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Indie promoters talk challenges, post-corona recovery

The latest IQ Focus virtual panel, The State of Independence: Promoters, checked in with independent concert promoters in the UK, Europe, India and South America to discover how these entrepreneurs are preparing for the live industry’s return to normality.

Hosted by agent Emma Banks (CAA), yesterday’s session welcomed British promoters Anton Lockwood (DHP Family) and David Messer (DMP), Munbir Chawla from India’s The Wild City, Melanie Eselevsky from Argentina’s Move Concerts and Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion’s Roman Pitone to discuss the current difficulties unique to their sector, as well as the opportunities and challenges of a post-Covid-19 world .

Speaking about emerging concert formats such as drive-in shows, Pitone said Karsten Jahnke has done a number of drive-in events in Germany over the past few months. “Overall, they went well,” he said, but enthusiasm has declined over time as fans increasingly miss ‘real’ shows: “You could see when we started it that people were really eager to see shows [in some form] again, but it slowed down as time went on as people realised it’s just not the same.”

He added that the company is only breaking even on its drive-in and other socially distanced events. “With the income, we’re just paying for what we’re doing,” he explained. “This is just to keep doing something that is our passion and our livelihood, until we can do something [else]…”

In India, where live music is still invariably sponsored, brands have realised the coronavirus crisis isn’t going away and are spending less on live events, creating a headache for promoters, said Chawla. “The brands have realised they’re in it for the long haul, and cultural marketing spend is now being put back into marketing the products” directly, he commented.

“I want to remain independent. It’s not all and gloom”

“Unlike a lot of other scenes, the Indian scene is pretty reliant on brands. So, with the brands spending less money, that will also affect shows and the scale at which they can happen.”

Giving an overview of the situation in countries where Move Concerts operates, Eselevsky brought panellists up to date on the latest developments in Latin America, from the furlough scheme in Argentina to ticket vouchers in Brazil and drive-in concerts in Puerto Rico.

She also touched on the challenge of organising concerts in Argentina when the value of the local currency fluctuates so often: “Three years ago, the exchange rate was 18 pesos [to the US dollar],” she said. “Now it’s 75 pesos.”

Banks described her own experience of playing Argentina, relaying how one of her acts once oversold a show in Buenos Aires and still didn’t break even. “Try explaining that to the manager!” she said.

Turning to 2021, Messer said he’s “finding that because so many things have been moved into next year, things are fully booked” for late 2021 already. “So it’s very hard to know what you can book – the dates are going very quickly, but you can’t book the artists” because the situation around international touring is still so unclear.

“People are talking a lot more to each other … We’re all in the same place”

Lockwood said he can understood why many artists, especially American ones, could be reluctant to travel internationally well into next year, even if it’s a “depressing” thought. “Imagine the nightmare of being a US band,” he explained, “you get to the border of Spain and Portugal, and your bus driver gets a cough and you have to quarantine for 14 days. So, your whole tour’s just gone.

“Whereas, at least if you’re a US band and you tour the US, you won’t get caught in that.”

While the crisis has thrown into sharp relief the vulnerability of the independent sector, none of the panellists responded in the affirmative when Banks asked, tongue in cheek, if they wish they’d sold to Live Nation before coronavirus hit.

“It’s not all and gloom,” said Chawla, highlighting the quality of the music being released and the increasingly global nature of the industry as among the bright spots, while Messer praised how “people have come together” to mitigate the impact of the concert shutdown.

“People are talking a lot more to each other – people from different sides of the industry,” he said, in a sentiment echoed by Banks. “We’re all in the same place, and luckily everyone’s helping each other, which we have to do. We all need each other – we’re not going survive unless we can all exist.”

For more discussion and debate, including on ticket pricing, refunds and vouchers, ‘Swiss-cheese touring’ and much more, watch the session back on YouTube or Facebook now.

 


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Indie promoters in spotlight for next IQ Focus

Continuing the weekly series of IQ Focus virtual sessions, State of Independence: Promoters will see independent event organisers from across the globe come together to discuss the specific obstacles facing their business.

The tenth panel of the popular IQ Focus series, the session will be streamed live on Facebook and YouTube on Thursday 16 July at 4 p.m. BST/5 p.m. CET.

Across the touring world, independent promoters are facing a similar challenge when looking ahead to a post Covid-19 business.

While this current period presents many unique challenges for this creative and entrepreneurial sector, it’s one of many pressures they face. So what’s the state of play in Europe, South America and India? And what alternative show formats, and business models are independent promoters adopting to stay ahead?

CAA’s Emma Banks hosts the session to ask, as the industry emerges from its current crisis, where the opportunities might lie?

Joining Banks are DHP Family’s Anton Lockwood, Karsten Janhke Konzertdirektion’s Ben Mitha, DMP UK’s David Messer, Melanie Eselevsky from Argentina’s Move Concerts and Munbir Chawla from the Wild City in India.

All previous IQ Focus sessions, which have looked at topics including the challenges facing festivals, diversity in live, management under lockdown, the agency business, large-scale venues and innovation in live music, can be watched back here.

To set a reminder about State of Independence: Promoters session on Thursday head to the IQ Magazine page on Facebook or YouTube.

 


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The New Bosses 2017: the final three

After shining the spotlight on (in no particular order) our first four New Bosses – Anna-Sophie Mertens, Zoe Swindells, Ryan Penty and Andrés Guanipa – in September, then Summer Marshall, Connie Shao and Matt Harrap earlier this month, the final instalment of IQ’s New Bosses 2017 wraps up our annual spotlight on the live music industry leaders of the future.

 


Sam Wald

Agent, WME (AU)
Age: 30

Sam worked in various capacities, including artist management, tour management, talent buying and promotion, before he started working at WME’s head office in Beverly Hills in 2010. He was recruited to the Sydney office as an agent in 2013, where his expertise in electronic music led to his appointment as the territorial agent for WME’s electronic roster in Asia, Australia and New Zealand. In addition to his territorial roster, Sam’s clients also include Broods, Elliphant, Gallant, Gang of Youths, Hermitude, Jarryd James, Julia Jacklin, Matoma, Marlon Williams, Middle Kids, Porter Robinson, Starley and Zhu, among others.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to become an agent?
Get involved early and really take the time to learn as many different sides of the industry as possible. Don’t have any ego, and be willing to take on any tasks (big or small). There is a lot of competition, and not a lot of jobs. You need to make yourself a valuable asset.

Was it a difficult decision to move to Australia?
Not at all. I saw a great opportunity to move to Australia to work with many of the bands I loved, at an agency called Artist Voice. They had an amazing roster and were starting to push hard into Asia at a time when no one else in the region had the same foresight.

What’s the single best thing about being in Australia?
I get to hang out with my grandfather. I’m half Aussie, so grew up coming here as a kid.

What’s the best lesson that you’ve learned while at WME?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by a lot of really smart people at WME who have a wealth of knowledge and experience.

 

 


Christine Cao

Agent, Paradigm (US)
Age: 30

Christine Cao, Paradigm Talent Agency

Christine graduated from the University of Colorado and worked as an assistant at AEG Live and CAA before joining the Windish Agency in 2013. Her roster includes Grammy winner Daya, Grammy-nominated R&B singer Gallant, electronic pop phenomenon Alina Baraz and Nothing But Thieves, among others. With the majority of her artists hitting the road in support of upcoming releases, 2018 will be Christine’s busiest year yet.

What made you decide to become an agent?
I was promoting shows for my college and realised I had a massive passion for live music. I’m thankful to have learned that side of things, but I wanted to be part of an artist’s journey developing into various markets.

What’s the worst thing about your job?
If I get a chance to do this forever, I honestly can’t bring myself to think about the worst side of this gig. Maybe aeroplane food when you forget to grab something before leaving for an out-of-town show.

What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in equality during your time in the industry?
I grew up being told that being a minority both in my race and my gender was going to make things harder. A positive shift has occurred over the years, and I’m thankful for the mentors, both male and female, who have been so supportive and inspirational.

Where is your favourite festival, and which three dream acts would you like to see headlining it?
I had the chance to visit Ho Chi Minh City a few times, where my parents are from. That market is aching for live music, though electronic and pop thrive there. I’d headline my festival with the Backstreet Boys, The National and Ryan Adams.

 


Ben Mitha

MD, Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion (DE)
Age: 29

Ben Mitha, Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion

The grandson of legendary promoter Karsten Jahnke, Ben started promoting hip-hop parties during his school days in Hamburg, and founded full-service events company Digga Events while studying for his degree. In 2014, Karsten appointed Ben managing director and he now oversees a roster of 60 international acts, as well as domestic acts like Johannes Oerding, Max Giesinger and Michael Patrick Kelly.

How has your family’s legacy affected your industry relationships?
It was a gift at the beginning, but it also took quite a while to define my own profile and not be automatically related to Karsten’s musical profile in the industry.

Is there any practice that you would like to change, or introduce, to improve the way the business is done?
More loyalty and fewer global deals. I understand the financial dimensions behind it, but it’s always painful to lose an artist you have discovered early, invested in and helped build to a level where they arouse interest for a global deal and, all of a sudden, you’re out of the picture and there isn’t anything you can do about it.

Have there been any mistakes that have taught you valuable lessons?
I learn from mistakes daily – passing on an act in the early stages that takes off later on; miscalculating the market potential of an act and losing money; or not seeing enough potential in an idea or project that somebody else is later really successful with. I guess that’s just part of the business. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose…

 


Read the New Bosses 2017 as it originally appeared in the digital edition of IQ 73:

Semmel wins double at 12th PRG LEAs

The PRG Live Entertainment Awards (LEAs) returned to Frankfurt for 12th time on Monday, honouring the best and brightest in the German live industry.

Accolades were given in 15 categories, including promoter of the year, which went to FKP Scorpio; stadium tour of the year, which was awarded to Think Big for Udo Lindenberg’s Keine Panik! tour; arena tour of the year, presented to Wizard Promotions and Zucchero Fornaciari for the Black Cat world tour; and concert hall tour of the year and the jury prize, both of which went to Semmel Concerts, for Niedeckens BAP’s Jubiläumstour tour and PxP Festival, respectively.

“For 12 years we have been honouring the outstanding event achievements of the past year with the LEAs,” says Jens Michow, producer of the awards ceremony and president of German promoters’ association BDV.

“Twenty-sixteen was a particularly difficult year – with increased security risks , hurricane-like storms, torrential rains and violent thunderstorms that presented the industry with significant challenges – [so] I am all the more pleased by the level of professionalism with which these were overcome.”

A full list of winners is below:

Stadium tour of the year
Udo Lindenberg, Keine Panik! tour 2016 (Think Big Event- und Veranstaltungs)

Arena tour of the year
Zucchero Fornaciari, Black Cat tour 2016 (Wizard Promotions)

Concert hall tour of the year
Niedeckens BAP, Jubiläumstour tour 2016 (Semmel Concerts)

Club tour of the year
Max Giesinger, Der Junge, der rennt tour 2016 (Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion)

Festival of the year
OpenAir St Gallen

Concert of the year
David Gilmour, Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna, Austria (Barracuda Music)

Show of the year
Kaltenberger Ritterturnier (Ritterturnier Kaltenberg Veranstaltungs)

Promoter of the year
FKP Scorpio

Artist development of the year
Popakademie Baden-Württemberg

Manager/agent of the year
Esteban de Alcázar, Sector3 Management

Local promoter of the year
Handwerker Promotion, Unna

Club of the year
Capitol, Hanover

Concert hall/arena of the year
Commerzbank Arena, Frankfurt

Jury prize
PxP Festival, P x P Embassy/Semmel Concerts

Lifetime achievement award
Dieter Weidenfeld

A list of 2016 PRG LEA winners is here.

 


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YouTube stars: long-term live business?

While the recorded music industry battles with YouTube over royalty rates and copyright rules, the live business is using the online video platform to discover a number of lucrative touring artists. But just how sustainable are the live careers of artists who’ve launched online?

Touring artists who’ve launched their career on YouTube has been big for a while in the US with agencies including WME, CAA and UTA making a big play for online talent.

The trend is crossing over to Europe, thanks to the success of events including Summer in the City and Meet and Greet Convention (MAGCON), and acts like Shawn Mendes (pictured), Leroy Sanchez, Hannah Trigwell and Emma Blackery.

In the UK, agents at Kilimanjaro Live, Coda and WME are getting involved, while Ben Mitha, MD of Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion in Germany, is in the process of expanding the company’s portfolio by promoting YouTube and social media stars. The move is a result of him finding it increasingly difficult to build new acts and send them on tour in an economically viable manner.

Last weekend, Summer in the City, now in its eighth year, served as a microcosm of the burgeoning live industry the YouTube world is creating. Over 10,000 young fans descended on London’s ExCel centre where they could meet their favourite YouTubers, watch them live, and listen to panel discussions.

It’s a generation of emerging stars that are unknown to most over the age of 18, and media outlets like The Guardian have even been publishing guides to bridge the generation gap.

Kilimanjaro work with Summer in the City on an event management level, and Promoter Mark Walker first got involved after it was launched by a group of YouTubers. For the first three years, the group hosted meet-ups in a park, moving it to the 800 cap. Brewery, where 3,000 people turned up, and then on to the 7k cap. Alexandra Palace, when Walker stepped in to help organise. “Off the back of that I saw what was going on with the YouTubers and how big some of them were,” he explains.

Kilimanjaro signed comedy acts Tyler Oakley and Miranda Sings, and Oakley’s first tour sold out everywhere within a day. Venues included the 2k cap. Sheperd’s Bush in London and Glasgow’s 2.5k cap. Academy. After founding a new talent agency, Free Focus, to sign emerging digital talent in February, Walker has a joint tour coming up in September with pranksters Roman Atwood and FouseyTUBE. “We’ve sold out Hammersmith Apollo, Glasgow Concert Hall and Birmingham Academy,” he says. “Manchester Apollo will be sold out by the time the show comes round.”

In May, MAGCON – a tour that takes a number of YouTube stars to meet fans – visited the Indigo in London, Manchester Ritz and Birmingham Institute, and all the dates sold out within half an hour. Alongside the £20 General Admission ticket price, 450 VIP passes per show went for £99.

Shawn Mendes was part of the MAGCON tour, and is now launching his music career with the help of live agent Nick Matthews at Coda alongside US partner Paradigm, as well as a management and record label team. Mendes launched his career by doing covers on YouTube, but is now writing and releasing original material.

For Matthews, the fact Mendes could sell out bigger venues from the off because of his online presence hasn’t stopped the agent approaching the tour the same way he would for any young act.

“When you find an artist that can very quickly sell 1,000 or more everywhere in the world it’s a dream for an agent. However, you can get to that point quickly but then go sideways for a long time unless you break through.”

“When you find an artist that can very quickly sell 1,000 tickets or more everywhere in the world it’s a dream for an agent. However, you can get to that point quickly but then go sideways for a long time unless you break through,” he says. 

Mendes’ first show in Europe was the 200 cap. Borderline in London, and the same strategy was employed for Austin Mahone – another of Matthews’ acts who launched on YouTube.

Says Matthews: “We started really small on purpose. It gave us an idea of the real value of what they were doing online and then it’s about scaling that growth.

“We wanted to continue everything selling out mega quick so you’re cultivating and fermenting that demand. Every time you announce something it’s a very electric on-sale. We’re now doing that at really massive levels.”

Less than a year after his Borderline show in October 2014, Mendes sold out the 2k cap. Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London, where he played in September last year.

“I think that growth is faster than other debut acts, but these days everything happens quicker than it’s ever happened before because of the global nature of the music industry,” says Matthews. “I look after Halsey and you can’t really say she’s a YouTube star but she has gone from zero to Brixton quicker than any other artist I’ve ever worked with. There are other acts out there that we don’t work with that are having that same level of acceleration.”

There is a danger in peaking too soon, and Matthews takes measures to ensure that doesn’t happen. “When you’re on such a steep incline you’ve got to manage that growth. You need the repertoire to do the bigger shows and the experience as an artist as well. Always pitch it as your average day rather than your best day, for Shawn that’s always how we’ve played it,” he explains.

Over at Kilimanjaro, the YouTube stars have proved a decent source of income due to the ability to go straight in with a decent ticket price that ranges from £12 to £35, as well as VIP upgrades like meet and greets. However, it’s often higher risk than traditional tours due to the lack of support the acts have, meaning Kilimanjaro pay for accommodation, transport and tour management, and sometimes full production depending on what the acts want to do onstage. Oakley spent £10,000 building a stage set that looked like his bedroom.

“Just doing the tours isn’t making us huge sums of money, especially as a lot of the acts don’t want to go bigger than 1,000 capacity to begin with,” says Walker.

“Just doing the tours isn’t making Kilimanjaro huge sums of money. Often artists realise they can make a lot more money doing their YouTube channel and might not come back again.”

“Often they go out and do the tours and realise they can make a lot more money doing their YouTube channel and might not come back again. A band, however, will want to keep touring and building, so we can take them up into arenas and stadiums.”

To find other sources of income, Walker has started managing the talent himself. He now has eight acts on his roster who he’ll find book deals and brand partnerships for, and help get their music out there for those that want to go down that avenue. “That’s where the money is to be made,” he says.

Violin player and dancer Lindsey Stirling was amongst the world’s top-earning YouTube stars last year with $6 million, according to Forbes. Atwood earned $2.5m, while the world’s most successful YouTube acts, comedic videogame player PewDiePie, topped £12m.

For Matthews, YouTube is a vital platform for building the stadium headliners of the future. “In the next five years, we don’t know what’s going to happen to mainstream media, the BBC and ITV are shrinking and it’s companies like Google that are able to afford the best and most experienced creative people on their teams,” he explains.

“It’s only a matter of time until YouTube becomes a mainstream media platform, and these stars become household names alongside the people who are getting mainstream media exposure now.

“At the moment there is definitely a need for traditional music industry expertise to guide YouTube talent into making it into that top 10% of artists in the world.”

 


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