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European festival line-ups take shape for ’24

The 2024 festival season in Europe is beginning to take shape after a raft of top events made their first line-up announcements for next summer.

In Germany, Eventimpresents/DreamHaus’ twin Rock am Ring and Rock im Park festivals, held at Nürburgring and Nürnberg, respectively, will welcome the likes of Die Ärzte, Avenged Sevenfold, Queens of the Stone Age, Green Day, Broilers, Billy Talent, Måneskin, Parkway Drive and Kraftklub from 7-9 June.

FKP Scorpio’s flagship festivals Hurricane, in Scheessel, and Southside, in Neuhausen ob Eck will also return from 21-23 June with acts such as Ed Sheeran, The National, Bring Me The Horizon, Avril Lavigne, The Offspring, The Hives, Jungle and Fontaines DC.

Denmark’s famed Roskilde has also announced its first batch of artists for its 52nd edition from 29 June to 6 July, which includes PJ Harvey, Kali Uchis, Romy, Trueno, The Armed and Blondshell.

“We have a long-running history of being a progressive festival with an international perspective, and we consistently push ourselves to further that purpose,” says Roskilde programme director Anders Wahrén. “We aim to inspire every single one of our 130,000 festival participants with a diverse lineup characterised by artistic curiosity and groundbreaking headliners presented in a unique festival setting.”

“Roskilde Festival is a very communal event where dreams and new ideas for a better tomorrow are being addressed”

He adds: “Roskilde Festival is a very communal event where dreams and new ideas for a better tomorrow are being addressed, exchanged, cultivated and eventually tried out by our participants. And music and art play a big part in inspiring us to even think and sense those new ideas to begin with.”

Set for 6-10 August, Norway’s Superstruct-backed Øyafestivalen will celebrate 25 years with headliners including Pulp and PJ Harvey, while Croatia’s biggest open-air music festival INMusic, which was cancelled in 2023 due to financial challenges, will return to Zagreb from 24-26 June, topped by Smashing Pumpkins and The National.

Elsewhere, Ed Sheeran was unveiled last month as the first headliner of Rock in Rio Lisbon’s 20th anniversary edition. First held in 2004, the biennial festival returns to Portugal for a double weekender between 15-16 & 22-23 June 2024.

Isle of Wight Festival today became the first major UK event to show its hand. Headlined by The Prodigy, Pet Shop Boys and – in a UK festival exclusive – Green Day from 20-23 June. The bill also includes The Streets, Keane, Simple Minds, Crowded House, Blossoms, Nothing But Thieves and Zara Larsson, among others.

“We’re thrilled to announce our 2024 headliners today and to continue to showcase a truly exciting array of talent for next year’s festival,” says IoW organiser John Giddings. “From globally-recognised and pioneering artists, to chart-topping talent and rising stars, we can’t wait to welcome everyone to the island next year.”

Glastonbury has pushed its 2024 ticket sale back by two weeks

Also in the UK, Derbyshire’s Bearded Theory will welcome the likes of Jane’s Addiction, Amyl and the Sniffers, Sleaford Mods, Orbital and Dinosaur Jr to its 15th anniversary from 23-26 May.

And Slam Dunk, the UK’s biggest independent rock festival, will bring You Me At Six, The All American Rejects, I Prevail, Funeral For A Friend, Asking Alexandria, Waterparks, Palaye Royale and Pale Waves to Hatfield Park (25 May) and Leeds’ Temple Newsam (26 May).

Meanwhile, Glastonbury has pushed its 2024 ticket sale back by two weeks to 16 November (tickets plus coach travel) and 19 November (general admission) “out of fairness” to people who discovered they were no longer registered to attempt to buy tickets, despite believing they were.

“Following this year’s festival, we alerted everyone with a registration which pre-dated 2020 of a scheduled review of the details held by See Tickets in the Glastonbury Festival registration database,” says a statement. “This was in order to ensure that the details we hold are current and that we do not store individuals’ information for any longer than is necessary. These registrants were asked to take action to confirm their registration if they wished to keep it.

“Unfortunately, it has come to light that some individuals hoping to buy tickets for 2024 have discovered after Monday’s registration deadline that they are no longer registered, despite believing they were.

“Out of fairness to those individuals, we will be re-opening the window for registration at 12 noon on Monday, 6th November. It will remain open until 5pm on Monday, 13th November.”

Yesterday it was announced that annual action sport and music festival NASS, held near Bristol, will not take place next year as a result of rising costs. Meanwhile, the debut of new Dutch heavy metal festival South of Heaven has been postponed for a year after “no certainty could be given about obtaining the necessary permit for the first edition”. The event was set for 31 May and 1 June, promoted by TIRR Music Agency, Muziekgieterij Maastricht and Doomstar Bookings.


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IOW’s John Giddings: ‘Business is booming’

Isle of Wight Festival promoter John Giddings says “business is booming” ahead of one of the UK’s biggest live music weekends of the year.

