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Top promoters tackle the new headliner debate

Leading UK promoters have spoken out on the live industry’s success rate at developing fresh stadium and festival headliners.

The new headliner question has been a perennial debate in the touring business over the past decade, amid claims of an over-reliance on heritage artists. Yet despite legends including Elton John, KISS, Aerosmith, Ozzy Osbourne and the Eagles all retiring from the road, the pipeline appears to be as healthy as it has been in decades.

The summer of 2023 has witnessed open air spectaculars by an abundance of stars still in their 20s and early 30s such as Taylor Swift, Harry Styles, Ed Sheeran, Billie Eilish, Burna Boy, The 1975, Arctic Monkeys, Wizkid, The Weeknd, Blackpink, Sam Fender and Bad Bunny, and AEG’s European Festivals chief Jim King is buoyed by the state of play.

“It’s a very interesting question because it comes up a lot,” he tells IQ. “But as I remind everybody: some of the biggest shows this year have been with young, contemporary artists, or certainly will be in the next 12 months.”

Blockbuster tours by Taylor Swift ($300.8 million), Harry Styles ($124m) and Ed Sheeran ($105.3m) all hit the nine-figure mark in H1 2023, with Swift’s Eras Tour on target to become the first concert tour in history to net more than US$1 billion, and Styles recently wrapped Love On Tour generating close to $600m overall.

“Harry Styles could probably still be playing Wembley now if they had the availability”

Only this week, meanwhile, it was announced that The Weeknd pulled in over 1.6 million fans to the European leg of his After Hours Til Dawn Tour. The Canadian shattered Wembley Stadium’s record for sales with a traditional concert set up with the stage at one end with 87,000 tickets sold, having also set a new attendance record for London Stadium after drawing 160,000 fans over two nights in July.

In Milan, the 33-year-old sold over 159,000 tickets, making him the first artist to sell out two nights at Ippodromo La Maura, with his shows in Paris marking the biggest sales for Stade de France this year, totalling to 151,000 across the two dates. His shows in Nice, France sold 70,000 tickets across two shows – the highest in the city’s history.

“We talk our supply chain of new headliners down so often, with other artists sadly no longer with us or retiring,” says King. “But if you look at this great run of stadium shows, there has been no bigger act in London this summer than The Weeknd, with two London Stadiums and a Wembley Stadium.

“Harry Styles could probably still be playing Wembley now if they had the availability. His quality as an artist is unquestionable, not just in terms of his music, but his live performances. Taylor Swift will set records next year, no doubt, as she continues to in North America, and Ed Sheeran continues to do so as well – and those are just the easy ones off the top of your head.”

King oversees the 65,000-cap BST Hyde Park in London, which this year featured seasoned headliners Guns N’ Roses, Take That, Billy Joel, Pink and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, plus contemporary superstars Blackpink and Lana Del Rey.

“Stadium business in the UK has never been stronger”

“The process of developing artists to that level has clearly changed since the 1970s, but most of the cultural industries have changed in some ways since then as well,” he adds. “I don’t feel any lack of optimism about the future – Lana Del Rey could have sold 100,000 tickets in London this summer if she’d have wanted to, such is the love and appreciation of where she is in her career. So I think the industry is in far better shape than people say.

“Stadium business in the UK has never been stronger. Trying to get avails for stadiums in the UK at the moment is beyond a challenge, and we know from The O2 and our other venues that live music is extremely strong – and that’s because of the quality of the artists. When quality sits in place, demand will follow.”

This weekend’s Reading & Leeds Festival (cap. 90,000 & 75,000, respectively) will be headlined by British artists Sam Fender, Foals and The 1975 (subbing for Lewis Capaldi), as well as Billie Eilish, The Killers and Imagine Dragons from the US, and Festival Republic boss Melvin Benn is confident the UK is still developing enough headline talent in relation to its American counterparts.

“Two out of the three Glastonbury headliners [Elton John/Arctic Monkeys] were UK acts, three out of six at Reading and Leeds are UK acts, three out of the three at Latitude [Pulp/Paolo Nutini/George Ezra] were UK acts, three out of the three at Wilderness [Chemical Brothers/Fatboy Slim] were UK acts, well one’s French albeit UK-based [Christine & The Queens],” Benn tells Music Week.

“If you look across festivals as a whole, there are more UK headliners than US headliners. Wireless [Playboy Carti/Travis Scott/D-Block Europe] has a greater propensity of US artists than UK artists because of the nature of the music. But if I was to look across all of the festival headline positions, the UK is very much the strongest generator of headliners.”

