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Operation Restart: How EAA members plan to reopen

When the European Arenas Association (EAA) celebrated its 20th birthday back in 2011, the live entertainment industry was in the infancy of a record-breaking run, as live music, in particular, grew in popularity, and venues throughout the continent enjoyed the challenges of ever bigger visiting productions, attracting more and more eager fans.

A year ago, many of the EAA’s 36 member venues were predicting 2020 would deliver yet another record year, but the Covid-19 pandemic soon obliterated such optimism and ten months on from the beginning of lockdown measures, there is still no clear indication about when Europe’s arenas will be able to resume operations.

As a result, the EAA finds itself as the central hub for discussions about strategies for getting back to business, with members in constant contact to help plan how they can safely welcome artists and audiences back into their buildings while also protecting their staff and production crews.

“Our EAA conversations over the past year have highlighted that although we are all in a different situation, country by country and city by city, we’re all actually in the same situation when it comes to the use of the venues,” reports current EAA president John Langford.

“But having conversations facilitated by EAA membership between venue managers in Germany, France and the UK, for instance, alerts you to how people are responding differently and gives us the opportunity to learn from others.”

“Although [countries] are all in a different situation, we’re all in the same situation when it comes to the use of the venues”

One topic that arena bosses all agree on is that any solutions for reopening need to be universal to facilitate artist plans for international touring, meaning that the discussions that the EAA is hosting will be crucial to the recovery of major live events on this side of the Atlantic.

“Communication with our colleagues across Europe is as important right now as it has ever been,” states Mantas Vedrickas, events manager at the Žalgirio Arena in Kaunas, Lithuania.

“The EAA helps us communicate easily, and the sharing of experiences helps us all deal with the situation that we are placed in. It allows the exchange of ideas, and helps find the best ways to implement solutions.”

That sentiment is echoed by arena management across Europe, who are carefully making preparations to get back to business as soon as authorities give them the green light.

Preparations behind closed doors
Many of EAA’s member venues last hosted concerts in March 2020, meaning that they are but a handful of weeks away from having an entire year without shows.

That situation also means that thousands of people have been made redundant, further complicating the task of arena bosses when it comes to opening their venues for audiences.

“Whenever hosting events will be allowed, [Žalgirio Arena] will be all ready to restart”

However, some venues have been more fortunate than others. Vedrickas notes that the Žalgirio Arena has remained open for local basketball team, Žalgiris Kaunas, albeit without fans at games.

“Throughout this entire situation, we have been in constant dialogue with event organisers [and] whenever hosting events will be allowed, we will be all ready to restart,” he pledges.

Representing both the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin and the Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg, Uwe Frommhold VP & COO of AEG Germany tells IQ, “Due to the generous furlough programme of the German government, we have been able to keep our staff on board throughout these tough times for our business. So we will be able to ramp up our workforce fairly quickly, once the situation calls for it.

“Furthermore, we were able to stage several non-concert events – fairs and sports – with reduced capacity, where our hygiene and social distancing protocols were put in practice. So we feel well prepared to gradually bring people back when the pandemic eases.”

In Portugal, Jorge Vinha da Silva, CEO at the Altice Arena in Lisbon, says that outside of the complete lockdown restrictions, the venue had permission to run events at 50% capacity, respecting regulations such as social distancing, reserved seats, hand sanitisers, thermal cameras, a renovated air-conditioning system, and a complete contingency plan approved by health and safety authorities.

The Altice Arena in Lisbon had permission to run events at 50% capacity, respecting regulations

Silva notes, “Of course, there were no international acts, but it was possible to have smaller events with local artists. We also used the venue for TV productions without audiences, and for the corporate side of the business, [we created] virtual or hybrid events.”
Across the border in Spain, the Palacio Vistalegre in Madrid has been put to similar use.

“We did some film and TV shooting during the pandemic while we were not in lockdown or confined, as they need a big space now for the actors, separate dressing rooms, and different and isolated space for extras and bystanders,” says CEO Juan Carbonel.

