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Wee will rock you: Scotland market report

Let’s talk about Scottish independence. We’re referring, obviously, to Gerry Cinnamon, the staunchly indie, Glaswegian guitar-basher who has packed a career’s worth of touring milestones into the past two or three years.

There was the pair of sold-out shows at Glasgow’s Barrowland Ballroom in 2017 – the first unsigned artist to manage such a feat. Then Cinnamon really went up in the world, with two Christmas 2019 gigs at Glasgow’s SSE Hydro and one at Aberdeen’s 15,000-capacity P&J Arena – the biggest indoor show ever in Scotland. And, surely capping it all off, next summer’s show at Hampden Park: 50,000 tickets… all long gone.

“He grew up literally a stone’s throw away from Hampden, in Castlemilk,” says Geoff Ellis, CEO of DF Concerts. “We sold it out in a day.”

The fact that Cinnamon has also quickly converted local-hero status into arena-filling UK and Ireland success underscores Scotland’s status as a rigorous proving ground for its own artists, of whom he and Lewis Capaldi, are just the latest to break in a big way.

“If you go down well here, you are not going to be too shabby when you go out in the rest of the world,” theorises Hold Fast Entertainment’s Donald MacLeod, who operates Glasgow venues the Cathouse and the Garage.

Scotland in 2020 isn’t necessarily an easy place to get ahead, but it is bursting with local talent, busy promoters and full venues. The nation’s live industry added £431 million to the broader economy last year and sustained 4,300 full-time jobs, as well as drawing 1.1m music tourists – a jump of 38% from 2017 [source: UK Music].

Scotland in 2020 isn’t necessarily an easy place to get ahead, but it is bursting with local talent, busy promoters and full venues

There are all sorts of storylines in the wider drama of Scotland’s live music business. Edinburgh is on the up, with the tantalising prospect of an arena on the horizon at last. Glasgow, traditionally a supercharged music city with a perpetual tendency to steal the thunder of the more genteel capital, a 45-minute journey away, still does the business, but it isn’t having its best moment after losing the pivotal O2 ABC to a devastating fire last year.

Meanwhile, the festival scene evolves – out with T in the Park, in with TRNSMT and others. The Highlands, islands and notable towns and cities work hard to make the case that there is life outside the Central Belt. And Scotland’s thriving trad scene makes the case that there is more to life than pop.

But still the talent keeps coming. “We are not short of talent and bands coming up. We punch well above our weight,” says MacLeod.

Biffy Clyro, Franz Ferdinand, Calvin Harris, Young Fathers, Chvrches, Paolo Nutini, Amy Macdonald and Tom Walker have all attested to that in recent years, and Scottish venue calendars are reliably stuffed with local favourites: Capaldi, Simple Minds, Texas and Deacon Blue at the SSE Hydro this year; Jesus & Mary Chain and The Twilight Sad at Barrowlands; Edwyn Collins and Susan Boyle at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall.

And new artists, too: “Walt Disco, Slow Readers Club, Tamzene, The Snuts, The Dunts – are all selling out venues above 1,000-cap,” says Ellis. “We have got a really good, healthy scene at club level and that gets people engaged a bit more in terms of live music.”

“We have got a really good, healthy scene at club level and that gets people engaged a bit more in terms of live music”

Promoters
You might imagine Scottish promoters were a tough, rivalrous bunch, but a photo tweeted by Donald MacLeod in December was a picture of harmony: the key figures from DF Concerts, Regular Music, PCL Presents and Triple G, smiling on the fairway at Loch Lomond Golf Club at an away-day put on by SSE Hydro.

“Aye, that was a good laugh,” says MacLeod, who in addition to his Glasgow clubs is a director of promoter Triple G, chair of Nordoff-Robbins Scotland and a columnist for The Sunday Post. “It’s a lot of promoters for the size of the market. But we all get on well. We are not bitter rivals, we are frenemies. We will all, at times, work with each other.”

Glasgow-based DF, part of LN-Gaiety Investments since 2008, is Scotland’s largest promoter, proprietor of the three-year-old TRNSMT at Glasgow Green, and the Summer Sessions series in Edinburgh and Glasgow each August, as well as shows from club- to stadium-level, and the celebrated King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut on St Vincent Street in Glasgow.

