliance on familiar IP, which the panel agreed made it difficult for original productions to get booked.

“There’s been such a massive spike in ideas being developed and everyone wants to get stuff out there, but especially after Covid, people crave the big IPs more,” explained Sirota. “It’s “comfort food”, they want to buy tickets to something they recognise,” adding that while the US doesn’t share the same experiences with venues as other territories, it’s still difficult to book fresh programming at present. “Especially with costs going up, it’s a real risk for producers to book anything that’s not heavily branded right now.”

“Customers tend to respond more in secondary and tertiary markets because it’s something different for them. There’s not as much competition”

Sirota also expressed concerns over heightened travel costs and a lack of transport availability.

“Trucking is incredibly expensive, and in terms of availability, buses for tours are booked up from 10 to 100 weeks,” she said, adding that it’s highly unlikely they’ll reduce their fees due to fuel prices anytime soon. “There’s so many shows nowadays, and there should be more trucking and bus companies to keep up with such demand.”

The panel soon moved on to entering new and developing territories. While Asia and the Gulf states have been her company’s bread and butter, Koops also stressed the importance of established markets that are smaller by comparison.

“We found that working with local promoters in the Eastern European markets has been incredibly successful for us,” she said, citing high demand in the likes of Croatia and Slovenia that enables her to develop multi-week touring opportunities.

“You don’t necessarily need to be in the A+ markets like London, Paris, or Berlin to have a successful touring production,” added Harrison. “Customers tend to respond more in secondary and tertiary markets because it’s something different for them. There’s not as much competition, so there’s more opportunities for fresher productions.”

To close out the panel, Zaller asked each guest for a one-word answer on what they’d like to change the most: Pitman responded with logistics, both Harrison and Sirota wanted more original shows, while Koops wished for more venues.

 


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Is a mid-level touring crisis emerging?

The litany of challenges facing the live industry – from breaking acts to gaming – came under the microscope in ILMC’s Touring: The Bread & Butter Business session.

Chaired by One Fiinix Live founder Jon Ollier, the panel featured Jan Digneffe of FKP Scorpio Belgium, Mercury Wheels/Live Nation Spain’s Barnaby Harrod, Finland-based Fullsteam founder Rauha Kyyro of FKP and agent Marsha Vlasic, president of Independent Artist Group in the US.

While the top end of the business is booming with record earnings for A-list tours, the discussion focused its attention on the potential crisis emerging in the mid-level.

Kyyro suggested the sector was struggling not only with high ticket prices, but from competition from other forms of media – such as video games.

“I think we’re losing out on a lot of young people going to the shows to get that experience because, well, first of all, the ticket prices are high. And also the market has changed in other ways, too,” she said. “But it actually might be a better 90 minute experience to play Fortnite than to go and see to a little show. If you look at what’s happened with gaming, just as an example, it’s developed so much faster than our live experience has. But the price of the live experience is going up all the time.”

“There’s a whole generation that don’t leave their rooms… They don’t even think about going to a live show”

Vlasic agreed the shift in habits among younger people was an issue.

“There’s a whole generation that don’t leave their rooms, and they know an act by one song,” she said. “They don’t even have the desire to go for the live experience. They’re very content on their group chats and TikTok and just discovering new songs, not artists. And that’s the worrisome generation, because they don’t even think about going to a live show.”

Vlasic added that the reluctance of some artists – particularly those outside the United States – to embrace VIP ticketing was a growing source of frustration.

“VIP is huge,” she said. “We had a package two summers ago that broke every record. But I have artists that just won’t do it. And it’s so frustrating because again, they don’t understand the value of it. It’s actually mostly non American artists that don’t allow it. But it’s such a big source of additional income.”

The subject switched to the topic of festival headliners, as Kyyro warned against an over-reliance on big name talent.

“We gave up on trying to get a seven-figure acts and we just focused on whatever we actually have access to and that the audience actually likes”

“If you’re really dependent on getting those few big names, then that’s going to kill your budget,” she said. “You’re probably not even going to even make any money unless you sell out.