“There’s a fresh pipeline of talent coming through, which is needed”

Superstruct-backed UK festival promoter From the Fields booked Nile Rodgers & Chic, Kasabian, Blossoms and Royal Blood to headline its 40,000-cap Kendal Calling and Roisin Murphy, Pavement and Grace Jones for the 25,000-cap Bluedot.

“I’ve always struggled finding the headliners,” company MD and co-founder Andy Smith tells IQ. “I’ve always been the boy who cried wolf thinking that this is the year we won’t be able to find anyone. I remember back in 2011, the festival had completely sold out and we couldn’t find a Sunday night headliner. and that was two months of sheer panic, but eventually Alex Hardee came through and we got Calvin Harris so it worked out in the end. But it’s always difficult. If it wasn’t difficult, everyone would be doing it, but we always come through.

“I’d say it’s as difficult as it’s ever been. But this year, we had one of our strongest, most varied bills and it’s great to see newer acts taking our headline slot. Blossoms have played a number of times at the festival, but this was their first time on the main stage and they were headlining it and they did a great job. Royal Blood, again, had never played at Kendal before. So there’s a fresh pipeline of talent coming through, which is needed.”

Speaking earlier this year, Live Nation boss Michael Rapino praised the emergence of younger headliners such as Bad Bunny, Karol G, Rosalia, Blackpink, BTS and Billie Eilish.

“Six of the top 10 artists were younger artists,” he said. “There’s just a host of great new talent every year coming up, filling the pipe. We didn’t know Luke Combs was going to be selling stadiums out this year, two years ago. We had no idea Bad Bunny was going to be the largest selling artist last year.

“We’re also seeing this encouraging new supply strategy where for many years, it was all about US or UK-based artists that filled the charts and fill the stadium and most other talent was domestic… Now, you can see artists coming from Latin America and Korea and becoming global superstars.”

The debate will take centre stage at this year’s International Festival Forum (IFF) as part of the Headliners: The Winner Takes it All panel from 10am on Thursday 28 September, which will be chaired by WME agent Andy Duggan. Click here for more details.

 


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Jim King talks building AEG’s summer festival hub

AEG’s European festivals CEO Jim King has spoken to IQ about the firm’s efforts to cultivate a “strong hub” for touring artists through its collection of late summer festivals.

The company’s All Points East (APE), Rock en Seine and Forwards Festival are all coming up in the next few weeks, while it has also aligned with Spanish independent promoter Last Tour on the latter’s Cala Mijas and MEO Kalorama festivals in Spain and Portugal, respectively.

First held in 2018, APE returns this Friday in London’s Victoria’s Park with the first of two weekends, featuring Stormzy (18 August) and a Field Day event headlined by Aphex Twin and Bonobo (19 August). It will then welcome headliners The Strokes, Jungle, Dermot Kennedy and Haim from 25-28 August.

“We’ve got a strong All Points East again this year,” says King. “It’s an event we’re still building and a relationship that we’re still building with the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and the community there.

“We’re really pleased with the way their programme is going. They’re really well curated lineups, which our team put together very passionately. So that’s great and it’s allowed us to consolidate our European position at the end of the summer.”

“The artists moving between those four shows has created a really strong hub”

AEG switched APE from its previous May slot to coincide with Rock en Seine at the end of August. The 20th anniversary French festival, which was acquired by AEG in 2017 in partnership with media investment group LNEI, takes place in Domaine National de Saint-Cloud, Paris on 23 and 25-27 August, topped by Billie Eilish, Florence + the Machine, Placebo, The Chemical Brothers and The Strokes.

“Rock en Seine had its best year ever [last year] since it started and I think we’ll go beyond that again this year with sold-out shows every day,” says King. “I love that show. It’s such a great site. We’ve talked about London being super-important culturally, but magical things happen when you’re in Paris and I always find it really exciting. You go there in an elevated state of emotion, if you like, and then you’re more receptive to being entertained.”

Meanwhile, AEG’s relationship with Last Tour on Cala Mijas and MEO Kalorama festivals, set for 31 August-2 September, will see Florence + the Machine headline both events, with The Strokes also performing at the former.

“The artists moving between those four shows has created a really strong hub,” says King. “We’re calling it ‘The Camino’, which allows these artists to move between as many or as few of those shows as they want. It just creates a very strong end of August, beginning of September run for artists coming into Europe or those who are based here.”

In addition, AEG teams with events company Team Love on 30,000-cap Forwards in Bristol, UK. The metropolitan festival, which debuted in 2022, returns to Clifton Downs for its second year from 1-2 September, headlined by Erykah Badu and Aphex Twin.