“In the meantime – with zero income – we invested and did improvements in the facilities as we upgraded air systems and natural air venting, together with [audience signage], new protocols for security and extra cleaning, etc.”

Carbonel says the venue has also created new protocols regarding access strategies to protect arena workers and visiting crews.

Detailing the plans for a return to hosting events at the Arena Riga in Latvia, chairman Girts Krastins says, “Our approach will be based on local health regulations, but as the summer and first months of autumn were relatively relaxed we were able to host some events with spectators and test some procedures.”

Among those tested protocols were designated entrances, sales of socially distanced tickets, disinfection procedures for visitors and staff, clean zones for sports teams, shielded concessions, and safe food packaging.

“Our ice hockey team is still playing at Arena Riga, without spectators, and that allows us to routine our procedures”

Like Vedrickas in neighbouring Lithuania, Krastins has been able to hone some systems thanks to a sports team that calls Arena Riga home. “Our ice hockey team is still playing at our venue, without spectators, and that allows us to routine our procedures and keep [our] employees.”

And highlighting the importance of local trade bodies, as well as the EAA, on a bigger scale, Krastins adds, “Together with our local venue association we have been in touch with health authorities regarding possible solutions for crowd management under Covid-19 and that is one of the reasons why we were able to operate in summer and autumn.”

That foresight in testing and training is a common theme among EAA members.

At Münich’s Olympiapark, general manager Marion Schöne says, “During the first lockdown, we developed and implemented hygiene concepts for all our venues, and leisure and tourism facilities. We also trained employees as hygiene advisors in an in-house training course.

“From mid-May, we received permission to reopen under certain conditions. We were also able to hold daily concerts in the Olympic Stadium for six weeks in the summer, but only for a maximum of 400 people.”

“We were able to hold daily concerts in [Münich’s] Olympic Stadium for six weeks in the summer for a maximum of 400 people”

In Prague, Robert Schaffer, CEO at the O2 arena, reveals that the venue has been used several times, including for online concerts, but otherwise arena staff have taken the time to carry out maintenance programmes. But he remains cautious about the doors reopening.

“We hope that from the second [half of the year] we can start to return to normal,” he says. “Specifically, from September, we can start hosting concerts, especially by domestic artists.” International artists will likely not return until 2022, he predicts.

“Protecting the health of all involved is a top priority for us and we will certainly comply with all effective regulations, whether on capacity, time-segregated entrances to all sectors, temperature measurement, staff testing and, of course, regular disinfection,” continues Schaffer.

At the SEC in Glasgow, which includes the SSE Hydro Arena on its campus, director of live entertainment Debbie McWilliams notes that because it hosted a temporary hospital during the pandemic, staff have benefitted from National Health Service advice when planning for the venue’s return to action.

“We are fortunate to have the input of NHS Scotland as they have implemented best practice in managing hygiene and cleaning of the NHS Louisa Jordan [hospital],” she says.

“We hope that from the second half of the year [the O2 arena, Prague] we can start to return to normal”

And McWilliams acknowledges that instilling confidence among fans will be a major part of the rebuilding process. “Customer communication is pivotal in informing and encouraging responsible fan behaviour,” she says.

“In partnership with Ticketmaster we have enhanced our ticket purchase process to include allocated entry arrival times, potential for carpark advanced bookings, a switch to fully mobile ticket delivery to support reduced contact entry, and we are transitioning all F&B and merchandising to cashless. Our comms plan is being developed to take cognisance of individual audience profiles and their needs.”

Meanwhile, in Paris, AccorHotels Arena director general Nicolas Dupeux applauds his team’s flexibility to adapt to the ever-changing situation. “Since last March, we have been able to organise a number of events,” he says.

“The first one, in June, was part of the annual Fête de la Musique celebrations, broadcast on French television. In record time, we had to prepare to welcome more than 30 artists, and then reorganise in less than three days to welcome 3,000 people, taking into account all the sanitary measures.”

That ability to rapidly reorganise staff and systems to host major events is one of the arena sector’s unique skills. And facilitated by the communication networks that have developed through EAA membership, arena management across the continent are currently updating plans, often daily, for Covid-safe systems that will help relaunch their businesses and welcome fans back into their buildings.

“Since last March, we have been able to organise a number of events [at AccorHotels Arena, Paris]”

The recovery
While there is still no set date that will allow arenas to reopen for business, the EAA’s members are working tirelessly to ensure they remain up to speed with government guidance, as well as best practice procedures advocated by the association.

AccorHotels Arena boss Dupeux sums up the role EAA will have in the venues sector recovery. “Being part of the EAA gives us a great space to exchange with other venues that face the same challenges – managing venues and re-welcoming our fans – and this has proven extremely useful, especially in the current context.

Membership also gives us access to industry benchmarks on recovery stimulus and actions. Being that our venue is so large and specific, EAA is the only space available to do this on a European level.”

Highlighting just how eager he is to kickstart the recovery, Dupeux discloses, “We have been working since the first lockdown on our reopening protocols to ensure the strictest respect for health and safety: social distancing, reinforced cleaning and disinfection procedures, establishing one-way circulation paths, implementing mandatory face-covering rules and deploying hand-sanitiser stations. Our protocol was successfully tested last June.

“On the digital side of things, we have sped the deployment of our touchless solutions (click&collect and cashless payment) to be ready for reopening. We are also ready to gradually reopen with design offers for production with smaller gauges, all with a ready-to-use setup to limit costs.”

“From autumn, business must be running again to some extent, otherwise we see black for the future”

Addressing her expectations for the coming year, Marion Schöne at Olympiapark in Münich, comments, “In our economic plan for 2021, we have assumed that we will not have any operations in the first quarter; from the second quarter, we hope to be able to reopen our tourism facilities but with limited capacities, and in the summer, the first open-air concerts and festivals must be possible again, albeit with conditions.”

But she warns, “From autumn, and at the latest in the fourth quarter, business must be running again to some extent, otherwise we see black for the future.

“We are represented in various nationwide working groups and are trying to convince politicians to develop a roadmap for the restart, together with the event industry. Our great hopes are the vaccinations, certified and inexpensive corona [rapid testing], as well as further studies that show that events can be held safely.”

In Scotland, McWilliams is equally realistic about the path to doors opening. “Assessing the year ahead, we expect promoter focus to be on the summer and the crucial return of festivals. We expect arena business to return in September following a successful festival programme,” she reports.

Noting that forecasts are reliant on the success of the UK’s vaccine programmes, McWilliams explains, “Following this timeline, we are working with Scottish government on a road map back to full capacity, which will include some test events at reduced capacities, building to full capacity.”

“we are working with Scottish government on a road map back to full capacity, which will include some test events”

Arena Riga’s Krastins is similarly pragmatic about the coming year. “Our plan for this year is mainly sports,” he states. “We will probably host the World Championship in ice hockey (with or without spectators) in May till June, then some international competitions in ‘bubble’ format, and then the regular ice hockey season starts in August.

“And if shows resume in September or October, we will be ready. In general, I feel that 2021 will be better than 2020, but definitely nowhere close to 2019.”

In Germany, AEG’s Frommhold is also counting on a revival in the second half of the year. “We are clearly looking at late Q3 and Q4 for larger crowds to be allowed back into the venues,” he comments. “Currently, a lot of shows and concerts are moving out of 2021 into 22.

“In Berlin and Hamburg we are in ongoing conversations with local and regional promoters about shows with limited capacity, whenever this is allowed, to bridge the gap to the start of regular touring. We are hoping for May for such shows to take place, but that is hard to predict. Obviously, a sustained business case and social distancing are mutually exclusive, but those events would send a positive message and get people working,” observes Frommhold.

Altice Arena chief Jorge Vinha da Silva is more optimistic that science can help reduce the impact of Covid-19 and allow mass gatherings to become commonplace again. “I hope by mid-year we can start recovering, especially in the third and fourth quarter when I hope our venues progressively return to full capacity with the evolution of the vaccination process or by mass [use] rapid testing.

