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‘The people want it’: All Things Go on diversifying lineups

Independent, female-driven US festival All Things Go is set to celebrate its 10th anniversary this September, with its organisers highlighting how curating a diverse event has paid off.

Speaking with IQ, co-founders Will Suter and Stephen Vallimarescu and brand partnerships and advocacy manager Carlie Webbert discuss the evolution of the DC-based festival. Launching in 2014 as the one-day All Things Go Fall Classic, organisers began curating female-led programming to highlight festivals’ gender imbalance in 2018, with that year’s edition curated by singers Maggie Rogers and LPX.

Since then, the festival has boasted a majority of female and non-binary performers, with the 28-29 September event to be led by Laufey, Bleachers, Hozier, Reneé Rapp, Janelle Monáe, Conan Gray, and Chappell Roan. It marks the third consecutive sellout for the indie event, with 40,000 fans to attend across two days. Last year, the late-summer event expanded from one day, with the 2023 edition headlined by Lana Del Rey, Maggie Rogers, boygenius, and Carly Rae Jepsen.

Gender-balanced festival lineups are rare, with 90% of headline performers being male across 50 European festivals, according to a study by IQ and ROSTR. Across complete lineups, only 35% of artists were female and 1% were non-binary. Attendees have lovingly received the event, dubbing it “Gay-Chella,” “All Things Gay,” and “Lesbopalooza”.

Once you prioritise inclusion, your community will be stronger because you platform voices that usually don’t get the stage,” Webbert says.

Thirty-six artists will perform across multiple stages at ATG’s Maryland amphitheatre base, its biggest edition yet, including Maren Morris, Remi Wolf, Ethel Cain, and Julien Baker. Alongside the music programming, organisers will continue their one-night panel series, the Creator Summit, bringing together leaders in music, media, activism, and technology.

Here, the All Things Go organisers answer 10 questions in celebration of its 10th anniversary.

“Music is a powerful vessel for creating change”

This year marks your 10th anniversary. How are you planning to celebrate the accomplishment this year, and what are you proud to have accomplished over the past 10 years?

Will Suter: We’re celebrating our 10-year anniversary with our biggest lineup to date! We’ll have 36 artists performing over the two days at Merriweather Post Pavilion, in addition to a few surprises along the way. We’re proud to have created a robust community of music fans who circle ATG on their calendar every year and keep coming back — in addition to the new festival fans who might be experiencing the event for the first time.

This year’s edition takes place roughly one month before the presidential election in the capital. What plans do you have to intertwine social activism within the two-day schedule?

Carlie Webbert: Music is a powerful vessel for creating change. For the past few years, we’ve worked with advocacy organisations to ensure we do our part in platforming important causes. Last year we worked with Spotify EQUAL and The Ally Coalition to create a physical activism village on site with six non-profit organisations that were set up for fans to interact with. This year we’ll be working with Propeller, Calling All Crows, Headcount, Peta, Reverb, and more to drive awareness for those organisations along with raising funds. Ultimately, the advocacy arm of the festival will continue to grow and given how engaged the fans at ATG are, we are excited to see the impact that comes from it.

The cost of two-day general admission passes started at just under $200. With the cost of living and live music rising, how could you keep ticket prices down and why is it important to your team to keep the event affordable for different budgets?

Stephen Vallimarescu: Despite costs increasing substantially over the past few years, we strive to keep ticket prices as accessible as possible — and often lower than industry averages. As an independent music festival with a thriving community, we are constantly polling fans to understand what we can do to ensure a better fan experience, which includes affordable pricing and payment plans that start around $35.

All Things Go has openly called attention to putting women and non-binary individuals on the stage, but how is the organisation supporting and engaging those groups working in roles behind the scenes?

CW: Two of our longstanding partnerships are with Women in Music and Amplify Her Voice. These collaborations help us prioritise inclusion month after month. Women in Music supports us in organising the Creator Summit, a panel series held the night before our festival. This event highlights leading women in music, media, and technology. Through our partnership with Amplify Her Voice, we launched a program last year that provided hands-on backstage experiences to over 20 young women and at last year’s festival — an incredibly impactful opportunity for seeing first-hand what happens behind the scenes.

What’s the most memorable bit of feedback you’ve received in the 10 years of programming?