“It’s a very demanding industry at the moment. If you’re not on your game as a promoter, you’re going to be challenged”

“Forwards forms part of that run of shows as well,” notes King. “We had a great show last year – we broke even in year one, which is beyond our expectations for any new festival, and we’re building on that for year two. So that’s been a really good start. We set up our European festival division a few years ago now, and the building of that is still taking place, but the benefits of it are thankfully already with us, and we think it puts us in a really strong position for the next five years.”

Around 550,000 tickets were sold for AEG’s flagship BST Hyde Park Festival earlier this summer, topping the previous best of 530,000 set last year. The London concert series was headlined by Guns N’ Roses, Take That, Blackpink, Billy Joel and Lana Del Rey – plus two nights each from Pink and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. And King says he is not surprised by the number of successful shows to have gone ahead in the UK this summer.

“Certain parts of the industry, one could argue are outperforming expectations, but that’s not to say that we weren’t confident they will be successful,” he adds. “If you look at events out there, you can see the quality ones in terms of the way they’re presented and operated, and the value point for them and the lineups which they have.

“I’m not surprised at all that they’re being successful. I’m also not surprised at all that the ones that aren’t presenting that level of quality aren’t as successful either because it’s a very demanding industry at the moment. And if you are not on your game as a promoter or as an artist, then you’re going to be challenged. But if you are, the chances are you’re going to be rewarded for it.”

 


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‘We sold more tickets than we’ve ever done before’

AEG Presents’ Jim King has reflected on the success of BST Hyde Park’s 10th anniversary edition, telling IQ the event enjoyed its biggest year of ticket sales yet.

Presented by American Express, the acclaimed London concert series was headlined by Guns N’ Roses, Take That, Blackpink, Billy Joel and Lana Del Rey – plus two nights each from Pink and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band – from 24 June to 9 July.

Around 550,000 tickets were sold for the festival, topping the previous best of 530,000 set in 2022 – an edition that starred the likes of the Rolling Stones, Elton John, Adele and the Eagles.

“I never thought I’d be able to say we sold more tickets than last year, but we sold more tickets than we’ve ever sold before. It’s incredible, everybody sold out,” says King.

“You can go to any arena or stadium in the world and you’ll have these great moments with your favourite artists, but – and I’m biased when I say this – something different happens in Hyde Park. It’s just this magical space. There’s a different energy created there and I hope that we play a positive role in helping that.

“Hyde Park it is one of the true great parks in the world and I find those performances with these great artists connect stronger with fans when you get those great summer evenings, in the heart of London, and I think that’s what we saw.”

“It was important that we widened our lens in how we looked at the selection of our headliners”

AEG’s CEO of European festivals, King is full of praise for this year’s artists, singling out newer headliners Blackpink and Lana Del Rey, alongside the established greats.

“It was important that we widened our lens in how we looked at the selection of our headliners,” he says. “Having a K-pop band headline a UK festival for the very first time and deliver a great show was an important moment for us. And personally, I was looking forward to Lana Del Rey so much because she doesn’t tour very often and we’d tried so hard to get her to play. It’s a big risk for any artist to come and headline a Hyde Park show, especially for the first time, and it was announced quite late, compared to other shows, but it sold out instantly.

“Ultimately, we’re there to ensure that that great connection when the artist sings their first note or plays their first chord, that that next 90 minutes, two hours, or three hours in the case of many, is spellbinding, memorable and emotional, and that the artists and their fans will remember for a very long time. And when Lana came out, the sense of anticipation in the air from the fans was palpable. I thought it was one of the great Hyde Park shows for that energy and connectivity.”

For the second year in a row, the festival took place across three weekends, comprising nine concerts instead of the previous six.

“Three weekends is a challenge,” admits King. “It’s nine shows, so the obvious point to raise is that we’ve got to book nine headliners. It used to be hard to book six – it used be hard to book three in the early days! And the best artists have a plethora of choices for where they wish to play, so I think it’s important to remind everybody that we don’t choose the artists, the artists choose us.

“It’s not like any promoter walks into a supermarket and fills their their trolley with two artists from the top shelf, three from the middle and four from the bottom, it’s the other way around – it’s the artist walking into the supermarket and choosing.”

He adds: “I think it’s a really good event for fans to come to and artists like coming and it’s a prestigious show for them to play – not many people get to headline Hyde Park in their career – but we’re certainly not resting on our laurels.”