“Fan research confirms pent-up demand for live, however, we need to be aware of consumer disposable income levels”

“I believe events will return first in a regional setting, as one of the most important factors is to rebuild consumer confidence and none of us can really evaluate the effect of an inevitable economic crisis. On the other hand, after the pandemic, everyone will be willing to share collective experiences such as concerts and festivals and this will be positive for the industry.”

Advocating “Clear, consistent, positive messaging on all customer touchpoints,” McWilliams agrees with Silva’s summary and concludes that ticket pricing could be a key factor to the success of the industry’s relaunch.

“Fan research confirms there is pent-up demand for live events, however, we need to be aware of the impact on consumer disposable income levels,” she warns.

“In a post-Covid world, there may be lots of choice but attendance could be stifled by a change in purchase practice, with consumers displaying self-protection and a need for security in their spending habits. If ticket prices were lower for a period of time this may help mitigate risk.”

 


Read this feature in its original format, with additional insight from EAA president John Langford, in the digital edition of IQ 96.

ARA set to reveal manifesto for Europe’s return to live

The Arena Resilience Alliance (ARA), the purpose-driven initiative created by the European Arenas Association (EAA), is set to launch a manifesto detailing the essential next steps for a safe return to live music and sport across Europe.

The action plan will be revealed during the industry body’s second conference, ‘A Game of Two Halves: The Return Leg‘ in association with IQ, which will be streamed live on Thursday 18 February at 1 pm GMT on the EAA’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.

The free virtual event will feature contributions from a range of speakers including John Langford (AEG Europe COO and EAA president), Sam Tanson (minister of culture for Luxembourg) and Alex Jäger, (sport director at Champions Hockey League).

The free virtual event will feature contributions from speakers including John Langford, Sam Tanson and Alex Jäger

A Game of Two Halves: The Return Leg will also feature a keynote speech and presentation by Sam Tanson, minister of culture for Luxembourg, featuring behind the scenes footage and in-depth analysis from a series of test concerts taking place in Luxembourg at Rockhal arena’s club venue.

Alongside the Rockhal test events presentation and ARA manifesto launch, the event will also feature two panel discussions titled ‘Ready to Rock and Play’ and ‘Working out Way Back To You’ which will explore what support the live events sector needs from policymakers on both a national and EU level to enable long-term resilience and future growth.

Opening addresses will be delivered by Rita Brasil de Brito (chair of the Cultural Affairs Committee, Portuguese presidency of the council of the EU and Viviane Hoffmann (deputy director general at the European Commission Directorate-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture).

ARA’s first virtual conference, A Game of Two Halves, which streamed in December 2020 is available to watch online here.

 


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Venue leaders optimistic for 2020 reopening

Venue professionals expressed confidence that doors will reopen before the end of the year, but shared doubts as to whether social distancing is the answer, in the latest IQ Focus panel.

Available to watch back now on the IQ website, as well as on Facebook and Youtube, the session saw John Langford (AEG Europe), Lucy Noble (Royal Albert Hall/NAA), Olivier Toth (Rockhal/EAA), Oliver Hoppe (Wizard Promotions), Tom Lynch (ASM Global) and Lotta Nibell (GOT Event) reflect on when they will return to business and the tactics that venues will use to ensure the show goes on.

All panellists were optimistic that some shows will return before the end of 2020, although next year will see the true restart of indoor live events, with many speaking of “packed 2021 calendars”.

For Toth, CEO of the 6,500-capacity Rockhal in Luxembourg, smaller capacity shows with strict social distancing measures will be the most likely to restart before the new year. Rockhal’s intimate club venue, which typically has a capacity of 1,100, can hold 90 people with two metre distancing measures in place, but “we can increase capacity as we go”, said Toth.

“For shows of a bigger scale, I am optimistically hoping for the end of this year, but it is more likely to be 2021,” said Toth.

Rockhal is one of a number of venues in Luxembourg acting as a temporary medical facility.

