Lucy Noble hired as AEG’s first artistic director
Former National Arenas Association (NAA) chair Lucy Noble is departing the Royal Albert Hall to become AEG Presents’ first ever artistic director.
Noble joins AEG’s European senior leadership team, assuming responsibility for setting the artistic direction across the company’s live touring and events business.
Tasked with overseeing content creation as well as the production of new events, Noble also assumes responsibility for promoting and touring shows, with an initial focus on the UK, followed by an eventual expansion into Europe and other territories.
Noble has served at the RAH for two decades and held a hybrid commercial/artistic role at the London venue prior to being appointed as its first artistic director last year.
“Professionally, this is a huge win for AEG and only strengthens our world-class reputation; I can’t wait to see the creativity and direction she’ll bring to our AEG Presents business as we move forward on this exciting next phase in our journey,” says AEG UK CEO Steve Homer. “On a personal level, I’m extremely chuffed – I’ve worked with Lucy for many years and it’s always been a wish of mine to bring her over to our side of the fence. We’re thrilled this is now a reality.”
Noble, who will assume her new position at AEG in the coming months, is an executive member of UK trade body LIVE, as well as chair of the Live Group’s venues sub-committee, and most recently served as chair of the NAA. Earlier this year she received the NAA Award for Outstanding Contribution to the NAA and the live music industry.
“It was always going to take something pretty spectacular to draw me away from ‘The Hall’”
“I’ve worked closely with the AEG team for many years and have long since admired their work – to join a leader of this calibre, working across live music and events, is something I can’t wait to be part of,” she says. “After a two decade tenure, I count many of my colleagues as dear friends and as such, it was always going to take something pretty spectacular to draw me away from ‘The Hall.’ While it will always hold a special place in my heart, I’m excited about what’s to come.”
Under Noble’s direction, the RAH gained a reputation as a promoter in its own right, producing original concerts as well as attracting a wide range of high profile shows, promoters and artists, while her leadership of the Hall’s engagement programme has seen it increase its reach to nearly 200,000 individuals every year.
“We all wish Lucy the very best in her new role and are sure that she will continue to shine,” says Royal Albert Hall CEO Craig Hassall. “The Hall’s immensely experienced and dedicated staff will continue to present an extraordinary programme of events which have been booked by Lucy’s team, including a heart-warming Christmas season – featuring carols, traditional concerts, jazz, drag, soul, classic ballet and so much more – and Cirque du Soleil’s Kurios, which brings in the new year.”
Hassall announced in August that he is stepping down at the start of the 2023 season to take up the position of president and chief executive of Playhouse Square in Cleveland, Ohio. Dan Freeman, who joined the Hall in June from his previous role as chief financial officer at LW Theatres Group, will lead the organisation as interim CEO until Hassall’s replacement comes on board.
“I am delighted that Dan has agreed to step up to lead the organisation until the new CEO starts in 2023,” adds Hassall. “Dan has already demonstrated great leadership and everyone at the Hall is focussed on ensuring continuity for artists and audiences alike.”
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LIVE launches new UK live music awards ceremony
A new awards ceremony has been launched to celebrate outstanding individuals and companies across the UK’s live music sector.
The LIVE Awards will take place at The Brewery in London on Tuesday 13 December, and are being introduced by trade body LIVE to celebrate the highs of the year and toast the endurance of the sector, amid the dual battles of Brexit and Covid.
Categories will be open to all across the industry and will celebrate classical alongside grime, production heroes alongside promoters.
“After a year like no other, the world class UK live music scene is getting together to celebrate the fantastic work delivered in 2022, while looking towards what’s to come in 2023,” says LIVE CEO Jon Collins.
“The awards offer a fantastic opportunity to recognise our world-leading talent and bring all corners of the industry together, while doing what we do best – throwing a fantastic party.”
“It is the right time to celebrate the best in our sector”
The awards will bring the business together in December, serving as an end of year celebration for all of those responsible for stages, venues and festivals across the UK. The ceremony will take place annually, and span a range of achievements including sustainability credentials, marketing prowess and regional performance, to ensure that the very best of the industry is celebrated.
“Live Nation is delighted to support these awards,” adds Denis Desmond, Live Nation UK & Ireland chair. “Live is vital to artists and musicians and creates a vibrant economy in which thousands of jobs are supported. It’s the right time to celebrate the best in our sector.”
Judged by a panel of industry professionals, the awards will be presented in front of an invited industry audience, with hundreds expected to attend.