“The supply chain is getting back to normal after being in a very different state coming out of Covid”

The 65,000-cap event was preceded by classical show All Things Orchestral on 23 June, presented by Myleene Klasse and featuring Alfie Boe and the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra. General admission ticket prices were set at £11.45 in a bid to “bring classical music back for all”.

“We had great attendances for Open House, our midweek programme, and were very happy to launch All Things Orchestral this year with [AEG artistic director] Lucy Noble joining us from the Royal Albert Hall, which was an idea that had been on the shelf for us to do for many years and I mentioned it to Lucy when she joined. It was just a germ of an idea but she pulled it together really quickly, and with such skill and quality.

“It was what we want to do at BST, which is ensure we have a wide-ranging festival that appeals to everybody. I thought that was another real highlight of this year. I was really pleased with the way it went and credit to her.”

Having launched in 2013, BST was celebrating its 10th anniversary and has hosted acts such Taylor Swift, the Rolling Stones, Elton John, Adele, The Who, Bob Dylan & Neil Young, Justin Bieber, Tom Petty, Carole King, Barbra Streisand, Eric Clapton and Paul Simon. Wrapping up, King speaks of his ambitions for the event moving forward.

“We set very high standards in terms of what we want to organise and what we want to deliver,” he says. “The supply chain is getting back to normal after being in a very different state coming out of Covid. That has been the challenge for the last 18 months and I think we’ve met that.

“I’m still excited about how far we can push to experience, how great we can make it for artists to come in, and how great we can make it for fans coming to London for the very first time, so I like those challenges. We’re in a good state; we love what we do and we’re very fortunate to be able to do it.”

 


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AEG names Lynsey Wollaston VP and GM, European festivals

AEG Europe has appointed Lynsey Wollaston as vice president and general manager of its European festivals division.

Wollaston brings 16 years of experience years of commercial and operations experience to oversee the European Festival team’s day-to-day operations and play a key role in developing and supporting the strategic vision for the division alongside the US AEG Presents senior leadership team, according to the company.

She will work across AEG’s renowned roster of festivals, including American Express Presents BST Hyde Park and Luno Presents All Points East in London, Rock en Seine in Paris, and AEG’s newest festival, Bristol-based Forwards.

“I look forward to working with Jim and the team to take the festival division to new heights”

Prior to joining AEG, Wollaston held the role of managing director of festivals and events at Vision Nine Group and previously served as the global operations director at IMG (Arts, Entertainment and Culinary) and operations manager for the Royal Horticultural Society.

“We are delighted to have Lynsey join us as the new vice president and general manager for European Festivals,” says AEG European Festivals CEO, Jim King. “With her extensive industry leadership and experience, Lynsey brings huge value to our team. As we gear up for the busy festival season ahead, I look forward to working with Lynsey to deliver the best-in-class events for which we are renowned, and to growing the festivals division of the business.”

Wollaston adds: “I am incredibly excited to join AEG Europe and help lead the European Festivals team in delivering memorable events for music fans. With AEG’s reputation for innovation and excellence, I look forward to working with Jim and the team to take the festival division to new heights.”

 


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France’s Rock en Seine embarks on new era

Rock en Seine GM Matthieu Ducos and AEG European festivals boss Jim King have previewed a new era for the French festival in an interview with IQ.

The extended 18th edition of the 40,000-cap event takes place in Domaine National de Saint-Cloud, Paris from 25-28 August with headliners Arctic Monkeys, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Tame Impala and Stromae.

“From an AEG perspective, we see Rock en Seine as being as important to our global portfolio of festivals as Hyde Park, All Points East, Coachella and everywhere else,” says King. “It’s equal in every measure to the other festivals that we operate in any market around the world.

“It needed some attention; it needed resource and support and we needed to allow the team to realise their ambitions. But it has the potential to be one of the world’s leading city-based festivals and we certainly feel it’s on its way to achieving that.”

AEG acquired Rock en Seine in 2017 in partnership with media investment group LNEI, but King suggests the event’s return from its Covid-enforced hiatus marks something of a reboot, as it is the first edition to be held since the launch of AEG’s European Festivals division in three years ago.

“It had not had its best years, but it is a well respected event with a great history, and a great site in the centre of Paris”

“It allowed us to bring some specialist overview to Rock en Seine, which is a very long-standing and established festival in Europe,” he explains. “It had not had its best years but it is a well-respected event with a great history, and a great site in the centre of Paris.

“With the Covid shutdown, it enabled all stakeholders this extended review on how to make it better. It allowed us to reset the team locally, build a stronger relationship and, from that platform, provide whatever assistance – and I need to underline assistance – to that team to realise what their vision of it was.