“The key is to build a brand that is not so much dependent on having the number one artist every year. Provinssi, which is a Finnish festival we work with, has been around for over 40 years and it has had its ups and downs. I think the reason it’s now doing so well is that we gave up on trying to get a seven-figure acts and we just focused on whatever we actually have access to and that the audience actually likes. Then it doesn’t need to sell out, but we can still keep it going.”

The rise of joint headline and packaged tours was also touched upon, with Vlasic suggesting the acts do not necessarily have to be a perfect fit.

“As bigger acts are getting off the festivals and going into stadiums, the only way to do it is to piggyback and share the cost of the production,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be completely compatible, it’s just entertainment. When you think of packaging an act… it’s [about], how does this package look in terms of bringing in additional people and different audiences?

“[But] so many of them want to headline on their own and the market is saturated. I don’t know how to the summer’s going to do this year – and everybody’s gone on sale so much sooner.”

Some people need to step down from their throne in order to be able to play better venues

While Digneffe applauded the concept, he cautioned that persuading all parties of its merit was easier said than done.

“I think it’s an it’s an interesting idea, but you have trouble getting everybody on board,” he said. “If you look at the metal and the hard rock scene, there is a lot more going on and there is a lot more understanding between bands as well.

“We all know it’s an ego business. But I think that some people need to step down from their throne in order to be able to play better venues, and that will make the costs go down. It’s a more fun night for the punter anyway, so I see nothing but advantages. But to get it done, you need everybody on board. You need the agents to be on board. You need the management to be on board.”

“The metal thing is true,” added Harrod. “I went to see four metal bands in a 300-cap club in Barcelona. The kids had a great time.”

There was concern, however, about the lay of the land for breaking acts, and the apparent dearth of viable new headliners. Digneffe believed the focus on global tours was hurting those lower down the food chain.

“If I hear more streaming numbers I’ll go crazy. It’s just maddening – and streaming numbers don’t sell tickets”

“What is frustrating everybody about these world tours is this cherry picking that’s going on all the time,” said Digneffe. “I don’t want to be like a preacher in a church or anything, but the cherry picking also comes with a responsibility to look after the next generation. No one is doing that at the moment and I think that’s a real problem. The promoters that find solutions for that will help keep our business healthy.”

Vlasic lamented the obsession with streaming numbers, arguing they can give a false impression of an artist’s worth on the live scene.

“It’s all about the streaming and if I hear more streaming numbers I’ll go crazy,” she said. “It’s just maddening – and streaming numbers don’t sell tickets. I’ve always prided myself in working with career artists. How do we develop groups? It’s a really frightening thought.”

Harrod, meanwhile, remained hopeful that the tried and tested approach to building rising stars would still bear fruit going forward.

“We have to be proactive,” he said. “We have to get out, we have to support the new acts. Push them, get them out, and that’s it. It’s always been that. Nothing is easy. It’s [about] supporting bands, keeping doing those 200 and 300-cap shows and enjoying them.”

 


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ILMC 36: The pros and cons of dynamic ticketing

Dynamic ticketing took centre stage during ILMC’s Ticketing: At What Price? panel, as leading executives debated whether the growth of market-based pricing in the US will be replicated in other major international markets.

Chaired by Kilimanjaro Live promoter Steve Tilley, the session brought together Eventim Norway and Sweden’s Marcia Titley, Ticketmaster UK’s Sarah Slater, AXS’ Chris Lipscomb and Arnaud Meersseman of AEG Presents.

Recalling going to see Bruce Springsteen at New York City’s Madison Square Garden last year, Tilley admitted he was prepared to pay “whatever it costs” to get into the show. However, Meersseman pointed out the practice was less established in territories like France, which made it harder to compete when booking top acts.

“We’re being pushed more and more by artists to incorporate dynamic pricing,” he said. “To them, it doesn’t make sense on a financial level to tour Europe compared to the US, where dynamic pricing is widely common.”

Meersseman speculated there would be “massive pushback” against the practice across France. “It’s also a question of accessibility, and fans are likely to end up wondering whether gigs will only be reserved for the rich in the not-too-distant future,” he warned.

Lipscomb added that dynamic pricing is already happening in several European markets, including the UK, and predicted it will increase in prominence sooner than most think.