WS: In 10 years of programming, every year has brought new hurdles and new opportunities. We realised a few years into the festival that we need to really listen to and trust our fans. We take our post-festival fan survey very seriously and have launched a few iterations of an ATG fan club to really connect with those fans year-round. It’s ongoing feedback, year after year, on how we can improve our lineups in addition to the overall experience at the festival from the people who are buying the tickets.

“At the very least, ensure you book 50% female or non-binary acts — there is so much talent out there across genres”

Your planning process begins before the previous year’s edition takes place. Can you speak about keeping up with trends in your lineup curation process and how you are set to deliver your biggest offering yet?

WS: The planning process never really ends for the festival. We’re constantly discovering and listening to new music from emerging artists in addition to setting calendar milestones for established artists’ album releases, shows/tours and other festival appearances. The more we’re able to consume and monitor, the better — and it feels like there is more quality across music being released and live shows performed than ever before.

How would you describe the atmosphere of the festival to those who’ve never attended?

SV: The atmosphere at All Things Go is a reflection of our vibrant community, made up of both dedicated fans and boundary-pushing artists. It’s a unique and indescribable energy that covers the festival grounds. Most artists have commented on stage about the distinctiveness of All Things Go compared to other festivals. Our fans are united by a deep love for live music and a common ethos. We stand for something meaningful, and we strive to curate a festival experience that minimises scheduling conflicts and emphasises special moments that fans will remember forever.

In 2023, you hosted the first Creator Summit and brought together voices from the entertainment, music, political, and activism realms. Are there plans to continue this event, and can you highlight any major takeaways from last year?

CW: Yes! The Creator Summit is a significant part of our festival weekend, providing festival attendees with the ability to hear impactful voices from music, media and technology. The event provides a meaningful platform for engaging dialogue for our fans.

Your lineup has been female-driven since Maggie Rogers curated an all-female festival in 2018. Many festivals are still struggling to offer a diverse and balanced bill — what do you have to say to them?

CW: I would say, “Come on! The people want it!” We’ve sold out three years in a row, very fast, with a mostly female lineup. At the very least, ensure you book 50% female or non-binary acts — there is so much talent out there across genres. Once you prioritise inclusion your community will be stronger because you platform voices that usually don’t get the stage.

Describe how you’d like to see All Things Go evolve in the next 10 years.

SV: We aim to further support the next generation of artists and fans by championing their creativity not only through our annual festival but also through our expanding digital platforms. We’re allocating more and more resources to avenues such as newsletters, podcasts, and technology-driven initiatives. Our goal is to enable our community to connect and engage with each other seamlessly, regardless of where they live and beyond the festival weekend.

 


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Booking agency Upsurge expands to Europe

UK-based independent booking agency Upsurge has hired Philippe Van Leuven from Bandwerk in Belgium as the company’s first EU agent.

Van Leuven brings a roster that includes Death Lens, Ruby Haunt, Trauma Ray, Wrong Man, Soft Blue Shimmer and Chase Petra.

“Joining Upsurge is a very logical step to keep developing and growing the acts I’ve been working with the last few years,” says Van Leuven. “In an already competitive market, it also feels natural to combine forces. I very much admire Upsurge’s existing roster and their artist-focused approach. I’m super pleased to be able to reinforce the team and bring my own personal touch to the already amazing line-up.”

Upsurge, which is overseen by tour coordinator Flick Price-Thomas, has grown to a team of five since its inception by Eddie Griffiths in July 2022. The firm has booked artists on festivals such as Download, 2000Trees, Outbreak, Full Force, Resurrection, Summer Breeze, Copenhell and Damnation.

“Upsurge was born out of a love for alternative music and putting on shows”

“Upsurge was born out of a love for alternative music and putting on shows,” says Griffiths. “There’s so many incredible artists coming through those scenes and the underground, so with Upsurge I wanted to provide a home for these types of artists for touring.

“The stellar network of independent venues throughout the UK and Europe plays a very key role in what we do and is vital to our artists. I’m stoked to be part of an incredible team of Flick, Oscar, Lee and now Philippe who all share that same passion as I do and do it for the love of it.

“I didn’t expect things to grow like they have over such a short period of time and I’m truly honoured that Upsurge gets to work with so many of our favourite artists. This is all down to the hard work of our growing team.”