“What you’re seeing now is the realisation of the outlook and the vision of the team in Paris. Our role has been able to provide that framework and at times just some guidance and resourcing to allow that to be achieved.”

AEG’s London concert series All Points East, which was held in May pre-pandemic, has been pushed back to the same weekend as Rock en Seine, enabling Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Tame Impala to headline both events.

All Points East, which kicks off tonight with Gorillaz, runs in Victoria Park over two weekends – 19-20 and 25-28 August.

“Festivals live and die on artist bookings. We can say otherwise, but it is essential to it”

“The one thing we did centrally was reposition All Points East to the same weekend, which would then allow Matthew and also Arnaud [Meersseman], who runs AEG’s Paris office, to work much more closely with the booking teams from All Points East and establish that new culture,” says King.

“Festivals live and die on artist bookings. We can say otherwise, but it’s essential to it. So the idea was to start building that platform where agents could see a strengthened end of the summer window, with two great shows which they could then support with their artists.

“Those foundations have then been picked up by Matthieu, and what we’re seeing now is the best line-up Rock en Seine has ever had. That’s creating more ticket sales and a higher gross than Rock en Seine has ever had, and more sponsors and sponsorship gross than Rock en Seine has ever had. So it’s just success, on success, on success.”

Ducos backs up King’s assessment.

“Moving All Points East to the same weekend as Rock en Seine was a huge step,” he tells IQ. “I agree we have the strongest line-up we’ve ever had, so it’s great to start this new version of Rock en Seine after a two-year stop.

“Usually, about 60% of the festival-goers come from the Paris region and 40% from other regions of France and abroad. We will have more people from abroad than usual, that’s for sure, because we have some bands that are doing only a few shows in Europe, like Arctic Monkeys, so people are coming from far away to see them.”

“We have great ambitions that it will continue to grow”

With the festival expanding from three to four days for the first time this year, King elaborates on the ambitions to grow Rock en Seine’s international appeal.

“You look at some of the other successes around mainland Europe where they have become destination festivals for a multinational audience, and for whatever reason Rock en Seine had lost that, or was not that,” he says. “But I think it certainly is developing into that and we have great ambitions that it will continue to grow because Paris is such a great city and so easy to travel to. Once you’re there, there’s so much to do. So why only do it for two days or three days?

“The ability to attract great talent is based on many things: the offer, the routing, but obviously where you’re going to and what we were able to do with Rock en Seine is to be more ambitious with the acts that we wanted to attract and then, with that, be more ambitious with the audience that we want to attract to see those acts.

“I think you’ll see great developments in the range of people – and the countries they originate from – coming to Rock en Seine over the next five years.”

In a setback for organisers, a planned standalone date on 30 August, headlined by Rage Against the Machine, with support from Run The Jewels and Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes, was scrapped last week on “medical guidance” due to an injury sustained by RATM frontman Zach de la Rocha.

Nonetheless, Ducos suggests AEG’s backing puts Rock in Seine in a strong position as it looks to enhance its reputation year-on-year.

“Paris doesn’t have a history of iconic, pop/rock music festivals,” he says. “We’ve been there for 18 years now and we did a great job, but I think we can go further and become an iconic festival in this great city. I’m quite confident about our power and attractiveness to book the rock, pop, but also electro and hip-hop acts we want in the future.”

 


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BST’s Jim King talks Adele, live biz resurgence

AEG’s Jim King has hailed Adele as “the biggest act on the planet” ahead of the singer’s exclusive two-night stand at BST Hyde Park this weekend.

Demand for the 65,000-cap London shows was enormous, with tickets selling out within minutes of going on sale last October.

The 1-2 July double-header will be the star’s first concerts proper since 2017, when her scheduled four-night run at Wembley Stadium was cut short due to damaged vocal cords. Her planned Weekends With Adele Las Vegas residency was postponed in January – just 24 hours before its opening night – with rescheduled dates still to be announced.

“She’s the biggest act on the planet. And for us to be able to have two concerts with her here is such a highlight for everybody involved,” King, AEG’s CEO of European festivals, tells IQ. “We couldn’t be more thankful that she decided to come and play here. We know they’re so excited about it.

“Fans are going to see the biggest act in the world perform two of the best concerts anyone’s going to see this year”

Adele, whose 2016 Adele Live tour grossed $167.7 million across 107 shows, is represented by WME agents Lucy Dickins internationally and Kirk Sommer in North America.

“The conversations that we’ve been having with her team all the way through this have been unbelievably positive,” adds King. “They are a great team to work with – we know them very well from days gone by. Fans are going to see the biggest act in the world perform two of the best concerts that anyone’s going to see this year. It’s very exciting.”