“The inaugural LIVE Awards will be a welcome and valued addition to the industry calendar, providing an opportunity to celebrate those who have worked incredibly hard during the last few most challenging years for our industry,” adds Royal Albert Hall artistic director Lucy Noble. “It will be fantastic to end the year with a celebration of our world class industry.”
Applications are open now and will run to 30 September, with full details available at www.theliveawards.com. The categories include:
· The LIVE Green Award
· The LIVE Workforce Award
· Venue of the Year
· Grassroots Champion
· Multinational Booking Agency
· Independent Booking Agency
· National Promoter of the Year
· Regional Promoter of the Year
· Top Ticketing Service
· Major Festival of the Year
· Festival of the Year
· Production Supplier
· Brand Partnership
· The LIVETime Achievement Award
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UK arena bosses discuss green goals
UK arena executives have given an insight into the strides being made to turn the sector into a greener business.
Representatives of London’s The O2 and OVO Arena Wembley, Scottish Event Campus and Manchester’s Co-op Live spoke of the direction of travel at the Green Events & Innovations Conference (GEI), the leading gathering for sustainability at live events.
“I think it does prove that people are a) passionate and b) and also doing lots about but also see there’s still a lot to be done all together with the entire industry’s help,” said panel chair Lucy Noble of the Royal Albert Hall (RAH). “So let’s keep going and hopefully if we reconvene next year we’ll have lots more exciting news and be able to talk about new developments.”
Arenas have taken huge strides to strategically reduce their carbon emissions, eliminate waste, green up their food and beverage offerings. Noble recently detailed the RAH’s sustainability focus in an interview with IQ, while the SEC hosted last year’s COP26 climate summit prior to its OVO Hydro in Glasgow becoming the first arena in the world to achieve A Greener Arena (AGA) certification for its commitment to sustainability.
Oak View Group’s new east Manchester development Co-op Live, meanwhile, will become the UK’s first all-electric arena when it opens next year.
Here is a sample of what the GEI: ‘Stepping Into A Greener Arena’ panellists had to say about their green efforts to date…
“We’ve gone red meat free in the arena”
John Drury, OVO Arena Wembley
“We’re part of ASM Global, so we’ve got our own plan in place there, and we obviously work closely now with OVO Energy. Within ASM, we’ve got what’s ASM Global Acts, we’ve got these three main pillars that we work towards that encompass environmental sustainability, community, and diversity and inclusion. So we work with those headings across what we do. One big thing that we did a few years ago as a venue is we replaced all of the house lighting with LED. It was a big investment, nearly quarter of a million pounds, but the payback on that was three years. We only purchase renewable energy. We don’t sell any waste to landfill. We have recycling bins on the concourse, we do all the usual things that you would expect most venues will do. We’ve gone red meat free in the arena, so you can’t get a burger at the venue. You can get chicken burger. It’s bad news for chickens, but it’s been good for the venue and nobody buys a ticket for a show because they want a burger. If they’re hungry, they’ll get veg, chilli, loaded fries or they’ll get something else. It’s a really good initiative and clearly makes sense.”
“We’ve been trialling wind turbines on site for a year or so now to see if that can play a part in our roadmap to net zero”
Steve Sayer, The O2
“AEG has been focused on sustainability for 10-plus years. We have a global framework strategy called 1Earth, which is very much focused on water conservation, waste reduction and reducing carbon emissions. We’ve been harvesting rainwater for the last 10 years, focused on reducing water in all of our bathrooms and washrooms. We’ve been purchasing green energy from a verifiable source for about eight years. All of our energy is tracked and metered throughout the building and we’ve been doing that for a long time. We segregate all of our waste, a minute proportion – less than 1% – goes to landfill, the rest of it is dealt within a sustainable source. We’ve been trialling wind turbines on site for a year or so now to see if that can play a part in our roadmap to net zero. We set a green team up. I always say I was learning about climate change 30 years ago when I was in school, it’s not a new phenomenon. But I think in the last five years it’s just in everybody’s consciousness and Blue Planet 2, definitely in the UK was a real catalyst, particularly at The O2. That then led to us setting up or creating a CSR programme. We have four pillars: sustainability, charity, accessibility and community, and it’s called Good Vibes All Round. It was our first foray into more of a socially purpose driven venue. It’s very much a journey, and it’s a journey that is going to continue for a number of years.”