For GOT Event, which operates nine venues in Sweden, sports fixtures are the most likely to return in 2020, with all matches played behind closed doors. “For music and other shows, I think it’ll be next year,” said Nibell.

Even though Sweden has not entered a full lockdown unlike many of its European counterparts, a ban on shows over 50 people has left the Swedish live industry in much the same position as elsewhere.

“For shows of a bigger scale, I am optimistically hoping for the end of this year, but it is more likely to be 2021”

ASM Global has already seen some success with the return of sporting events, hosting Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) events behind closed doors at venues in the United States.

Lynch said ASM Global’s VenueShield, a post-coronavirus reopening programme, has played a big part in allowing the sports powerhouse to get back up and running. “Next I’d like to see how, or if, we can introduce fans with social distancing and in a safe and clean environment.”

Social distancing has been a “hot topic” of late for the events industry, said Langford, asking Wizard Promotions’ Hoppe if it is a viable solution for event organisers.

While it may work for some kinds of shows and events, “I don’t think social distancing will be a part of what we will be looking at,” said Hoppe.  Drive-in concerts offer an example of social distancing success, added Hoppe, but “are horrible for an artist in my opinion”.

Noble, artistic and commercial director at London’s (5,272-cap.) Royal Albert Hall and chair of the UK’s National Arenas Association (NAA), agreed that social distancing is not part of the plan for reopening as “it just doesn’t work financially”.

“We do know we can run our venues in world class ways to facilitate shows going on, be it by contact tracing, temperature checks, questionnaires, disinfectant mists etc.”

Noble noted the lack of clarity given to the live industry by the UK government, which is yet to give a date for when events of any size will be permitted again. “If they don’t give us clarity, then we need to give them clarity,” said Noble. “We are suggesting to them how we can operate.”

“I am really positive about the future of live events, but we just need to find a way of operating in this situation, if it recurs”

The EAA has also taken up a lobbying position, working with the European Commission to develop a reopening plan for the live industry.

“We’ll be facing very different requirements and expectations from our customers,” said Toth. “Scenarios will be very different, from artist hospitality to audience experience, not even mentioning social distancing, so the ambition was to put major concerns out there and open up the discussion.”

Consumer demand has been another worry for the live industry, with surveys indicating a potential cautiousness on behalf of some about returning to public events. However, Toth pointed out that the majority of fans are holding on to tickets for postponed events, indicating that “people are looking forward to coming back”.

Noble said that the Royal Albert Hall is expecting confidence will take a while to return and is modelling accordingly.

“We certainly won’t be selling to full houses when we reopen,” said Noble. The venue is adjusting its programming to focus on shows that attract younger audiences first, the demographic most likely to make a quick return to events.

“I am really positive about the future of live events,” said Noble, “but we just need to find a way of operating in this situation, and for if it recurs.”

The next IQ Focus session, The Innovation Session, is taking place on Thursday 28 May at 4 p.m. BST/5 p.m. CET, chaired by Mike Malak (Paradigm), and featuring speakers Sheri Bryant (Sansar), Tommas Arnby (Locomotion Ent.), Amy Oldham (Dice), Ben Samuels (MelodyVR) and Prajit Gopal (Looped).

Get an automatic reminder when the live stream starts via Facebook Live or YouTube Live.

 


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Venues in the spotlight for next IQ Focus panel

Following on from last week’s popular Festival Forum session, this week’s IQ Focus virtual panel will turn the attention to venues, discussing how the world’s many shuttered music venues can weather the Covid-19 storm, and emerge from life under lockdown.

Chaired by John Langford (AEG Europe), The Venue’s Venue: Building Back, will feature speakers Lucy Noble (Royal Albert Hall/NAA), Olivier Toth (Rockhal/EAA), Oliver Hoppe (Wizard Promotions), Tom Lynch (ASM Global) and Lotta Nibell (GOT Event).

The touring world has changed dramatically since venue professionals came together for the Venue Summit at the International Live Music Conference (ILMC) in March, as doors have been shuttered, countless concerts cancelled and many venues repurposed to help in the fight against the disease.