This year’s BST hosted headliners Elton John, the Rolling Stones and Eagles last weekend, with Adele and a second date with the Stones (3 June) following over the next three days. Concerts by Pearl Jam (8–9 July) and Duran Duran (10 July) bring the 2022 American Express-sponsored series to a close.

But despite expanding the BST programme from six concerts to nine, AEG pressed pause on pre-pandemic plans for new events in favour of rejuvenating existing festivals. King – who previously warned the live industry against oversupplying the market – feels the promoter’s “cautious” approach since returning from Covid-19 has been vindicated.

“The concerns that we had at the top end of the year still apply now”

“I think we’re going to continue to have an amazing year, but based on the fact that we were relatively cautious,” he says. “It sounds a bit crazy to say that with nine sold-out Hyde Park concerts, but it’s nine – we’re not chasing 99. So we have chosen to be fairly modest in our output.

“The concerns that we had at the top end of the year – that rescheduled shows from 2020 and 2021 were being rescheduled into ’22, on top of those shows that were coming into the marketplace in 2022 – still apply now.

“What we saw, and what we still see, is the indoor touring cycle extending quite deeply into the summer because of venue availability, and thus you have festivals competing with headline tours. There’s only so much money that people have to buy tickets, so I think that concern is very real and our response to it – which was being cautious in the number of shows that we did – was the right thing to do.”

“The backbone of the industry is the supply chain and the staff. They’re the people who make this happen”

King also reflects on how the touring business has changed compared to pre-March 2020 times.

“From an operational perspective, it’s largely the same, albeit there are well documented challenges in the supply chain – labour resourcing, etc, has been particularly difficult,” he says. “We have an industry now which has picked itself back up again, but there are a lot of faces who are no longer with us. A lot of experience left the industry and that is one of the greatest challenges we have needed to bounce back from.

“How do we quickly and aggressively drive that experience back into what we have? Because the backbone of the industry is the supply chain and the staff. They’re the people who make this happen. And the ability to make decisions and, more importantly, make the right ones is what makes the UK industry the leading one in the world, in my opinion.”

He adds: “We’re also dealing with the impact of a wider economy issue of the cost of living crisis, which is ongoing and will be with us for some time, no doubt. But we’ve been here before, we’ve been in challenging economy situations where money’s tight and we have to react accordingly. We have to drive value and quality into the market so that when fans buy tickets, they feel that their experience was unbelievable value and they want to remain with us.”

Read part one of our interview with King here.

 


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UK set for biggest live music weekend ever

The UK is preparing to host what is believed to be its biggest weekend of live music ever, with more than one million people expected to attend concerts.

Leading the way is Glastonbury, headlined by Billie Eilish, Paul McCartney and Kendrick Lamar, and BST Hyde Park, starring Elton John, the Rolling Stones and the Eagles, are set to host a combined 400,000 fans across three days.

Away from the festival circuit, Ed Sheeran has two dates lined up at the 90,000-cap Wembley Stadium, while the 80,000-cap London Stadium welcomes Green Day, Fall Out Boy & Weezer’s Hella Mega Tour tonight, followed by two nights with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The Hella Mega Tour also stops at the 40,000-cap John Smith’s Stadium in Huddersfield tomorrow.

“For the industry to bounce back from a crippling couple of years with this level of quality and support from the fanbase shows the strength of what we do”

Fresh from two sold-out nights at Knebworth Park (80,000) earlier this month, Liam Gallagher will visit Scotland’s 50,000-cap Hampden Park in Glasgow on Sunday, the same day as Rammstein top the bill at Coventry Building Society Arena (40,000). Gallagher also headlines Northern Ireland’s Belsonic (15,000) this evening in Ormeau Park, Belfast.

Elsewhere, at The O2 (21,000), Diana Ross performs tonight as a precursor to her Glastonbury Sunday legends’ slot, while Eilish will follow up becoming the festival’s youngest headliner by completing the final two dates of her six-night residency at the London arena tomorrow and Sunday. Elton John is similarly busy, meanwhile, appearing at Bristol’s Ashton Gate (34,000) on Sunday.

“For the industry to bounce back from, let’s be blunt, a crippling couple of years with this level of quality and support from the fanbase shows the strength of what we do,” says BST organiser Jim King, speaking to IQ.

“The scale of what Ticketmaster delivers this weekend will be astonishing”

This weekend will also be a record setter for Ticketmaster, whose team will scan in around half a million fans across the UK, beating the company’s previous biggest weekend of events which took place in June 2019. According to the firm, the number of fans getting out to events in the UK so far this month is running 50% higher on average than the same period in 2019.