“OVO Hydro is the first arena in the world to get the Greener Arena award”
Jennifer Ennis, Scottish Event Campus
“We launched our sustainability strategy at the start of this year. The key headlines around our strategy include a net zero 2030 commitment. We did a carbon footprint assessment last year to establish what our baseline is and we’re working towards reducing that. Another key goal for us is our people goals, so that’s about how we engage with our own team to be more sustainable. We’ve got a sustainability committee now, so that has representation from all the different departments of our business. Another key one is resource so that’s all about reducing our waste and increasing recycling. We’ve got a few targets around that which align to zero waste Scotland’s targets, like reducing waste volume by 10% and increasing recycling to 70%. OVO Hydro is the first arena in the world to get the Greener Arena award, so that was a fantastic project to work towards. It is an incredibly comprehensive assessment. But equally, it gives you really good areas to focus on where you could be making improvements.”
“All of our venues are going to be driving the carbon neutral positioning as fast as we can possibly achieve it”
Sarah Tomkins, Co-op Live
“I’ll start by talking about a venue which is open, which is [OVG’s] Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle. It’s the first arena to actually achieve zero carbon certification, which is amazing, so we can learn from that. How do they create their own energy? They’re using solar power. How are they reducing gas? They’re 100% electric. They’ve got aluminium cups and are reducing all of their compostable waste. They’re also looking at how their fans travel to the building. At Co-op Live, we’re doing a very similar thing. We’ve got a football pitch and a half of solar on our roof. We’re collecting the lovely Manchester rainwater and we’re going to use that to flush our toilets and to irrigate all of our plants. We are also going to look at heat source. And then we’re also looking at all the different elements of technology from the lighting to the bin systems that will drive the most efficient building possible. And then the operational side is the bit we’re really starting to get our teeth stuck into now. We’ve got to work together to achieve the ambitions but at Oak View Group, we’re really proud to say that this is a top priority for us and all of our venues are going to be driving the carbon neutral positioning as fast as we possibly can achieve it.”
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Inside the Royal Albert Hall’s sustainability push
The Royal Albert Hall’s Lucy Noble and Neal Hockley have detailed the historic London venue’s sustainability focus in a new interview with IQ.
The Hall’s sustainability group meets quarterly to co-ordinate activities geared towards reducing the RAH’s environmental impact as part of plans to make the building as eco-friendly as possible.
Since 2016, work has been ongoing to change all the lighting in the 5,500-cap auditorium to LED, which has cut electricity usage by two-thirds in the completed areas. However, modernising the beloved Grade I listed Victorian building is not without its challenges.
“There are constraints with the structure of the building being 152 years old now and, because of the listing, not being able to change some of the key features,” explains building project engineer Hockley. “It would be nice to put modern insulation into walls and things like that, which we can’t do, and it would be lovely to get rid of the glass roof because of all the heat gains that come through from that, but obviously that would have massive implications.
“It is a challenge, but it is possible to work with it. We’re running a new filter system, which is far more efficient. We have seen electrical consumption reduce through that and the LED rollout as well. The EU directive to get rid of halogen lighting has driven everyone to try and work to LED. But obviously it’s a large auditorium, and I’m told red is the hardest colour to light against because of the colour rendering. It’s taken us quite a while to get to this point.”
Through various efficiency measures, the Hall has managed to keep emissions at 2019 levels, month-on-month, despite major projects such as new chillers to cool the auditorium.
It has also invested in a £900,000 upgrade of its ventilation system in response to the pandemic, opting to use EC rather than belt-driven fans due to being less harmful to the environment. The VAV (variable air volume) units respond to the CO2 in the air, so can tell when a room is not being used, with the fan speed being turned down automatically. Previously, they would run 24 hours a day.
“When we do a project, at the heart of it is efficiency and trying to reduce our carbon as much as we can”
“At the moment it’s on full speed because of Covid, but eventually we will see the electricity consumption drop, because it can sense the pressure and then the fan speed reduces,” adds Hockley. “It’s just an example that when we do a project, at the heart of it is efficiency and trying to reduce our carbon as much as we can.”
The venue’s artistic director Lucy Noble is one of the speakers at this year’s Green Events & Innovations Conference (GEI), the leading gathering for sustainability at live events. Presented by A Greener Festival (AGF) in partnership with the International Live Music Conference (ILMC), the 14th edition of GEI will take place at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington, London on Friday 29 April.
Noble, who is also chair of the UK’s National Arenas Association (NAA), reveals the RAH is introducing a green rider for promoters, encouraging them to use the venue’s own PA and lights; bring cups or bottles to refill from the coolers, or use Harrogate Spring Water if bottles are needed; and dispose of any show-related waste via the recycling companies listed in the rider.
“You wouldn’t believe how much wastage there is in terms of food, single use plastics, etc, so this is trying to combat that and I think most people are up for that now,” she tells IQ. “We will soon get rid of plastic front-of-house. We haven’t had plastic straws, forks and knives for many years, it’s all wooden now, and we try to use sustainable suppliers.
“We work with Harrogate Water, who are moving to a bottle that is 100% made from recycled materials and is 100% recyclable. People sometimes look at plastic and think it’s the big evil, but if you work with plastic that is from a recycled nature it can actually be really good. Harrogate Water is already operating on a net zero basis and we try to work with companies with strong sustainability credentials.”
“We will put a carbon management plan together over the course of this year”
Hockley, who has worked for the RAH since 2016, is in the process of putting together a carbon management plan for the venue, including key performance indicators (KPIs) around achieving net-zero carbon.
“We will put that plan together over this year,” he says. “It’s bringing items that the Hall is doing already under one document, if you like, with KPIs so that we can benchmark where we are every year. So with our energy, we’ve benchmarked a year, but there are other things that we need to benchmark as well and that plan will bring everything together and demonstrate how we are going to get to net zero.”
The venue has also brought audio in-house, dramatically reducing the number of lorries travelling to and from the Hall, with the majority of shows now using its audio rig. In addition, it plans to integrate a power monitoring system where any member of staff can log in and check the amount of power being used on a show-specific basis, allowing them to monitor the emissions created by a single show and work with the promoter to cut them.
Tonight (25 March) sees the continuation of the Teenage Cancer Trust charity concert series at the Hall with a concert by The Who, followed by Liam Gallagher (26 March) and Ed Sheeran (27 March).
NAA chair Lucy Noble reacts to England’s ‘Plan B’
National Arenas Association (NAA) chair Lucy Noble has outlined the implications of the UK government’s “Plan B” measures for live music in a new interview with IQ.
In an effort to combat the spread of the Omicron variant, prime minister Boris Johnson announced last night that the wearing of face masks will be mandated in all venues from next Wednesday (15 December), and vaccine passports will be required to gain entry.
Johnson said the new rules, which include negative LFTs following extended lobbying by the live sector, would “help to keep these events and venues open at full capacity, while giving everyone who attends them confidence that those around them have done the responsible thing to minimise risk to others”.
Noble, who is artistic director at London’s Royal Albert Hall, anticipates the tightened regulations to hit public demand at what is traditionally a busy time of year.
I’m mostly worried about the impact on ticket sales
“I think ticket sales and attendances will be impacted,” she says. “I think there will be more no-shows over the coming weeks. And it’s going to cost arenas to check everyone – it’s a huge undertaking, a huge cost and it also impacts on customer service. But I think we can get over all of that; I’m mostly worried about the impact on ticket sales.”
Noble says ticket sales had been “really strong” before declining slightly amid the emergence of the new Covid variant last month. She adds the significant volume of no-shows reported by other venues had not been replicated at the Hall, which took out a £20 million loan from the government’s Culture Recovery Fund last year.
“People see the Royal Albert Hall as a really special night out, so they don’t really want to forego that,” she surmises. “Events always see no shows, but ours are at the same level as they were before the pandemic.”
Meanwhile, the Hall’s 150th anniversary celebrations, which were due to kick off on 29 March 2021 – exactly 150 years to the day of its opening – will now extend to 2023 due to the disruption caused by Covid-19.
“It was sad that we were shut for our actual 150th birthday,” reflects Noble. “But what was exciting was that we had commissioned [composer] David Arnold to write a piece to celebrate the Hall’s 150th birthday and that, fortuitously, landed on the day that we could open at full capacity – 19 July.
“That was a wonderful way to come out of the pandemic, but also to celebrate the hall’s anniversary and it was a great concert. We have lots of other exciting things planned for it – we plan to extend it through to the end of 2023 now – so we’re just going to have a long 150th birthday.”
I’m feeling positive about our recovery as an industry
Noble, who previously held a hybrid commercial/artistic role at the venue, was recently appointed as its first artistic director by CEO Craig Hassall. The Hall is also recruiting a new chief operating officer in 2022.
“We’re about to embark on our next business plan, and sustainability is a big pillar of that, along with diversity and innovation,” she explains. “We want to think of our talent pipeline, and our future artists and audiences as well.
“We’ll also be looking at the whole visitor experience for the Royal Albert Hall, so it’s not just about the performance; it’s about the Hall becoming a destination in the daytime as well and opening it up more.
“In the new year, we’ll announce a new associate artist scheme where we’re going to be working with younger artists. It will be the first time the Hall has ever done that and we’re quite excited about it.”
Artists scheduled to play the venue in 2022 include Eric Clapton, James Arthur, Brian Wilson, Gladys Knight, Joe Bonamassa and Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.
Noble, who succeeded Motorpoint Arena Nottingham chief Martin Ingham as NAA chair in 2019, adds she has been impressed by the teamwork displayed by the events sector and singles out new trade body LIVE for special praise.
“We were able to influence government to a certain point,” she says. “When [the pandemic] first started, we had no voice at all. So that’s been key. I’ve enjoyed working with my industry colleagues in a way that we never have done before. If there’s one good thing to come out of this, it’s that there is a stronger, more unified voice across the industry – and that’s going to be a great thing moving forward for the whole industry.”
She concludes: “For the NAA, the pandemic has taken up so much of our time, but sustainability will be high on the agenda moving forward. We’ve all got a common goal to improve and work together to eventually work towards net zero
“At the moment, we’re right in the middle of this new variant and I don’t know what that will bring. But I’m feeling positive about our recovery as an industry.”
21 June: Delay would lead to 5,000 UK cancellations
Research published today (10 June) shows that even a four-week delay to the deadline for lifting the final restrictions on live events in the UK would cost the live music sector over £500 million and leave the summer festival season at risk of total collapse.
More than 5,000 shows by artists including Olly Murs, Tom Odell, Rag’n’Bone Man, Beverley Knight, McFly, Alexandra Burke and Rudimental would either need to cancel or postpone if the 21 June deadline was pushed back, incurring immediate costs across the live music supply chain and further damaging an industry already hanging in the balance, according to industry body LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment).
The rumoured move, as IQ reported earlier this week, comes despite the fact that, by the government’s own evidence, large-scale events can happen safely with the right precautions in place.
Through LIVE, a federation of 13 associations representing more than 3,000 live music companies, the live sector is calling for government to publish the data from the first round of Events Research Programme (ERP) pilots, so “they are able to follow their own science” and allow live businesses to reopen with Covid-safe precautions. The ERP findings which have been released by government to the media show that with screening, improved ventilation and other mitigating factors, mass events are reportedly as safe as a trip to the supermarket.
“We implore the government to follow their own scientific data that proves live events are safe with the right mitigations”
Lucy Noble, chair of the National Arenas Association, says: “The pilot shows at the Brits and Liverpool were touted as the key to getting back to full-capacity live performance, which is why it’s extremely frustrating that the government refuses to publish the full report and allow the sector to open up through the carefully planned precautions which are currently waiting in the wings.
“We implore the government to follow their own scientific data that proves live events are safe with the right mitigations. Now is the time for them to protect the live events sector for generations to come.”
Any delay to the 21 June reopening date would have significant and immediate repercussions for grassroots music venues, with 248 venues facing an immediate threat of eviction if the government does not fully compensate their financial losses from delayed reopening, says Mark Davyd, CEO of Music Venue Trust.
“In the event of any delay to reopening, government action to restore confidence to the sector will need to be swift, decisive and comprehensive,” says Davyd. “Any decision to delay places the sector in the most perilous and uncertain situation since April 2020. All that has been done by government, the public, artist and communities to save our venues risks being undone.”
“We cannot keep waiting indefinitely without knowing when step four will take place”
The UK’s much-anticipated summer festival season would also see significant casualties, with 65% of all Association of Independent Festivals members saying they will be forced to cancel if faced with a five-week delay – and 21% already gone.
Jim King, CEO of European festivals for AEG Presents, comments: “A delay into July without a clear road map to get back to step four [full lockdown lifting] puts an impossible strain on all festivals, including AEG’s All Points East festival, along with our suppliers across the industry.
“We cannot keep waiting indefinitely without knowing when step four will take place, and this uncertainty will undoubtedly result, by default, in more cancellations. We are desperate for the UK festival season to begin again, but an undated reopening makes long term planning and investment unfeasible.”
Neil Warnock talks 150 years of Royal Albert Hall, 2021
Neil Warnock MBE, global head of touring for United Talent Agency, has said he’s cautiously optimistic about the potential for the impending Covid-19 vaccine to get the industry moving again after a “disastrous” 2020.
Speaking after today’s virtual Royal Albert Hall 150th anniversary press conference, Warnock – who is chairman of the London venue’s 150th anniversary committee – described the impact the pandemic has had on both artists and fans.
“This year has been an absolute disaster for the whole world and affected every strata of everybody’s lives,” he said. “The music element – of not being at a show and fans not being able to interact with performers – has, especially, been so harmful to everyone’s health. Music is such a key component in so many people’s lives.
“I’ve talked to artists who have been going up the wall, some of whom normally play 150 shows a year. It’s been such a loss for them, and so hard on everyone.”
Warnock said while some musicians have been able to take advantage of live music’s year off, it depends on the artist and their attitude towards touring. “Some of them have looked at it and said, ‘I should be working on music, I should be writing a book,’ or whatever it is they’re working on, and used  extremely well, artistically,” he continued. “Whereas other artists have said, ‘No – just want to get out there and perform.’”
The Royal Albert Hall today unveiled the programme for its 150th anniversary celebrations, which kick off on 29 March 2021 – exactly 150 years to the day of its opening – and extend into 2022.
The arena’s chief executive, Craig Hassall, announced the plans, which include concerts, festivals, dance shows and more, at a virtual press conference streamed live from the 5,200-capacity venue this morning (3 December).
“Being involved in the 150th anniversary is such a fantastic honour”
“Despite the devastating impact of the pandemic, which has closed our treasured building to the public for the first time since the Second World War, we are determined to host a full celebration of our 150th anniversary,” he told journalists.
“Since its opening, this extraordinary venue has borne witness to, and played a central part in, seismic cultural and social change. The interests, manners and social mores of the people may have changed, but this beautiful building and what it represents remains the same a century and a half later: a meeting place, a reflection of contemporary Britain, and a home for exhilarating live performance and events of international significance.
“I want to thank the whole creative industry, our dedicated staff and all of the artists involved for their support in announcing this programme today.”
The hall was opened by Queen Victoria in 1871, and named in memory of her late husband, Prince Albert. Closed since March, it will reopen to fans for a programme of carol concerts over the Christmas period, with capacity limited to 1,000.
Among the highlights of the venue’s 150th anniversary programme are headline shows by the likes of Patti Smith, Jon Hopkins, Gregory Porter, Tinie (Tempah), Brian Wilson, Jonas Kaufmann, Bryn Terfel and Alfie Boe, while alt-folk act This is the Kit will perform in an ongoing concert series, Albert Sessions, and run a workshop for local teenagers.
Elsewhere, singer-songwriter KT Tunstall will lead a new mentorship programme for young female artists, and Nile Rodgers will compose a “pop anthem” for the anniversary, using a full orchestra and singers from across the community.
Non-pop/rock programming includes a special concert on 29 March 2021, which will see the debut of a specially commissioned multimedia piece, A Circle of Sound, composed by David Arnold; a new piece for the hall’s famous Henry Willis organ by Oscar-winning composer Michael Giacchino (Up, Rogue One); and a new staging of Matthew Bourne’s dance production, The Car Man.
“We are determined to host a full celebration of our 150th”
According to Warnock, there will be further live music events announced in the run-up the anniversary when there is more clarity on the regulations around Covid-19.
During the press conference, Warnock relayed a memorable anecdote about the Who’s Roger Daltrey being pelted with coins by angry teddy boys in 1969, and spoke of his love for the Royal Albert Hall, whose “magic” he says is unmatched by another venue anywhere in the world, and said he “can’t wait” to be in a position to be announcing more acts.
“Being involved in the 150th anniversary is such a fantastic honour, as I’ve been involved with the hall for 50 years,” he told IQ afterwards. “We’re going to have acts from right the way across the spectrum, from every part of the world and for every age range. It’s definitely going to tick every box.”
Lucy Noble, the Albert Hall’s artistic and commercial director, confirmed that while some plans have been postponed or deferred as a result of the pandemic, there are some “very exciting events to be announced in due course.”
With a vaccine against Covid-19 now approved in the UK, and the hope that other countries will soon follow suit, Warnock added that he’s cautiously optimistic about the resumption of touring next year, with something approaching a return to normal by the summer.
“We’ve got this pinpoint of light in the [form of the] vaccine, so hopefully that can be shared with as many people as soon as possible,” he commented, “which will then give us the health ‘passport’ we need so that artists can properly react with audiences, and fans can react with those artists, again. That’s all we can hope for.”
For the 150th anniversary programme as it stands so far, visit the Royal Albert Hall website.
Venues in the spotlight for next IQ Focus panel
Following on from last week’s popular Festival Forum session, this week’s IQ Focus virtual panel will turn the attention to venues, discussing how the world’s many shuttered music venues can weather the Covid-19 storm, and emerge from life under lockdown.
Chaired by John Langford (AEG Europe), The Venue’s Venue: Building Back, will feature speakers Lucy Noble (Royal Albert Hall/NAA), Olivier Toth (Rockhal/EAA), Oliver Hoppe (Wizard Promotions), Tom Lynch (ASM Global) and Lotta Nibell (GOT Event).
The touring world has changed dramatically since venue professionals came together for the Venue Summit at the International Live Music Conference (ILMC) in March, as doors have been shuttered, countless concerts cancelled and many venues repurposed to help in the fight against the disease.
Panellists will share their strategies on getting through the current crisis, as well as discussing the main lessons they have learned so far
Panellists will share their strategies on getting through the current crisis, as well as discussing the main lessons they have learned so far.
Looking to the future, the venue experts will also reflect on what the recovery process may look like and what will need to be done to keeps fans, staff and artists safe and get business back up and running in the crucial months ahead.
UK industry calls for clarity, timetable for reopenings
Nearly a billion pounds will be wiped off the value of the UK music industry without immediate government action to support the live sector, industry leaders have warned.
Thousands of jobs will be lost and the British music business – which formerly contributed £5.2bn a year to the UK economy – will suffer £900 million (€1bn) in losses from the impact of coronavirus without urgent state support, the UK Live Music Group has said.
The group, which sits within trade body UK Music as the collective voice of promoters, festivals, agents, venues and production services, is calling for, among other measures, clarity on when live events will be allowed to return – as has already happened in many European countries, including the Netherlands, Norway and Spain – as well as any social-distancing protocols that will need to remain place when they do.
As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, three quarters of the industry’s workforce is furloughed, with little certainty about when their jobs might return.
“We’ll need more support from government to survive”
In addition to job losses, the impact of Covid-19 means that further government support is also necessary to prevent more than 550 grassroots music venues going under, according to the group. Additionally, a recent Association of Independent Festivals survey found that 92% of its members, chiefly small and mid-sized summer events, are facing imminent collapse.
The group has identified the following areas in which government help is needed:
- A continuation of all existing employment schemes and business support packages until the live music industry recovers
- Value-added tax (VAT) breaks on ticket sales for a minimum of 18 months (to give festivals, concerts and live events time to see the results)
- Additional financial support to ensure that landlords provide rent-free periods to music-venue tenants
- Extension of business rate relief to the entire live music supply chain, include service companies and sound and lighting suppliers
- Clear guidance about when professionally run, licensed events can resume, in order to allow operators to properly plan a recovery
- Clarity around social distancing which takes into account the range of different venue sizes, some of whom may not be able to reopen until measures are further relaxed
Newly appointed UK Music chair Tom Watson says: “The music industry is really hurting. Parts of the sector are effectively on life support and will need a sustained package of help from the government to survive.
“The support for our world-leading industry must continue”
“The music industry has joined forces and is doing its best to look after its people through a fantastic network of hardship funds. As the world slowly emerges from the international lockdown, the UK cannot afford to leave behind its economy-boosting music industry. We’ll need more support from government to survive and remain a long-term contributor to the economy.
“If we are to nurture the next generation of British stars like Adele, Stormzy and Ed Sheeran, we need the government to listen and act to ensure our music industry remains the envy of the world.”
“The government must not abandon the music industry, which is such a vital part of our economy, culture and social fabric,” adds Lucy Noble, artistic and commercial director of the Royal Albert Hall and chair of the National Arenas Association.
“The support for our world-leading industry must continue until we have a chance to get back on our feet.”
Playing Politics: Are governments offering enough support for live?
Millions of people have taken to tuning in to daily governmental updates, where politicians and advisers perform the grim task of revealing the increase in the death toll, as well as the rates of new infection. That horrific routine is allowing journalists to compare Nation A to Nation B to Nation C etc, and for many, isolated at home, to engage in the morbid game of envying those in New Zealand, Germany, South Korea, or wherever the reported head count is statistically low.
However, to date, little has been said in the public domain about the response of the live entertainment industry, internationally, and its voluntarily shut down, which, in many places, had to come ahead of government guidance. Indeed, in speaking to numerous festival organisers, IQ has heard that many had been forced to play a waiting game with politicians to hear whether their events in, for instance, June or July, would be allowed to proceed.