“2019 was a great year for us as a business,” says Ellis. “I think it was great for the market generally in Scotland. But it’s not easy – you have to get the pricing right, and you have to really work it. Scotland is only five million people. If you are doing a show at the Hydro, you are selling to all of Scotland.”

There are numerous independents, including PCL, Triple G, Synergy, 432 Presents, EDM specialists Fly Events and Electronic Edinburgh, and Highlands and islands specialist Beyond Presents.

“Scotland is only five million people. If you are doing a show at the Hydro, you are selling to all of Scotland”

But the largest is Edinburgh’s Regular Music, which continues to do large-scale business. Its properties including the annual concerts at Edinburgh Castle’s Esplanade and Summer Nights at Kelvingrove Bandstand in Glasgow. Eleven of the latter’s twelve 8,500-cap nights sold out in 2019, with stars including Teenage Fanclub and Hue & Cry, plus Suede, Patti Smith, Burt Bacharach and The National.

“We only promote in Scotland, and that’s our identity,” says Regular’s John Stout. “We are always conscious that Live Nation and AEG can offer Europe-wide and kind of exclude us. But we have got good relationships with a lot of bands that come back to us year after year. Stereophonics come back to us every time; we are working with Bon Iver and Lana Del Rey, so it’s not all going to the big guys.”

Another Regular regular are local boys The Proclaimers, who are in a career purple patch. “In Scotland alone, between September 2018 and September 2019, we did just over 70,000 tickets,” says Stout. “That includes two sold-out Edinburgh Castle shows, a sold-out Hydro, and a theatre tour. They will tour any town that has a 500-capacity venue. They have built that audience through hard work and quality.”

Beyond Events, which operates from Ullapool on the north-west coast, 45 miles from Inverness, has operated for 20 years across the great open spaces outside the two largest cities, from festivals down to tiny rooms, and latterly sometimes in Glasgow and Edinburgh, too.


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LN-Gaiety’s purchase of MCD cleared by CMA

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has cleared the acquisition of Ireland’s MCD Productions by the UK-based Live Nation-Gaiety joint venture, after finding last month the merger does not raise competition concerns in Britain.

The UK competition watchdog referred the merger for an in-depth, ‘phase-2’ investigation, after finding the coming together of Live Nation and MCD could lessen competition in Northern Ireland.

However, the findings of the phase-2 inquiry said the opposite: that the merger is “not likely to raise competition concerns, as Live Nation would not be expected to have the incentive to harm rival music promoters by making it harder for them to sell tickets through Ticketmaster”.

“Having consulted on this provisional finding”, the CMA today (19 December) confirms the merger has been cleared.

“Having consulted on” its provisional findings, the CMA has formally cleared the merger

LN-Gaiety Holdings – a joint venture between Live Nation UK and Denis Desmond’s Gaiety Investments – announced last August it planned to acquire Desmond’s company MCD Productions. Cork-born Desmond succeeded John Probyn as Live Nation’s chairman in the UK and Ireland in 2015, although MCD – founded by Desmond and Eamonn McCann in 1980, and now co-owned by Desmond and his wife, Caroline Downey – remained independent of Live Nation/Gaiety.

The company is one of the big two promoters and venue operators in the Irish republic, alongside Peter Aiken’s Aiken Promotions.

The LN-MCD merger has already been cleared by the CCPC, the CMA’s counterpart in the Republic of Ireland.

 


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LN-MCD merger doesn’t raise competition concerns after all, says CMA

The latest phase of a Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) inquiry has found that the acquisition of MCD Productions by Live Nation-Gaiety does not raise competition concerns, paving the way for regulatory approval of the long-delayed merger in the UK.

The CMA’s preliminary ‘phase-1’ inquiry found, somewhat implausibly, that a merger of Live Nation and MCD could lessen competition in Northern Ireland by restricting the ability of rival promoters to sell tickets through LN-owned Ticketmaster.

The preliminary findings of the regulator’s in-depth, ‘phase-2’ investigation, however, say the opposite: that the merger is “not likely to raise competition concerns, as Live Nation would not be expected to have the incentive to harm rival music promoters by making it harder for them to sell tickets through Ticketmaster”.

