fbpx

PROFILE

MY SUBSCRIPTION

LOGOUT

x

The latest industry news to your inbox.

    

I'd like to hear about marketing opportunities

    

I accept IQ Magazine's Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy

Music of the Spheres – the tour report

While other acts opted to wait until 2023 for their stadium tours, Coldplay took a risk to push ahead this year with their Music of the Spheres tour. And the pay-off has been extraordinary, as fans starved of live music for two years are helping the band smash records. Gordon Masson reports.

With more than 3.5 million tickets sold in 2022, at the start of what is mooted to be a four-year project, Coldplay are in the midst of the biggest tour of their career – not a bad achievement considering it’s also the most eco-friendly stadium tour ever.

When frontman Chris Martin revealed the band would not tour to support their Everyday Life album in late 2019 but would instead try to “work out how our tour can not only be sustainable, [but] how can it be actively beneficial,” the industry wondered whether such ambitions were even possible.

But it turns out that those ideals had been simmering for a couple of years before the shock announcement, as stadia around the world were already on hold for the band’s current Music of the Spheres spectacular, which is laying down blueprints on how to dramatically reduce the carbon footprint of touring.

“To be honest, we started to plan this tour when we were on the last tour, in 2017,” band manager Dave Holmes tells IQ. “It seemed crazy at the time, but we were holding venues for 2022 and 2023, as some stadiums actually need to be booked that far in advance.”

“The rate at which they sold – I’ve never seen anything like it, especially in South America where we couldn’t put shows on sale fast enough”

Coronavirus meant that every act had to shut down touring activities, but with Martin’s bold pronouncement never straying far from the headlines, the decision to push ahead with the tour, as scheduled, when many other A-list acts decided to keep playing their wait-and-see strategy, seems to have paid off. Big time.

“We took a big risk in terms of holding these multiples. But the rate at which they sold – I’ve never seen anything like it, especially in South America where we couldn’t put shows on sale fast enough: they’d just sell out on the day,” says Holmes.
With sales for around the 3.5m tickets mark for this year alone, the gamble has been more than worth it. But the challenges the tour principals have had to overcome along the way have been considerable.

Strange Planning
Represented by Marty Diamond at Wasserman Music for North America, Coldplay’s agent since day-one for the rest of the world was Steve Strange, who passed away in 2021. X-ray Touring colleague Josh Javor worked with Strange for many years on the band’s live career and reveals that Music of the Spheres was the final tour they planned together.

“The first show in Costa Rica was very emotional because normally I’d be arm-in-arm with Steve on those occasions,” says Javor. “Steve had been talking about this tour specifically, for a very long time. The band’s last tour was ground-breaking, but it was all just building up to this. He knew that Coldplay would be bigger than they were on A Head Full of Dreams and the venues we booked and tickets we’ve sold prove he was right.

“Just as Steve predicted, this tour is the band’s biggest to date. It’s like his legacy, and it’s very sad that he isn’t around to see just how successful it is.” Holmes comments, “Steve was brilliant. It was never about the money with him: of course, he’d always fight for you to get the best offers, but his focus was always about building the right way; taking it step by step.”

“We sold all six stadium shows in one day, and we could have easily added a couple more dates if there had been availability”

Indeed, the band themselves had to be convinced about the scale of the current tour. “When we were putting the routing together, the band were definitely a little bit unsure,” says Holmes. “It was a little bit shocking for them to see the number of dates – the multiples, in particular. It was eye-opening for them just to realise, ‘Wow, this is where you guys think we’re at now.’ But it’s the biggest tour the band have done, and a lot of that is thanks to the work Steve Strange did over 20-plus years.”

Paradise
In addition to the millions of fans they are thrilling, Coldplay’s promoter partners are a happy bunch. With Live Nation promoting the tour, along with a number of local promoters in key territories, there is universal praise for both the band and their production crew.

At press time, Simon Moran’s SJM Concerts was co-promoting Coldplay’s six dates at Wembley Stadium alongside Live Nation’s Phil Bowdery. “The demand has been incredible,” says Moran. “There was a presale that offered tickets to anyone who bought the album, but when we did the general on-sale, we sold all six stadium shows in one day, and we could have easily added a couple more dates if there had been availability.

“Coldplay’s live shows are just legendary. The number of hits that they have and just the fact that their live performances are so engaging mean that word of mouth basically sells the tickets. A Coldplay stadium show is just a massive event because there’s so much goes into it.

“I’ve never known anyone who has not been blown away by their stadium shows, and I have to say that the current tour is just the best they have created.”

“The tour being eco was very educative for all concerned: the audience, the venue, and us”

Wembley Stadium’s senior commercial manager, James Taylor, notes that Coldplay are only the second act to sell six shows in one year at the new stadium. “This takes them to 12 shows in total and equals the all-time new Wembley Stadium record – a huge achievement,” he says.

“Demand for tickets has been amongst the biggest we have ever seen at Wembley and is testament to the ongoing popularity of the band, who continue to innovate and excite with every tour.”

