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Sacha Lord exits Parklife, The Warehouse Project

Sacha Lord has left his leading roles at Parklife and The Warehouse Project, two of the biggest events in Manchester, UK.

He today (18 July) confirmed the transfer of his shares to LN Gaiety – which has owned a controlling stake in The Warehouse Project and Parklife since 2016 – to “focus on other endeavours”.

This includes his roles as Greater Manchester’s night-time economy adviser, appointed to him by Mayor Andy Burnham in 2018, and chair of the Night Time Industries Association.

Lord says that his departure from Parklife and The Warehouse Project was agreed in 2021 and that “it was not an easy decision for me to make”.

“I will miss the team, the events, the customers, I’ll even miss the stress and the late nights, but I’ve known for a long time that Parklife 2024 was going to be the last for me,” he said.

“This decision will free up my time to focus on my roles in the nighttime economy and hospitality sectors”

“There could not have been a more perfect moment for me to step away than now – exactly 30 years since my first event at The Hacienda – and I’m so excited for what’s to come. This decision will free up my time to focus on my roles in the nighttime economy and hospitality sectors, and of course, most importantly, the birth of my first child with my beautiful wife Demi later this year.”

Lord is also Founder of the Sacha Lord Foundation, a charitable organisation which seeks to encourage and support young people entering the hospitality sector, and Chair of Wythenshawe FC.

Today’s news comes following an announcement that Arts Council England and Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) are probing a £400,000 Culture Recovery Fund (CRF) grant awarded to a business controlled by Lord called Primary Event Solutions (PES).

Lord said he would “fully cooperate” with the process and was confident that “the outcomes will confirm that Primary Events Solutions Limited has not misled the Arts Council or the public, nor has it misused any public money”. Both authorities are yet to publish any findings from the investigation.

Parklife, Europe’s largest metropolitan festival, was launched in 2010 and has welcomed the likes of Liam Gallagher, the 1975 and 50 Cent. The annual festival, held in Heaton Park, welcomes 80,000 gig-goers each day of the festival and is said to employ over 2,500 people.

The Warehouse Project was co-founded by Lord, Sam Kandel and Rich McGinnis in 2006. It plays host to internationally acclaimed artists including Disclosure, Megan Thee Stallion, Nile Rodgers & Chic, The Prodigy, New Order, The Chemical Brothers and Calvin Harris.

Located at the 10,000-capacity Depot Mayfield in Manchester, it welcomed over 275,000 customers during its 2023 season. Kandel and McGinnis will be staying on at the company.

 


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LN-Gaiety acquires Dreamland Margate

LN-Gaiety Holdings (LNG) has taken a majority stake in Sands Heritage, owner of the UK theme park and open-air concert venue Dreamland Margate.

The Kent complex was this year granted permission to double the number of gigs it can present annually to 40, while its capacity has expanded from 5,000 to 7,000.

Among the artists that performed at the seaside-based venue in 2023 are Placebo, Kool & the Gang, Tom Jones, Olly Murs, Will Young, Bastille and Chase and Status.

LNG, the UK promotion joint venture by Live Nation and Denis Desmond’s Gaiety Investments, confirmed the acquisition of Dreamland Margate on Saturday 16 December.

“Working with CEO Eddie Kemsley, the team will enhance its offer at this much-loved resort,” reads a statement from LN-Gaiety.

“Dreamland is the ultimate seaside destination for music, rides, and entertainment with great artists in 2024 including Status Quo, Madness, Richard Ashcroft, Becky Hill, Limp Bizkit, Craig David and many more.”

“The acquisition ensures the legendary venue can carry on providing world-class entertainment for people of all ages”

A Dreamland spokesperson added: “We are delighted that LN-Gaiety has become the new owner of Dreamland in Margate. The acquisition ensures the legendary venue can carry on providing world-class entertainment for people of all ages.

“It is very much business as usual for Dreamland, we look forward to re-opening our historic amusement park at Easter for another summer season, as well as welcoming some of the very best live bands and acts both in our indoor spaces and next summer on the amazing Scenic Stage.”

Dreamland, which dates from 1880, was once one of Britain’s best-loved amusement parks, but closed in 2003 after a long period of decline as seaside holidays fell out of favour. It was compulsorily purchased by Thanet District Council in 2013 and reopened two years later. Sands Heritage bought the attraction from Thanet District Council in 2020.

While live music has been part of its heritage for over half a century, the venue enhanced its reputation when it welcomed Gorillaz’ Goldenvoice-promoted Demon Dayz Festival in June 2017, which was considered a breakthrough moment in its modern incarnation.

“It’s like a ready-built festival site: we’ve got rides, we’ve got street food, we’ve got bars, we’ve got a 1,500-capacity indoor club venue, which we use for afterparties,” CEO Eddie Kemsley told IQ in February. “Acts love playing here, they love the seaside vibe.”

Other performers over the years include Noel Gallagher, Paul Weller, James and Busted.

 


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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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