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More US festivals pushed back to autumn

Following the postponement earlier this month of California’s Coachella, other major US music festivals are falling prey to the coronavirus outbreak, with Bonnaroo, BottleRock and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival among those to have rescheduled for later this year.

Live Nation/AC Entertainment’s Bonnaroo Music & Artists Festival, based on the ‘Farm’ in Manchester, Tennessee, announced yesterday (18 March) it will take place from 24 to 27 September instead of the originally scheduled 11–14 June.

Bonnaroo, one of the longest-running multi-genre music festivals in North America, was to have been headlined by Tool, Lizzo and Tame Impala, with Miley Cyrus, Flume, Bassnectar, Lana Del Rey and Vampire Weekend also confirmed. It is unclear if all artists will play the rescheduled event.

“Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival will be rescheduled to take place September 24–27, 2020, out of an abundance of caution and for the health and safety of all Bonnaroovians, artists, staff and our community,” reads a statement from the festival.

“Please continue to radiate positivity through this uncharted time in our world,” it adds. “Thank you for your continued support and we look forward to seeing you on the Farm this fall.”

BottleRock Napa Valley, originally scheduled for 22–24 May, has, like Coachella, been pushed back to October (albeit a week earlier, 2–4 October).

“The health and safety of the community, our musicians, festival fans, participants, sponsors and staff are paramount”

“It is with great pleasure we can announce that all our headliners, including Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stevie Nicks, Dave Matthews Band, Miley Cyrus, Khalid, Anderson Paak and the Free Nationals, Zedd and more are confirmed for the rescheduled dates,” the Napa, California, festival – also a Live Nation event – says in a statement.

“Additional line-up updates will be announced as soon as possible,” BottleRock adds.

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, whose 2020 line-up features the Who, Foo Fighters, Stevie Nicks, Lizzo, Lionel Richie and Dead and Company, is also now taking place this autumn, though organiser New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation has to announce the new dates.

“At the direction of the City of New Orleans authorities, in response to ongoing Covid-19 health concerns, the 2020 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival will not occur this April and May, as scheduled,” reads a statement from the festival. “The health and safety of the community, our musicians, festival fans, participants, sponsors and staff are paramount, and we urge everyone to follow the guidelines and protocols put forth by public health officials.”

Jazz Fest was originally scheduled for 23 April to 3 May.

The postponements follow the outright cancellations of the 2020 editions of South by Southwest, Ultra Music Festival Miami and the UK’s Glastonbury Festival.

 


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North American arenas compensate part-time employees

Amid widespread cancellations of live entertainment and sporting events, several arenas in North America are taking steps to ensure the livelihoods of their part-time staff.

Large venues including Staples Center (20,000-cap.) in Los Angeles, Smoothie King Center (17,791-seat) in New Orleans and Scotiabank Saddledome (19,289-seat) in Calgary have created employee funds for non-salaried workers who have been affected by coronavirus-induced closures.

In LA, the AEG-operated Staples Center – along with its sports-team tenants, the LA Lakers, LA Clippers and LA Kings – have established a compensation scheme for wages lost by part-time employees.

Payments from the fund, according to NHL.com, will be distributed among more than 2,800 hourly event employees, including box-office staff, ushers, security, stagehands, operations staff, car park attendants and F&B sellers.

Meanwhile, Gayle Benson, owner of the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans, has announced plans to establish an ‘Arena Assistance Fund’ for those left out of pocket by the cancellation of upcoming NBA basketball games.

“We want to do our part to assist those that have been impacted in our community”

Benson, whose teams play at ASM Global’s Smoothie King Center, has also made a personal donation of US$1 million to create the Gayle Benson Community Fund to remunerate Pelicans employees, as well as local ‘gig economy’ workers in New Orleans.

“We have been meeting and planning a response since the NBA’s announcement to suspend games. Our meaningful discussions have led to what we believe is the most impactful way to best serve the needs of our community as a whole,” she says. “We want to do our part to assist those that have been impacted in our community.”

North of the Canadian border, Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC), which owns the Calgary Flames ice-hockey team and operates the Saddledome, has similarly announced it will pay part-time and hourly employees while the Flames’ season is on hold.

San Francisco’s Chase Center has also established a $1m ‘disaster relief fund’, to be funded by the owners, players and coaches of NBA squad Golden State Warriors, to pay employees while the 19,500-capacity venue is empty.

Yesterday, US president Donald Trump recommended Americans refrain from gathering in groups of more than ten until the end of the month, as well as the closure of bars, restaurants, clubs and schools.

 


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EU festivals rank as fastest growing worldwide

European festivals including Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE), Glastonbury Festival, Boomtown and Mad Cool are among the fastest-growing events in recent years, according to new research by StubHub.

The research shows the capacity increases of 50 festivals worldwide, ranking the fastest-growing in terms of percentage growth. Out of the music festivals examined, leading electronic festival and business conference ADE came out as the most rapidly growing event overall.

The multi-venue festival, which this year takes place from 16 to 20 October, has grown to more than 230 times its original size, from just 300 in 1995 to 70,000 in latest editions. Last year, ADE welcomed a record-breaking 400,000 visitors across five days.

Increasing capacity from 1,500 to 135,000 (210,000 including all staff), Glastonbury Festival has the strongest growth of any participating event in terms of raw numbers. New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival also showed impressive growth, up to 60,000 capacity from its original 350 in 1970.

Adding more than 11,000 fans per year, Madrid’s Mad Cool festival has expanded rapidly in its four years of activity

Adding more than 11,000 fans per year, Madrid’s Mad Cool festival has expanded rapidly in its four years of activity. The festival, which this year was headlined by Bon Iver and the Cure, has increased capacity by almost 80% since its inaugural edition, from 45,000 to 80,000.

Founded in 2009, the UK’s Boomtown Fair has undergone the biggest growth of the past decade. The event, which started out with just one stage and 1,000 guests, has increased capacity by 65,000 people in its lifetime.

India’s Magnetic Fields festival, founded in 2013, recorded the second fastest growth of the decade, expanding 500% to a capacity of 3,000.

European festivals made up 13 of the top 20 fastest growing events on the list. US festival South by Southwest, Electric Daisy Carnival (Las Vegas) and Ultra Music Festival in Miami also showed strong growth.

Lake of Stars festival in Malawi – the only African festival to appear in the research –also makes it into the top 20, although remaining relatively small. The boutique festival now accommodates 5,000 attendees, up from 700 in its first year.

A full list of results can be found here.

 


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Live Nation announces new venue in New Orleans

2019 will see the opening of a brand new venue in New Orelans, Live Nation has announced today (21 June). To mark the 50th anniversary of the legendary San Francisco venue The Fillmore West, the 2,000 capacity Fillmore at Harrah’s Casino will open in homage early next year.

In keeping with its Californian namesake, the New Orleans Fillmore will showcase state-of-the-art production, vintage poster art, VIP amenities and outstanding hospitality. Rob Bension, president of Live Nation’s club and theatre group, hopes the new venue will attract artists who might usually overlook New Orleans.

“The venue’s industry-leading amenities and intimate 2,000-person capacity fill a gap in the market and will attract performers that often bypass the city, which will ultimately give audiences an even wider array of concert experiences to enjoy,” he says.

“In a city where live music abounds from street corners to the stage, The Fillmore is a perfect addition”

The original Fillmore in San Francisco has hosted some of America’s most impressive acts, with Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix all having topped the bill at some point. The new Fillmore will occupy the second floor of the Harrah’s Casino. The prospective venue therefore not only has to live up to its Californian counterpart’s reputation, but the reputation of the well established casino it will reside in.

Dan Real, general manager of Harrah’s, has said that the end result will fulfil both legacies: “In a city where live music abounds from street corners to the stage, The Fillmore is a perfect addition to Harrah’s New Orleans and will create memorable experiences for both locals and guests.”

Across the US, there are Fillmore venues in Florida, Philadelphia and North Carolina among others. According to Live Nation, this newest Fillmore will embrace its New Orleans setting, with gas street lanterns and ‘hints of Mardi Gras’.

 


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Live Nation to book Mississippi’s BankPlus Amp

Live Nation has signed a three-year exclusive booking deal with BankPlus Amphitheater in Southaven, Mississippi, bolstering its presence in the region.

The 12,500-cap. venue opened in 2006, and has hosted shows by artists including Willie Nelson, the White Stripes, ZZ Stop, Velvet Revolver, Dave Matthews Band and Kenny Chesney.

“We jumped at the chance to work with BankPlus Amphitheater and the city of Southaven,” says Live Nation regional president Russell Doussan.

“Officially operating this venue enhances our ability to serve artists looking to make stops in Mississippi and the south”

“Amp[hitheatre]s are a key part of the touring pipeline, and officially operating this venue enhances our ability to serve artists looking to make stops in Mississippi and the south.”

Doussan’s New Orleans-based regional team will operate the venue from a satellite office in Southaven.

“Live Nation is the best in the business, and the BankPlus Amphitheater is in great hands under their leadership,” adds Darren Musselwhite, mayor of Southaven. “With the world’s largest touring operation, Live Nation will bring more artists to Southaven than ever before, which will improve the appeal of our city for locals and tourists alike.”