“Ten percent of all UK shows may already be sold under dynamic pricing. In a couple of years, I’d expect that number will increase by 30%-40%”

“Ten percent of all UK shows may already be sold under dynamic pricing,” he said. “In a couple of years, I’d expect that number will increase by 30%-40% and maybe even rise higher to 70%-80%.”

The discussion segued into the secondary market, with Titley noting that while countries like Norway and Denmark put laws in place to prevent resales above face value, dynamic pricing was necessary to “drive higher revenue”.

“Ultimately, it’s all about protecting the fans, and I believe in combining tech and legislation to eradicate those excessive profit margins,” she said.

Ticketmaster has successfully introduced its own fan-to-fan resale service in the UK, and Slater said: “There are plenty of safe, face-value resale sites to sell your tickets to in the UK. We’ve heavily pushed the fact that tickets are transferable, but we always encourage customers to only buy from authorised sites.”

Sam Shemtob, director of Face-value European Alliance for Ticketing (FEAT), made a brief cameo to explain the role that the EU Digital Service Act will play in combating illegal ticket listings.

“If the ticket is being sold by a trader, that needs to be listed right at the front in a clearly accessible manner, and ticket resale sites will now be banned from using design tricks that manipulate consumers into decisions, such as “pop-ups” or giving prominence to specific choices,” explained Shemtob.

“Nailing the on-sale is absolutely critical, but marketing the shows via a long-term campaign with the artists up until the actual event is just as important”

Shemtob, who is collaborating with the European Commission on how to streamline a complaints mechanism for fans and promoters, launched ‘Make Tickets Fair’ last year — a campaign to educate and empower fans to avoid being ripped off by ticket touts.

“The platforms will also be required to make it clear throughout the buying process that the tickets listed are provided by a third party,” he said. “If a platform fails to do this and fans are led to believe that the tickets are provided by the platform itself, the platform can be held responsible for any tickets listed in contravention of national laws.

“All of these sites need to have a clear and simple complaint mechanism.”

Another major talking point was the perception that tickets must be bought as soon as they go on sale.

“Obviously, nailing the on-sale is absolutely critical, but marketing the shows via a long-term campaign with the artists up until the actual event is just as important,” Slater said, citing the concert industry’s shift towards post-sale engagement, which includes events integrations in collaborations with Spotify and TikTok, as well as creative marketing strategies to keep fans engaged.

“Most people think that if they can’t get tickets within the first hour, they’ll end up being scammed when attempting to purchase them at a later time,” added Meersseman. “It all ties to what we discussed earlier about properly educating customers on the ticket sale process.”

 


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ILMC 36: The Venue’s Venue: New Frontiers

Experts in venue operations, events strategy and promoting convened at ILMC 36 to analyse the potential of new arenas in emerging and established markets.

Moderated by IQ Magazine’s special projects editor James Drury, The Venue’s Venue: New Frontiers panel featured Live Nation’s Phil Bowdery, Co-op Live’s Gary Roden, D.Live’s Daniela Stork and ASM Global’s Marie Lindqvist and Tim Worton, who discussed what the developments mean for customers, existing venues and touring routes.

Drury kicked off proceedings at London’s Royal Lancaster Hotel by citing several findings from studies conducted by the European Arenas Association (EAA) and the National Arenas Association (NAA). Both indicated that overall attendances grew by 16% in 2023 (27,991,247 people) when compared to 2022 (24,224,783). Due to increased post-pandemic production and touring costs, average ticket prices also rose by 7% in 2023 (€62.04) when compared to 2022 (€58).

According to Worton, those figures were also reflected in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region.

“We came out of Covid a lot later than other territories, so our 2022 numbers were lighter compared to the rest of the world,” he explained. “However, our 2023 numbers were in line with or slightly higher than in 2019, which I credit towards a pent-up post-Covid demand to finally go out and watch live entertainment.”

“I’ve already sold out five new shows in January this year. I can’t remember the last time that happened”

Worton also confirmed a new multi-purpose facility opening up in Bangkok, as well as the 50,000-capacity Kai Tak Sports Arena in Hong Kong.

