Superstruct acquires trio of European festivals
Superstruct has bought majority stakes in London-based festivals Mighty Hoopla and Cross the Tracks, as well as Austria’s Snowbombing.
IQ understands the controlling stakes were bought from various companies owned by Gareth Cooper (founder and former CEO of Broadwick Live). Financial details have not been disclosed.
The deal marks the second time the two companies have done business together, after divvying up Global’s festival portfolio in April 2019. Snowbombing and Mighty Hoopla were among the festivals that remained under Broadwick’s control.
Established in 1999, Snowbombing is the biggest and longest-standing of the three events. The luxury ski holiday, touted as Europe’s biggest snow and music festival, now brings 100+ international acts to perform around the slopes of Mayrhofen, in the Austrian state of Tyrol.
Fatboy Slim, Madness, Pendulum, Example, Magnetic Man, Sub Focus, Tinie Tempah, Chase & Status, Skream & Benga, Mark Ronson and Dizzee Rascal are among the acts that have performed at the festival.
The inaugural edition of Snowbombing took place in Risoul, France. It then moved to Villars, Switzerland, in 2002-2003 and Les Arcs, France, in 2004 before settling in Mayrhofen in 2005.
Superstruct’s acquisition of the festival is a result of the company taking a stake in Snowbombing parent SBH Events – a company controlled by Cooper.
Mighty Hoopla is described as “a pop festival embracing the best of pop, alternative and queer culture” and has featured acts including Sugababes, Steps, Jessie Ware, Cheryl, Chaka Khan and TLC, Kelly Rowland and Kelis.
Mighty Hoopla is described as “a pop festival embracing the best of pop, alternative and queer culture”
Launched in 2017, the festival’s inaugural edition took place in east London’s Victoria Park on the Sunday after the two-day Field Day festival, also produced by Broadwick Live.
In 2018, Mighty Hoopla and Field Day moved to south London’s Brockwell Park (cap. 30,000) after AEG Presents/Goldenvoice was awarded a five-year contract for the exclusive use of Victoria Park for events. AEG Presents’ All Points East was launched that same year.
In 2019, Field Day festival moved again, trading fields for warehouses located at Meridian Water in north London. Mighty Hoopla remained at Brockwell Park and Broadwick Live launched new festival Cross The Tracks on the Sunday of the same weekend.
Hoopla expanded to a two-day festival in 2022, taking place on a Friday and Saturday while Cross the Tracks followed on Sunday. The 2023 edition of the queer pop festival took place last weekend (2–3 June) with acts including Years & Years, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Natasha Beddingfield, Kelis, Artful Dodger and Beverly Knight.
Cross the Tracks, launched in 2019, is dubbed “a family-friendly festival, celebrating the world of soul, funk and jazz with a mix of international artists and local homegrown talent”.
The Brockwell Park festival has welcomed acts including Chaka Khan, Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, Khruangabin, Gilles Peterson, Joy Crookes, Anderson. Paak, Macy Gray, The Cinematic Orchestra and Sister Sledge. This year’s sold-out edition of Cross the Tracks moved to the bank holiday Sunday in May.
Superstruct Entertainment has now amassed nearly 90 festivals in Europe and Australia, which makes it the second-largest festival promoter in the world after Live Nation.
The company was founded in 2017 by Creamfields founder and former Live Nation president of electronic music James Barton and Roderik Schlosser whilst at Providence Equity Partners.
Cross the Tracks is dubbed “a family-friendly festival, celebrating the world of soul, funk and jazz”
The company has a presence in at least eight markets including the UK, Denmark, Norway, Finland, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany and Australia.
In the UK, it has interests in Y Not, Truck, Nass, Blue Dot, Victorious, South West Four, Kendal Calling, Tramlines, Boardmasters and Lost Ventures – many of which were acquired when Global’s portfolio was divvied up in April 2019.
Elsewhere in Europe, the company’s network includes leading operators and festivals such as Elrow (ES), Sziget (HU), Wacken Open Air (DE), Mysteryland (NL), Hideout (HR), Sonar (ES), Flow (FI), Defqon1 (NL), Parookaville (DE), Zwarte Cross (NL), Arenal Sound (ES), Øya (NO), O Son do Camiño (ES) and Tinderbox (DK).
IQ also understands that Superstruct has an interest in 10–12 festivals in Australia, some of which operate under the same brand.
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5G haptic suits trialled for Deaf festival-goers
Singer-songwriter Jessie Ware has called for 5G-enabled haptic suits for Deaf and hard-of-hearing music fans to be rolled out at live music venues after they were successfully trialled at a UK festival.
Developed by Vodafone and Music Not Impossible, the wearable tech made its debut during Ware’s headline set at the 20,000-cap Mighty Hoopla festival in London’s Brockwell Park earlier this month.
Using the latest haptic technology, people wearing the suits are able to feel the music through vibrations delivered across touchpoints on the wrists, ankles and torso. Innovatively, Vodafone has adapted the suits to convey the atmosphere of the crowd as well as the artist’s performance, using 5G receptors to capture the crowd noise and feed it back through the suits as vibrations in real-time.
“Music is for everyone and it’s amazing to be able to change the way my deaf and hard-of-hearing fans can experience my shows”
“When I first heard about this tech I was blown away, and to see the reactions of the fans who have tried them already has been incredible,” says Ware. “Music is for everyone, and it’s amazing to be able to change the way my deaf and hard-of-hearing fans can experience my shows.”
Ware adds she would like to see the tech go on to adopted more widely at concerts moving forward.
“I’m really excited by their potential and would love to see these suits available at as many of my performances as possible in the future,” she says.
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Live and Proud: The vibrant LGBTQ+ music scene
Live music has long served as a platform for those of non-normative sexual identities to make their voices heard, spread values of love and tolerance, and express themselves to the full.
Many music festivals now come with clear messages of respect, inclusivity and love for all, club nights specifically serve the LGBTQ+ community, Pride events host some of the biggest names in live music today and, now, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Digital Drag Fest, the “biggest drag festival in history” is among those embracing a new, virtual festival format.
However, as heteronormative songs, artists and practices continue to dominate the live scene, IQ asks how many live music events are all-inclusive, all-welcoming, safe spaces for members of the LGBTQ+ community, and questions what the industry is doing as a whole to ensure everyone within it feels as comfortable as possible.
A legacy fit for a Queen
“The live music world wouldn’t exist without the LGBTQ+ community,” states Maz Weston, a programmer at Dutch nightclub Paradiso and part of the team organising Amsterdam’s Milkshake festival.
Weston cites Lou Reed’s ‘Walk on the Wild Side’, David Bowie’s “androgynous glory,” Elton John, Freddie Mercury and Divine as having paved the way for later acts such as Marc Almond, Boy George, and later still Scissor Sisters – the queer icons consituting the cream of live entertainment’s crop.
Despite this great musical legacy and improvements to equality and representation across the industry, it remains itally important to have spaces dedicated to LGBTQ+ people within live, says Weston.
“The live music world wouldn’t exist without the LGBTQ+ community”
“The community needs spaces where people can meet, socialise, explore their own identity and feel safe enough to express themselves.”
In order for live events themselves to provide safe and dedicated spaces for the LGBTQ+ community, it is becoming apparent that an inclusive environment must first be fostered within the industry itself.
Cross-industry body Pride In Music aims to provide such a space, creating a community of LGBTQ+ people and giving them a voice within the music business. Groups dedicated to LGBTQ+ issues have also formed within some of the industry’s leading companies.
Sean Hill, a member of the Proud Leadership Team at UTA, speaks of the importance of having such teams within institutions to “provide a support network, breakdown stereotypes, offer mentoring and raise issues affecting those who identify as LGBTQIA+.” For those unaware of the acronym, LGBTQIA+ is an abbreviation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Pansexual, Transgender, Genderqueer, Queer, Intersexed, Agender, Asexual, and Ally community.
UTA’s Proud Leadership Team organises events “from networking opportunities to informative talks and charity fundraisers” to drive openness and promote a culture of inclusivity, also working with the agency’s offices in New York, Los Angeles and Nashville.
A recent industry event in London saw some of UTA’s LGBTQ+ clients performing in front of record label executives, promoters, managers and agency representatives.
“We all try and support one another’s events when we can,” says Hill.
“The community needs spaces where people can meet, socialise, explore their own identity and feel safe enough to express themselves”
Pride of place
The role that live music can play in providing a safe, joyful and inclusive space is a common thread throughout the conversations IQ has with event organisers and promoters.
Bringing people together is the main aim of Ireland’s The Outing Festival. An LGBTQ+ music and matchmaking festival, the Outing hopes it can help people together form lasting friendships, as well as initiating romantic unions.
Festival founder Eddie McGuinness tells IQ that the event aims to unite different kinds of people and fuse different genres of music and art forms. “There’s a lot of heteronormative music out there,” says McGuinness. “Here, people can express themselves properly and freely.”
Jamie Tagg, the co-founder of East Creative, which puts on the 25,000-capacity Mighty Hoopla pop festival in London, and runs the LGBTQ+ collective Sink The Pink, explains that “inclusivity, creativity and positivity” are the driving forces behind his events.
The same core ethos goes for one of the most famous gatherings for the LGBTQ+ community – Pride.
Taking place in multiple cities and countries around the world each year, Pride has evolved and grown over the years to host some of the biggest names in live music today.
Criticism has been levelled at some event organisers for losing sight of Pride’s essence, especially when non-LGBTQ+ artists top the bill for the community’s largest celebrations
Criticism has been levelled at some event organisers for losing sight of Pride’s essence, especially when non-LGBTQ+ artists top the bill for the community’s largest celebrations.
However, as Paul Kemp, director of Brighton Pride, points out, popular music has been a feature of Pride since the 90s, with acts including Pet Shop Boys, Kylie Minogue, Madonna and Jake Shears performing at events over the years.
The important thing, says Kemp, is that “in amongst the music and dancing we always make sure the campaign messages are front and centre.”
As the Covid-19 pandemic causes the cancellations of Pride events in London, Toronto and Chicago, among others, and postponements in cities including Dublin, Madrid and Buacharest, Brighton organisers say that “multiple contingency plans” are being put in place to ensure the “safe and successful” delivery of the 2020 edition of Brighton Pride, currently scheduled for 1 and 2 August, given
Dan Brown of Birmingham Pride, which will now take place from 5 to 6 September due to the coronavirus outbreak, admits “there is a danger” of live music detracting from Pride’s main message, but affirms that the evolution of the event indicates “progression.”
“People don’t like change,” says Brown. “The problem is, people don’t shout enough about the good these events do.”
“[Pride] events are becoming more like music festivals in a way – but they’re still so much more than that”
When Britney Spears played Brighton Pride in 2018, for example, the organisers raised £250,000 – “a life-changing amount of money.” Brown also references the controversy surrounding Ariana Grande’s performance at Manchester Pride this year, and a perceived hike in ticket prices for the headline show.
“That one weekend funds everything else,” says Brown. “The Manchester team are putting on free, locally focused events through the year – and I don’t think people realise that.” The same goes for Birmingham, with free-to-enter venues in the gay village depending on the income from Pride and the support of its organisers.
“It’s a massive transition phase for Pride right now,” explains Brown. “The events are becoming more like music festivals in a way – but they’re still so much more than that.”
Pride & joy
LGBTQ+ artists have enjoyed a greater representation in recent years. The 1975’s Matt Healy and Years & Years’ Olly Alexander are just two examples of mainstream, high-profile artists using their platform to talk openly about their sexuality.
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