Panellists will share their strategies on getting through the current crisis, as well as discussing the main lessons they have learned so far

Panellists will share their strategies on getting through the current crisis, as well as discussing the main lessons they have learned so far.

Looking to the future, the venue experts will also reflect on what the recovery process may look like and what will need to be done to keeps fans, staff and artists safe and get business back up and running in the crucial months ahead.

The session is taking place on Thursday 21 May at 3.30 (BST)/4.30 (CET). Get an automatic reminder when the live stream starts via Facebook Live or YouTube Live.


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ILMC speaker spotlight: John Langford, EAA/AEG

The International Live Music Conference (ILMC) is now just over a week away and, as more and more chairs and panellists are announced, IQ catches up with some key speakers to hear what they hope to get out of this year’s conference.

Following on from the previous Speaker Spotlight, IQ talks to John Langford, president of the European Arenas Association (EAA) and AEG Europe COO.

Langford is chairing the Venue’s Venue: New builds, new brands panel to discuss what further competition and consolidation we can expect to see in the fast-evolving venue market.

He will be joined by panellists Jolanda Jansen (Rotterdam Ahoy), Brian Kabatznick (Oak View Group), Tom Lynch (ASM Global), Thomas Ovesen (Diriyah Gate Development Authority) and Harry Samuel (LiveStyled).

 


IQ: What do you expect to be the main talking points at your panel?

JL: I expect there will be lots of talk of new buildings and new markets. New arenas are not cheap, and returns can be limited in competitive markets or marginal locations, so what’s driving expansion and development plans? And what’s the reality of a ‘new arena model’?

Outside of Europe there are some exciting developments and new opportunities. We will look at what’s hot in Asia, the Middle East and Africa and ask whether building venues in those markets will create more demand for touring.

New arenas are not cheap, and returns can be limited, so what’s driving expansion and development plans?

With competition and consolidation in the venue market at an all-time high, has that had an affect on your day-to-day jobs?

Yes, absolutely. I am sure that each of the panel members can talk more to their experiences over the last eighteen months. From mergers to new players in the market, there’s a lot to talk about.

Would it be fair to say the large venue sector is among the most interesting parts of the music business right now?

Personally I believe that the entire live industry is in huge transformation. Specifically on the venue side, what we’re seeing in the large venue sector is mild compared to the storms facing grassroots venues. Business rates, gentrification, Brexit, skills shortages – it’s a minefield out there!

Is there anything else you’re particularly looking forward to at ILMC?

A cold Fightback lager at the end of a long day. All proceeds go to the Music Venues Trust! Beer with a conscience.

The Venue’s Venue panel is taking place at 10 a.m. on Thursday 5 March at ILMC.

 


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EAA launches Europact scheme for emerging artists

The European Arenas Association (EAA) has launched the Europact programme, introducing branded live performance spaces for showcasing European emerging talent across EAA member arenas.

The initiative is part of the EAA’s strategy to support current European Commission initiatives that aim to build and strengthen the music industry across the continent.

Europact, a self-funded programme, will first be launched as a pilot scheme across a limited number of arenas. The spaces will offer opportunities for undiscovered artists to make themselves known to EAA member audiences.

An EAA spokesperson tells IQ the space dedicated to Europact performances will depend on the arena: ” If the artist can carry it there may be opportunities for an opening mainstage exposure, otherwise the space may be in lobby or bar areas,” they say. “Other multi-day events may also offer a platform.”

“The European Union is dedicating large amounts of resources to the European music sector in recognition of its talent potential and creative capacity and we are delighted to be able to offer our infrastructure and know-how in order to support these efforts,” comments John Langford, who was named EAA president in October.

“We have created Europact in order to contribute to building a sustainable European talent pipeline”

Olivier Toth, CEO of EAA member arena Rockhal (6,500-cap.) in Luxemburg, adds, “We have created Europact in order to contribute to building a sustainable European talent pipeline and to encourage the distribution of new music across national borders. Our aim is for the initial pilot scheme to become an established and recognised industry platform able to offer opportunities to young artists for many years to come.”

