Drive Nation: LN UK unveils 2,100-cap. drive-in shows
Live Nation has announced a series of live drive-in concerts across 12 venues in the UK this summer, featuring acts including Dizzee Rascal, Gary Numan, Beverley Knight, the Streets, Sigala, Lightning Seeds, the Snuts and Kaiser Chiefs.
Drive-in concerts have proved to be a popular feature of lockdown life, with concertgoers getting their live music fix from the safety of their cars in countries including Germany, Denmark, the US, Lithuania and the Netherlands.
Now, the format is allowing the UK live industry to step back into the driving seat. Live Nation’s Utilita Live from the Drive-in series, which kicks off in mid-July, is more live music-focused than previously announced UK drive-in events, hosted by the likes of Mainstage Festivals and Live Nation-owned Ticketmaster.
The 300-carpacity (© 2020 IQ) concerts will be able to accommodate up to 2,100 people, with tickets available for two to seven people per car. Standard or premium tickets, which include guaranteed location in the front three rows and priority exit at end of show, will be available, with prices reportedly ranging from £25 to £100 per car.
Differing from many other drive-in shows and in a similar vein to Italy’s proposed bike-in concerts, concertgoers will be able to enjoy the performance through the full sound system – rather than car radio – in a dedicated area next to their vehicle. Fans are encouraged to bring folding chairs if they wish to sit during the gigs.
“The drive-in format is a thoughtful and fun way to safely bring one million Brits out of ‘entertainment lockdown’”
The shows will take place across 12 sites, including in the grounds of venues such as Birmingham Resorts World Arena and the National Bowl in Milton Keynes; at sports complexes including the University of Bolton football stadium and Cheltenhem and Newmarket racecourses; at airports in Bristol (Filton Airfield), Leeds (Leeds East Airport) and Teesside (Teesside International Airport); and various other outdoor event locations including the Royal Highland Centre in Edinburgh, Lincolnshire Showground and Central Docks Liverpool Waters.
Live Nation also plans to announce the London venues, as well as more artists and dates in due course.
“We are excited to bring Utilita Live From The Drive-In to fans across the UK,” comments Live Nation’s Peter Taylor. “This outdoor concert series was created as a way to reimagine the live music experience during a time of social distancing by allowing fans to enjoy concerts in the safest way possible.
“Each event will comply with all official government guidelines in order to protect fans, artists, crews and staff. We look forward to announcing some of the biggest names across UK music and bringing these fantastic artists to a city near you.”
“As we find new ways to navigate today’s world of social distancing,” adds Utilita CMO Jem Maidment, “we believe the drive-in format is a thoughtful and fun way to safely bring one million Brits out of ‘entertainment lockdown’ this summer 2020.”
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TEG MJR unveils refurbed Leeds Warehouse
Building on a legacy that includes past performances by U2, Oasis, the Stone Roses and Soft Cell, famed Leeds, UK, venue the Warehouse is returning to its live music roots, with a busy concert programme planned after it reopens later this month.
Celebrating the 40th anniversary since its opening in 2020, the new-look Warehouse benefits from a £250,000 investment into its production infrastructure, and now boasts three rooms with a capacity of 600 for live music and 1,100 for DJ-led events.
Curated by TEG MJR, the 2020 live music programme will showcase a varied mix of touring artists and local musicians, says the former MJR Group, which took over programming duties for the Warehouse last year, just prior to its takeover by Australia’s TEG.
The relaunch weekend will kick off with a show by singer-songwriter Badly Drawn Boy on 23 January, followed by two sold out performances from Terrorvision on 7 and 18 February.
“2020 is going to be an exciting year for Leeds”
Dan Ickowitz-Seidler, chief operating officer of TEG MJR, comments: “Live music is a huge driving force in any big city and we wanted the Warehouse to showcase a real plethora of events.
“The venue was built on live music, and what better way to celebrate 40 years of The Warehouse than bringing back its roots?
“We’re looking forward to welcoming a credible selection of performers and club nights and continuing to work closely with local promoters. Twenty-twenty is going to be an exciting year for Leeds.”
For a full list of upcoming shows, visit theleedswarehouse.com.
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The MJR Group announces three new venues
The MJR Group, the UK-based promoter and venue operator/owner, has added two new clubs to its venue portfolio, as well as announced plans for a third.