In Poland, Live Nation’s Grzegorz Kurant is jubilant. “It was a triumphant return,” he says. “Their last show took place in Warsaw in 2017, and it was a great success, but the demand for this year’s show was unprecedented. If there were any new [ticket] releases they were disappearing in seconds.

“The tour being eco was very educative for all concerned: the audience, the venue, and us. Even though we all do our best to be more environment-friendly, the tour was a good reminder and educator of how much still needs to be done.”
PGE Narodowy stadium is also celebrating. “It’s not only the band but also the whole team of technical support and other coordinators who made the concert in Warsaw so special,” says venue manager Jarosław Bodanko. “It doesn’t happen often that the entire production team brings so much passion and commitment to the event’s creation. Coldplay concerts are not only a unique show for concert attendees but also an extraordinary experience for everyone working on its production.”

Kurant adds, “The band are on great form. The modernised [PixMob] wristbands with all the new features are astonishing. The only challenge we had was to find enough tickets to satisfy the demand.”

“We were just coming out of Covid, and we did not know how the public would react or if they had the financial resources to go to a concert”

That’s a similar tale worldwide.

Memo Parra, director of international talent at Mexican promoter OCESA, promoted the band for back-to-back shows in March at Estadio BBVA in Monterrey and a further two dates in Guadalajara’s Estadio Akron. Then, in early April, they smashed records in the capital city.

“We sold out four shows at Foro Sol – more than 250,000 tickets in total. They are the first international act ever to do that,” Parra reports. “It was a very important time for us because we were just coming out of Covid, and we did not know how the public would react or if they had the financial resources to go to a concert. But in the end, we were delighted. Coldplay are a class act, and it is great to work with them.”

Parra is also promoting appearances at Bogotá’s Estadio El Campín – a sales feat he again lauds. “It’s not easy to sell out two stadium shows in Colombia,” he says. “Coldplay are just huge in Latin America now, and we cannot wait to have them come back again next time.”

The most impressive sales numbers, however, belong to Argentina, fulfilling the dreams of local promoter Diego Finkelstein.

“We have ten sold-out dates at River Plate Stadium – that’s 650,000 tickets in one city – but I am not surprised because Coldplay have a huge connection with people in Argentina”

“We have ten sold-out dates at River Plate Stadium – that’s 650,000 tickets in one city – but I am not surprised because Coldplay have a huge connection with people in Argentina,” says Finkelstein who runs DF Entertainment.

“On the last tour, I had lunch with Dave Holmes and told him that we could sell out ten stadiums in Buenos Aires, but he was reluctant to commit to that many at the time. So when we went on sale, we went with four shows at River Plate and that was supposed to be the end of the tour leg, but the speed they sold out at was incredible, so I pushed for more.”

Praising Josh Javor for his part in proceedings, Finkelstein says the FIFA World Cup’s unusual November kick-off means a halt to domestic football, thus freeing up River Plate Stadium.

“We invested $2m [€1.96m] in pitch protection to persuade the stadium to give us more dates,” he continues. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get so many dates at River Plate, so we begged the band to extend the tour. On 24 May, we put shows five, six, and seven on sale and they blew out in one day. The following week we sold out shows eight and nine.”

Coldplay were similarly blown away and recorded a video in Spanish to thank their Argentine fans. “It was perfect,” says Finkelstein. “The tenth show went on sale on 7 June and sold out in two hours. It was incredible, but if we wanted, the demand was still there to sell even more dates.”

“I came in just six or seven weeks from the start of the tour, so there was a lot of catching up to do”

Having already seen the spectacle in Chicago (twice) and Paris, Finkelstein is counting the days until Coldplay arrive in Buenos Aires. And citing the use of the third-generation PixMob – that in keeping with the rest of the tour are now produced using plant-based materials – Finkelstein believes that incorporating the audience into the show has elevated Coldplay to the top.

“What they deliver is this amazing immersive show for all the family. I cannot wait to see all ten shows in Buenos Aires.”

Don’t Panic
Another unforeseen challenge for team Coldplay happened earlier this year when long-time production manager Bill Leabody had to step back because of health issues. He recommended Jake Berry as his replacement, and thankfully the production guru was available.

“I came in just six or seven weeks from the start of the tour, so there was a lot of catching up to do,” says Berry.

As Leabody had spent months setting everything up, Berry found himself in unfamiliar waters, inheriting suppliers he hadn’t worked with before. “When I came along, everybody thought, ‘Oh, here comes the hatchet man: everybody’s gonna leave,’” laughs Berry. “But that was never going to be the case – there’s no point breaking up a happy crew. And besides, I couldn’t have found any suppliers able to do it in terms of equipment and the logistics that were already in place.”

“It’s a bit like stepping back in time for us old enough to remember the 70s and 80s, when we used to have to deal with carnets”

With Covid policies still in place at the start of the tour, the initial shows from Costa Rica to Mexico entailed lockdown bubbles. “Our policy would be if somebody felt sick, we would test; if they were positive, we would isolate,” says Berry. “That would mean leaving somebody behind, on their own in a hotel, and they’d catch up later. So that could be for ten days, but now it’s down to five days.”

