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Just Like Heaven: Inside The Cure’s European tour

Having entertained millions of people on their 2019 festivals tour, a headline outing the following year was very much on the cards for The Cure, before the pandemic halted every act with such ambitions. But determined to reconnect with fans following the enforced lay-off, the band are currently in the midst of their biggest-ever European tour.

With most dates already sold out weeks in advance, bar some last-minute production holds and restricted-view tickets, the tour is an unmitigated success. But the planning involved to get the band back out on the road has been gruelling, with agent Martin Hopewell confessing it has been the hardest tour he has worked on in his 50-year career.

“Robert Smith and I started talking about this tour not long after the 2019 festival run. Originally, we were looking at stuff for 2020, so effectively, this tour has been two years in the planning,” says Hopewell.

“When the pandemic hit in 2020, things that were due to happen that summer got moved to the autumn. In the autumn, those postponed shows and the scheduled autumn shows got moved into the spring of 2021. And then, when it became clear that that wasn’t going to happen, stuff from the spring of 2021 got moved to the autumn of 2021 on top of the stuff that was already planned for the ultimate 2021. It was like blowing leaves: you just end up with a bloody great pile of them somewhere! And in this case, it was five touring periods that got moved and ended up on top of each other in autumn 2022.”

“Trying to get availabilities was just a screaming nightmare…this is probably the most difficult tour I’ve ever booked”

However, as it became clear that Smith and the band were adamant about pressing ahead with a tour, Hopewell and his Primary Talent International colleague, Charlie Renton, rolled up their sleeves for what proved to be a mammoth exercise.

“Trying to get availabilities was just a screaming nightmare,” says Hopewell. “This is probably the most difficult tour I’ve ever booked. Putting something together during the pandemic was unbelievably challenging, and it took a big piece out of everybody involved in trying to put it together.”

He continues, “The biggest problem that we had was deciding when might be a safe time to do it. That, and the fact that every act in the world seemed to be planning tours in 2022 and had pencilled in holds at venues to the point where you might be 6th or 8th in line for any one particular date!”

Unperturbed, Hopewell and Renton hatched a plan. “Charlie and I collected the availabilities and made these monstrous spreadsheets, so that in the end we had six tours on hold: two for the autumn of this year – one starting in September, one starting in October; my favourite one was starting in the spring of next year – we had three different schedules lined up for next year; and we also put together an outdoor proposal for a summer 2022 tour with a whole load of beautiful parks and lakes and stadiums and castles in case there were still indoor restrictions.”

Charlie Renton tells IQ, “Not knowing what the Covid restrictions would be in certain countries was difficult, hence the reason we planned six different options, which is the most I’ve ever done – plus this is the biggest tour I’ve ever been involved in, so it was a huge challenge.”

“We’re playing 46 shows, which is the longest European tour that The Cure have ever done”

That drawn-out process allowed the agents and Robert Smith – who is the band’s de facto manager – to have a conversation about a number of different touring possibilities. “And, of course, he chose the trickiest one,” laughs Hopewell.

The routing sees the band travel roughly 12,000 miles across 19 European countries before finishing with the UK’s four home nations – Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England. That schedule should see them entertaining more than 500,000 fans, thanks to a hardworking clique of European promoters who Hopewell affectionately refers to as ‘The Cure team.’

“We’re playing 46 shows, which is the longest European tour that The Cure have ever done,” states Hopewell. “Even then we weren’t able to include everything in the routing, but it was good to be able to put shows into some places the band haven’t played for a while – along with some new ones. We’d never been to the Baltic States before, so it was great to kick off the tour in Latvia. Our promoters did a great job at a very difficult time.”

Into the Dark
Production manager Phil Broad first worked with The Cure in the 1980s when he was a rigger, but he’s been the chief for the three most recent tours – the 2016 arena tour, the 2019 outdoor outing, and the current extravaganza.

Observing that many road warriors were a bit rusty when live music resumed, he says the early experience of tours being short-staffed seems to be resolving itself. “We’re not experiencing local crew shortages, really, but there are a lot of new people, so the crew situation definitely is not back to where it was,” he reports. “The Cure have a fairly sensible core crew of 32 people, so even where we’re turning up and there are inexperienced people on the local crew who are just there to make up the numbers, we can handle it pretty well.”

“The Cure don’t do production rehearsals, so there’s no room for error”

One complication is the band’s approach to touring, although given the history that most individuals on the crew have with the act, Broad takes it in his stride. “The Cure don’t do production rehearsals, so there’s no room for error,” he tells IQ. “Starting off a tour with them can be a bit nail-biting, as you need to have enough trucks, and there’s no point having one truck too many because it’s still going to cost you if you have to send it back. Basically, we arrived at the Arena Riga, loaded in, the band rehearsed that night, and then the next day we had the first show.”

…Happily Ever After
It’s not just the fans who had been clamouring for the band to restart their live activities. Promoters throughout Europe are reporting impressive ticket sales across the 22 territories the band are visiting.

“To be honest, I’d forgotten how extremely good The Cure are and how much I like them until they played the show in Stockholm,” says Thomas Johansson, Live Nation Nordics chairman. “They have some of the best pop songs ever written, and I noticed that they are attracting a younger element to their audience than ever before.

“The band are a true rock & roll outfit, and they do extremely well in our part of the world – they sold out in Norway and Copenhagen, and they were very close to selling out both the Avicii Arena and the Gothenburg shows in Sweden.”

In France, Alias Production founder Jules Frutos has eight sold-out dates. “I’ve been working with the band since before they even released their debut album Three Imaginary Boys [in 1979], so I’ve seen them play very small clubs in the likes of Orleans and Tours, right the way up to the venues they are doing now,” he says.

“To be honest, I’d forgotten how extremely good The Cure are…they have some of the best pop songs ever written”

Paying tribute to The Cure’s approach to the French market, Frutos notes that they have previously played all the venues they are visiting in 2022 – in Lyon, Montpellier, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Nantes, Strasbourg, Liévin, and Paris – but not all on the same tour. He adds, “They understood early on that the provinces are sometimes easier to play than Paris, where there are a limited number of venues, so the way they built their career in France has been very classical and special.”

Frutos also testifies to the band’s multigenerational appeal. “When they headlined Rock en Seine in 2019, that day of the festival sold out quicker than the others. The festival attracts a young audience, and when I went to see The Cure, it was very special – the people at the front, closest to the stage, were two or three generations of fans.”

Across the border in Spain, Live Nation’s Gay Mercader is also a long-time partner. “I’ve worked with the band for close to 40 years, and it has been a privilege – Martin Hopewell and the band have been incredibly loyal to all of their promoters over the years. It’s a big responsibility because when someone relies on you, you can never fuck up.”

Highlighting the band’s enduring – and growing – appeal, Mercader says, “I found out during the pandemic that many people in my life are massive fans of The Cure: my lawyer, some of the people who work on my estate. And they are not all ‘goth’ people. Cure fans are everywhere.

“I always sell out with The Cure. They last visited Spain in 2019 when they played Mad Cool Festival in Madrid, where their performance was televised on national TV, and they attracted the biggest audience of the whole festival.”

“The set is always crazily long – up to three hours – so they play literally every hit that’s out there: it’s an amazing show”

In Germany, Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion has been working with The Cure since 1980. But it’s Ben Mitha, who has taken over as managing director of his grandfather’s business, who promotes the band. “I actually got involved on their 2016 tour,” says Mitha. “I did all the settlements regarding those shows, and I’m really looking forward to getting back out on the road with them for our seven shows in Germany.

“It’s gonna be fun. The set is always crazily long – up to three hours – so they play literally every hit that’s out there: it’s an amazing show.”

In Italy, Barley Arts founder Claudio Trotta has four dates lined up – Bologna, Florence, Padova, and Milan. He’s been the band’s promoter since the 1980s and is in awe of their work ethic. “Many years ago, I had a sold-out show at the Forum in Milano, and all the audience were already in the venue, but [bass player] Simon Gallup was feeling so sick that he couldn’t even stand up,” recalls Trotta.

“We were at the point when Barry Hunter was ready to play instead of him on bass, but Simon said clearly, ‘I will play even if I’m gonna die on stage.’ So he did the show seated because he was in such pain. And after the show, he was three or four months in hospital because of an infection. From that day [on he’s been] my hero. I mean, we’re talking about a great human being with a lot of passion and who has a lot of respect for the audience.”

And remembering another instance, where the band played an outdoor show near Venice, during a rain storm, Trotta adds, “Robert and the band didn’t give a damn – they were soaked, but they played the show to the end. In my heart and in my mind, The Cure are in a different league.”

“In my heart and in my mind, The Cure are in a different league”

While Trotta also reports healthy ticket sales, it’s not all plain sailing for every promoter. In Austria, Alex Nussbaumer, of al-x concert promoter GmbH, believes the cost-of-living crisis is preventing many fans from buying tickets. But still, The Cure’s date at the Marx Halle in Vienna pulled in a packed crowd of over 8,000 fans.

“I’m super impressed with how solid they are in the live discipline – it’s a two-and-a-half-hour show, so the fans definitely get value for money,” says Nussbaumer. ‘That’s maybe why when I walked through the audience, I saw lots of families with children aged eight, nine, ten. It was a great atmosphere for a legendary band.”

He adds, “The Cure are fantastic. They have remained very loyal to me on the touring side, for which I am very grateful because they bring with them a very smooth production, thanks to the same kind of set-up and the same people remaining in the tour party.”

Thankfully, the feedback from the road is overwhelmingly positive. “The fans are loving it and are having a great time, and so are Robert and the band, so we are very happy,” comments agent, Renton.

She notes that with Covid cases on the rise again as the seasons change, the touring party are taking their own precautions against the virus. “The band and the core crew are in a bubble, and there are no aftershows on this tour, to try to mitigate against the virus. It’s worked well so far, so the plan is just to be sensible to hopefully avoid any issues.”

“Robert is the only artist I know in the world who discusses ticket prices, sightlines, scalings with every promoter”

The Perfect Boy
Revealing the depth of Robert Smith’s involvement in the band’s career, Mitha tells IQ, “Robert is the only artist I know in the world who discusses ticket prices, sightlines, scalings with every promoter – it was the same with the 2016 tour. So, when you send over scaling plans with those colour seating maps and everything, he literally goes into every detail and changes the colours. It must be crazy time-consuming for him, but he’s very involved.”

Spanish promoter Mercader comments, “They care deeply about the ticket prices – the only other act I can think of who care to the same extent is AC/DC. Robert wants sensible prices to make it as affordable as possible for all fans.”

It’s something that Hopewell knows well. “Promoters will put forward a ticket price they think is achievable and a lot of the time Robert will come back and say thank you very much, but I think the prices should be lower,” he says. “He’s also very keen to see ticket scales that are neatly structured rather than appearing to be haphazard from the fans’ point of view.”

Production manager Broad notes the positives, “Robert is like management. He wants to know the sales numbers, how everything looks, where everything is – he is very hands on. It actually has its advantages: if anyone asks ‘Why do you do X?’ we can answer, ‘Because Robert wants to!’ And that’s the end of the conversation.”

Another anomaly is that Smith is also very particular when it comes to the direction of travel. “Robert is a perfectionist when it comes to routing,” discloses Hopewell. “If you join up the dots on a map and there are any loops in there, he hates it. That makes it fun finding routings that will work, but it makes sense. After all it’s not us office-types who actually have to go out and do it.”

“Robert is a perfectionist when it comes to routing”

Out of This World
Transport suppliers Transam are certainly impressed with the ‘no loops’ policy. “The routing and schedule is very good considering the length of the tour – the agents did a really good job,” says Transam Trucking director Natasha Highcroft.

With ten trucks involved on the tour (nine for production and one for merchandise), Highcroft reports that Transam has had longer to plan for the tour than normal, such has been the extended Covid situation.

“The first quote we did was in April 2021, and we booked it last November, so we were well-prepared,” she says. “In fact, we’ve only had to use relief drivers in one spot on the entire tour, and that was so our drivers could take a mandatory 24-hour break. Otherwise, we’ve been organising our own shunt drivers, where necessary, because we’re trying to avoid the need for hiring local drivers, as productions are telling us that is proving problematic at the moment.”

Bryan Grant, at audio specialists Britannia Row, tells IQ that he has been working with The Cure since 1979, and they are one of his favourite clients. “They did some long stints in the 80s and 90s, but 46 arena shows in Europe is a significant tour by anyone’s standards,” he observes of the current tour.

Grant continues, “The tour is all going smoothly, but that doesn’t surprise me because they have a longstanding and loyal crew of key people who they can rely on. The crew are treated very well, and a plus point is the band and their music, which helps make it an enjoyable experience for all.”

“I’ve been working with [The Cure] for the last 44 years, and it’s genuinely been one of the great privileges of my life”

And he agrees with the ‘perfectionist’ description given to Smith. “Robert looks at every detail and communicates very well with the people who work with the band,” says Grant. “He constantly listens to the previous night’s performance to hone things. He’s the consummate professional and a meticulous planner. He would make a top-notch production manager.”

On stage, The Cure rely on PRG for lighting and video screens. While elsewhere on the road, Phoenix Bussing are providing the means for personnel travel, with Eat Your Heart Out keeping everyone fed and watered and Freight Minds ensuring the band’s equipment gets safely from A to B to Z.

Never Enough
At IQ’s press time, The Cure are roughly halfway through their 46-date run, but such is the following that they are continuing to build that enquiries are already circulating about future live plans.
Despite the financial restraints, Nussbaumer sums up promoters’ hopes by voicing his desire for the band to be back in Austria before too long. “All the talk is that they will be doing something next year, as we’re expecting there might be a new album,” he says.

“They played four new songs during the gig here in Vienna, so we’ll have to wait to see what their plans are.” Noting that he’s looking forward to seeing the tour finale at Wembley, Bryan Grant states, “The Cure have quietly become one of the best performing bands on the planet. They don’t make a lot of media noise, but the production is very creative and quirky but not over-elaborate –
they don’t have to rely on style over substance.”

He adds, “[lighting director] Angus McPhail has been there from the beginning and always has an interesting look for the production. At the same time, the audio has to be excellent, but it’s not there to mask anything – it’s simply to amplify whatever the band do on stage.”

Hopewell admits that the fact the band is on the road at all in 2022 is something of a miracle. “We have half a million fans going to see The Cure – about 11,000 people on average per night – which considering it’s just after a pandemic, people have less money than before, and have less confidence that shows are actually going to happen… it’s really humbling,” he says.

“I’m finding it hard to believe that we did it, because when you’re setting it up, there’s just a handful of us involved – in this case all working from home on laptops and cell phones during the lockdowns. And then bizarrely, this monster tour comes out of it and actually happens. After the last couple of years, I think I can be forgiven for feeling it’s all a little surreal at the moment.”

He concludes, “Personally, I’m always very aware of the debt that I owe to Robert Smith, especially for his loyalty over all these years. I stumbled across The Cure when we were all painfully young and started trying to help out with some club gigs in London. And now I’ve been working with them for the last 44 years, and it’s genuinely been one of the great privileges of my life.”


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Primary Talent finance chief Peter Maloney retires

Primary Talent International finance director and ILMC stalwart Peter Maloney has announced his retirement.

The Limerick, Ireland-born executive spent 32 years with the agency and was an influential figure in ILMC history, running the conference alongside founder Martin Hopewell for a number of years. His contribution was recognised with the Medal of Honour at the 2014 Arthur Awards, which he received alongside the late ILMC producer Alia Dann Swift.

“Peter has been my adviser and friend for over 30 years,” says Primary agent Hopewell. “He’s probably also the straightest man I’ve ever known. I completely relied on his professionalism during years that I was running both Primary and the ILMC – and I have a feeling that at least one of the two wouldn’t still be here if it wasn’t for his involvement. Everybody who has been involved either over the last three decades owes him a debt of thanks.”

Qualifying as an accountant with Price Waterhouse Ireland in 1982, Maloney moved to London and joined Deloittes (then known as Touche Ross), providing accounting services to actors and musicians.

“With a keenness to work directly in the actual music business, I joined a management company client of mine in 1987 where I gained extraordinary experience working for Steve Weltman,” Maloney tells IQ. “Over a two year period I was exposed to such areas as live touring, merchandise, publishing, record companies , producers, recording studios and collection societies. Steve was a great mentor and prepared me for a long and lasting career in the business.”

“It is hard to compress and summarise those 32 years. The company means an awful lot to me and always will”

During his management days, Maloney first crossed paths with Martin Hopewell at The Manor recording studio in Oxfordshire in 1988.

“It was also my first introduction to clay pigeon shooting, something that Martin was extremely good at,” remembers Maloney. “Martin represented one of the acts that we were managing at the time though on this occasion we were both at the studio to see a band called Walk on Fire.

“By 1989 I was ready for my next challenge and answered an advert in Music Week for an accountant at The Station Agency run by Steve Hedges. I got that job and ‘the rest is history’. Steve is one of the most incredible people I have ever worked for and I truly thank him for supporting me in so many ways that allowed me to flourish and find my niche.”

Primary was formed a year later and opened its doors in October 1990, initially made up of the staff and clients from The Station Agency (Steve Hedges with Andy Woolliscroft and Ian Huffam), World Service Agency (Martin Hopewell with Dave Chumbley, Paul Franklin and Nigel Hassler) and Foundation (David Levy with Richard Smith).

“It is hard to compress and summarise those 32 years,” reflects Maloney. “The company means an awful lot to me and always will. Primary runs through my veins. I was humbly proud of every success that we achieved and personally saddened by every failure.

“I got to work with some amazing artists and their managers and accountants. I consider myself very lucky to have seen so many live concerts and event: Oasis at Knebworth , INXS at Wembley Stadium and the Spice Girls at Wembley Arena were particular highlights.”

“I could write a book on my ILMC reflections alone!”

Maloney describes Hopewell as an “incredible mentor” and “major influence in my development”.

“The ILMC had been going for two years before we started Primary,” he notes. “I subsequently worked with Martin on the ILMC for the next 25 years. That was an amazing, unique and fulfilling experience. I could write a book on my ILMC reflections alone!

“I also got to work with some extraordinarily talented people at Primary, and not just agents. We have to remember those in the engine room that propel the company forward such as Lisa Briggs , the face of Primary on reception for over 27 years, our IT manager Robin, the bookers , the unsung assistants, Tina the cleaner, and my fabulously loyal and hard working accounts team of Kerri, Elaine and Nik.

Thanks too, to the Primary board of Andy, Ben, Matt and Pete – a very unique collection of individuals. We had to make a lot of very hard decisions over the years , particularly during the Covid pandemic. Letting go of ‘our baby’ and selling to ICM was a decision that we took very seriously.”

On a poignant note, Maloney also pays tribute to his former colleagues Dann and Primary director and booking agent Dave Chumbley, who both passed away five years ago.

“For all the great things that happened at Primary over the years, 2017 was a very bleak year when we lost both Alia Dann and Dave Chumbley,” he says. “I worked with Alia for so many years at the ILMC . She was a great support and confidant to me, as I was to her.

“Dave was a gloriously unique and flamboyant character. The productivity of the office rose dramatically once he breezed through the door each morning! A force of nature , an action man with a big generous heart. Still sadly missed. When dealing with various scenarios in recent years I would often ask myself ‘what would Dave think?’”

Maloney reveals that, now he has retired, he plans to continue to travel and take longer holidays, as well as maintaining his fitness.

“I have been running for over 50 years,” he adds. “It has kept me sane and I intend to run until I am no longer able to do so. I am more of a speed merchant than a long distance runner and have a few Parkrun age category course records that I am jealously guarding!”


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‘They sustain the live industry’: Schueremans on the importance of festivals

The conference programme of the International Festival Forum (IFF)  drew to a close today (26 September) with the IFF Keynote, which saw Herman Schueremans, Rock Werchter founder and one of Europe’s most influential festival pioneers, joining ILMC founder Martin Hopewell in conversation.

Topics covered by the promoter and agency veterans, respectively, included Schueremans’ early days in the business, live music as cultural heritage and the changing festival scene – which the Live Nation Belgium CEO said is under threat from samey line-ups and festival operators seeing events as “brands” rather than cultural institutions.

Central to the conversation was a rising concern about the festivals Schueremans views as “cultural institutions” that play a key role in a society.

“Festivals sustain the live industry just as the Amazon rainforest sustains the world’s climate,” he said. “They’re the lungs of live music business, and we have to take care to protect them.”

In particular, said the Live Nation Belgium Head, the threat is primarily from newer events organised “for the wrong reasons… The only thing these kinds of festivals are doing is driving up prices,” he stated, “and the passion is starting to disappear.”

Talking about Rock Werchter, the event he founded 40 years ago, Schueremans credited teamwork and the creation of a community spirit as the key to his success. “The general perception is that people should feel welcome at Werchter, at home. It should be a place they want to go to.”

Reflecting on his early days as a student club promoter, Schueremans initially embarked on studies to become a historian, but soon decided that a career in the live business was where he was headed and dropped out of university. “When you really want something, you just go for it,” he explains.

Examples of festivals with poor organisation, such as Woodstock and the early years of the Jazz Bilzen festival, spurred Schueremans on to do his own, as “we knew we could do it better,” he said.

“Nowadays you make one mistake and you’re burned”

When Werchter started, it was a “handicap” to have a festival in such a small country, said Schueremans, as it was difficult to persuade agents to book their acts in Belgium for only one date. To solve this, Schueremans created twin festivals Rock Torhout, to offer a double date to agents. This format spawned copycats across Europe, says Schueremans, referencing the UK’s Reading and Leeds festivals and Germany’s Rock am Ring/Rock im Park.

Hopewell cast his mind back to when Schueremans first entered his office at Chrysalis Agency in London, as a “young whippersnapper”. Sending acts to play shows abroad seemed “exotic”, said Hopewell, and there was definitely “a sense of adventure in the air”.

The pair mused on the fact that when they were starting out there was no “laid-out track” or “map” to follow. “It was all invention,” said Hopewell, adding that he has a “huge amount of respect for promoters”, who are the ones that “make it all happen”.

When asked what the tipping point was for Werchter, Schueremans puts it down to the type of bands they had playing. Dire Straits, U2 and the Talking Heads were among those to cut their teeth at Werchter in the early days. “We were the guys with the young acts,” said Schueremans. “We were just there at the right time and in the right place – simply because we loved that music and we fought for it.”

Hopewell agrees that Schueremans began when there was a definite “changing of the guard” between the older and younger generations, so the timing was spot-on.

“In those days, you could make mistakes and as long as you excused yourself, you could win sympathy back,” stated Schueremans, “but nowadays you make one mistake and you’re burned.”

Talk turned to the changing festival scene and the growing expectations of comfort and cleanliness among audiences. “We’ve spoiled them, maybe,” joked Schueremans, adding that the challenge to do better every year is good motivation. “If you’re not trying to do that, then you better stop,” says the Werchter boss.

“Festivals sustain the live industry just as the Amazon sustains the world’s climate”

Over the years, live music became more of a business, too, “with all the advantages and disadvantages that brings.” A plus side, said Schueremans, is that festivals no longer experience too many cancellations (with a notable exception in “one particular genre”, he added).

“The last thing I want in this business is that we create bureaucracy – we should not make the same mistakes as the record companies did,” he says. “We need to be organised as an army but able to act as a guerrilla, quickly and efficiently.”

Hopewell closed by suggesting that the industry could start doing deals based on some idea of budget and system of transparency. The pair also expressed their dislike for exclusivity clauses, which Hopewell noted have “crept in like viruses” over the years.

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Living la vita De Luca

Like so many of his peers, Roberto De Luca’s path to the upper echelons of the live music business has not been the result of some carefully plotted plan, but rather a set of fortunate circumstances.

In 1976, Roberto launched one of Italy’s first commercial radio stations – Punto Radio 96 – but, like so many fledgling enterprises, he found it tricky to balance the books.

“I was doing the programming as well as selling advertising but the station was not making money, so I decided to do some live shows to try to pay some of the bills,” he recalls. “At the start, I was acting as a local promoter for Italian artists, but in 1980 I did a show with my first international artist, Carmel. And then I started working with the likes of Gianni Togni and Sergio Caputo, who I also managed, so my career in music started pretty quickly.”

His upbringing also involved music, although teenage rebellion hinted that sport was more compelling than performing. “I was playing classical piano from the age of about ten to 14, in my hometown, Novaro, but I was more into football,” explains the Juventus fan. “I remember having a ‘four-hands’ concert when I was to perform alongside a girl, and my mother warned me not to play football before the concert. I obviously ignored her and ended up playing the concert with stitches in my head.”

“I was playing classical piano from the age of about ten to 14, in my hometown, but I was more into football”

Other teenage musical memories aren’t quite so painful. “In 1970, I went on holiday with friends to Holland. We’d driven to Amsterdam in a blue Fiat 500 and were sleeping in a two- man tent in a campsite near a speedway track. In fact, we drove there via the Nürburgring and took the car around the track – the steam was pouring out of the car when we finished.

“But we went to see The Who and there are two things I remember about it: there was a man dressed all in white on stage – that was Pete Townsend; and the second thing was that there was a girl two rows in front of me who was completely naked.”

Stethoscopes to stages
That lesson in anatomy wasn’t to be his last. “I studied to be a doctor. My exam results were pretty good and I was looking to go into the research side of things.”

As a result, his move toward rock and roll, and the founding of Punto Radio, were brave steps. “It was a difficult conversation to have with my parents,” he says. “They were always very nice and very easy with me but they had basically given me three choices for a career: doctor, lawyer or engineer.

“My dad was a bus driver and my mother worked for the city council, but they wanted me to do something that would let me have a better lifestyle. So I think I disappointed them a bit… My father thought I was a car dealer because every time I visited them I was driving a different car.”

“There are so many wonderful individuals in this business, and you can always learn new things from them”

Landing himself a job working for established promoter Franco Mamone, De Luca was determined to maximise his entrepreneurial skills and grab a piece of the action. “The first company I was involved in owning was Prima Spectaculo. I had a 25% stake and Franco owned the rest: then, we had a similar relationship at InTalent.”

That pact with Mamone wasn’t to last, however, leading De Luca to launch Bonne Chance in 1985, putting him in direct competition with his former business partner. “I quickly found out that Bonne Chance wasn’t such a good name for the music business, so I changed it to Milano Concerti and I started working with lots of promising international acts at the start of their careers – people like Depeche Mode and Peter Gabriel, as well as artists like Bob Dylan, Van Morrison and Jovanotti, and the company just started to get bigger and bigger.”

Asked about mentors who helped him learn the ropes, De Luca points to “people I admired, like Miles Copeland with the Police, Ed Bicknell, Paul McGuinness, Ron Delsener and Bill Graham. I’d look at what they did and how they did it and try to do something similar. But I also learned a lot from other promoters like Thomas Johansson, Leon Ramakers and Marek Lieberberg.”

In terms of agents, he cites Pete Nash, Chris Dalston, Steve Hedges, Dave Chumbley, Barry Dickins, Rod MacSween and Martin Hopewell. “They were really good to me in the early days, as was Andy Woolliscroft, while Mike Greek and Emma Banks have always been amazing. And nowadays people like Michael Rapino, Arthur Fogel and Guy Oseary are interesting to follow, while I have learned a lot from Jonathan Kessler and I’m very good friends with David Levy.

“Roberto De Luca is one of the people who made the Italian business a little more predictable”

“There are so many wonderful individuals in this business, and you can always learn new things from them. Jon Ollier really impresses me, as do James Whitting, Adele Slater and Geoff Meall at Coda.”

Changing the Italian landscape
Talking to De Luca’s long-term business associates, the one accolade they all bestow upon him is his key role in transforming Italy into a bona fide touring market.

ILMC’s Martin Hopewell is typical. “Along with Claudio Trotta, Roberto De Luca is one of the people who made the Italian business a little more predictable,” says Hopewell. “It was the Wild West before Roberto and his peers helped to stabilise the market.”

ITB’s Rod MacSween agrees. “Italy has not always been the easiest market but Roberto and his great team make it a regular pleasure to play there,” he says, while Live Nation colleague, Arthur Fogel, notes, “Roberto has brought the highest level of organisation and professionalism to Italy. I have always relied on him for his expertise, great execution and without a doubt his sense of calm. He and his team are first rate.”


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Herman Schueremans to keynote IFF 2019

Herman Schueremans, founder of Rock Werchter and CEO of Live Nation Belgium, has been revealed as the keynote interviewee for the fifth International Festival Forum (IFF), taking place in London from 24 to 26 September 2019.

One of the most influential festival pioneers in Europe, Schueremans has guided and grown the fortunes of Rock Werchter for over four decades. One of the most established and respected festivals in Europe, Werchter hosts 150,000 fans annually, has spawned satellite events including TW Classic, Werchter Boutique and Main Square Festival, and won a record six Arthur Awards.

At IFF, the invitation-only event for festivals and booking agents, Schueremans will be interviewed by ILMC founder and longtime friend Martin Hopewell.

“From starting out as a rock journalist to becoming the country’s dominant live music promoter and head of the Belgian arm of Live Nation, Schueremans remains a passionate music lover and entrepreneur, and so is an immensely fitting subject of this year’s IFF Keynote,” say conference organisers, who add that Schueremans will discuss his career, the growth of Werchter and the festival landscape today.

“With two of the industry’s best-known individuals on stage, and 60 minutes of festival-related tales and insight lined up, expect standing room only at this truly unique session.”

Schueremans follows in the footsteps of previous keynote interviewees Alex Hardee (Coda/Paradigm), Isle of Wight Festival’s John Giddings, Rock am Ring’s Marek and Andre Lieberberg and Glastonbury Festival founder Michael Eavis.

IFF 2019 takes place from Tuesday 24 to Thursday 26 September in Camden, London.

As well as confirming Schueremans, IFF has finalised its conference agenda for 2019, announcing UTA’s Greg Lowe as the chair for the traditional Festival Season panel, which kicks off Wednesday morning.

“Expect standing room only at this truly unique session”

Other conference programming includes the Big Billing Debate, chaired by Melt! Booking’s Julia Gudzent, which sees panellists debate the always-controversial issue of the ordering of festival bills, and Niche Work (If You Can Get It), moderated by IQ’s Jon Chapple, examines the proliferation of new genre-specific events outside the rock/pop bubble.

This year, IFF features additional agency partners, with 13 Artists, Solo Agency and Toutpartout joining longstanding partners CAA, Coda, WME, X-ray Touring, ITB, Primary Talent, opening party host UTA, ATC Live and Pitch and Smith. To make meetings between festivals and agents more efficient, IFF 2019 will debut a series of pop-up agency offices around the event. The temporary spaces will allow festivals to meet with most agencies without needing to travel between their ‘real’ offices.

Also new for 2019 is second outdoor networking area at Dingwalls, IFF’s longtime north London home, that will double the footprint of the event – and also allow a small additional number of festival delegates to attend – and two sets of dedicated meetings for all delegates.

The Knowledge Hub will invite leading innovators and solutions experts into IFF for a series of private 30-minute meetings on topics ranging from the latest festival tech to next generation ticketing and VIP opportunities, while the similar Green Hub welcomes leading practitioners to offer advice and expertise on environmental efforts by festivals, artists or companies.

For its fifth edition, IFF is also increasing the number of showcases: in addition to daytime agency shows at Dingwalls, Toutpartout, Dutch Export and Pop Farm will present shows at various venues around Camden on the evening of Wednesday 25 September.

For more information about IFF, including details on last-minute delegate passes, visit iff.rocks.


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Veteran booking agent Richard Cowley passes

Richard Cowley, the former co-head of Chrysalis Agency and co-founder of Primary Talent forerunner Cowbell, has passed away aged 72.

Born on 3 November 1945, Cowley was, with business partner Kenny Bell, operating an agency called Universal Attractions when he came to attention of Chrysalis co-founder Chris Wright, then running the Ellis-Wright Agency alongside Terry Ellis. The two companies merged in 1967 to form Chrysalis, with the legendary Chrysalis Records imprint following a year later.

Acts represented by Ellis-Wright/Chrysalis included Ten Years After, Jeff Beck, Jethro Tull, Tyrannosaurus Rex, the Nice and the group who became Led Zeppelin, the New Yardbirds.

Following the merger, Cowley (pictured) and Bell “effectively took over the running of the Chrysalis Agency”, writes Wright in his memoir, One Way or Another. “Richard and Kenny were the heads of Chrysalis Agency when I arrived there,” explains Primary Talent co-founder Martin Hopewell, who worked at Chrysalis alongside agents including John Jackson, Allan McGowan, Nigel Hassler, Jeff Craft and the late Dave Chumbley.

“He was a true gent and lovely man”

After exiting Chrysalis, Cowley and Bell went on to form Cowbell Agency. “He carried on through Cowbell and World Service, but we parted company when we formed Primary [in 1990],” continues Hopewell.

McGowan, who worked at Chrysalis in the early ’70s, before it became Cowbell, remembers the agency as “one of the best around at the time”. “He [Cowley] knew what he was doing in the business,” says McGowan. “He was one of the originals.”

In later years Cowley worked as a healthcare consultant.

Hassler, now at CAA, started his career at World Service, where Cowley was “one of the bosses”, he says. “He was a true gent and lovely man. He was a real family man and seemed to have worked out the life/work balance. He will be missed.”


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Arthur Awards 2018: All the winners

For more than two decades, the Arthur Awards, the live music industry’s Oscar equivalents, have been handed out during ILMC – and last week’s ‘Close Encounters of the 30th Kind’ anniversary event was no exception, with the brightest stars of the concert business taking a host of UFOs (unidentified f—ing objects) back to their own galaxies.

Taking place for the second year in the sumptuous surroundings of 8Northumberland, the Gala-ctic Dinner & Arthur Awards saw 350 interstellar travellers don their best spacesuits and set a course for an evening of mirth, merriment and glittering gongs.

On entertainment duties were host Emma Banks, who returned to captain the USS ILMC, and Whitney Houston tribute act Belinda Davids, who gave stirring renditions of ‘I Will Always Love You’ and ‘One Moment in Time’.

Also returning to the stage was Rock Werchter founder and 2017 Bottle Award winner Herman Schueremans, who presented the Bottle Award 2018 to ILMC’s founder, Martin Hopewell. Hopewell – who believed he would be, as usual, presenting the Bottle Award – was instead its recipient, and received a standing ovation from the audience (after tearing up the now-useless speech he’d prepared for the ‘winner’).

An emotional Hopewell closed the ceremony by paying tribute to ILMC’s former producer, Alia Dann Swift, and Dave Chumbley of Primary Talent, both of whom passed away in 2018.

Notably, all Arthurs for individuals – the awards for best assistant, professional services, new talent, agent and promoter – were won by women. The ceremony, on Thursday 8 March, coincided with International Women’s Day.

To view a photo gallery of the evening, visit flic.kr/s/aHskuAJjEp.

A full list of Arthur Awards 2018 winners is below.


Venue (First venue to come into your head)
The O2, London (UK)

Production services (Services above and beyond)

Professional services (Most professional professional)
Gillian Park, MGR Touring

Festival (Liggers’ favourite festival)
Glastonbury (UK)

Ticketing (The golden ticket)

Assistant (The people’s assistant)
Eliza-Jane Oliver, AEG Presents

New business talent (Tomorrow’s new boss)
Anna-Sophie Mertens, Live Nation

Agent (Second least offensive agent)
Natasha Bent, Coda

Promoter (The promoters’ promoter)
Anna Sjölund, Live Nation Sweden

Bottle Award
Martin Hopewell


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Peter Rieger passes aged 63

Peter Rieger, the founder of Cologne-based promoter Peter Rieger Konzertagentur (PRK), has passed away aged 63.

The news was announced today by CTS Eventim – since 2000 the majority stakeholder in PRK – which paid tribute to a man who has provided “thousands of people wonderful memories” and “given numerous artists their breakthrough”.

“We were deeply moved by the death of our longtime business partner and colleague, Peter Rieger,” reads a statement. “We are mourning for a giant of the live entertainment industry.

“The death of Peter Rieger does not just mean a big loss for the industry, but also a farewell to a long-time companion. Our sincere condolences to his family and relatives.”

“We are mourning for a giant of the live entertainment industry”

PRK, founded in 1983, has been led by managing director Klaus-Peter Matziol since 2015, when Rieger retired. A joint statement from the company’s staff and management described the late promoter, who passed on 29 January, as a “passionate and visionary leader” who “guided our company over many decades, creating unforgettable moments in music performance”.

Solo Agency managing director John Giddings says that despite stepping down from his MD role at PRK, Rieger was “still very much hands-on” with the business – and that the two were co-promoting Phil Collins’ shows in Germany later this year.

Giddings, who had known Rieger since the late 1980s, says his friend died “far too young”. “I’m in shock,” he tells IQ. “He was good for a laugh and generous beyond belief, and helped me out a lot when it was starting out.”

“He was good for a laugh and generous beyond belief”

“Peter was a great character who will be dearly missed throughout the industry,” comments Rob Hallett of Robomagic. “We worked a lot together in the ’80s – my fondest memory probably involves him having the first car phone that I had ever seen. We were in Berlin with Kajagoogoo, and while driving past the Brandenburg gate I telephoned my Mum from the car. She was blown away!”

“When I was an agent, he delighted in calling me ‘Robbery Hallett’, he adds. “I can hear him laughing at his own joke now…”

Danny Gillen, the long-serving road manager for Phil Collins, says Rieger “wasn’t just a promoter: he was my friend, as he was to all touring bands and crew. He was a man who loved his job and loved his life. Peter was funny, generous and a real credit to the music business – but most of all he was a loyal man. Loyalty is a thing you can’t buy – you’ve either got it or you haven’t – Peter had it in spades.”

“Peter was a great character who will be dearly missed throughout the industry”

Agent and International Live Music Conference (ILMC) founder Martin Hopewell describes Rieger as “a significant figure in the development of the European live music scene, one of the all-time great German promoters and a highly valued founder member of the ILMC. He was also an elegant, intelligent man who I’m very grateful to have known. Losing people of Peter’s experience and quality diminishes the live industry in a way that can never really be compensated for.”

Marillion drummer Ian Mosley, for whom Reiger promoted several tours in the early 1980s, says he has “very, very fond memories of Peter”.

Fish, the band’s former frontman, adds: “I was so sorry to hear the news of Peter’s passing. He was a great friend and advisor to me in the ’80s and instrumental in breaking Marillion in Germany. His contribution to the music business over the years on so many levels has been immense. A fantastic character with a sense of humour that could light up any venue.

“My sincere condolences to his family. He will be missed by so many that he touched during his time with us.”

“His contribution to the music business over the years on so many levels has been immense”

Mike + The Mechanics singer Tim Howar calls Rieger “a brilliant man and legend”. On behalf of the band, he says: “We will miss you.”

“This has been a sad and dismal week,” says manager and former agent Ed Bicknell. “I’ve lost three dear pals: John Wetton, of King Crimson, Asia and UK, Deke Leonard, of Man, and now Peter. I did many shows with him back in the day when I was an agent, and he worked with Dire Straits and other acts of mine many times.

“He was a total professional, a pleasure to deal with and funny – definitely funny. Which is what every promoter needs: a sense of humour. This year has got off to a gloomy start already.”

“He was a total professional, a pleasure to deal with and funny – which is what every promoter needs: a sense of humour”

Born on 12 April 1953, Rieger promoted some of Germany’s most memorable shows, including high-profile dates by David Bowie, Paul McCartney, Genesis, U2, George Michael, Eagles and Whitney Houston, and Roger Waters’s The Wall – Live in Berlin.

Prior to founding PRK, Rieger worked for Lippmann + Rau before moving to Mama Concerts, where he promoted his first show by an international act: Level 42.

He was named promoter of the year (promoters’ promoter) at ILMC 16 in 2004.


This article will be updated with tributes from those who knew and worked with Peter Rieger as we receive them. If you would like to contribute, please email [email protected].


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