“Without government intervention, force majeure clauses do not work,” says Christof Huber of European festivals association, Yourope, who cancelled his festivals OpenAir St.Gallen, SummerDays and Seaside after the Swiss government finally announced that events over 1,000 people would be outlawed until 31 August, following weeks of deliberation. Yourope has been “actively lobbying governments to make decisions about large-scale gatherings in a more timely manner”, says Huber.
In beginning to tentatively embark on reopening plans, governments in countries including the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Ireland, Germany, Denmark, France, Spain, Austria, Hungary, Norway and Finland have given some sort of insight into when events may be allowed to resume – or at least clarification as to how long bans can be expected to last.
Still, without cross-border co-operation, the situation remains precarious for those who depend on the live music sector for their livelihoods.
In the venues sector, Lucy Noble, who chairs the UK’s National Arenas Association, says, “We found the early stages of the crisis difficult, as government advice wasn’t clear enough. That delay was problematic because it created stress and confusion for artists, audiences and staff.”
“In Switzerland and Germany the trust in the government and politicians has had a really big revival”
The various loan schemes launched in each market have worked to varying effect (Switzerland’s five-year interest free loan of up to €400,000 paid in a matter of hours stands among the best), while employee furlough or protection schemes have further propped up companies, without which many would have collapsed.
Stuart Galbraith, of Kilimanjaro Live, recalls, “Although it was fairly chaotic to start with, the line of communication that we, as a sector, have had into government has been very good. UK Music [acting CEO] Tom Kiehl has done a great job and so have people like Julian Bird at [Society of London Theatre]. In that first week of chaos, we had four calls with either cabinet ministers or secretaries of state. They listened and have taken action. They’ve helped us with the loans, business rates relief, the furlough scheme.”
Vincenzo Spera, president of Assomusica, is lobbying Europe to adopt such concessions, having already secured them in Italy, where it’s estimated that, by the end of this month, 4,200 events will have been missed, depriving live music operators of €63million, while the deeper economic impact for Italy is estimated at €130m.
“We ask the European Commission, MPs and the Culture Committee to [introduce] vouchers to replace the tickets purchased,” says Spera. “[This] allows the spectator not to give up their concert, and companies not to go to default.”
Voucher schemes of some form are also in place in Germany, Belgium, Poland and Brazil, with promoters including Live Nation offering a voucher option to fans who have tickets for postponed shows.
While those working in the UK and other countries have been able to rely on their authorities for financial bailouts, notable live music strongholds like the United States have offered very little, resulting in previously unimaginable unemployment statistics.
Yourope’s Huber observes, “It’s difficult to compare, but in Switzerland and Germany the trust in the government and politicians has had a really big revival, because in the initial phases they communicated honestly about the situation. However, as time passes, left wing versus right wing politics seems to be creeping back.”
“We are making hard decisions and the more clarity we get from government, the more informed we can be when looking at logistics”
Down under, Michael Chugg laments a horrendous start to 2020. “To cop corona on top of the bushfire season, I think everyone is coping well,” he tells IQ. “The federal government, which had already been offering tax breaks, freezes on loans payments, and no evictions by landlords, came up with their ‘jobkeeper payment’ scheme, which covers the equivalent of 50% of all Australian salaries for the next six months, taking an incredible amount of pressure off everyone.”
Live Nation’s Herman Schueremans – himself a former politician – reports, “The Belgian parliament agreed to provide €1 billion to tackle the consequences of coronavirus, and we will work with them to ensure this money reaches those who need it most in our market.” He adds, “It’s never been more clear that we are in a global business. We all know we have to work together.”
Live Nation’s Phil Bowdery, who leads the UK’s Concert Promoters Association, reveals he is now asking for an exit plan from lockdown. The UK government, which is yet to announce how it plans to ease lockdown restrictions, is expected to release the first details of its plans in a press conference on Sunday (10 May).
“They must have modelling for a resumption to whatever our new normal will look like,” he notes. “The sooner they share this, the better. We are making hard decisions and the more clarity we get from government, the more informed we can be when looking at logistics.”
The gap between the ending of employment protection schemes, loan availability and other protection measures, and the business being back up to speed with healthy cashflow, is arguably the largest challenge on the horizon. And close, strong relationships with government will be key to keeping that gap as narrow as possible.
Associations and lobbyists need to prove their worth, just as governments will need to continue to prop up live entertainment for at least a few months yet.