Another dilemma to deal with has been the aftermath of Brexit. Berry is unfazed. “It’s a bit like stepping back in time for us old enough to remember the 70s and 80s, when we used to have to deal with carnets.” And he’s pragmatic about related issues. “New driver regulations and things that have changed because of the British structure in Europe didn’t really fall upon us – it fell upon the suppliers to make it work. We order what we need, and we expect the companies to do all the logistics.”

The Scientist(s)
Having very publicly proclaimed that touring would not resume until the band had figured out a more environmentally friendly way to hit the road, team Coldplay has been involved in an intense three-year period of research and development.

“Luckily for us, once Chris had mentioned it in an interview, we had an overwhelming response of people approaching us with different ideas and technologies,” explains Holmes.

As a result, the array of new tech and concepts that are being used on the production is extensive, including: state-of-the-art batteries supplied by BMW, wind-turbine technology on delay towers, solar blankets on unused seats in venues, trucks powered by Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) fuel, and floor covers that can turn the kinetic energy created by fans dancing into electricity. More on the latter two, anon.

“Coldplay set a very high standard. They’ve invested a lot of time, effort, and money into trying to meet their sustainability goals”

Those measures have been put in place to meet the band’s pledge to make the tour “as sustainable and low-carbon as possible,” guided by three key principles: reduce, reinvent and restore.

Indeed, ongoing development will result in the 2023 introduction of generators that can run on either hydrogen, diesel, or biodiesel. “I wouldn’t want to say the name of the company behind them, yet,” states Holmes, “but their generators are a quarter of the size of the ones we currently use. And the fact they can be so versa- tile with different fuels will be a game-changer for the whole world.”

Other proposals, such as a bamboo stage system, however, had to be dropped, reluctantly. “We realised there was no guarantee that we could tour a bamboo stage everywhere in the world because different countries have different rules about bringing in trees, plants, and vegetables, and it would have fallen under that category,” says Holmes.

The Hardest Part
The band’s ambitions to cut the touring carbon footprint by 50% has forced suppliers and their logistics experts to take a long hard look at their own operations and equipment. But that task has, reportedly, been universally welcomed, as any savings made with Coldplay can be implemented – and improved upon – for future clients.

“Coldplay set a very high standard,” says Berry. “They’ve invested a lot of time, effort, and money into trying to meet their sustainability goals, and they’re so far ahead in their planning that government infrastructure is not up to speed. If it was a 100-metre dash, we’d to be ten metres in front of them at the finish line.”

“We feel proud to be part of their commitment to bringing music to the masses whilst being respectful of the world we live in”

As an example, Berry cites sourcing HVO fuel for vehicles as particularly irksome. “We used it wherever we could in America, but it was very regional,” he says. “It was great in California and places like Texas, but when we got to the east coast, it was really, really difficult. We are try- ing to set a standard, but the infrastructure isn’t there to support us.”

Determined to meet their targets, the band purchased 65,000 litres of HVO through truck- ing vendor Stagetruck, meaning the trucks were fully fuelled when they left the depot in England. “The idea was that we would buy more HVO along the way in Europe, but it’s just not avail- able in certain places, and it’s not worth the car- bon footprint to deliver it to the trucks onsite.”

However, the ‘green’ solution to that problem has been very grown up. “Now, when there’s a tour going out from the Stagetruck yard, they fill up those trucks with our fuel,” reports Berry. “The fuel is still being used to cut the carbon footprint. It may not all be on the Coldplay tour but it’s a very clever idea.”

For his part, Stagetruck boss Robert Hewett says, “We have a long-standing relationship with the band and spent time working with production to ensure we can supply the 40-plus strong team of trucks and drivers, to fit in line with their pledge to tour in an as environmentally friendly manner as possible.

“Along with staging, lights, audio, and cater- ing, we are also trucking two trailers of rechargeable [BMW] batteries, which [provide] power via solar photovoltaic panels. Our trucks are monitored to run as efficiently as possible, and the routing is carefully planned to ensure we are not burning extra diesel unnecessarily. It’s always a great pleasure working with Coldplay and their team, and we feel proud to be part of their commitment to bringing music to the masses whilst being respectful of the world we live in.”

“Everyone decided that even if it costs a little bit more money to get the same effect, if it has less environmental impact, we should do it”

Other suppliers have also upped their game in terms of reassessing efficient touring.

Nashville-based Strictly FX is supplying lasers, confetti, and pyro for the tour, which have also been put under the eco microscope. “All the confetti is biodegradable and doesn’t contain any PVC,” says the company’s art director David Kennedy, adding that their pyro product is also more sustainable. He notes, “There have been cost implications, but everyone decided that even if it costs a little bit more money to get the same effect, if it has less environmental impact, we should do it.”

However, he stresses that wellbeing remains paramount. “Sustainability comes second to the safety of something that explodes next to the band,” he says. “The flames use a standard fluid, so we’re generally getting that locally wherever we can because it doesn’t make sense to ship it. And the flame cannons themselves are now smaller units, so our freight impact is drastically reduced.”

Speed of Sound
On the audio side, Wigwam Acoustics has been working with the band for around 17 years, and company founder Chris Hill reveals the green goals of the latest tour mean that rather than flying most of the PA, “we’ve gone back to more conventional PA towers.” The company is also using equipment that requires significantly less power than on the previous Coldplay tour.

And noting the new leadership in the band’s touring set-up, Hill says, “When there’s a change of production manager, it usually means change everywhere. But Jake has basically left us to it because the audio department is kind of self-contained and doesn’t give him any grief.”

“Logistically, it’s been a major operation, as we have planned the most eco-friendly routes for supplying our equipment in all territories”

Indeed, highlighting the camaraderie among rivals in the audio business, Hill adds, “Going from zero into the summer madness where the challenges are not only with crew but also warehouse staff, manufacturers, and various supply-chain issues, has not been easy. Luckily, I have a great relationship with most of our competitors and most of them are good friends, so we all talk and try to support each other.”

When it comes to steel, Music of the Spheres is one of the few genuine world tours currently being serviced by Stageco, according to its project manager Dirk De Decker. “Logistically, it’s been a major operation, as we have planned the most eco-friendly routes for supplying our equipment in all territories,” he advises. “Jake Berry’s production team assess which local services can be called upon to meet the design’s requirements, and we provide the remaining custom elements that are irreplaceable.”

A significant engineering effort, four separate systems have been fabricated for the tour by Stageco. Two systems have been travelling around Europe while, to avoid shipping across the Atlantic, the other two were based in the United States. Each system is contained within 15 trucks and includes the materials to build each iconic part of the scenery, including the stunning moonrise arch.

In addition, Stageco’s crew – headed by Johan ‘Bellekes’ Van Espen, Stefaan Van Den Bossche, and a third team leader in America – build a50m upstage arc, two 23m high ‘pylons’ at left and right to support video screens, and a pair of custom sound towers, each with a large cantile- ver, designed in collaboration with Coldplay’s head of audio.

De Decker adds, “It’s a 72-hour steel build for us [with a single-day load-out]. All of the elements we are constructing are unconnected. No single element depends on the other, and this offers us a lot of practical flexibility on-site.”

“The artwork resembles galaxies in the universe, so the TAIT scenic team added designs in several layers to make it feel like the stars, words, and symbols were appearing from the darkness”

Another significant partner on production is TAIT, which is providing a custom mainstage sprung floor made to interact with the show’s various stages.

“Every deck surface is treated with an anti-skid treatment to allow the performers safety out in the elements, but more powerful than that is the hand-painted scenic over the entire stage,” explains TAIT senior project manager Shannon Nickerson.

“The production team provided renders and TAIT was able to create a system to paint the custom designs and layout words in Kaotican – the language created by Coldplay. The artwork resembles galaxies in the universe, so the TAIT scenic team added designs in several layers to make it feel like the stars, words, and symbols were appearing from the darkness.”

TAIT also constructed the show’s multi- coloured alien mirror ball, which houses eight lasers within it, meaning the cueing has to have pinpoint accuracy to ensure the safety of the audience.

Prospekt’s March
Among the most high-profile tech that the band is using on the tour is their kinetic floor covering – one of a myriad of products that specialists eps are supplying for the tour.

“Coldplay was my first tour, so I have an emotional connection to the band”

“Being involved on Music of the Spheres is a very special situation for me because Coldplay was my first tour, so I have an emotional connection to the band,” says eps chief Okan Tombulca.

“We do the barriers, the cable covers, the seat drapes, and we also have a solar system that we can place on the unused seats in the grandstands, depending on whether they face the sun or not. And, of course, we have the kinetic floor, which we developed together with a Dutch company to try to realise one of the ideas Coldplay themselves had.”

Indeed, Tombulca believes that the state-of-the-art floor might quickly pay for itself because it is no bigger than normal ground protection systems. “The truck space for the floor is probably around about the same,” he says.

PM Berry observes, “We have two of the kinetic floors – they’re about five-metre disks and they’re quite sophisticated. I tell people, ‘the more you jump, the louder the band will play,’ but we’re actually using the energy to help power the C stage a little bit for the lighting.

He continues, “They are brand-new so the technology’s not there yet where we can create enough energy to do it all. But back when the Vari-Lite first came out, there was only one moving light. Now there are 4,000, and they’re all 100 times better. So somebody will take this kinetic floor idea and build something that creates more energy.

“Their partnership with Coldplay is very experimental, so there will be successes and failures, but the goal is to try to change the whole paradigm of international touring”

“We’re learning as we go,” admits Berry. “We didn’t know it all to start with – certainly, I knew nothing – but it’s very, very exciting.”

Freight specialists Global Motion have worked with Coldplay for 16 years and have recently helped the band establish a new partnership with shipping giants DHL, which runs an extensive number of proactive sustainability programmes, such as windfarms in India and dams in Laos.

“We’ve worked lots with DHL in the past, using their infrastructure and helping them with projects, where the need arises,” explains managing director Adam Hatton. “Their partnership with Coldplay is very experimental, so there will be successes and failures, but the goal is to try to change the whole paradigm of international touring.”

Hatton believes everyone now has to make decisions on what is worth spending carbon on and what is not. “Everyone needs to carry less equipment internationally to make a difference,” he says. “That means less work and less profit for Global Motion, but in my view, going forward there will be more tours that are smaller, rather than the huge spectacles we’ve become used to.”

Ahead of personally handling the freight needs for Coldplay when they return to Latin America in September, Hatton reports that the crippling pandemic fees of up to six- and seven-times normal costs are gradually falling. “It’s now about 250% of where it should be,” he reports. “It’s a lot better than what it was and, personally, I don’t think it will ever come down to what the costs were pre-Covid.”

“Right now, you really have to entice local crew to come to work. Nobody’s going to show up if you’re going to pay them for four hours”

Immensely popular with contractors and their personnel, Coldplay are renowned in production circles for factoring in generous breaks to the touring schedule, often with a three- weeks-on, two-weeks-off rotation to allow band members and everyone else to spend quality time with their families.

Newcomer Berry believes such concepts en- gender loyalty, but he notes that the post-Covid scramble to assemble skilled staff has still been a significant test. “We’re not frugal on local crew because we want to get the production up and running quickly and tweak it in the same day before going into 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning,” explains Berry.

“Right now, you really have to entice local crew to come to work. Nobody’s going to show up if you’re going to pay them for four hours. It’s not worth it – they won’t show up. So you need to consider day rates. And if you need 20 hands, you always book 24.”

Appreciative of the way Coldplay take care of their crew, Wigwam’s Hill tells IQ, “They’ve al- ways tried to do the right thing, and we’ve always felt like part of the Coldplay family… it makes people go the extra mile because they’ve been looked after.”

Explaining that the generously scheduled time off also allows suppliers to carry out maintenance on equipment, Hill adds, “The amount of consoles we have on this tour is quite spectacular. Because we had some custom built, we took them back in the break between Paris and Brussels and literally stripped them down, fixed a few bugs, and serviced them.”

“Sustainability is now ingrained in every event, production, and tour we cater for”

With more than 300 mouths to feed on a show day, caterers Eat to the Beat have a 14-strong party on the road with the band – a far cry from when the company worked on Coldplay’s first tour in 2000.

“Sustainability is now ingrained in every event, production, and tour we cater for. We’re constantly striving to minimise our carbon footprint, and Coldplay is no exception,” says Kim Joyce, Eat to the Beat account manager. “Specific examples include sourcing local produce; accurate head counts to reduce food wastage; minimising single-use plastics and having a varied selection of delicious plant-based meals in our menus.”

She adds, “We have a relay system in place whereby we send an advance team on to the next city on the tour to source the local produce. We have completely cut out plastic-bottled water on the entire tour. We have aluminium bottles or cartons of water, and everyone has a refillable water bottle for use at the water cooler. We’ve also given everyone an Eat to the Beat branded mug and reusable coffee cup with a lid, which has massively reduced waste.”

In My Place
One major factor in the band’s plan to cut emissions is the tour’s residency feel – stopping in capital cities for multiple dates.

“You can’t tour in a sustainable way by travelling every day,” states Javor. “The great thing about Coldplay is there is such demand in each country and city for them: they can sell 180,000-200,000 tickets in Berlin; Frankfurt, Brussels, and Paris are similar. And when we look at where the audience is travelling from, they’re not travel- ling that far – they’re mostly locals – so we’re cut- ting down on carbon footprint for the fans, too.”

“It might sound crazy because of the volume of tickets we’re selling, but there’s still a fair amount being left on the table”

Berry observes, “You can recite the European tour on a postage stamp – three Frankfurts, one Warsaw, three Berlins, four Parises, four Brussels, six Wembleys, and two Glasgows. That’s Europe. And then we go to South America where, once again, the band is so popular that we can afford to stay in cities for two, three, four, six dates, and in the case of Buenos Aires, ten nights.”

Agent for North America, Marty Diamond, had the band play a dozen shows in May and June. “Josh [Javor] and I work in lockstep in terms of the scheduling and the band’s availability, while we also work very closely with our promoter partners,” says Diamond.

He says that while Coldplay are capable of playing multiple dates in the metropolis cities, for the first US leg of the current tour, “We were trying to cover off a lot of territory in a very short period of time, so that’s why most of the cities were just single dates.”

Diamond reveals the band will return for another stadium run in America in 2023, adding, “The band are always pushing the envelope in terms of creativity. This tour just takes everything to the next level.”

Javor says that plans for the current tour remain consistent with previous outings. “When Coldplay last toured in 2017, we left a lot on the table even though we sold out everywhere. It might sound crazy because of the volume of tickets we’re selling, but there’s still a fair amount being left on the table this time, too.