“The scale of what Ticketmaster delivers this weekend will be astonishing,” Ticketmaster UK MD Andrew Parsons tells IQ. “Summer has arrived, and the fans in full force alongside it. We’re so happy to be back, bigger and better than ever.”

Other indoor gigs of note include Twenty One Pilots at OVO Arena Wembley, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons at Resorts World Arena Birmingham, Kings of Leon at SSE Arena Belfast, the Beach Boys and George Benson at the Royal Albert Hall, Alanis Morissette at AO Arena Manchester, and Morissette, Barry Manilow and Gladys Knight at First Direct Arena Leeds.

“This will be one of the biggest weekends of live music in our history”

“This will be one of the biggest weekends of live music in our history, with Glastonbury taking place for the first time in three years, thousands of revellers attending BST and a wealth of gigs, concerts and festivals taking place across the UK,” says LIVE CEO Jon Collins.

“Fans will be back doing what they love most – listening to fantastic music. This is great news for both the live music industry, which has significant cultural and societal importance, and for UK plc, with money spent at these events boosting towns and cities from Somerset to Stranraer.”

Earlier this month, Live Nation UK revealed it was on track for its biggest outdoor season ever, saying it will host nearly six million fans at live shows this summer. The promoter says four million people will attend one of its festivals or outdoor events, while close to two million will attend an indoor show.

“Significant cost pressures and the cost-of-living squeeze mean trading remains challenging”

However, Collins points out that despite the unprecedented few days ahead, the well-documented wider challenges facing the industry have not simply gone away.

“While the celebrations this weekend will be a world class showcase of our exceptional £4.5 billion industry, venues, festivals, live events, artists and suppliers are not back trading at pre-pandemic levels,” he says. “Significant cost pressures and the cost-of-living squeeze mean trading remains challenging.

“It is of vital importance therefore, that the government takes steps to support those across the live music ecosystem. In particular, introducing a cultural rate of VAT on ticket sales which would secure the sector’s recovery, boost the UK economy and deliver many more weekends like the one that lies ahead.”

 


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AEG’s Jim King previews BST Hyde Park comeback

AEG Presents CEO of European festivals Jim King says BST Hyde Park’s extended format could become permanent as it prepares to launch its 2022 season tomorrow.

This year’s line-up includes headliners Elton John (24 June), the Rolling Stones (25 June/3 July), Eagles (26 June), Adele (1–2 July), Pearl Jam (8–9 July) and Duran Duran (10 July).

For the first time, the London-based series is taking place across three weekends, comprising nine concerts instead of the traditional six – a move King suggests is not a one-off.

“It’s certainly here to stay for the foreseeable future, which is fantastic,” King tells IQ. “It allows us to work with more artists and continue on our quest of ensuring that we have the biggest acts in the world come through this venue every year. And we love working with the artist community and the agents to achieve that.”

A by-product of the expansion will see the opening weekend clash with Glastonbury, albeit some acts – such as Sam Fender, Phoebe Bridgers and Robert Plant & Alison Krauss – are performing at both events.

“There is huge demand and that is testament to the artists.”

“It’s a natural weekend for us to grow into,” explains King. “We could go later into July, but we felt that it was the best weekend to work with this year. Obviously, there are some challenges because we have to work within the supply chain, but it has given artists the opportunity to come into this window and play both shows, which is a good thing.”

Due to the pandemic, this year will mark BST’s first edition since 2019, when it welcomed Celine Dion, Stevie Wonder, Barbra Streisand, Florence + The Machine and Robbie Williams. Pearl Jam and Duran Duran were originally booked to perform in 2020.

“We wanted to keep those shows in [for 2022] and their success is astounding when you think about it,” says King. “Pearl Jam are doing two nights in London and both are going to sell out. Duran Duran are going to have the biggest show of their career in this country. There is huge demand and that is testament to the artists.

“I also think it shows what a great connection there is between the fans and Hyde Park as a venue, because we are certainly seeing artists selling more tickets here with us [than at other venues].”

He adds: “What people are going to see when they turn up is a bigger and more creative BST Hyde Park than the one they last saw in 2019, including an even bigger Great Oak Stage, which just looks incredible. Every time I walk past it astounds me what the production guys have delivered. And hopefully the fan experience will be something everybody remembers – we’ve gone the extra mile to deliver a quality day out.”