The Bristol-based company has partnered with the Warehouse (600-cap.) in Leeds and Switch (1,500-cap.) in Southampton to develop and deliver their respective live events programmes and operations. Full plans for a new venue in central Birmingham, meanwhile, will be announced soon.
The Warehouse is set to celebrate its 40th anniversary this year, making it one of the oldest venues in Leeds (the building itself being nearly 200 years old). The MJR Group says it will bring live music back to the fore, building on a legacy that includes performances by U2, Oasis, Soft Cell, the Stone Roses and Pulp.
The company will invest in production infrastructure, with plans for new staging, audio and lighting systems suitable for both touring artists and nightclub events.
Switch, a former cinema, has welcomed a string of international club and party artists, hosting the likes of DJ EZ, Paul Woolford, Andy C and, more recently, Stormzy.
“We are delighted to add these three fantastic venues as part of the strategic expansion of our live music portfolio”
It is also getting a make-over with a view to reintroducing live music events, with new staging, lighting and screens throughout. Elswhere, an internal redesign will turn the club through 180°, adding a new VIP area, booths and making the balcony a new asset overlooking the whole venue.
Richard Buck, owner and founder of the MJR Group, comments: “We are delighted to add these three fantastic venues as part of the strategic expansion of our live music portfolio. The Warehouse will be a 600-capacity live music venue and attempt to fill the massive void left by the Cockpit’s closure a few years back.
“We are equally as excited about plans to introduce a live music programme to Switch, which will give bands a natural progression to grow audiences when they outgrow our other Southampton venue, the Engine Rooms.”
The MJR Group’s other UK venues include Tramshed (1,000-cap.) and the Globe (350-cap.) in Cardiff, the Mill (1,000-cap.) and Digbeth Arena (3,500-cap.) in Birmingham, Sub 89 (600-cap.) in Reading and Plug (1,600-cap.) in Sheffield.
Making female DJs normal, not a novelty
Red Bull Music’s monthly Normal Not Novelty returned this week, hosting workshops for aspiring female sound engineers, producers and vocalists.
Launched in 2017, Normal Not Novelty aims to educate and inspire the next generation of female producers and DJs, in a subset of the industry that is particularly male-dominated. A recent report revealed that, over the past seven years, only 2% of producers appearing in Billboard’s Hot 100 year-end charts were female.
“Normal Not Novelty provides a space to make women feel comfortable in pursuing a career in music,” says DJ and producer Bamz, who recently led a Normal Not Novelty workshop at London’s Red Bull Music Studios.
“People tend to presume you are a singer or a songwriter. We are trying to lessen this divide so future generations can look at us and see it’s possible to be whatever you want to be,” states Bamz.
For Karen Nyame, who DJs under the alias KG, Normal Not Novelty is integral for “removing misconceptions where women are concerned.”
“I’ve had to deal with a lot of covert misogyny – people assume I don’t have the knowledge based on my gender”
“I’ve had to deal with a lot of covert misogyny – people assume I don’t have the knowledge based on my gender,” explains Nyagme. “They still want to work with me, because I am good at what I do, but they are patronising at the same time.”
For both producers, the networking aspect of Normal Not Novelty is the most important. “Music production shouldn’t be an isolated process,” says KG. “It takes the pressure off to find other women with like-minded goals all in one place.”
The topic of gender-neutral line-ups has been at the forefront of conversation this festival season, and has divided opinions across the music industry. Primavera Sound presented its first gender-balanced billing this year, telling IQ that “the ‘pale, male and stale’ paradigm” needs to change.
“It’s down to laziness and apathy,” says Nyame in reference to male-heavy line-ups. “There are amazing women out there and a strong influx of female DJs coming through, but we’re not getting a look in.
“To compensate, organisers often bunch us all together on female-only stages, which defeats the whole point of integration.”
“There are amazing women out there and a strong influx of female DJs coming through, but we’re not getting a look in”
Rather than setting quotas or shoehorning female artists onto specific stages, the producer believes more balanced line-ups will only result from “bookers and promoters being willing to go out of their way to take risks and remove the predictability from line-ups.”
Looking to the future, Bamz says a change in attitude towards women in the industry “will come from basic education and hearing anecdotes of women who have succeeded in whichever part of the industry they work in.”
Bamz adds that “giving confidence to younger people, providing positive role models and teaching them to be in control of the art they make,” is the key to achieving more equality.
The next Normal Not Novelty sessions are taking place as part of London’s four-week Red Bull Music festival, with a Notting Hill Carnival special on 20 August and an event on 10 September in conjunction with local label Hyperdub, at the Red Bull Studios in Covent Gardens.