The 210,000-cap Glastonbury welcomes headliners Arctic Monkeys, Guns N’ Roses and Elton John from tomorrow to Sunday, while AEG’s British Summer Time Hyde Park (cap. 65,000) kicks off in London tomorrow with All Things Orchestral, followed by two shows by Pink.

Solo Agency boss Giddings has worked on Beyoncé’s recent Renaissance stadium dates and Madonna’s upcoming Celebration tour for Live Nation. With Festival Republic, meanwhile, Solo is staging Dog Day Afternoon, a one-off outdoor show at Crystal Palace Park on 1 July, featuring Iggy Pop, Blondie and punk supergroup Generation Sex.

“I was really worried at Christmas about the cost of living crisis, but it doesn’t seem to be evident – people want to go out and have a good time”

“Beyoncé sold out to the rafters, we’ve sold out Madonna in the autumn, we’ve got Iggy Pop and Blondie at Crystal Palace Park a week on Saturday and we’ve obviously got some acts at Glastonbury, so there’s a lot knocking around,” Giddings tells IQ. “Business is booming – booming. I was really worried at Christmas about the cost of living crisis, but it doesn’t seem to be evident – people want to go out and have a good time and enjoy themselves.”

Giddings is also basking in the glory of last weekend’s sellout Isle of Wight. The 55,000-cap event was headlined by Pulp, George Ezra, the Chemical Brothers and – for the first time in his career – Robbie Williams.

“It was incredible,” says Giddings. “You always wake up on Monday morning and think, ‘How the fuck am I going to beat that?’ I mean, Robbie Williams was a different level, he was absolutely extraordinary. He told his whole life story, warts and all, and played the songs to go with it. He’s such a showman.”

“We’ve definitely established Isle of Wight as one of the Premier League festivals”

More than 22,000 tickets for this IoW 2023 were sold in the week after last year’s festival.

“That’s better than usual,” he says. “Early birds [for 2024] go on sale this Friday. And it’s interesting that as soon as we sell out, I get a million emails and phone calls saying, ‘I haven’t bought a ticket yet.’ So I said to everyone, ‘Buy one early this time!'”

He adds: “I think half the audience come because they love the event and the other half come because of the lineup. We’ve definitely established it as one of the Premier League festivals. You can’t compare Glastonbury because that’s in its own league, but we’re up there with Leeds-Reading, etc.”

“You can’t do the same thing year in, year out. It’s like a Formula One car – you have to develop it as it evolves”

Giddings revived the legendary festival in 2002 after a 32-year hiatus and has continued in his leadership role since Live Nation acquired a controlling stake in 2017. Other acts on the bill this year included Courteeners, Blondie, OneRepublic, Sugababes, Anne-Marie, Sam Ryder, N-Dubz, Niall Horan and Manic Street Preachers.

“It’s just making it better for the general public because they pay us to come, and we pay the artists to come, so in a sense the audience are more important than the artists and you have to create different areas for them to be entertained,” says Giddings. “We’ve got 15 stages and I discovered things that I didn’t even know existed. There’s a special Cabaret Club at the back of the Intoxicated Tea Rooms, and we develop new things every year.

“This year we had a drone show, which came all the way from Australia because I used it with The Corrs last November, and it had an image of the Isle of Wight Festival evolving into the needles and stuff like that. It just makes it more interesting for people.

“You have to just keep doing things to keep everybody interested and you can’t do the same thing year in, year out. It’s like a Formula One car – you have to develop it as it evolves.”


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Solo strikes biofuel deal over IoW festival site

Solo Agency has struck a “groundbreaking deal” with an Isle of Wight biogas firm to generate more than 950,000 kWh of electricity using grass from the Isle of Wight Festival site – almost twice the amount of energy used during the festival.

The Newport-based Black Dog biogas plant supplies power to the Vestas Offshore Wind Blades facility, further contributing to the sustainability outcomes of the project.

Solo, owned by Isle of Wight Festival leaders John and Caroline Giddings, has turned over the land it holds for festival camping to biofuel production – with grass harvesting being conducted either side of the June event.

“I’m really pleased that we’re able to give our land a new lease of life, helping to generate renewable energy and making sure the fields are used productively year-round,” says John Giddings. “On top of delivering one of the UK’s best music festivals on the island, we have also sought to play a positive role in the local community and we’re proud that we will be doing our bit in the push for a more sustainable future for the island.”

“We want the Isle of Wight Festival to be the most sustainable festival in the UK”

The new project is the latest in a host of initiatives designed to make the festival more sustainable. Organisers are currently working with the Isle of Wight Council on a scoping exercise around installing a new electricity sub-station near the site. The move would enable the most energy intensive areas of the festival to be powered from the grid rather than generators, leading to a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

“We want the Isle of Wight Festival to be the most sustainable festival in the UK,” adds Caroline Giddings. “Year on year we have done more to ensure that our event is as sustainable as possible, from small scale changes, such as the type of cups and cutlery we use, to systemic shifts such as the push to get the main stage area on the electricity grid. This latest initiative builds on that decade of work to keep us at the forefront of environmental activity in the industry.”