“It’s the biggest line-up we’ve ever had: nine shows of quite simply the biggest artists on the planet”

While BST launched in 2013, King says its 2022 programme is already shaping up to be its most successful yet. The American Express-sponsored festival announced its latest partnership – a link-up with Hard Rock International – earlier this week.

“It’s the biggest line-up we’ve ever had: nine shows of quite simply the biggest artists on the planet,” he says. “It’s also the most amount of tickets we’ve ever sold, the highest gross and the largest number of sponsors and partners who want to be part of the festival. Every single metric we can apply shows us it is the biggest ever BST Hyde Park, so we start from a really strong place.

“An important footnote is that brands can take their sponsorship budgets to many places – to sport and other cultural activities – and music is one of the options they have, so for us to be able to be in a position where we’re seeing growth is a really good position for us to reflect on.”

 


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Hard Rock International links with BST Hyde Park

AEG’s BST Hyde Park has announced a partnership with Hard Rock International.

The London festival’s 2022 edition runs from Friday 24 June to Sunday 10 July, with headliners including Elton John, the Rolling Stones, Adele, Pearl Jam and Eagles.

The concerts will be complemented by Hard Rock-sponsored festivities, including Hard Rock Rising presents the Rainbow Stage, which will showcase up-and-coming artists. The brand’s first ever Hard Rock Cafe opened in London in 1971.

“As we reflect on half a century of Hard Rock, which started right here in London and has since expanded to reach all corners of the globe with venues in over 70 countries, we’re thrilled to take part in such an iconic cultural celebration by helping extend access to music lovers and enrich the experiences of festival goers at BST Hyde Park” says Jim Allen, Hard Rock International chairman.

“For 50 years, Hard Rock has been associated with the biggest names in music”

Hard Rock Cafe will activate at BST Hyde Park with a cafe pop-up on the festival grounds and in the VIP section. Hard Rock Cafe locations will also have unique memorabilia on display from BST Hyde Park performers, as well as memorabilia from other UK music legends.

BST Hyde Park’s Open House is also set to return, offering a host of free activities between the weekends of music.

“For 50 years, Hard Rock has been associated with the biggest names in music,” says Jim King CEO of European Festivals at AEG Presents. “We look forward to sharing their glorious history at BST Hyde Park this summer where music fans can enjoy the famous Hard Rock Cafe and the Hard Rock Rising Stage.”

Hard Rock previously partnered with Live Nation on the Hard Rock Calling series in Hyde Park from 2008-12. AEG launched BST Hyde Park in 2013 after signing an exclusive agreement for the venue with The Royal Parks.

 


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All Points East partners with crypto platform Luno

On the heels of its link-up with London’s Koko venue, cryptocurrency exchange Luno has been announced as presenting partner of this year’s All Points East festival.

According to Luno, the partnership, which has been facilitated by AEG Global Partnerships, will enable it to “educate festival goers about safely harnessing the power and possibilities of cryptocurrency”.

Taking place in East London’s Victoria Park from 19-28 August, All Points East is expected to attract more than 350,000 festival goers over the course of the event. Headline acts will include Gorillaz, The Chemical Brothers, Kraftwerk, Tame Impala, The National, Disclosure and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

“Every day, the relationship between crypto and music grows stronger”

“We’re delighted to be the presenting partner for All Points East this year,” says Sam Kopelman, Luno’s UK country manager. “You only have to look at the line up to see that it’s a festival with real cultural relevance that attracts a forward thinking crowd. As such, it’s the perfect partner for us to develop a long term relationship with music fans, artists and the broader industry. Every day, the relationship between crypto and music grows stronger, with blockchain innovations beginning to revolutionise the industry.”

The deal also includes the creation of the ‘Luno Lounge’ on the festival site, a space which will reflect the themes of both accessibility and opportunity. Luno customers will be offered exclusive access to promotions and competitions for festival tickets via social media, as well as fast track entry and other on-site benefits such as VIP upgrades.

Luno will also have a number of crypto themed environments on the festival site and will work with artists to create unique content about the opportunities of crypto.

“We’ll be working with Luno to add value to both fans and park users across the whole festival”

Luno is becoming increasingly active in the UK’s music and entertainment space as it aims to build on the growing interest in digital and blockchain technology amongst the cultural sector and creative industries.

“All Points East has grown from strength to strength over the last four years,” says Jim King, AEG’s CEO of European Festivals. “2022 arguably has the strongest line up to date and so it’s the perfect opportunity for us to welcome Luno as the presenting partner for the festival. We will be working with Luno to add value to both fans and park users across the whole festival, especially during our midweek ‘In the Neighbourhood’ programme.”


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