The UK competition watchdog is asking for views on its provisional findings by 28 November, with the deadline for final report set for 8 January 2020.

LN-Gaiety Holdings – a joint venture between Live Nation UK and Denis Desmond’s Gaiety Investments – announced last August it planned to acquire Desmond’s company MCD Productions. Cork-born Desmond succeeded John Probyn as Live Nation’s chairman in the UK and Ireland in 2015, although MCD – founded by Desmond and Eamonn McCann in 1980, and now co-owned by Desmond and his wife, Caroline Downey – remained independent of Live Nation/Gaiety.

The company is one of the big two promoters and venue operators in the Irish republic, alongside Peter Aiken’s Aiken Promotions.

The LN-MCD merger has already been cleared by the CCPC, the CMA’s counterpart in the Republic of Ireland.

 


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LN, SJM acquire UK’s Rewind Festival

Live Nation’s LN-Gaiety Holdings and SJM Concerts have jointly acquired a controlling stake in the UK’s Rewind Festival, the ’80s themed music festival which takes place annually in Henley-on-Thames (Rewind South) and Cheshire (Rewind North), England, and Perthshire, Scotland (Rewind Scotland).

First held in 2009 (as ‘80s Rewind Festival’), Rewind was formerly owned by Impresario Festivals and was acquired by Global in October 2016. It was one of a handful of events not acquired by either Broadwick Live or Superstruct Entertainment when Global divested its festival assets earlier this year.

Artists who played Rewind 2019 include Thin Lizzy (Rewind North), UB40 (North and South), Bryan Ferry (Scotland), Bananarama (North), Michael Bolton (South) and Foreigner (Scotland).

The festivals will return next summer.

 


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LN-MCD merger referred for “in-depth investigation”

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) today referred its investigation of Live Nation’s proposed takeover of MCD Productions for an in-depth ‘phase 2’ probe.

Following a preliminary, ‘phase 1’ inquiry that found the merger could result in less competition in Northern Ireland – claiming, somewhat implausibly, that a Live Nation-controlled MCD might “stop rival promoters from selling tickets” through Ticketmaster – the competition regulatory has referred the planned acquisition for an “in-depth” set to conclude in January 2020.

LN-Gaiety Holdings (LNG) – a joint venture between Live Nation UK and Denis Desmond’s Gaiety Investments – announced last August it planned to acquire Desmond’s company MCD Productions. Cork-born Desmond succeeded John Probyn as Live Nation’s chairman in the UK and Ireland in 2015, although MCD – founded by Desmond and Eamonn McCann in 1980, and now co-owned by Desmond and his wife, Caroline Downey – retained its independence.

The new inquiry will be led by the CMA’s Robin Cohen, Anne Fletcher and chair Kip Meek (pictured).

On today’s decision, Desmond says: “We will continue to work with the CMA to allay any concerns they have.”

 


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MCD to work with CMA on merger queries

A Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) investigation has found that the proposed takeover of Irish promoter MCD Productions by LN-Gaiety Holdings (LNG) raises competition concerns in Northern Ireland.

LNG – a joint venture between Live Nation UK and Gaiety Investments – announced its plans to acquire MCD Productions in August. Denis Desmond, Live Nation’s chairman in the UK and Ireland owns both Gaiety Investments and MCD Productions, although the latter has remained independent.

According to the CMA, there are “only a few rival music promoters in the region”, and the majority of these sell tickets to events via Live Nation-owned ticketing platform Ticketmaster.

“If it [Live Nation] were to acquire MCD,” reads a CMA statement, “it may be able to stop rival promoters selling tickets through that platform post-merger.”

The CMA believes such an outcome could reduce the promotion services available to artists, drive up ticket prices and limit the live music events on offer.

“If Live Nation were to acquire MCD, it may be able to stop rival promoters selling tickets through that platform post-merger”

The regulator states that other aspects of the companies’ businesses, such as music festivals and access to venues, does not raise competition concerns.

If LN-Gaiety and MCD fail to address CMA’s concerns, the watchdog will undertake a secondary investigative phase.

Desmond comments that “we will work with the CMA to allay any concerns they have.”

The UK watchdog began investigations into the LNG-MCD merger in May, following in the footsteps of its Irish counterpart the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC).

The CCPC cleared the acquisition earlier this week, after a ten-month investigation.

 


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Ireland clears Live Nation-MCD Productions merger

Following an investigation, the Republic of Ireland’s Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has cleared the acquisition of MCD Productions by LN-Gaiety Holdings (LNG).

LNG – a joint venture between Live Nation UK and Denis Desmond’s Gaiety Investments – announced last August it planned to acquire Desmond’s company MCD Productions. Cork-born Desmond succeeded John Probyn as Live Nation’s chairman in the UK and Ireland in 2015, although MCD – founded by Desmond and Eamonn McCann in 1980, and now co-owned by Desmond and his wife, Caroline Downey – retained its independence.

CCPC announced a detailed ‘phase 2’ investigation into the merger, which looked into whether it would “substantially lessen” competition in the Irish concert market, at the start of this year, following a preliminary phase 1 probe in 2018.

According to the competition watchdog, it “identified a number of competition concerns arising from the overlapping activities of Live Nation and MCD in the provision of primary ticketing services, the promotion of live events and the operation of live event venues” in the republic. “These concerns included the likely impact on competition of future acquisitions of festivals or festival operators, the potential for anti-competitive information sharing, and the potential for retaliatory action against independent live event venues because they choose an alternative ticketing services provider,” according to a CCPC statement.

“We are pleased to learn that … the CCPC have approved MCD becoming part of the Live Nation Gaiety family”

To address these competition concerns, LN-Gaiety and MCD submitted the following proposals, which were accepted by CCPC:

“A proposed transaction involving parties with interconnected activities, and a sector with a limited number of players, is particularly challenging…”

To read CCPC’s ruling in full, click here.

Isolde Goggin, chair of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, comments: “Today’s determination is the culmination of ten months of in-depth analysis and consultation. The assessment of a proposed transaction involving parties with interconnected activities and a sector with a limited number of players is particularly challenging and requires robust scrutiny. […]

“The CCPC’s review of the proposed transaction included economic analysis of the affected markets and evidence from third parties active at all levels of the supply chain including promoters, ticketing services providers and live event venues. Taking into consideration the commitments provided by the parties, there is no evidence that the proposed transaction will result in a substantial lessening of competition in any market for goods or services in the state.

“The commitments obtained are legally binding and include requirements in relation to compliance reporting.”

The merger remains under review in the UK, where the Consumer and Markets Authority (CMA) is investigating competition concerns.

Commenting on the CCPC decision, Desmond says: “We are pleased to learn that following a comprehensive investigation, the CCPC have approved MCD becoming part of the Live Nation Gaiety family.”

 


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Live Nation–MCD merger under investigation

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC), the Republic of Ireland’s consumer protection agency, has announced a ‘phase 2’ investigation into the acquisition of Irish promoter MCD Productions by UK-based LN-Gaiety Holdings (LNG).

LNG – a joint venture between Live Nation UK and Denis Desmond’s Gaiety Investments – announced last August it planned to acquire Desmond’s company MCD Productions. Cork-born Desmond succeeded John Probyn as Live Nation’s chairman in the UK and Ireland in 2015, although MCD – founded by Desmond and Eamonn McCann in 1980, and now co-owned by Desmond and his wife, Caroline Downey – retained its independence.

A phase 2 investigation, in CCPC-speak, follows a preliminary, ‘phase 1’, investigation if “the CCPC is unable to conclude that the proposed transaction will not lead to a substantial lessening of competition in any market for goods or services” in the republic.

Live Nation faced a similar investigation from the CCPC’s UK counterpart, the CMA, in 2017 over concerns its takeover of Isle of Wight Festival would stifle competition in Britain’s festival market, though the acquisition was cleared that September.

Live Nation has been contacted for comment.

 


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New Bestival owners offer refunds for Camp Bestival 2018

Live Nation-Gaiety and SJM Concerts, the new owners of Camp Bestival, are to provide refunds and discounts on 2019 tickets out of their own pockets for all 2018 ticketholders, after the insurance pay-out from the partial cancellation of Camp Bestival 2018 was lost during the recent administration process.