The EAA’s 35-arena strong portfolio includes venues in 22 countries, which collectively host over 2,500 events annually and attract 20 million fans a year.

Live music was the driving force behind the success of European arenas in 2018, as explained in IQ’s recent European Arena Yearbook, produced in partnership with the EAA and the UK’s National Arena Association (NAA).

EU arenas report bumper year for live music


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AEG’s John Langford appointed new EAA president

John Langford has been elected president of the European Arenas Association (EAA), succeeding Ahoy Rotterdam’s Peter van der Veer, who stepped down earlier this year.

Langford, who was named chief operating officer of AEG Europe last November, was elected at the EAA’s latest general meeting, held recently in Barcelona.

“I am honoured to represent 35 of the leading European indoor arenas during this incredibly dynamic time in the live event sector,” comments John Langford.

“I am honoured to represent 35 of the leading European indoor arenas”

“Exciting changes in technology, the opportunity to make a positive impact through sustainability initiatives, and participating in the wider European conversations that impact our members and audiences are just a few of the areas where we are making a difference.”

Prior to van der Veer, the EAA was led by AEG’s Brian Kabatznick, now with rival operation Oak View Group, which recently launched its own International Venue Alliance.

The EAA has members in 22 European countries. In 2018, its 35 arenas welcomed more than 19.8 million customers to 2,933 events, according to its latest research report.

 


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Steve Sayer succeeds John Langford as the O2 GM

The O2, the world’s most popular live entertainment venue, will enter 2019 with a new general manager.

Steve Sayer, formerly the O2’s commercial director, will become its GM and vice-president from January, succeeding former GM/VP John Langford, who was recently named COO of AEG Europe.

Sayer’s promotion is accompanied by two other appointments: The O2 operations director Danielle Kennedy-Clark is promoted to deputy GM, while Gavin Brind becomes finance director, replacing AEG Europe’s new CFO, Paul Reeve.

“I’m delighted to be announcing that Steve, Danielle and Gavin will be leading the O2 from January,” comments Langford. “Their combined experience in managing this incredible venue, working alongside the senior leadership team, means that the world’s busiest arena will continue to flourish.”

“I’m excited to be leading the venue as we further develop the customer experience and our programme”

Sayer joined the O2 in 2014 as commercial director, overseeing ticketing operations, merchandising, food and beverage, and corporate sales, along with exhibition content and overseeing roof-walk attraction Up at the O2.

Kennedy-Clark joined the O2 at venue manager in 2010, before being promoted to operations director in 2017. Brind, meanwhile, joined AEG in 2012 and has been deputy finance director since 2017.

“The O2 continues to set the benchmark for the music and entertainment industry in every respect,” adds Sayer. “I’m excited to be leading the venue as we further develop the customer experience and our programme, finding new ways to delight the millions of fans who visit the O2 every year”.

The O2 was once again the world’s top arena by ticket sales in 2017, selling more than 1.44 million tickets compared to Madison Square Garden’s 1.17m.

 


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John Langford promoted to AEG Europe COO

AEG Europe has made three internal promotions, including the appointment of the O2 general manager John Langford as chief operating officer.

Paul Reeve, currently finance director of the O2 and SSE Arena, Wembley, becomes chief financial officer, while Emma Bownes, the O2’s programming director, is elevated to the newly created position of vice-president of programming across AEG’s European venues.

The appointments follow the recently announced promotion of Alex Hill to president of AEG Europe, following the retirement of long-serving president and CEO Tom Miserendino.

Langford, who joined AEG from Scotland’s SECC in November 2016, comments: “We’ve got amazing venues and superb people across the AEG global family, and I’m really proud that I can continue to play a key part in delivering on our vision to give the world a reason to cheer.”

“I’m looking forward to working closely with John, Paul and Emma in continuing our vision of excellence across our portfolio of European venues”

Bownes has worked for AEG for eight years, developing and curating content for London’s two largest arenas. She programmed the O2’s recent tenth-birthday shows, which included performances from Ed Sheeran, Foo Fighters, alt-J, Jamiroquai and more.

“It’s an honour to be recognised in this way by AEG, and I’m looking forward to focusing on programming across all of our venues in Europe,” she says. “With the way European touring is developing this is a brilliant opportunity for us to be joining forces and making planning simpler for our promoters.”

In addition to the O2 and Wembley Arena, AEG’s European venue portfolio includes Hamburg’s Barclaycard Arena, Berlin’s Mercedes-Benz Arena and the newly opened Verti Music Hall, Stockholm Live and AccorHotels Arena in Paris.

Commenting on the appointments, Alex Hill adds: “I’m looking forward to working closely with John, Paul and Emma in continuing our vision of excellence across our portfolio of European venues and other live entertainment and sports properties”.

 


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Industry calls for sharing of security burden at first E3S

Some of the biggest names in concert promotion, venue management and event security have called for closer collaboration between industry stakeholders, as event organisers look towards a future where audience expectations demand increasingly stringent – and expensive – security measures at live events.

The theme of the need for increased cooperation between promoters, venues and other event stakeholders ran throughout the inaugural Event Safety & Security Summit (E3S), which debuted in London last Tuesday.

Speaking on the final panel of the day, The Show Goes On… Moving forward together, Live Nation executive president of touring Phil Bowdery said there is a “huge expectation” from artists about the level of security at venues, with “most international acts bringing a bigger security detail. [They] are quite detailed on what they want and how they want it, which we haven’t really seen before”.

While Paléo Festival’s Pascal Viot said in the earlier Rings of Steel panel that he believes people are ready to pay an extra euro per ticket to cover the costs of security, Bowdery stressed he “doesn’t want the cost passed on to consumers”. However, he also said the current model – where venues bear the sole responsibility for those costs – is no longer realistic.

“We need to come up with a model that works,” he explained, “because it’s not a sole venue cost.”

Bowdery added that he believes most promoters would be willing to contribute, “but we need some time to make sure we’re prepared for it. We have certain hurdles to get over – artists would be concerned we’re just taking more money out of their pockets – so we have to make them aware of what we’re all doing [on the security front].”

John Sharkey said SMG Europe is focusing on a new increased security environment while getting people into their venues earlier, which both “flattens out the arrival pattern and has the benefit of guests spending more money inside the building instead of nearby bars”. This, he said, will “help fund some of what we’re doing [security-wise] over the longer term”.

“We need to come up with a model that works, because it’s not a sole venue cost”

One measure that shouldn’t cost the earth – albeit it one difficult to implement – is a universal set of security standards across the world’s major events venues. MOM Consulting’s Chris Kemp used the example of the NAA’s A-Guide, which allows bands to “come into the country to play knowing the venue should be set up the same way wherever they’re going”.

Kemp called for the creation of one unified document bringing together all the existing security and safety guides – while Sharkey suggested venues could have a star rating, like hotels, so touring artists would know what level of facilities to expect.

Other key topics of discussion included an industry wide lack of qualified security staff, with delegates from the UK, Belgium and Germany all reporting a shortage in their own countries, and the importance of increased security not coming at the expense of crowd and general event safety.

“This summer focused so much on security that I’m worried the safety aspect – crowd management, stopping drugs being brought on site and even weather planning– is going to fall away,” said Gentian Events’ Eric Stuart. “That focus on security has been a direct contributor to lots of unnecessary accidents at events this summer where people were hurt.”

Also on the agenda was the problem of queues – and whether a group of people confined in a small area outside an event present an easier target than the event itself. A security adviser for the British government warned that individual new security measures can “interfere with each other” and called for a “holistic view” that includes the entire property, including its perimeter. “If your security policy is causing queues outside the venue, you’ve got your screening process wrong,” he said.

The inaugural E3S, produced by ILMC in close collaboration with the European Arenas Association (EAA) and the UK’s National Arenas Association (NAA), took place at the Intercontinental London hotel at The O2 on 10 October.

 


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