Pictured: (left to right, top) Bamz, Tash LC, KG, Katie Tavini, Kamillah Rose (bottom) Valentina Magaletti, Marta Salogni.
Leeds First Direct Arena becomes biggest in Yorkshire
SMG Europe-managed First Direct Arena in Leeds, UK, has announced a “significant” increase in floor standing capacity reportedly making the arena Yorkshire’s largest indoor entertainment venue.
Following a review of capacities and operational procedures, the standing capacity for shows has increased by 16%, to 4,321. This brings the venue’s overall capacity to 13,781.
“Standing floor tickets for concerts at the First Direct Arena are always in high demand and it is great that even more guests can now be accommodated in this area,” says general manager Jen Mitchell. “The entertainment industry is constantly evolving and our operational teams have been working tirelessly to ensure that the First Direct Arena can cater for all event types.”
“Standing floor tickets for concerts at the First Direct Arena are always in high demand and it is great that even more guests can now be accommodated”
“As well as this capacity increase, we have also developed a number of additional configurations using our unique retractable seating and draping systems to provide maximum flexibility,” adds Mitchell.
Since opening in September 2013, major acts including Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Prince, Fleetwood Mac, Drake and Morrissey have performed at the arena, which extended its naming-rights agreement with British retail bank First Direct in 2017.
SMG Europe’s arena portfolio includes the Manchester Arena (21,000-cap.), the Utilita Arena in Newcastle (11,000-cap.), the SSE Arena, Belfast (11,000-cap.) and the Event Complex Aberdeen (12,500-cap.), due to open this summer.
Support for festival drug testing grows in UK
Respected UK charity the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) has called for drug-testing facilities, such as those trialled at Kendal Calling and Secret Garden Party last summer, to be made standard at all music festivals “where drug use is common”.
In a new report, Drug safety testing at festivals and night clubs, released this morning, RSPH says the move, “which is backed by 95% of festival-goers, [would] help minimise the risk of serious health harm as a result of recreational drug use”.
Secret Garden Party became last July became the first British festival to give attendees the chance to test the content of their drugs without fear of recrimination, with Kendal Calling following a week later. Jon Drape, whose Ground Control Productions company works with Kendal Calling, told IQ at the time drug testing is a “no-brainer”, adding around a quarter of those who tested their drugs opted to bin them after discovering their content.
RSPH’s own data suggests a similar figure of almost one in five (18%).
Drug testing at both festivals was undertaken in partnership with nonprofit The Loop, which will also introduce the testing – officially ‘multi-agency safety testing’ (MAST) – at several Festival Republic events this summer, including Reading and Leeds.
“If drug users can be reasonably sure of what they are actually taking, they will be better placed to make informed decisions about if and how to take these substances”
MAST, or a local variant thereof, is already commonplace in continental Europe, including the Netherlands, Austria and Spain. Efforts to introduce drug testing in Australia have been frustrated by local government and police, with festival promoters in New South Wales told they could face prosecution for drug supply.
According to RSPH, the need for pill testing at festivals has become more acute with the rise in strength of the average ecstasy pill. As reported by IQ last May, MDMA use is on the rise across Europe, with a simultaneous increase in the availability of high-MDMA pills and powdered and crystal forms of the drug.
“Given that a large degree of health harm associated with ‘club drugs’ stems from user ignorance of the exact strength and content of pills and powders of uncertain provenance, any measures that increase our knowledge base can be expected to have a positive effect on reducing harm – especially if the provision of such information creates an opportunity to impart information on safer behaviours and risk reduction to the key target population,” reads the RSPH report.
“If drug users can be reasonably sure of what they are actually taking, then they will be better placed to make informed decisions about if and how to take these substances, and so are less likely to have an adverse reaction or overdose as a result.”
MAST, therefore, says RSPH, is a “pragmatic harm reduction measure” which should “become a standard feature of places where drug use is prevalent, such as city-centre nightlife areas and festivals.”
First Direct extends naming deal with Leeds Arena
British retail bank First Direct has extended its naming-rights agreement with Leeds’s First Direct Arena for a further five years, with the 13,000-cap. venue retaining its current name until at least 2023.