“2023 was a very strong year for us in general,” noted Lindqvist, referencing the fact that several European markets didn’t register full years in 2022. “‘23 has been a great year for stadium shows in particular.”

“I’ve already sold out five new shows in January this year,” added Bowdery. “I can’t remember the last time that happened.”

Roden has been overseeing the development of Manchester’s Co-op Live, which is scheduled to open in April, and is looking forward to what the venue can offer from a business and entertainment standpoint.

“At 23,500 capacity, it’s going to be the biggest indoor arena in the UK, and given Manchester being a huge regional market, the city can definitely take a second arena,” he said, adding that this year’s MTV Europe Music Awards will be held there in a collaborative effort with Manchester City Council — further emphasising how governmental organisations are waking up to the value of using music as a city attraction.

“Our energy costs went up by 50% last year. Staffing costs have also gone through the roof”

Another point of discussion was the new types of “concert content” being advertised and played in arena shows. Worton praised the rise of Asian and Indian pop shows, while Stork elaborated on the importance of working with less established acts and promoters.

“We always attempt to build and foster relationships with promoters who haven’t had a long history in the business, and we try to go the extra mile to help them set up shows in our venues,” said Stork, who added that D.Live has a great track record with specialty bands who aren’t associated with their regular shows.

“It’s challenging sometimes, but it’s also good fun because it’s something really different,” she said.

The panel also reached a unanimous agreement when it came to discussing the most significant cost challenges. “Our energy costs went up by 50% last year,” said Worton. “Staffing costs have also gone through the roof.”

However, Lindqvist stated the rise in energy bills enabled her team to “make all the necessary investments for reducing energy consumption that ensure environmentally-friendly standards”.

“It’s a very clear trend in all the markets… People want to upgrade their experience, and it’s something that we’re accommodating towards”

When quizzed about the increasing size of production sets and whether a reduction in the number of trucks artists require for their shows, Bowdery stated that such acts are mainly “thinking about their fans” while admitting that their concerts will only get bigger.

“They’re artists, so they want to make sure that everyone enjoys their shows,” he said. “It’s a sign for our times.”

The panel further commented on the shifts in consumer trends when it comes to a preference in premium VIP experiences over general admission tickets, despite a marked increase in the global cost of living.

“It’s a very clear trend in all the markets, which is why we’ve also shifted towards a more B2C model,” Lindqvist said. “People want to upgrade their experience, and it’s something that we’re accommodating towards. This trend is shaping up how we’re going into the market and how we engage with our customers around those different opportunities.”

In closing, the panel explored the role sustainability plays into their operations, which has become a top priority for them. Examples included the banning of single-use plastics, constructing washing stations, selling reusable cups, and more.

“Our buildings have been running on renewable energy for a few years now,” said Stork. “I think everyone from fans to artists have the right to expect that we try our best to be as sustainable as possible.”

 


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ABBA Voyage producer hints at new venues worldwide

As one of the keynote interviews during Touring Entertainment Live (TEL) at ILMC, producer Svana Gisla gave a fascinating insight into the creation and operation of ABBA Voyage.

The smash hit show has so far has sold more than two million tickets for the shows in its purpose-built arena in London. And Gisla told delegates that the need to duplicate the tech for the groundbreaking production may soon become reality, as its owners and operators explore building more facilities to entertain fans around the world.

Gisla began by speaking about her background working for a division of Ridley Scott Films, where she was involved in making music videos for the likes of Madonna, Coldplay, the Rolling Stones, Beyoncé and Kylie Minogue among others.

Having created a company with a Swedish film director in 2015, she detailed working with David Bowie in the last six months of his life, and how she swore she would not work with music again. “Then ABBA called,” she laughed.

“In the beginning, we thought it might be a concert and a production that we could take on tour, but it cannot – that is impossible. It needed its own space, so it actually felt very normal that we would build our own arena, so I found myself going around London looking for land… and we found an old car park in the Olympic Park, infested with rats – it was perfect!”

“When you have a team of people who are all already excelling in their fields, and then they raise their game even higher, how can you fail?”

Explaining how the creation of the show happened across various pandemic lockdowns, Svana noted that the production had to marry the digital world with the physical arena. “Light is the connector – we have five different lighting systems,” she said. But she confessed that there was a fear that if they did not get everything perfect, ABBA Voyage could have become just like watching a film.

Noting another moment that had the potential to end the project, she revealed that during the motion capture element of creation, “The whole project nearly derailed when the boys found out that they would have to shave their beards.”

Costing £141 million, the entire venture was funded privately from Swedish investors. Responding to a question from moderator James Drury, Gisla stated, “The size of it did not scare me because when you have a team of people who are all already excelling in their fields, and then they raise their game even higher, how can you fail?”

Answering a question from a TEL delegate, Gisla show down suggestions that the ABBA Voyage team is working to create similar shows for other artists. Indeed, she also put the record straight about the many erroneous reports in the press about other companies claiming to be behind the show.

Gisla also ran through some of the astonishing statistics behind ABBA Voyage, saying that the show attracts 21,000 people each week and to date has sold more than two million tickets. “25% of the visitors come from overseas, and 80% of those come to London just to see ABBA,” she said noting that an economic impact study found that the production had generated £322 million for the local area in its first year.

“25% of the visitors come from overseas, and 80% of those come to London just to see ABBA”

Digging further into the numbers she said that 70% of the staff working on ABBA Voyage were hired locally, while the company does its best to be part of the community in its East London location.

“You cannot just come in and take – you have to give something back,” she said. “We do workshops for the local schools and explain to the kids how we did the show, giving them the experience behind the scenes of one of the most high tech shows ever created.”

Describing the purpose-built arena as “the least demountable demountable building,” Gisla concluded that although it is impossible to take the production on the road, its creators are in talks to duplicate the venture in the likes of the United States, Australia and elsewhere in Europe. “It’s a complicated beast, however, because you need to have one million visitors per year to make it a viable business,” she added.

Leading executives from the world’s biggest and most successful touring shows and exhibitions gathered for the inaugural TEL on the final day of this year’s sold out ILMC to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the multi-billion dollar sector.

Companies attending included ASM Global, Live Nation, FKP Scorpio, Kilimanjaro Group, Neon, Semmel Exhibitions, Fever, TEO, RoadCo Entertainment, Terrapin Station Entertainment, Cirque du Soleil, Harlem Globetrotters, Imagine Exhibitions, Broadway Live, Pophouse Entertainment, Layered Reality.

AEG Europe, Great Leap Forward, Science Museum London, lililililil, Imagine Exhibitions, Universcience, Proactiv Entertainment, Let’s Go Company, MB Presents, World on Ice, Expona, Slam Dunk Entertainment, World Concert Artists, Grand Palais Immersif, Fierylight and Opus One were also in attendance.

 


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Kilimanjaro Live trio hold court at Futures Forum

The team behind DEAG-owned UK promoter Kilimanjaro Live offered a few pearls of wisdom to the next generation in a keynote interview at Futures Forum.

The conference for young and emerging live music executives returned to London’s Royal Lancaster Hotel on Friday (1 March) to conclude the 2024 International Live Music Conference (ILMC).

The FF programme spanned the agency business, artist development, sustainability, the evolution of festivals and more, with speakers including Connie Shao (AEG Presents), Beckie Sugden (CAA), Louisa Robinson (FORM), Caroline Simionescu-Marin (WME), Lottie Bradshaw (TEG Live Europe), Sally Dunstone (Primary Talent) and Jess Kinn (One Fiinix Live).

Rounding off the event, three of Kilimanjaro Live’s principals – Stuart Galbraith, San Phillips and Alan Day – were quizzed by IQ‘s Lisa Henderson about building a modern music company, what they’ve learned on the journey, and how they see both their company and the broader business developing.

Formed in 2008, the London-based firm currently works with artists including Simply Red, Ed Sheeran, Andrea Bocelli, Hans Zimmer, Stereophonics and Don Broco. Here is a selection of key talking points from the session…

“The ability to make a living out of music is getting more and more difficult”

Diversifying the business…
Stuart Galbraith:
“The ability to make a living out of music is getting more and more difficult. As a promoter, the risk versus return ratio is atrocious. If you talk to accountants who come into audit our books, they look at you as if you’re mad: ‘You risk this much money to make this much money?’ And if you look at us as a margin business by comparison to any other sector, it just doesn’t make sense – particularly as the world has become smaller and global deals are coming to play, those margins are even more tight.

“So we’ve deliberately in the last seven years diversified [into] more businesses where there is a better market. There is less risk. And it enables us to then justify running a concert promoting business that, to be quite frank, as a standalone business is suspect. However, the fact that you can send an email and say that we promote Ed Sheeran, or we promoted Live 8, or we work with Andrea Bocelli, opens so many doors, and it’s still a very, very crucial part of our business.”

Artist development…
Alan Day: “Some of our biggest acts we met at the very bottom. One of our colleagues, Steve Tilley, met Ed Sheeran supporting Just Jack at Shepherd’s Bush Empire.”

SG: “Which lost £3,500.”

AD: “Sabaton, the metal band, I met at South by Southwest. There were 40 people there [and I] gave them my number. Their first show I did in London was at the Garage, then Electric Ballroom, then Koko… While She Sleeps played Ally Pally recently, first gig Borderline. Don Broco, I met in a bar at a festival where they were playing to 50 people and now we’re in arenas. So that’s how we get there from the get-go.”

“It’s a way of life rather than just a nine-to-five job, seven days a week”

Work-life balance…
San Phillips: “Something that I say to people new to the industry and to the company is that gigs happen at the evenings and weekends. So maybe what do you want when you’re 20, aren’t things you want to be doing when you’re 40, so be mindful of the kind of goals that you want in life. We do what we need to do to get it done. But we love going to gigs. We go to a lot together and that’s what it’s about. You’re not going to necessarily work regular hours, and obviously when you’re launching something, of course it’s time consuming. I’m not going to lie about that. You can’t teach people stamina and I think stamina is one of the things that you really need.”

SG: “Promoting was one of the few jobs where quite literally the more hours you put in, the more successful you’re potentially going to be. And if you look at Alan or Steve, it’s a way of life rather than just a nine-to-five job seven days a week. And if you’re going to go on holiday, the manager still wants to talk to you.”

Challenges for the year ahead…
AD: “Rising costs – from PAs, to security, to crews, riggers, trucking…”

SG: “As a promoter we’re invariably a function of the bottom line, we’re a percentage of what’s left. And those rising costs are unfortunately, as we predicted during Covid, being met by increased ticket prices. So we’re seeing huge escalation in ticket prices that are way beyond anything that we would have expected two years ago. That’s fine if we’re on an indoor tour where we’re working in a finite environment, but when you then come to outdoors and you’ve booked either festivals or small outdoor shows, it becomes very, very scary.

“We run the festival in Scotland called Belladrum, which is now Scotland’s biggest camping festival and our costs at Belladrum in three years have increased by a million pounds. And I just can’t put the ticket price up to match that. With Belladrum, we’ve been able to get a margin increase in capacity, which has helped offset that cost, but we’re having to accept that that festival now can’t be as profitable as it used to be.”

“If we had a discussion, we probably would have avoided making the biggest mistake in Kili’s history”

Biggest career lesson…
SG: “I think our biggest lesson was making sure that within your opinion, because it can be absolutely crucial. When we took Kili private in 2012, within a week, we launched Sonisphere at Knebworth. Within three days, it became very evident that we’d made a huge mistake, and when we took a final decision to cancel it, Alan came up with the line which was, ‘I knew it wouldn’t work. I didn’t think it was a good idea.’

“From that day on, we said, ‘Well, if you have an opinion, then you must express it – particularly in a team environment, because Alan’s viewpoint was absolutely correct. And if we had had a discussion, then we probably would have avoided making what was then the biggest mistake in Kili’s history.

“It was a mistake because we were ahead of our time because we booked Queen with Adam Lambert as the lead singer and Queen fans had not embraced Adam Lambert at that point in time. Now, Queen sell more tickets with Adam Lambert as the lead singer that they used to with Freddie Mercury. But in that particular year, no one wanted to buy the tickets – and Alan knew that.”

SP: “Everybody gets their voice heard. Anybody can come up to you, whatever their position in the company, and say, ‘Oh no, what were you doing that for? Why haven’t we chosen to do this?’ And they’re not told off… Everybody in the company is a [music] fan, and we encourage them to say things.”

 


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ILMC 36: The Agency Business

Leading agents offered an upbeat overview of the agency trade in 2024 and pondered the future of the model in the annual ILMC panel on the sector.

The Agency Business 2024 panel chair Anna Sjölund was joined by guest speakers Bex Wedlake (One Fiinix Live), Brian Ahern (WME), Tom Schroeder (Wasserman Music) and James Wright (UTA) to debate a range of topics.

“The great thing after the pandemic, [Brexit], and the general inflation of costs, we’re still having a strong touring business. The difficulty is costs, be that for artists, promoters or venue operators,” said Wright.

Asked how it was to be an agent in 2024, Schroeder said, “I bloody love it. I don’t disagree that there are problems, but they’re a bit like a jigsaw that we have to work out and I really enjoy that challenge. The fact is that artists are a lot more involved in their careers these days, and that makes things fun.

“The rules have changed and some historic templates have [been discontinued], and because social media plays such a big part in things now, artists have to be a lot more involved in their career and decisions about their career, so I truly believe this is the best time I’ve had in my career.”

“The appetite for live music is bigger and better than ever before”

Wedlake noted, “The appetite for live music is bigger and better than ever before, and there’s a bigger emphasis on women in music and LGBTQ issues, led by the artists, and it’s amazing to witness that levelling of the [playing field] and the evolution of our job. There’s no one-size-fits-all for either clients or us as agents, so the fact that big corporations and independent operations can happily co-exist is pretty healthy.

Ahern agreed, commenting, “I believe our company can provide a competitive advantage to our clients, but there are also bands and artists who simply want to tour, and therefore being at another agency is a better fit for them. I have a lot of respect for the indie agents and what they do – thankfully there is enough work for all of us.”

Discussing the reality of global deals, Wright revealed that he had chosen a lower offer for one of his clients because a higher offer would have meant unrealistic ticket prices for that act’s fans. And talking about the changing role of the agent, Schroeder said that while 15 years ago his job involved booking gigs, “What was 90% of my job is now just 10%, as I spend a lot more time working on strategy and creativity. And the best thing is I don’t know how I will be doing things in 18 months because the business keeps changing and I think the industry is all the better for it.”

Schroeder courted controversy by stating that grassroots venues were no longer a part of the ecosystem for his roster of clients, although he acknowledged their importance. But Wedlake responded, “We all have a responsibility to feed back into the grassroots sector – that’s why I’m a proponent of using independent promoters.” She added, “My job as an agent is to ferret out promoters who understand my artists and with whom we can grow sensibly, slowly and creatively.”

Addressing concerns about agents signing too many acts to their rosters, Wright said, “We are opportunistic, but we have to believe in the artists we sign. It’s complicated and it’s hard work, but we don’t get paid straight away, so belief is a big part of it.”

“We need promoters to help us get to a point where touring becomes financially sustainable”

Underlining that point, Schroeder revealed that he has been working with Raye for eight years – “Six and a half years were a real slog, but I always had that belief and I stuck with her.”

Turning the discussion to the different ways in which agencies operate, Sjölund asked Ahern about WME’s territorial model, leading Ahern to dismiss some of the myths about the practice.

“We don’t simply hand off to someone who does not know what they are doing. We engage experts who have knowledge about specific markets, or who speak the local language, and who can advise me as the agent who can then use that information to make a decision. But the person who presents the artist always has that direct relationship – if I do not have that direct contact with my artist, I get fired.”

Schroeder also underlined the importance of the promoter in planning career strategies for artists. “If we choose a promoter that we trust, why would we not want their opinion in a meeting with the artist and management? They are the well informed gamblers that we rely on.”

He concluded, “We need promoters to help us get to a point where touring becomes financially sustainable.”

 


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