The 2023 Isle of Wight Festival takes place between 15-18 June at Seaclose Park, Newport, featuring headliners Pulp, George Ezra, Chemical Brothers and Robbie Williams.


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Festival Focus: More huge names confirmed for ’23

Another spate of European festivals have announced headliners and main stage artists for their 2023 editions.

Dutch festival Pinkpop has confirmed that British pop star Robbie Williams will return to Landgraaf for the first time since 2015.

He will close out Saturday night at the festival – which is said to be “the oldest and longest-running annual dedicated pop and rock music festival in the world” – while P!nk will top the bill on the Friday night. English indie rock band Editors and Dutch electronic band Goldband are also on the 2023 bill.

The 52nd edition of Pinkpop, promoted by Live Nation-owned Mojo Concerts, will take place between 16–18 June, next year.

Williams is also set to perform at the UK’s Isle of Wight festival, alongside Pulp, George Ezra and Chemical Brothers. Sugarbabes, Sophie Ellis Bextor, Anne-Marie, Gabrielle, Blondie and Ella Henderson have also been confirmed for the event, which runs between 15–18 June in Seaclose Park, Newport.

The festival is promoted by Solo Agency’s John Giddings and Live Nation.

Lowlands: “The oldest and longest-running annual dedicated pop and rock music festival in the world”

Elsewhere in the UK, DF Concert’s TRNSMT festival will see Pulp, George Ezra, Niall Horan, Sam Fender, Kasabian, The 1975 and Royal Blood perform at Glasgow Green in Scotland between 7–9 July next year.

Further South in the UK, Latitude will bring Pulp, Paulo Nutini, George Ezra, The Kooks, Metronomy to Henham Park, Suffolk, between 20–23 July.

In Poland, promoter Alter Art has announced Arctic Monkeys for the 2023 edition of Open’er, slated for 28 June to 1 July at Gdynia-Kosakowo in Gdynia. The English rockstars will close the Orange Main Stage on the Friday night, in support of their new album The Car.

And in neighbouring Czech Republic, Colours of Ostrava have confirmed US pop rock band One Republic as the first headliner for next year’s instalment, set for 19–22 July at Dolní Vítkovice in Ostrava.


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John Giddings trumpets IOW’s ‘brilliant’ return

Isle of Wight Festival promoter John Giddings has told IQ the event sold almost 50,000 tickets for its return to its traditional June date.

IOW’s 2021 edition at Seaclose Park was held last September due to the pandemic, but was back on more familiar ground this year from June 16-19.

“It was a brilliant weekend,” says Giddings. “It was back in its natural slot and it seemed like we were back in gear to be honest because last year seemed a bit scrambled. Although everybody was good natured, it was slightly odd being in the wrong month, and this year, everybody was just really up for it.”

Headlined by Muse, Lewis Capaldi, Kasabian and Pete Tong, other artists included Madness, Nile Rodgers + Chic, Sigrid, Blossoms, Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott, Jessie Ware, Rudimental and Tom Grennan.

“Muse were incredible, Nile Rodgers was as brilliant as usual, and Kasabian blew me away, they were phenomenal,” beams Giddings. “You always worry when the singer changes, but [Serge Pizzorno] has taken it to a new level.”

“It went from a heatwave all the way up to Saturday lunchtime, then the temperature dropped like a brick”

The only minor negative was provided by the fluctuating weather, with high winds resulting in the main stage action being briefly suspended on Saturday on safety grounds.

“It went from a heatwave all the way up to Saturday lunchtime, then the temperature dropped like a brick and the wind blew and I had to stop Blossoms halfway through,” explains Giddings. “But we turned it around and Kasabian and Pete Tong went down a storm. And then Sunday was fantastic, finishing with Muse. Ninety per cent was brilliant weather, 10% was dodgy.”

Despite the well documented supply chain issues impacting the live events business, Giddings says the run-up to the festival went largely to plan, notwithstanding the reduced lead time.

“We only had nine months as opposed to a year,” he says. “But the fact that we paid our bills quite quickly mean we seem to have been a priority for suppliers.”

“Some festivals are struggling this year because there’s three years’ worth of touring in one year”

However, Giddings acknowledges the ongoing challenges affecting the wider sector.

“We were lucky, we sold just under 50,000,” he says. “But I’m aware of the fact that some festivals are struggling this year, because basically there’s three years’ worth of touring in one year. If you’re called Adele or Harry Styles, you’ve done great business, but there are people out there not doing as well.

“There’s just too much on in a short period of time. It’s always the mid range which is going to struggle and there’s a serious cost of living problem and if you’re going to spend some money, you’re only going to spend it once as opposed to three times.”

The Isle of Wight County Press reports two people suffered minor injuries when a metal pole came loose in a small bar tent in the Octopus Garden area during high winds on Saturday. “Medical attention was provided within four minutes by the onsite medical team, the structure was safely secured and both people were discharged back into the festival,” said a spokesperson.


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Six of the best from Alex Hardee & John Giddings

Heavyweight agents Alex Hardee and John Giddings served up a treat for ILMC delegates by starring in one of the most entertaining panels yet seen at a music business conference.

Coda Agency co-founder Hardee, now of Wasserman Music, and Isle of Wight Festival promoter Giddings, of Solo Agency, sat down in front of a standing room only audience to review their respective career paths and retell some of the many stories of their lives in the concert industry.

Here are six of the best tales (that we can print) from the double act’s ‘Dragons’ Den’ masterclass…

Why they became agents…

John Giddings: “I couldn’t get a real job. When I was 14 at school my mate said his group had split up and why didn’t I learn to play bass and pull a few chicks, so I thought it was a good idea. But then we were playing Harpenden Youth Club and a skinhead came and stood in front of me and said, ‘If you don’t stop playing now, I’m going to hit you,’ which was the end of my musical career. But I was better at booking the gig than being in it and my mate was social sec at the local college and he got a job in the music business. So I knew if you went to university and became social sec, you’d meet people in the music business and get a job. I got offered a job… Barry Dickins couldn’t decide between me and Paul Loasby, so he employed both of us.”

Alex Hardee: “Believe it or not, I actually was doing aeronautical engineering at university. My brother [the late Malcolm Hardee] was a comedian and he introduced me to lots of other comedians like Steve Coogan, Eddie Izzard… And I started booking them while I was a student. Then I got a 2:2 in my second year in aeronautical engineering and [careers’ advice] said, ‘If you work really hard and get a 2:1 then you will be able to work in Enfield Aerodrome and get £16,000 a year.’ And I went, ‘Fuck no, I’m already earning £25,000 a year!’ So I left university the next day and that’s how I became an agent. I mean, some still say I am a comedy agent…”

“Groups should pay little commission when they start and more commission when they earn money”

Changing client relations…

JG: “When you start, you’re petrified about losing an act because you need to earn the money to pay your mortgage. And then finally, when you earn some money and you buy your house, the relationship changes. If a group comes to you and says, ‘We want to do this tour of beaches and rent a big top and go around the UK.’ And you can tell them it’s a fucking stupid idea which you couldn’t tell them before because you’re worried about losing them. But then when acts get to a stadium level, it’s a different level of representation. I’ve always thought groups should pay little commission when they start and more commission when they earn more money, but… it doesn’t work like that. Try telling a group they should pay you more money when they get bigger. And the poor little group has no money to pay you in the first place.”

AH: “As soon as you’re worried about losing an act, you’ve already lost them. What’s quite interesting is when an artist starts to become unsuccessful they can’t fire the record label. So probably first thing they’d do would be to fire the agent, because they don’t have a contract. But it’s interesting in Covid… I thought there’d be a lot more change. But the agents couldn’t get blamed for nothing happening for the last two years so they couldn’t get fired!”

“The middle is being squeezed and it’s going to be quite a tough summer. A lot of shows aren’t going to hit that breakeven point”

The ’22 summer season…

JG: “Shows that went on sale before Christmas have done quite well, but shows that have gone on sale since then are beginning to struggle and it’s becoming soft in the market, because there’s three years’ worth of touring in one year. So we’ve all got to watch out. I don’t think it’s going to come completely back to normal until the start of ’23. Everybody’s putting on a brave face, but there’s a lot out there and it costs a third more to fill up your car, or your electricity bill now… If you’re a punter, you’re going to worry about your food bill, as opposed to buying a ticket for a festival.”

AH: “This year, there’s too much on, there are too many shows. There’s more tickets on sale, but the P&Ls for the individual shows aren’t making profits. So it’s a good year to be an agent or a ticketing company, but the promoters are going to suffer and that will have to get readjusted the following year. The middle’s been squeezed and it’s going to be quite a tough summer I think… A lot of shows aren’t going to hit that breakeven point.”

JG: “The kids are still going out. I mean, the Little Mix tour we keep releasing production seats and they sell like hot cakes. Harry Styles sells out.”

AH: “Billie Eilish… The top never gets squeezed but the middle acts, the middle festivals, the middle events, there’s a lot of trouble there. it’s going to be hard.”

“I looked around and Prince Harry’s there with a crate of beer”

Best festival memory…

JG: “Jay-Z was playing [Isle of Wight] and the audience of going wild. I thought, ‘An audience can’t go more wild than they are now,’ and then Kanye West walked on behind him… I turned around to my left, and there was Beyoncé standing next to me and I thought, ‘This is worth it.'”

AH: “This isn’t my best one, but it’s reminded me of a good one: I was at Hyde Park and I managed to blag on stage to Jay-Z. There was Beyoncé, Sacha Baron Cohen, Madonna and somehow me on the side of the stage and I was fucking desperate for a drink but there weren’t any. I looked around and Prince Harry’s there with a crate of beer. I go, ‘Can I have a beer mate?’ And he goes, ‘Here bruv’. And I thought, ‘Fucking “bruv!”‘ I went, ‘Oh thanks. where are we going afterwards then? I hear it’s all back to yours because yours is the closest.’ That’s a true story!”

“All the contracts in the world are meaningless, you have to deliver on your word”

Least favourite thing about the live business…

JG: “When people bullshit you – it’s so boring. The easiest thing in the world is to tell the truth, because then you can at least remember what you’ve said. All the contracts in the world are meaningless, you have to deliver on your word. And it’s so disappointing when people let you down and don’t deliver… It’s rife with bullshit, that’s the thing I like least about it.”

AH: “Smoke and mirrors is much harder nowadays, everything’s a stat, you can’t say I sold out Brixton if you didn’t sell out Brixton. Within two seconds, you can find out every ticket count, everyone can find everything.”

JG: “One thing that’s changed in the music business is, when I joined it, everybody used to lie about ticket sales and say they were less than they really were. And they still lie about ticket sales, but by saying they’re more than they really are. So they’ve never actually told the truth in the whole of my career.”

AH: “The promoters used to say they were less?”

JG: “Yeah, because they didn’t want to pay you as much and now everybody’s embarrassed by it so they inflate it when they tell it to you. Unless you speak to Simon Moran, who knows every ticket sale for every show throughout the universe…”

Advice they would give their 16-year-old selves…

AH: “Don’t.”

JG: “It’s so long ago I can’t remember, seriously. I mean, to be in this business you have to work really hard. You have to work the room and you have to deliver on your word. It’s not brain of Britain stuff, but people have to be able to trust you. If people can trust in you then they’re confident in what they’re doing.”


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John Giddings on getting Genesis back on the road

Solo boss John Giddings has told IQ how Genesis’ The Last Domino? Tour has navigating the challenges of Covid to triumph over adversity.

The legendary Phil Collins-fronted band last toured in 2007 before announcing a reunion in 2020. The European leg of the tour is due to finally wrap up at the fourth time of asking with a three-night stand at The O2 from 24-26 March.

The London arena dates were originally scheduled for November 2020 before being postponed multiple times thanks to the pandemic, including last October, when they were due to wrap up their UK run.

Giddings, who will appear alongside Paradigm agent Alex Hardee as part of ILMC’s popular Dragons’ Den sessions at next month’s conference, explains the course of events.

“Last November, two of the band got Covid the first night in Glasgow, so we had to cancel the second night in Glasgow and postpone the three O2s,” he says. “So I postponed the three O2s to the end of March and suggested to the band that we play some European shows prior to The O2 – because you can’t just do it on its own – as a farewell thank you to all the European fans.”

However, the emergence of the Omicron variant late last year – and the subsequent tightening of restrictions on gatherings – threatened to derail plans once again.

“Getting it all together at two weeks’ notice was pretty hard”

“We sold all of the tickets, then something called Omicron came along and all the countries kind of closed down again,” sighs Giddings. “So three weeks ago, we had three shows at The O2 [lined up], but we couldn’t play France, Holland or Germany.

“I think the first country that opened up was France, so we could play two Paris shows and three Londons, with a week in between, then Holland said it was looking likely.”

But going ahead with the German stretch – two nights at each of Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin, Hanover’s Zag Arena and Lanxess Arena in Cologne – was not as straightforward.

“I wrote a letter to the minister of culture in Germany asking for special dispensation because they said we could the play gigs, but only to 60% capacity,” says Giddings, “and anybody in the music business knows that just pays for the costs of the show.

“Germany consists of five different countries really, five different states – so we had to go to the local governments of each of them and beg to be able to do them, saying everybody has to wear a mask, tests have to be shown, anything to make the shows happen.

“Eventually, we got permission. The first to give us permission was Hannover, then Cologne and then, with about two weeks to go, Berlin. Getting it all together at two weeks’ notice was pretty hard with equipment, trucking, coaches for the crew, etc, but here we are and it’s going incredibly.”

“Germany is their biggest market, France second and Holland is probably third”

The tour, which has been met with glowing reviews, continues tonight (17 March) at the 40,000-cap Paris la Défense Arena in France before returning to Germany’s Lanxess Arena in Cologne, followed by two nights at Amsterdam’s Ziggo Dome in the Netherlands (21-22 March).

“The responses are phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal,” reports Giddings. “Audiences love this group, love their history and realise it’s the last time they’ll ever see them live. Phil sits down for the whole show, but his personality shines through. He’s singing better than ever, and the band are playing better than ever.

“Germany is their biggest market, France second and Holland is probably third, but some people were flying in from Ukraine to come and see some of these shows and obviously they can’t get here, which is horrible. Phil refers to it during the show and dedicates a song to them, Land of Confusion, which was originally written about a different subject, but is pertinent in today’s world.”

The trio – Collins, Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford, toured North America last November/December. The tour was the 54th best seller of 2021, according to Pollstar, shifting 134,323 tickets for a total gross of $23,743,403 (€21,461,200).

“We did 21 shows just ahead of the new wave of the variant,” notes Giddings. “America was interesting because you talk about different countries in Germany, the different states in America had different rules. The Democrats had certain rules, obviously in New York you had to show Covid passes and all that, and in the Trump states, nobody gave a fuck! You had to remember where you were.”

Isle of Wight Festival promoter Giddings is currently appearing in the four-part BBC Two series Rock Till We Drop, which offers the chance for a band of musicians aged over 64 a chance to appear at the festival. He gives a brief update on this year’s IoW, which will be headlined by Lewis Capaldi, Kasabian and Muse from 16-19 June.

“It’s shaping up really well,” he says. “We’re just under 40,000 tickets so far and it’s picking up like there’s no tomorrow, it’s going to be lovely.”


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Giddings blasts ‘joke’ government insurance scheme

Isle Of Wight Festival promoter John Giddings has criticised the British government’s long-awaited reinsurance scheme for live events.

The £800 million scheme, which opened yesterday (22 September), will cover costs incurred if an event has to be cancelled, postponed, relocated or abandoned due to a government-imposed lockdown in response to Covid-19.

The cover, which is a partnership between the government and the Lloyd’s of London insurance market, is now available to purchase alongside standard commercial events insurance for an additional premium.

However, Solo Agency boss Giddings tells IQ he believes the cover did not meet requirements.

“I think it’s a joke,” he says. “They want far too much money and there are too many caveats in it. I think they just keep paying us lip service like they have done all the way down the line.”

“[The British government] want far too much money and there are too many caveats in [the insurance scheme]”

Premium is set at 5% of the total value of insured costs (plus Insurance Premium Tax) and claims will be subject to an excess of 5% of the value of the insured costs or £1,000 (whichever is higher) per policy.

However, the scheme will not cover loss of revenue due to lower demand for tickets, reduced venue capacity, or self-isolation of staff or performers. “It was financially impossible and it didn’t cover the things it needed to cover,” adds Giddings.

On a brighter note, Giddings says last weekend’s return of the Isle Of Wight Festival, headlined by Liam Gallagher, Snow Patrol, David Guetta and Duran Duran, could not have gone better.

“It was incredible,” he says. “It was four days of sunshine, all the bands turned up and the audience were gagging for it. We had incredible demand and the audience were incredibly excited about being out in the open air again.

“It was complete absolute, utter luck on our behalf that the weekend in June we should have done it poured with rain every day and the dates in September, the sun shone every day and it was like an Indian summer.”

“Somebody said to me, ‘What do you think about 50,000 people in a field?’ and I said, ‘Well, it’s safer than going to the supermarket.’”

The 2021 event was switched to September due to the pandemic, but will return to its traditional weekend next year from June 16-19. The 2022 line-up is due to be unveiled on Monday morning (September 27).

“When it was obvious June was going to be a problem this year, we took the executive decision to move to September, so that we didn’t have to move another year,” explains Giddings. “We certainly had good ticket sales and a very excitable audience, but it’s such a gamble with the weather, that’s the problem.

“The good news was it got darker earlier, so the top three acts played in darkness as opposed to the top one and a half acts. But it does get cold at night, I have to say.”

In line with government guidelines, ticket-holders were required to either be double-jabbed at least 14 days before the festival, proof of a negative lateral flow test or an exemption in order to be permitted entry.

“Everybody was willing to do it and they expected it. It was a collective responsibility,” says Giddings. “Somebody said to me, ‘What do you think about 50,000 people in a field?’ and I said, ‘Well, it’s safer than going to the local supermarket.’”


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Industry heads predict return to normal by 2022

Yesterday’s news of Moderna’s 94.5% effective coronavirus vaccine provided yet another glimmer of hope for the live music industry and its return to normality.

Moderna’s announcement came a week after Pfizer reported that its vaccine, developed in collaboration with BioNTech, was more than 90% effective – causing share prices in industry giants such as Live Nation, CTS and DEAG to soar by double digits.

As the race for a Covid vaccine accelerates – with trials also being conducted in China, Russia, India and Australia – and optimism in the return of live music increases, IQ asks some of the industry’s big hitters for their thoughts.

Here, CTS Eventim’s Klaus-Peter Schulenberg (Germany), AEG Presents France’s Arnaud Meersseman, Isle of Wight Festival and Solo Agency’s John Giddings (UK) and Radar Concerti’s Fabrizio Pompeo (Italy) share post-vaccine predictions and preparations.

Crystal ball gazing
“Ever since the pandemic began, I have repeatedly emphasised that we need a vaccine or effective drugs to combat the disease before any concerts or events can be held to the familiar extent. It is very encouraging, therefore, that vaccine development is progressing at such a rapid pace. Leading experts are turning optimistic, now that there is obviously a very promising vaccine candidate,” says Klaus-Peter Schulenburg founder of CTS Eventim, the German entertainment conglomerate.

“This news also gives us hope, accordingly, that the very difficult situation our industry finds itself in will take a turn for the better in the foreseeable future and that people will once again be able to enjoy art and culture the way they did before the pandemic,” he adds.

Head of AEG Presents France, Arnaud Mersseman, echoes the sentiment saying: “The vaccine news has definitively given us a sense of a light at the end at the tunnel and some sort of horizon.”

More importantly for AEG Presents France, which has a slate of shows scheduled from as early as May next year, news of the vaccines provides a sense of security when it comes to planning ahead.

“The vaccine news has definitively given us a sense of a light at the end at the tunnel and some sort of horizon”

“I definitely think that’s what has been the hardest so far – no timeline, and therefore the feeling that this will go on forever. Now, that we know that distribution should start somewhere around early 2021, we can start actively preparing for a return to activity,” adds Meersseman.

Over in the UK, which is in lockdown until at least until 2 December, Isle of Wight Festival and Solo Agency’s John Giddings said he couldn’t speculate on when the industry might return to live but he is optimistic that news of a vaccine might speed things up.

“I’ve just got more hope, that’s all it boils down to. It just means hopefully, it will accelerate the chance of getting back to normal quicker – that’s what we’re praying for,” he says.

However, Radar Concerti’s Fabrizio Pompeo is more cautious and believes “it will be a slow process, even with vaccines”. “I do believe next summer we will start promoting some shows but nothing really big,” he says.

Festival season 2021
For festival organisers in the northern hemisphere, the need for an effective vaccine or test and trace system to be developed before the summer season could be crucial in order to host thousands of patrons and invite international artists to play.

As Meersseman says, festivals are “the big question”. “Will there be enough diffusion of the vaccine, completed by rapid testing measures to allow festivals to play out this summer? Will the acts be able to travel? It’s still 50/50 in my opinion,” says Arnaud.

Giddings, who owns the iconic Isle of Wight festival which has been rescheduled to June 2021, is more optimistic.

“I think [festival season] has got a good chance if this all comes according to plan,” he says. “I know that MPs are meeting and having a conversation about it.”

“I think [festival season] has got a good chance if this all comes according to plan”

Last month, a coalition of UK industry bodies published new guidance to help the festival sector mitigate risk and plan Covid-secure events ahead of next summer, which will be continually updated.

The working group also includes the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and Public Health England (PHE) who provided input on the development of the guidance.

Pompeo, who partners on festivals Cinzella and Flowers with Radar Concerti, believes that whether or not live has made a comeback, the summer will still hold promise for domestic promoters, events and artists.

“Being in the south of the EU, Italy may have some advantages considering the amount of summer venues opportunities and a very strong domestic artist offering,” he says.

The future of domestic/international touring
While news of the vaccines has inspired hope for a busier 2021, promoters and agents are still apprehensive about the recovery of international touring which, with or without a vaccine, could prove difficult with each country’s varying immunity, legislation and post-Covid regulations.

“My personal prediction is that international touring will take a bit longer than domestic: a tour is built on 15 to 20 different national legislations and sanitary policies, and for these to be harmonised will take some time,” says Meersseman.

“I suspect we can see some sort of semblance of normalcy by fall 21, with a return to normal by early 22. I would also predict an earlier return to normal for domestic touring, somewhere between late spring and early summer. It’s much easier to plan a routing from Bordeaux to Lyon than from Munich to Barcelona!” he adds.

“I suspect we can see some sort of semblance of normalcy by fall 21, with a return to normal by early 22”

Giddings, whose clients at Solo Agency includes Little Mix, Blondie and Iggy Pop, agrees, adding that the logistics of a tour could become fragmented.

“The problem is if you’ve got a European tour in April/May/June, all the different countries have got different rates of infection. To do a European tour, you have to do all of the dates, you can’t do half of them and take time off in between so that’s going to be more difficult to look at. Lots of people think that there won’t be proper shows until 2022. But it really depends on how quickly the vaccine and the testing comes out,” he says.

Pompeo reinforces this sentiment, adding that he thinks it’s unlikely international touring will happen before 2022. “I see shows to up to 3-4000 cap in wide open-air spaces possible as a return to live music. If we are lucky the first arena shows may happen in the fall.”


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Festival bosses talk cash flow, artist fees

The second IQ Focus festival panel, Festival Forum: The Next Stage, saw festival leaders from around Europe discuss the thorny issues of refunds and insolvency, as well as the outlook for 2021, in what should have been the halfway point of the 2020 season.

Hosted by IQ Magazine editor Gordon Masson, the panel welcomed Mad Cool’s CIndy Castillo, Isle of Wight Festival/Solo Agency’s John Giddings, ARTmania’s Codruta Vulcua and Goodlive’s Stefan Lehmkuhl, two months on from the initial virtual Festival Forum session.

The current situation, said Giddings, has made it “blatantly obvious” that the business has an issue with cash flow and that many promoters don’t have any kind of “war chest to go forwards”.

“I don’t understand how you bankrupt companies by refunding tickets,” he said. “You shouldn’t be spending the ticket money on costs – you need to be in the position to be able to refund all the money. We have a responsibility to the audience.”

Giddings noted that some promoters have got into the habit of “taking money from the future to pay the past”, and it has become clear that this doesn’t work.

“This may teach people a lesson on how to run a business,” he said.

The other panellists agreed to an extent, but noted that a lack of support and clarity from the authorities has complicated matters in a lot of cases.

“This may teach people a lesson on how to run a business”

“Our government hasn’t even declared force majeure yet for live events”, said Castillo, who promotes Madrid’s Mad Cool festival. “This has put us in a very tricky legal situation.”

The Mad Cool team only started its refund period last week, explained Castillo, but is allowing people to make the decision on whether to hold onto tickets for next year or refund them until after the full 2021 line-up is revealed.

In Romania, said Vulcu, an immediate reimbursement “would have bankrupted many organisers”, as the government is implementing new restrictions every two weeks.

“There are companies with shows built up, everything ready and paid for, and then suddenly it had to be cancelled,” she said. A voucher scheme implemented by the government, allowing promoters to offer credit for shows or merchandise in place of cash refunds, has been a lifeline for many.

ARTmania did choose to offer refunds, but only received 43 requests. “Our decision to trust our audience really worked for us,” said Vulcu, adding that this tactic may “work for rock and metal audiences perhaps more than for others.”

Lehmkuhl, who runs German festivals including Melt, Splash, Superbloom and With Full Force, added that a lot depends on how long the shutdown continues for.

“So far, we have been able to spend our own money,” he said,” but the next step would be to touch the ticket money, then to get low-interest credit from the government in case it takes longer.

“What happens if it takes longer than a year?” he asked. “Few companies will be able to survive for longer than a year.”

“Our decision to trust our audience really worked for us”

Mindful of cash flow, Goodlive has asked for deposits back from acts it booked for this year. “There is mutual understanding there,” said Lehmkuhl. “We are trying to rethink our festivals for next year, adjusting dates and concepts. We will start from scratch in some ways next year.”

As the promoter of Isle of Wight Festival, Giddings said he also asked for deposits to be returned. “We are doing contracts going forward for next year and will pay the deposit then.”

In terms of being an agent, Giddings said he is not going to take a fee reduction for artists. “I would rather they didn’t play than take a reduction on my act,” he said.

“As an agent I wouldn’t book an act for festival next year unless they’re going to pay me the same money,” he said, “and we’ve done the same thing as a festival.”

Ticket prices will also have to stay the same, as so many fans are rolling over their tickets to next year. “Anyone raising ticket prices is insane,” said Giddings. “We need to get an audience back first before charging more.”

Vulcu, who said she left the money with the agencies when rescheduling, agreed that she will not be paying artists less money, “but we will definitely not pay more”.

“Romanian audiences will have a lot less money and the priority will not be going to festivals,” she said.

“As an agent I wouldn’t book an act for festival next year unless they’re going to pay me the same money, and we’ve done the same thing as a festival”

Castillo said her experiences have been “positive” with every agent. “We are looking out for each other to prevent the industry collapsing,” she said.

The Mad Cool booker admitted that it will be “really hard” to get the same audiences next year, “so we need help with fees to make things happen”.

“We are running a big risk with the festival next year”.

The recovery of the music business in Spain “hasn’t event started yet”, said Castillo, as “you first have to understand our business model, identify problems and offer solutions – and we haven’t been offered any solutions yet.”

Vulcu added that support packages offered by governments in western European countries such as Germany and the UK may put newer markets at a disadvantage, as they are less likely to receive support.

Giddings replied that, although the recent culture funding package announced by the UK government is sizeable, “we have no idea who it’s going to go to and how it will work”. He added that it was more likely to benefit venues than agents or promoters.

Sponsors are another issue for 2021. “Investing in events is risky now,” said Castillo, “and this is definitely affecting us.”

Vulcu said that, while ARTmania has secured its main sponsor for next year, “it is very difficult to get new sponsors”.

“Investing in events is risky now, and this is definitely affecting us”

Most Isle of Wight Festival sponsors have also “stuck with us” said Giddings, who believes that sponsors will start to come back in once it’s clear the event is going to happen, although they may be “different kinds of sponsors relating to our changing normal”.

Giddings added that he is “praying” for some direction on what will happen next year by Christmas, with clear information needed by March at the latest.

For Lehmkuhl, the key for the “new normal” is a high level of flexibility and an ability to keep running costs very low.

The Goodlive co-founder said that the idea of testing at festivals “is one of the few realistic plans [for getting event up and running] nowadays”, provided that the government is able to provide tests for free.

“It is hard for me to imagine that we will be able to do festivals as normal next year,” he admitted, “but one thing’s for sure, I will not be doing them with social distancing.”

The next IQ Focus session State of Independence: Promoters will take place on Thursday 16 July at 4 p.m. BST/5 p.m. CET. To set a reminder head to the IQ Magazine page on Facebook or YouTube.

Watch yesterday’s session back below, or on YouTube or Facebook now.

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