“The nature of the last few months means that the insurance money that was available to refund 2018 ticketholders, and money from 2019 ticket sales, was entirely lost in the administration,” reads a statement from festival founders Rob and Josie da Bank. The final day of last year’s Camp Bestival was called off due to bad weather.

The festival, founded in 2008 and held at Lulworth Castle in Dorset, on the south coast of the UK, was forced into administration in September. Administrator Begbies Traynor later sold the event’s assets (along with those of Bestival itself, as well as several related companies) to Richmond Group, a company controlled by loans tycoon James Benamor which had previously loaned Bestival a reported £1.6 million.

The following month, Live Nation and SJM acquired those assets from Richmond Group (which had set up a new company called Safe Festivals Ltd, since handed over to LN-Gaiety), securing the future of Camp Bestival.

Since then, all parties have been tight-lipped on the future of the da Banks’ larger annual event, Bestival – though new documents filed by Begbies Traylor reveal Safe Festivals owns Bestival Group Ltd and Bestival Ltd, in addition to Camp Bestival Ltd, meaning the ball is likely in LN/SJM’s court. (Safe Festivals paid £958,824 for the companies, slightly less than the £1.1m reported originally.)

“The new owners, LN-Gaiety and SJM, understand how unfair this feels and as a result have agreed to fund discounts and refunds for 2018”

The documents also show that at the time of the acquisition, Live Nation’s Ticketmaster UK was Bestival Group’s largest known unsecured creditor, being owed £1.2m.

A person with knowledge of the situation says they believe the insurance money is still in the possession of Richmond Group, though this could not be independently verified at press time. IQ has contacted Richmond for comment.

The loss of the insurance money, the da Banks’ statement continues, “is unfair to you, our fans. The new owners, LN-Gaiety and SJM, understand how unfair this feels and as a result have agreed to fund discounts and refunds for 2018 ticketholders, and will honour all existing 2019 tickets.”

Anyone who bought a Sunday 2018 ticket can exchange it for a full refund, or apply for a free day ticket to either the Friday, Saturday or Sunday of Camp Bestival 2019, scheduled for 25–28 July. Those who had a 2018 weekend ticket are being offered a 33% discount on 2019 weekend tickets, to be redeemed via an email code.

 


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Camp Bestival back in da Bank

The fate of Camp Bestival, the family-focussed camping event run by Rob and Josie de Bank, is apparently secure following an arrangement with promoters Live Nation-Gaiety and SJM Concerts.

The festival, founded in 2008 and held at Lulworth Castle in Dorset on the south coast of the UK, was forced into administration last month. But a statement by the couple posted on the festival’s website earlier today reads:

“With the help of Live Nation-Gaiety and SJM we will really be able to bring more of our creative vision to life with the support structure needed going forward. Our aim has been and will always be to create the best ever family festival. We look forward to sharing this new chapter with you. More news very shortly.”

Adminstrators Begbies Traynor last week confirmed to the BBC that it had completed a sale to Richmond Group, which offered £1.1m for the Bestival group of companies. Richmond, a company controlled by loans tycoon James Benamor, had stated that it would continue to run Camp Bestival moving forward.

That stake appears to have been taken over by Live Nation-Gaiety.

“We will…be able to bring more of our creative vision to life with the support structure needed going forward”

A Live Nation spokesperson tells IQ: “LN-Gaiety and SJM look forward to working with Rob and Josie on Camp Bestival”, although would not go into further details on the arrangement.

The new interest in Camp Bestival adds at least one more UK festival to Live Nation-Gaiety’s portfolio that includes Reading, Leeds, Wireless, Download, Lovebox, Wilderness, Isle of Wight & Parklife.

The news is an unexpected turn of events given that Rob da Bank co founded the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), which has traditionally been opposed to Live Nation’s increasing dominance in the festival space. In August, the association called on the Competition and Markets Authority to investigate Live Nation, which it claims owns over 25% of the market.

The fate of the da Bank’s larger annual event, Bestival – which relocated from the Isle of Wight to the same site as Camp Bestival last year – remains unclear.

This summer saw Bestival (2-5 August) host artists including London Grammar, Silk City, M.I.A & Grace Jones. Camp Bestival’s (25-28 July) line up included Rick Astley, Clean Bandit & Orbital, although the final day was cancelled due to bad weather.

 


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