 


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Time Inc. sells Essence festival

Multinational mass media giant Time Inc. has sold its successful Essence music festival to Essence Ventures, an independent investment vehicle led by toiletries entrepreneur Richelieu Dennis, for an undisclosed sum.

The sale forms part of Essence Ventures’ acquisition of  Essence Communications, a multimedia brand centred on the long-running Essence magazine. Essence president Michelle Ebanks continues in her role, and also joins the board of Essence Communications, while the all-black, all-female Essence executive team gain an equity stake in the business.

Time Inc., which publishes Time, People, Fortune and Sports Illustrated magazines, among others, bought 49% of Essence Communications in 2000, acquiring the remaining shares in 2005.

“We are excited to be able to return this culturally relevant and historically significant platform to ownership by the people and the consumers whom it serves”

“The strategic vision and leadership that Michelle has provided to Essence over the years have been exemplary, and we are thrilled to work with her and her talented team to provide the necessary resources and support to continue to grow the engagement and influence of the Essence brand and transform this business,” says Liberian-born Dennis, who established the Shea Moisture brand of toiletries in Harlem, New York, in 1991.

“As importantly, we are excited to be able to return this culturally relevant and historically significant platform to ownership by the people and the consumers whom it serves and offer new opportunities for the women leading the business to also be partners in the business.”

Essence Festival 2017, headlined by Diana Ross, Chance the Rapper, John Legend and Mary J. Blige, was attended by 470,000 people and generated a record-breaking 4bn social-media impressions. The festival has also spawned a spin-off event in Durban, South Africa.

 


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SMG results ”validation of how far New Orleans has come”

Three SMG venues in New Orleans sold more than US$40 million in concert tickets in the 12 months ending 30 June 2017, contributing to a record-breaking year for the company’s local operation.

Highlights at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (76,468-cap.) included lucrative shows by Beyoncé and Guns N’ Roses and social-media sensation Essence Festival, while the Smoothie King Center (17,791-cap.) hosted more concerts than ever before – 25 – including sold-out shows by Drake, Maroon 5, Billy Joel, Radiohead, The Weeknd and Red Hot Chili Peppers. Rounding out the $40m-earning trio was outdoor festival site Champions Square (9,000-cap.), whose recent shows include Incubus, Solange and alt-J.

“This past year is further validation of how far New Orleans has come back from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, and the vitality of our market,” comments Superdome general manager Alan Freeman.

“SMG’s live entertainment division did a fantastic job last year directing touring business to New Orleans”

“Our show numbers and grosses have shown sustained growth for several years. I want to thank all our promoters, with special thanks to Live Nation, Beaver Productions and AEG.”

SMG executive vice-president Doug Thornton adds: “Alan and our corporate staff in the SMG live entertainment division did a fantastic job last year directing touring business to New Orleans. The unprecedented results represent yet another milestone for these three great facilities and we are pleased that our corporate resources were able to help deliver significant results.

SMG is the world’s largest manager of venues and conferences centres, with 68 arenas in the US alone, and has subsidiaries in Europe, Canada and Latin America. Its parent company, American Capital, was acquired by private-equity firm Ares Capital for $3.43bn last June.

 


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New Orleans’ Essence draws ‘record’ 4bn impressions

Essence Festival – an annual celebration of African-American music at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (76,468-cap.) in New Orleans – welcomed more than 470,000 attendees to its 24th edition last week, increasing attendance by 25,000 and garnering what organisers call a “record-breaking” four billion impressions on social media.

Complementing a night-time concert series (headliners were Diana Ross, John Legend, Chance the Rapper and Mary J. Blige), the festival once again featured “entertainment, empowerment and cultural experiences” targeted at black Americans, with actress Halle Berry, film director Ava DuVernay, civil-rights campaigner Al Sharpton and spiritual leader Iyanla Vanzant among the more than 100 speakers.

In addition to increasing attendance by ~6%, organisers say posts tagged with the #EssenceFest hashtag drew 4bn+ impressions on social media, with the festival also trending daily on Twitter.

This, say promoters, is a new record – although it should be noted iHeartRadio claimed its 2015 festival generated more than 6.5bn impressions. (New record or not, 4bn social engagements with an arguably fairly niche festival is undeniably impressive.)

Essence Festival is produced by Essence Festivals LLC, a division of Essence Communications (the publisher of the eponymous magazine), and New Orleans-based Solomon Group. Sponsors in 2017 included AT&T, Ford, McDonald’s, Walmart and naming partner Coca-Cola.

 


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