“We’re playing eight stadiums in Brazil, plus a 100,000-capacity festival – Rock in Rio. We’re playing ten shows in Argentina, two shows in Colombia, two shows in Peru, four shows in Chile. It’s huge but, in truth, we could have sold more.”

PM Berry is a newly converted fan and is also looking forward to the record-breaking run in Argentina. “I love the energy that Coldplay have,” he says. “It’s a family show where you can bring your three-year-old kid or your 80-year-old grandmother, and they’re all gonna leave singing or whistling a song. And that’s why we all do what we do.”

This feature appeared in the current issue of IQ Magazine (113), which can be read here.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Coldplay tour shatters Latin American records

Coldplay’s Music Of The Spheres world tour has been declared the “most spectacular run through Latin America ever” after shattering a catalogue of records in the territory.

The region is proving especially fertile ground for the British group’s first tour in five years, with 37 shows confirmed so far.

Costa Rica – where the band became the first artist to sell out two nights at Estadio Nacional – marked the starting point in March, prior to a stop in the Dominican Republic. A record-breaking visit to Mexico then followed, which saw them crowned as the first international act to play four sold-out concerts at Foro Sol in Mexico City and the only act to sell out two nights at Estadio BBVA in Monterrey, as well as Estadio Akron in Guadalajara.

“Our expectations were high, but it has surpassed any expectations”

“It’s the most spectacular run through Latin America ever,” Live Nation LA president Bruce Moran tells IQ. “Our expectations were high and we were aggressive in terms of the routing, but it has surpassed any expectations. It’s truly remarkable. The band is a juggernaut, a true powerhouse and we’re really excited to be involved.”

On the heels of May-June shows in the US, the stadium trek switches to Europe next month, beginning with three dates at Deutsche Bank Park in Frankfurt, Germany. More than 3.8 million tickets have already been sold for the tour, which currently comprises 73 dates worldwide.

“We had no doubt it was going to be massive, but to be able to pull off what they’ve done is a very unique thing that would be tough to beat,” says the band’s agent Josh Javor of X-ray Touring. “We’ve broken a bunch of records already and we start in Europe next month. Europe is completely sold out and now Latin America – at the end of our year – is already sold out as well.

“It’s not very easy to define a specific window of how long this tour will run. There are lots more places they still want to play, so we will continue as long as they want to. It’s such a groundbreaking tour in such a challenging market. A lot of other things in the world are just not selling at the moment, but it’s completely bucked the trend.”

Records have continued to tumble for the South American stretch, which begins in September in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The band have racked up an unprecedented 10 sold-out concerts at Estadio River Plate in Buenos Aires, Argentina, six at Allianz Park in São Paulo, Brazil and four at Estadio Nacional in Santiago, Chile.

“What Coldplay have done in Latin America is unheard of”

In addition, Coldplay are the first Anglo artist to have two sold-out back-to-back dates at Lima’s Estadio Nacional in Peru and have tied Guns N’ Roses by filling Estadio El Campin twice over in Bogota, Colombia.

“What Coldplay have done in Latin America is unheard of,” beams Javor. “They haven’t just broken a record in one territory, they’ve done it in close to every market.”

Moran attempts to put the band’s achievements into perspective.

“In the not too distant past – let’s say 10 years ago – a Latin American tour might have been five or six dates,” he asserts. “We’ve worked hard to expand the map to entice people to try different locations, so it’s not uncommon for artists come to Latin America now and play eight, nine or 10 shows. But when you start talking about 37 shows, it’s remarkable by any yardstick. It’s truly astonishing.”

According to the executive, Coldplay’s 2016/17 A Head Full Of Dreams global jaunt, which was bookended by stops in Latin America, helped pave the way for the current blockbuster run.

“The work they did on their previous tours laid the groundwork for the monumental success we’re experiencing today”

“The band came down in 2016 and we had nine shows throughout the region,” remembers Moran. “Following the successful play of those shows, I continued to lobby [then agent] Steve Strange and Josh Javor that the band ought to come back. I was told repeatedly that they were done with Latin America and had other territories to hit. But I guess I planted a seed that they grew into something special and I got a call back saying, ‘We’re going to conclude the tour in Latin America.’ So they came back in 2017 and played another seven shows.

“I think the work they did in the region then – and on their previous [Viva la Vida] tour in 2010 – laid the groundwork for the monumental success we’re experiencing today.”

Javor refers back to the 2016 stop-off, when the band played a trio of concerts at Foro Sol.

“A lot of acts might only play Mexico City and not go to the regions”

“It was very, very strong. But when we went last time, we didn’t do any shows regionally,” he explains. “It’s quite common for people in Mexico to travel, because a lot of acts might only play Mexico City and not go to the regions. But not only have we done more tickets in Mexico City alone, we added two other cities and played four shows in those as well – that’s how insane this is compared to what we did last time.”

Having previously put touring plans on hold to investigate how to make their concerts more sustainable, the announcement of Coldplay’s return to the road came hand-in-hand with a 12-point plan to reduce the environmental impact of the tour. Earlier this year, the group launched a free app for fans as part of their pledge to make the run as eco-friendly as possible.

“They are managing to add more elements to the tour as it progresses, from having water stations in the stadium to small wind turbines as part of the production,” notes Javor. “They’re also trying to cut down on flying gear around the world to make it much more sustainable and are trying to source things more locally.”

“Coldplay’s tour is the first to have a dedicated Green Nation sustainability tour representative”

Jared Braverman, SVP touring at Live Nation, spoke of his pride at what has been accomplished up to this point, working hand-in-hand with LN’s global sustainability coalition, Green Nation.

“We’re incredibly proud to be promoting Coldplay’s Music Of The Spheres 2022 world tour,” he says, speaking to IQ. “Together with Green Nation, Coldplay has become a special artist advisor, ensuring the sustainable practices developed on this tour are shared, adopted, and scaled through the rest of the live touring industry.

“The tour is also accompanied by a comprehensive set of sustainability initiatives, including commitments to a show powered by renewable energy, solar panels at every show, a pledge to cut tour emissions by 50%, and more. We’re excited to share that Coldplay’s tour is the first to have a dedicated Green Nation sustainability tour representative, supporting implementation of joint sustainability priorities along every stop while on the road, and working with venues to enhance local sustainability efforts.”

In closing, Braverman praises the group’s new Infinity Tickets initiative, which gives fans access to select dates for just $20 per ticket.

“The new ticket programme was launched to make tickets to Coldplay’s latest stadium shows accessible to more fans who want to see the band live in concert for an affordable price,” he says.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

X-Ray’s Javor: “Coldplay are leading by example”

In mid-October, X-ray Touring-repped heavyweights Coldplay announced their first tour in four years in support of their new album Music of the Spheres.

Having previously put touring plans on hold to investigate how to make their concerts more sustainable, Coldplay’s new announcement came hand-in-hand with a 12-point plan for cutting their carbon footprint.

The eco-friendly 2022 tour is currently slated to visit 40 stadiums around the world and one festival, with more dates to be announced, meaning that it could end up being the highest-grossing tour of the year.

For X-ray Touring’s Josh Javor, who planned the tour alongside his late partner, Steve Strange, seeing the groundbreaking tour come to fruition is bittersweet.

Here, Javor tells IQ about how the pair planned a tour of this nature; when he sees the industry recovering; and how he’d celebrate with Strange if he were here.

 


IQ: How would you describe the on-sale for the European leg of Coldplay’s Music of the Spheres – World Tour?
JJ: It was insane… we pretty much sold out. We sold more than a million tickets just in Europe and added extra dates in the UK, France, Germany, and Belgium. At the moment, we’re discussing adding more dates. The US also went on sale that day and Latin America had already gone on sale and sold out.

You planned this tour with your late partner, X-ray Touring co-founder Steve Strange. On a personal level, what is this moment like for you?
This is one of the most bittersweet moments of my life. This tour is something Steve and I planned for a very long time and because he’s not here to revel in the success, it feels very bittersweet to me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m ecstatic at how well it’s done, but the fact that Steve, unfortunately, didn’t make it to see our plan come together and work so well, brings things down to earth. It’s not the same on my own. My constant thought has been, I wish Steve was here to see this.

How do you think Steve would react to the success of Coldplay’s on-sale?
He would be on another planet. He was a member of the family when it came to this band and he would’ve been jumping for joy. We’ve all talked about it – management and ourselves – and about how amazing Steve would have thought this is. Normally, Steve and I would get to 12 o’clock on the day of an on-sale – after selling a million tickets – and we’d be on our second bottle of champagne.

“[At] 12 o’clock on the day of an on-sale – after selling a million tickets – [Steve and I] would be on our second bottle”

How did you approach ticket pricing post-pandemic?
Just being realistic. You just have to know what the market is and what people can afford. One way of doing that is to stay very grounded and down to earth. I think we’ve got ticket prices spot on. Tickets for this tour are slightly more expensive but not by much. Without the pandemic, we could have leant towards increasing them from what they are now, but you have to take everything into account.

How are you feeling about the business in general next year, and has this on-sale given you extra confidence?
Yes and no. It’s very difficult to predict what will happen. I think it’d be stupid to give any assurances, but I still worry about the industry between now and next summer. We’ve got a lot of shit to go through and a lot of hoops to jump through to get to where we want to be, but the on-sale is very positive, definitely. I think the industry as a whole is very happy and proud that the public is still interested in going to concerts on a grand scale. I think, in this instance, when one of us succeeds, in a way, we all succeed because we’ve been up Shit Creek for so long.

“It’s very difficult to do an eco-friendly tour when you’re at a smaller level than Coldplay”

Do you think this eco-friendly tour will become a blueprint for other bands of the same calibre?
I hope so. It’s something that everyone should be striving for, and just as Coldplay have said, they might not get it right, but at least they’re trying. They’re not just talking about doing something, they’re leading by example. I think you do need bigger artists to show other people how it could be possible to change.

It’s very difficult to do an eco-friendly tour when you’re at a smaller level than Coldplay. You have fewer decisions that you can make about how you tour when you’re a smaller artist. If you’re playing a club or a theatre, you don’t have the same choices as if you’re playing a stadium. It’s about the amount of control you have, the amount of money you can generate, and about the different kinds of venues and different rules that you have. It all goes hand in hand.

How involved were you in the creation of the 12-point plan to cut the band’s carbon footprint?
I was involved in the parts I could be, like figuring out how we can try and cut the carbon footprint by staying in the same place and playing more shows. It’s very different from the standard tour where artists do one or two shows and then move on in order to visit as many places as possible. We’re not visiting most of Europe. If you look at the tour, it’s cut down to a few cities.

“We’re staying in one place for a longer period of time and cutting emissions. It’s about staying put.”

What we’ve done is we’ve recognised that it’s not possible to tour everywhere in one summer or in one year. It’s going to take longer to visit everywhere, but by doing it this way, we’re staying in one place for a longer period of time and cutting emissions. It’s about staying put.

What advice would you give to other agents attempting to plan an eco-friendly tour?
It’s the little things sometimes. It’s not having single-use plastics or not having plastics at all. There are basics that everyone can be doing. The live industry has been at the forefront of trying to be greener since festivals started changing years ago.

Tell us about the time period in which you booked this tour.
It has been very difficult to put these shows in because, at the time of making these decisions, a lot of places were in lockdown. At the time, you couldn’t even go on-sale with shows in certain markets – let alone full-capacity stadium shows.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

IQ 105 out now: International Ticketing Report

IQ 105, the latest issue of the international live music industry’s favourite monthly magazine, is available to read online now.

The November 2021 edition is spearheaded by the International Ticketing Report 2021: IQ’s indispensable annual health check on the global ticketing business.

As the live entertainment industry endeavours to build back its workforce, the issue also explores the world of Recruitment & Restaffing, as we speak to those responsible for creating and implementing recruitment strategies.

Elsewhere, Lisa Henderson talks to Coldplay agent Josh Javor of X-ray Touring on the remarkable ticket sales for their sustainability-focused 2022 tour – and the emotions of celebrating that success without his late mentor, the legendary Steve Strange.

For this edition’s columns and comments, we hand over to A Greener Festival’s Claire O’Neill and Primavera Sound’s Marta Pallarès.

And, in this month’s Your Shout, we ask the industry to recount their favourite (or least favourite) horror story from their career.

As always, the majority of the magazine’s content will appear online in some form in the next four weeks. However, if you can’t wait for your fix of essential live music industry features, opinion and analysis, click here to subscribe to IQ for just £5.99 a month – or check out what you’re missing out on with the limited preview below:

IQ subscribers can log in and read the full magazine now.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Coldplay sell more than one million tickets in Europe

More than one million tickets have sold for the European leg of Coldplay’s Music of the Spheres world tour, which went on sale last Friday (22 October).

X-ray Touring’s Josh Javor, who planned the ‘eco-friendly’ stadium tour along with the late Steve Strange, told IQ that the on-sale was “insane”.

According to Javor, the European leg has “pretty much sold out” and the team is currently discussing adding more dates.

The 20-date run, which kicks off on 2 July 2022, has already expanded with an extra date apiece at Deutsche Bank Park (Germany), Stade de France (France), King Baudouin Stadium (Belgium) and Hampden Park (UK).

Notably, an extra three dates have been added at Wembley Stadium (cap. 90,00) in the UK, on top of the three already announced.

According to Javor, the European leg has “pretty much sold out” and the team is discussing adding more dates

The world tour – which is mostly promoted by Live Nation, with SJM as the main partner in the UK – is also visiting the US and Latin America (which is completely sold out), taking in 40 stadiums and one festival (Rock in Rio) altogether.

The groundbreaking tour is one of the last projects that legendary booking agent and X-ray co-founder Steve Strange worked on before his tragic passing in September.

“This is something Steve and I have planned for a very long time and because he’s not here to revel in the success, it’s one of the most bittersweet moments of my life,” says Javor.

He continues: “Don’t get me wrong, I’m ecstatic at how well it’s done but the fact that Steve, unfortunately, didn’t make it to see our plan come together brings things down to earth.

“Normally, Steve and I would get to 12 o’clock on the day of an on-sale and we’d be on our second bottle of champagne”

“Normally, Steve and I would get to 12 o’clock on the day of an on-sale and, after selling a million tickets, we’d be on our second bottle of champagne. But, on your own, it’s not the same. My constant thought has been, I wish Steve was here to see this.

“He would be on another planet. He was a member of the family when it came to this band and he would’ve been jumping for joy.”

Coldplay announced the tour earlier this month after a four-year hiatus from touring while they investigated how to make their concerts more sustainable.

The Music of the Spheres tour is bolstered by a 12-point plan to cut the band’s carbon footprint, which supports new green technologies and sustainable, super-low carbon touring methods.

A full interview with Josh Javor will appear in the next edition of IQ magazine at the end of this month.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.