First Direct sponsored the arena (pictured) prior to its opening in July 2013, initially for a five-year term ending in 2018. Operator SMG Europe says the backing of the bank – which offers its customers several benefits, including presales, complimentary tickets, a dedicated entrance and free F&B in the arena – has played an “instrumental role in bringing some of the biggest events to Yorkshire, from the Mobo Awards to an exclusive Jake Bugg concert and the finals of Europe’s Strongest Man.”
John Sharkey, CEO of SMG Europe, comments: “The First Direct Arena is our flagship venue, and we wanted a sponsor that matched our ambitions for it.
“We are delighted to announce this extension and we’re looking to really build on the already strong foundations in place”
“First Direct and SMG Europe share a passion for customer service, innovation and pushing boundaries, and, as such, it’s a perfect fit. We are delighted to announce this extension and we’re looking to really build on the already strong foundations in place.”
First Direct head Joe Gordon adds: “The reaction of our customers to our association with the arena has been outstanding, and we’re delighted to be able to commit to an additional five years and begin planning the exciting years of partnership to come. Other banks have branches, but we have an arena.”
Jen Mitchell was appointed GM of the arena earlier this year.
Festival Focus: BST, Sziget, EDC Japan, Sasquatch
With the 2017 festival season fast approaching and many events close to finalising this year’s line-ups, there’s a lot to fit in the first festival round-up of the year.
With that in mind, we’ve introduced a new, slimmed-down Festival Focus for the new year to ensure we cover as much news as possible, keeping you abreast of all the latest developments in the festival world with the minimum of waffle.
So, without further ado, read on for all the latest festival announcements (headliners are in bold) – and if we’ve missed something, or you’d like to see your event featured in a future Festival Focus, drop news editor Jon Chapple a line at email@example.com.
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (Jazz & Heritage Foundation, US, 28 April–7 May 2017)
Stevie Wonder, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Maroon 5, Dave Matthews/Tim Reynolds, Kings of Leon, Usher/The Roots, Harry Connick Jnr, Meghan Trainor, Lorde, Snoop Dogg, Alabama Shakes, Pitbull, etc. (Stevie Wonder photo by Thomas Hawk)
EDC Japan (Creativeman/Insomniac, Japan, 29–30 April 2017)
Afrojack, Armin van Buuren, Axwell Λ Ingrosso, Fatboy Slim, Kaskade, Martin Garrix, Sander Van Doorn, Yellow Claw, Zedd, etc.
Sasquatch! Music Festival (Live Nation/Adam Zachs, US, 26–28 May 2017)
Twenty One Pilots, Frank Ocean, Chance the Rapper, The Head and the Heart, The Shins, MGMT, Phantogram, Mac Miller, Bonobo, etc. (Twenty One Pilots photo by Clark Terrell/Do512)
Bunbury Music Festival (PromoFest, US, 2–4 June 2017)
Muse, Wiz Khalifa, G-Eazy, Bassnectar, Pretty Lights, The 1975, Thirty Seconds to Mars, Death Cab for Cutie, The Shins, etc.
Isle of Wight Festival (Solo, UK, 8–11 June 2017)
Catfish and the Bottlemen, The Vamps, Clean Bandit, Zara Larsson, The Strypes, The Second Sons, The Amazons, The Novatones, Judas, Germein Sisters
NorthSide (FKP Scorpio Nordic/MKS 64/Down the Drain, Denmark, 9–11 June 2017)
The Prodigy, Richard Ashcroft, Agnes Obel, When Saints Go Machine, Peter Sommer/Tiggerne
Parklife (Parklife Manchester Ltd, UK, 10–11 June 2017)
The 1975, Frank Ocean, Boy Better Know, A Tribe Called Quest, Jess Glyne, Two Door Cinema Club, Fatboy Slim, Carl Cox, Damian Marley, London Grammar, George Ezra, Flying Lotus, Chaka Khan, Eric Prydz, Above & Beyond, etc. (Frank Ocean photo by Andy Holmes/Pemberton Music Festival)
Roskilde Festival (Fonden Roskilde Festival, Denmark, 24 June–1 July 2017)
A Tribe Called Quest, Lorde, Against Me!, Gucci Mane, Bryson Tiller, Rag’n’Bone Man, Av Av Av, etc.