The agency’s roster includes the likes of Superheaven, Fiddlehead, Wicca Phase Springs Eternal, Speed, Split Chain, Bug Bath, Knives, Sick Joy, Pure Hex, Present, Panik Flower, Shooting Daggers, Splitknuckle, Stiff Meds, Out Of Love, Plastics and Cruelty.

 


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Wales’ largest indie promoter enters liquidation

Wales’ largest independent concert promoter Orchard Live has ceased trading and has gone into liquidation, citing “enormously challenging trading conditions”.

The company has promoted shows with acts such as Queens of the Stone Age, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Diana Ross, George Ezra and Sam Fender

But the firm says trading conditions since the onset of Covid-19, compounded by the impact of the cost-of-living pressures on ticket sales, had made it impossible to continue operating.

“Despite the best efforts of a hardworking and very talented team, Orchard Live has been unable to fully recover from the consequences of the pandemic and the ensuing challenging trading conditions,” says a spokesperson for the promoter. “After exploring all possible strategies to avoid this action, the difficult decision has been made to put Orchard Live into creditors voluntary liquidation.

“The past three years have been enormously challenging for the music industry”

“The past three years have been enormously challenging for the music industry and there have been a number of casualties in the sector.”

The statement points out that the company lost summer seasons in 2020 and 2021, and costs increased significantly for rescheduled shows in 2022.

“Despite some great successes, an oversupply of concerts, a slow public return to live events, the cost-of-living crisis and increased competition from national promoters has not produced the required level of sales, leading to unsustainable losses,” adds the spokeperson. “This news will unfortunately be a blow to music lovers in Wales who have been able to enjoy Orchard Live’s work over many years.”

Any ticket-holders for an Orchard Live show are advised to contact the ticket outlet they purchased their ticket from for more information.

 


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Bristol Ticket Shop closing after 30 years

Independent UK-based ticketing company Bristol Ticket Shop has announced it is closing down, citing overdue payments from a debtor.

Launched in 1987 as a concession in Virgin shops and then in record retailer Our Price, Bristol Ticket Shop later found its own home in the centre of the UK city of Bristol. With a focus on supporting the local music scene, Bristol Ticket Shop also sold tickets to events such as Glastonbury Festival and Download Festival.

“After more than 30 years being part of Bristol’s incredible music scene, Bristol Ticket Shop is sadly closing,” reads a post on the ticketer’s Facebook page.

“All the staff here are devastated. The list of incredible events we have supplied tickets for is overwhelming. There are so many regular customers, old and new, that we have really enjoyed talking to over the years and we will miss you all dearly.”

“After more than 30 years being part of Bristol’s incredible music scene, Bristol Ticket Shop is sadly closing”

The management team owes the closure to “news that a debtor owing a large amount of money was unlikely to be able pay in a timely manner”, as well as to the illness of the company’s owner, which has “had a large impact on the resilience of the business”.

The company states it is instructing a third party to negotiate with promoters in order to ensure that “there is as little impact to the customer as possible”. Although the ticketer aims “to honour tickets for future events”, it notes this may not always be possible, in which case refunds will be issued.

Bristol music fans have responded to the “sad news”, showing support for the ticketer, which formed a “huge part” of the local live scene.

According to the International Ticketing Yearbook 2019, the primary ticketing business in the UK is “incredibly competitive”, with major international companies including Ticketmaster, See Tickets, AXS, Eventim and Eventim taking a large share of the market.

Many local independent outfits, such as Manchester’s Ticketline, Birmingham’s the Ticket Factory, Leeds’ Ticket Arena and Nottingham’s Gigantic – now majority owned by DEAG – also perform well.

 


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Exit 2.0: back to the future of the Balkans’ biggest festival

Exit Festival, a live music event spawned from the desire for peace and freedom in the Balkans, is turning twenty years old this year, with a brand new set of social aims appearing at the top of its agenda.

Founded by Dusan Kovačević, Ivan Milivojev, Bojan Boskovic and Milos Ignjatovic in 2000, the first edition of Exit Festival took place in University Park in the Serbian city of Novi Sad, with the objective of connecting like-minded Balkan people and encouraging political engagement among the youth.

“Exit was the first mass gathering of young people from former Yugoslavian countries after the Balkans War [which took place from 1991-1999],” Sagor Mešković, the festival’s chief communications officer, explains to IQ. “It started off as a youth activism movement for peace in Serbia and the Balkans.”

“After ten years of war and isolation in the region, the first edition of the festival was characterised by a feeling that normal life was back again,” adds Exit co-founder Kovačević. “Emotions were so high, that most of the artists said that they played the best concert of their tour , or even their whole career, at the event.”

Twenty years on, Exit Festival has just enjoyed its biggest year yet, welcoming 200,000 fans to its permanent site at Novi Sad’s Petrovaradin Fortress for four days of performances from the likes of the Cure, Carl Cox, Amelie Lens, the Chainsmokers and Greta van Fleet.

“After ten years of war and isolation in the region, the first edition of the festival was characterised by a feeling that normal life was back again”

Adding to its flagship event, the Exit team have now developed an extended festival network, providing “the biggest cultural bridge between the countries of the former Yugoslavia” in the form of No Sleep Festival in Serbia, Sea Star in Croatia, Revolution Festival in Romania and Sea Dance Festival in Montenegro.

This unique history and ethos is the driving force behind the desire for Exit to remain independent.

“Exit didn’t start for profit,” states Kovačević. “I respect the investment funds that are taking over festivals – they are still doing great shows and people are having fun – but we have decided to stay independent because we know the festival world needs something like this.”

With so much history behind them, the twentieth anniversary of Exit Festival is “important on so many levels, not just for us, but for the whole region,” says Kovačević.

Exit 2.0, as the anniversary event is dubbed, will look to the future as well as celebrating of the past, a fact reflected in the very programming of the festival. “We are going to bring back some of the acts that marked our history and mix them together with those who are making an impact in this day and age,” states Kovačević.

With over 20 stages and even more genres of music, Exit’s line-ups are broad and diverse, frequently seeing pop stars and leading electronic acts headlining alongside rock, and even metal, bands. A dedicated Latin stage has been present at Exit since day one, which now seems “almost prophetic”, given the global Latin music rise we see today.

“I respect the investment funds that are taking over festivals, but we have decided to stay independent because we know the festival world needs something like this”

Although line-ups are always eclectic, the billing never tends towards the generic due to the team’s habit of booking based on “gut feeling”, in addition to using data, metrics and ticket sales figures. “The irrational part of us is the one that makes a good line-up,” states Mešković. On a more personal level, the team also strive to work with the artists “who have a similar ethos to ours.”

For Exit, it is vital to “be one with the audience”, making sure every decision is guided by the wants and needs of the fan. To this end, the festival aims to keep tickets affordable, especially for the local audience. “We never want to lose our local fans,” says Kovačević, “because if we did, we would lose our soul.”

In addition to its core audience of locals, Exit’s fan base has become more and more international over the years. Fans travel to Serbia from elsewhere in Europe, as well as from Asia, America and Australia to attend the event.

“We are bringing a lot of tourism into the country,” says the Exit co-founder, explaining that the boost the festival has given to the country’s international reputation is often compared to that made by Serbian tennis champion Novak Djokovic.

Together with the tennis player, Exit Festival has now set up a foundation to help build nursery schools in Serbia, one example of the festival’s continuation of its social activist roots.

“We know that through a good party and the love of music, you really can engage people in a meaningful way and make a difference”

Another example is Life Stream, the environmental campaign launched by Exit at Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) in October. “The Life Stream project aims to put the festival industry at the forefront of the fight for life on the planet,” explains Kovačević.

The idea is to inject imagery, text and data relating to environmental issues into live streams from music festivals, to harness the “visibility and influence” they have for the good of the planet.

“We don’t want to show despair only,” says Mešković, “we also want to show there is some hope and to mobilise people to take action – because there is still time.”

The upcoming edition of Exit will serve as a major platform for the project, with both Kovačević and Mešković hoping other festivals will follow suit.

“We know that through a good party and the love of music, you really can engage people in a meaningful way and make a difference.”

Exit 2.0 takes place from 9 to 12 July 2020 in Novi Sad, Serbia.

 


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See Tickets signs 50th UK indie venue

See Tickets has been selected as the primary ticketing agent for new Manchester venue and club Yes, which becomes the 50th independent venue in the ticketer’s portfolio.

Yes, the new venture from Manchester-based promoter Now Wave, joins existing See Tickets partners Albert Hall Manchester (2,200-cap.), Lincoln Engine Shed (1,500-cap.), Brighton’s the Haunt (375-cap.), the Leadmill in Sheffield (1,150-cap.) and London venues Alexandra Palace (10,400-cap.), the Village Underground (1,000-cap.), Earth (1,750-cap.) and Electric Ballroom (1,500-cap.).

Based in a former auctioneers house and printers press, Yes consists of a 60-capacity basement club, 250-capacity gig venue the Pink Room, a main bar and restaurant area, as well as an attic bar and roof terrace.

“We have always championed independent venues and so we’re incredibly proud to have reached the milestone of having 50 venue partners,” says See Tickets chief commercial officer Martin Fitzgerald.

“We have always championed independent venues and so we’re incredibly proud to have reached the milestone of having 50 venue partners”

“We put our success down to being completely bespoke in the services we offer, whether its white label ticketing, marketing, access control or web development. Our clients are fiercely committed to the venues they run and we see it as our job to get to know their challenges and do whatever we can to support them,” adds Fitzgerald.

Dan Monsell, head of programming at multi-arts space Earth (Evolutionary Arts Hackney) comments: “The range and difference of events in the venue space is crucial to what the space is about. It’s such a relief See is able to work so well to facilitate the high-performance service needed for all of these.”

Lincoln Engine Shed’s head of events and marketing, Michael Redpath, says that working with See Tickets “has made a tangible difference” to the venue’s day-to-day operations.

See Tickets’ clients across the wider music industry include Glastonbury Festival, SJM Concerts, Universal Music Group, Kilimanjaro Live and Crosstown Concerts.

 


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Tramlines adds value with free films, Suede Q&A

Independent UK festival Tramlines has partnered with a local cinema to offer attendees a programme of music films and a chance to meet iconic Britpop band Suede.

The Showroom Workstation in Sheffield will show Suede film Night Thoughts, which will be followed by a Q&A with the band, as well as NG83: When We Were B Boys, Where You’re Meant to Be (followed by a Q&A with Aiden Moffat of Arab Strap), Lee Scratch Perry’s Vision of ParadiseSongs from Lahore and Prince’s Purple Rain.

All film screenings will be open to all holders of Tramlines wristbands and passes.

“We’re delighted to be partnering with the people behind such a cutting-edge and innovative film programme, as well as offering Tramlines-goers the opportunity to enjoy something beyond the music,” says festival director Sarah Nulty.

Tramlines 2016, organised by a collective of venue owners, promoters and volunteers, will take place at various venues in Sheffield city centre from 22 to 24 July. Performers confirmed so far include Catfish and the Bottlemen, Dizzee Rascal, Kelis, Jurassic 5, Hinds and Little Simz.

AEG Live to acquire The Bowery Presents

AEG Live is reportedly close to completing a deal to acquire a majority stake in independent New York promoter and venue operator The Bowery Presents.

The news, reported by Billboard, comes shortly after the purchase by Live Nation Entertainment of rival concert and festival promoter Founders Entertainment, further turning the New York/east coast region into a battleground between the two promotion conglomerates and depriving the US of two more independent operations in the space of less than a month.

AEG Live and Live Nation have long dominated the festival and, especially, touring markets, both in most of America and around the world, but have until recently had limited influence in New York.

This summer will be the first time both companies have staged major music festivals in the city: Live Nation’s Founders is the longtime promoter of Governors Ball, which will take place for the sixth time this year on Randalls Island in Manhattan with a line-up featuring The Strokes, Kanye West, The Killers, Beck, M83 and Haim, while AEG Live will host its own new festival, Panorama, also on Randalls Island – a move Founders Entertainment’s Tom Russell called “short-sighted and disappointing”.

The Bowery Presents, founded in 1993, owns or operates venues in New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Maine and promotes shows in both American’s north and south, with a dedicated division, The Bowery South, covering the latter. Its concerts range from small and mid-size affairs to stadium-level shows: it will organise dates by Brand New and Modest Mouse, Ellie Goulding (pictured) and Adele at Madison Square Garden later in the year.