Rock Werchter (Live Nation Belgium, Belgium, 29 June–2 July 2017)
The Chainsmokers, Royal Blood, Bazart, Bonobo, White Lies, Agnes Obel
British Summer Time (AEG Live, UK, 30 June–9 July 2017)
The Killers (exclusive), Elbow, Tears for Fears, White Lies
Bilbao BBK Live (Last Tour, Spain, 6–8 July 2017)
Royal Blood, Brian Wilson, Explosions in The Sky, Joe Goddard, Idles, Aterciopelados, Los Punsetes, Zazkel
Trnsmt (DF Concerts, UK, 7–9 July 2017)
Radiohead, Kasabian, Biffy Clyro, Belle and Sebastian, Catfish and the Bottlemen, The 1975, London Grammar, George Ezra, The 1975, London Grammar, etc.
Festival Internacional de Benicàssim (Maraworld, Spain, 13–16 July 2017)
Kasabian, Liam Gallagher, Ride, Blossoms, Bonobo, Tyler the Creator, Slaves, Surfin’ Bichos, Mourn
Kendal Calling (From the Fields, UK, 27–30 July 2017)
Stereophonics, Manic Street Preachers, Franz Ferdinand, Brian Wilson, Tinie Tempah, Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls, Jake Bugg, Seasick Steve, Editors, Slaves, Lethal Bizzle, The Coral, Kate Nash, etc.
Sziget (Sziget Cultural Management, Hungary, 9–16 August 2017)
Kasabian, Billy Talent, Jamie Cullum, The Kills, Clean Bandit, Metronomy, Interpol, The Pretty Reckless, Jagwar Ma, Charli XCX, Crystal Fighters, Flume, etc.
Reading Festival/Leeds Festival (Festival Republic, UK, 25–27 August 2017)
Kasabian, Two Door Cinema Club, Flume, Fatboy Slim, Wiley, Circa Waves, Jimmy Eat World, The Amity Affliction, Rat Boy (Kasabian photo by Lotus @ Lollapalooza Chile)
New GMs for Leeds, Newcastle arenas
Arena operator SMG Europe has appointed new general managers for two of its venues in northern England.
Jen Mitchell becomes GM of the 13,500-capacity First Direct Arena, in Leeds, after eight years at the helm of London entertainment complex Kings Place, while Ailsa Oliver – formerly deputy GM of the First Direct Arena – takes the top job at the Metro Radio Arena (11,000-cap.) in Newcastle.
Oliver begins her new role with immediate effect, replacing Paul Tappenden, who retired last year. Mitchell takes over in Leeds in May, replacing outgoing GM Ben Williams.
“SMG Europe continues to grow its stronghold in the north of the country”
John Sharkey, executive vice-president of SMG Europe, says: “I’m delighted to announce both appointments as SMG Europe continues to grow its stronghold in the north of the country.”
SMG Europe is a wholly owned subsidiary of SMG, the world’s largest venue operator. SMG was sold to private-equity firm Ares Capital for US$3.43 billion, or $14.95 per share, last June.
Ticketbis: Reading headliners ‘in the wrong spot’
Ten of Reading and Leeds Festivals’ 18 headliners, and 149 of their 186 total acts, are in the wrong position on the bill when taking into account online popularity, new research suggests.
Secondary ticketing outlet Ticketbis, recently acquired by StubHub, has taken it upon itself to help “beleaguered” festival bookers in an age when “looking at chart positions or record sales […] are totally worthless”, by devising a metric for judging the popularity using Facebook fans, Instagram followers, Twitter followers, Last.fm scrobbles, Spotify followers and volume of online searches to give a picture of the internet buzz around an artist.
It has applied this formula to the line-up for this weekend’s festivals, finding that 18 acts should be at least four places higher up the bill, 11 at least four places lower and 10 stage headliners in the wrong spot. Dethroned headliners include Red Hot Chili Peppers, who lose out to Imagine Dragons; Foals, who are replaced by Disclosure; and Biffy Clyro, who fall prey to Fall Out Boy.
“The internet has definitely made it really difficult to get a grasp on just who anyone is and what they’re worth anymore, which makes festival bookers’ jobs all the more difficult”
Explaining Ticketbis’s logic for the exercise, Lesanti says: “Booking a festival isn’t an easy job: Coordinating the schedules of hundreds of bands over loads of different stages, working around egos, flights and tour stops and, of course, making sure the biggest bands play at the top of the bill, to the biggest crowds.
“The internet has definitely made it really difficult to get a grasp on just who anyone is and what they’re worth anymore, which must make the festival booker’s job all the more difficult. We decided to help beleaguered bookers by figuring out a metric of our own for judging popularity in the internet age.”
See Ticketbis’s revamped Reading/Leeds line-up (the real one can be viewed here) below: