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LGBTIQ+ List 2023: Scott Robson, ASM Global

The LGBTIQ+ List 2023 – IQ Magazine’s third annual celebration of queer professionals who make an immense impact in the international live music business – has been revealed.

The ever-popular list is the centrepiece of IQ’s third Pride edition, sponsored by Ticketmaster, which is now available to read online and in print for subscribers.

To get to know this year’s queer pioneers a little better, we interviewed each of them on the development of the industry, the challenges that are keeping them up at night and more.

Throughout the next month, IQ will publish a new interview each day. Check out yesterday’s profile with Boyan Pinter, founder/director at SPIKE Bulgarian Music Showcase in Sofia, Bulgaria.

The series continues with Scott Robson (he/him), event manager at ASM Global in Newcastle, UK.

Scott Robson is a 34-year-old gay event manager from Newcastle, UK. Robson was originally a performer and after training in London and travelling the world he decided he needed a change and went back to university to study event management at the University of Sunderland before completing a masters in international marketing at Newcastle University. Robson now lives in the northeast with his partner of six years, their two dogs – Betsy and Dotty – and their cat Sylvia (named after the one and only Sylvia Rivera). They also host a weekly show on Pride Radio talking about queer art, politics, and pop culture.


Tell us about the professional feat you’re most PROUD of in 2023 so far.
So, a main goal of mine since starting to work for the Utilita Arena Newcastle was to make it queerer. The great thing is, the team has been fully on board, and we have looked at many ways in which we can make our venue a safe space for everyone. Whilst working on Yungblud, I was asked to assist in providing a gender-neutral toilet. After looking at our space and assessing what the guests needed, I was able to provide 40 gender-neutral toilets for the event. This has then translated into drawing up plans and having gender-neutral toilets available as a permanent fixture at the arena. This may seem like a small win but for many of our guests, this opens the door to them feeling welcomed and loved. The signs look super cool, too.

Name one queer act you’re itching to see live this year.
Janelle Monae would be amazing to see. Everything about her is amazing and they are a strong representation of what it is to be a powerful, talented, and inspirational member of the LGBTQIA+ community. There are a few other people I would love to see who don’t identify as queer, but their continued support doesn’t go unnoticed, Dolly Parton, Cher and Lady Gaga are of course queer icons in their own right and I would die if I got the opportunity (although I have already seen Cher a few years ago and quite frankly I’m still recovering).

“It’s probably not best practice to get drunk and apply for jobs, but here I am, almost two years later, in a job that I love”

What advice could you give to young queer professionals?
I have a few pieces of advice that I like to think I keep in mind every day at work. Always be yourself. If people don’t like that, that isn’t a reflection on you. Take up as much space as possible; don’t be afraid. Be present. Give your heterosexual colleagues the space to ask questions. This also opens the door to a deeper connection and bonds. Additionally, you might be the key to opening their minds, and you might learn something, too.

What’s the best mistake you’ve ever made?
This question really had me stumped. I have made a million mistakes in my 34 years. Some of them embarrassing, some funny, but all memorable. The one that changed my life the most was during Covid. Events were at a standstill, and I was on the job hunt; I was feeling a little insecure. Every job I looked at had the wildest job description, and I had anxiety every time I read them. So, one night I decided to have a drink or two – many of us have had a few wines and ordered things from the internet – but I got sidetracked and applied for each of those jobs. It’s probably not best practice to get drunk and apply for jobs, but here I am, almost two years later, in a job that I love! So, I think the best mistake was me thinking I needed ‘Dutch courage’ to apply for jobs I was clearly qualified for, because it taught me a lesson: never discount yourself, go for it, what’s the worst that could happen?

“There have been massive leaps in accessibility over the years, but financial exclusion is still a massive issue”

In terms of challenges in the industry, what’s currently keeping you up at night?
Accessibility is a major concern for me; we have so many artists, icons, and performers pass through our venues, and not everyone has the opportunity to attend. There are many reasons – financial, accessibility, or distance – and I would love to work on a way to make space for these people to be part of it. I never went to a lot of live music events growing up because it was difficult for my parents to attend with both my sister and I. My sister has a genetic disorder, and so this makes the experience more difficult. There have been massive leaps in accessibility over the years, but financial exclusion is still a massive issue, and for those that live in rural areas and never get the chance to attend big events because of the cost and distance involved, if we could develop the technology or tailormade experiences (at a reduced rate and with buy-in from the promoters, artists and managers) for families with these experiences, I would sleep way better. No one should be excluded.

How do you see the live music business developing in the next few years?
During Covid, the events industry had to get creative, and it was amazing to see new spaces created in order for people to attend and participate in events. Once the lockdowns were fully released, the new spaces disappeared. But I wholeheartedly believe the future of the events industry is an amalgamation of both. The real-life experience can never be overruled by the digital one, but mixing both elements could see a massive growth in engagement for the audiences and allow new technologies to influence the guest experience. With the surge in VR, I think it’s only a matter of time until we are using this technology as a permanent fixture in our events. I mean, we have ABBA breaking records in London, as you read this, so who knows what could be next.

“We have seen major improvement in ticket reselling, but there is much more that needs to be done”

Name one thing you’d like to see the live music business change.
Ticketing. We have seen major improvement in ticket reselling, but there is much more that needs to be done. We have seen artists and management limit the number of tickets sold per person, but the problem is still rife. If there could be a way to monitor it more closely, our events would become way more accessible as people won’t be out-priced by people buying multiple tickets with no intention of ever using them.

Name one thing the industry could do to be a more equitable place.
There are many things we need to do, but sometimes the most basic act can be the most beneficial. We need to keep talking, learning about each other, our struggles, our aspirations, and hopes and fears, will inevitably create more understanding. If we do this in our venues and places of work, this culture will expand. Sure, we can make policies and practices, but if we don’t believe in it, realistically, it’s just a bit of paper with writing on it. We need to make the change happen on the ground. Learning about someone makes us care, and if we care, we will be proactive in the change. Treating someone equitably regardless of job title or position, learning everyone’s names and a bit about them. So, supporting each other, in my opinion, will create the connections and conversations, which will inevitably create the space for a more equitable environment for all.

“Utilita Arena Newcastle see my queerness as my superpower and not an affliction, and honestly, I would have to agree”

Shout out to your biggest ally in the live music industry.
My biggest ally in the live music industry is the team at Utilita Arena Newcastle. Starting a new place can often be scary, but when you’re queer, there is the added stress of whether there will be someone there who doesn’t ‘get you,’ and this can be a massive issue. About a month after I started, I missed out a full block of seats. I was mortified and upset about the whole situation. Upon arriving at work the next day, our electrician, Mark, saw me visibly upset. He took me to one side and gave me the space to explain why I felt the way I did, and he gave me the pep talk of all pep talks. This gave me the strength to pick myself up and move forward. There was no judgment in that moment; he didn’t care that I was queer; all he knew is that a member of his team was upset, and he needed to help rectify the situation. [The team at] Utilita Arena Newcastle have always been supportive of me. I’m free to be as gay as I want! Their support influences my work, and they see my queerness as my superpower and not an affliction, and honestly, I would have to agree.

“Suicide doesn’t care about sexuality, and the people at this charity are so supportive and passionate about people”

Do you support any LGBTIQ+ cause(s)?
Northeast Social Group is based in Newcastle, and they create spaces for queer people to meet up, communicate, and share without judgment. Cat is a powerful human with a heart of gold. Cat and the team work endlessly to make sure they create spaces for all. They also work and support many other queer events, charities, and networks in the region.

Pride Radio is a queer-run media centre and radio station based in Pelaw, based out of the Pride Media Centre. They support the community by creating queer docuseries and starting queer conversations, as well as housing many queer businesses and providing space for trans people to change into more comfortable clothing outside of their home environment.

Lastly, If U Care Share Foundation. They are a suicide prevention, intervention, and support charity based in Chester-le-Street. Suicide doesn’t care about sexuality, and the people at this charity are so supportive and passionate about people and making sure you’re supported in a time of need and after. They work so hard all year around and operate from donations, so any help would be greatly received. These causes really make a difference in the region, and without them, the region would be a less special place.

 


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Ticketmaster renews with Electric Group

Ticketmaster has renewed its partnership with UK-based independent music venue operator Electric Group.

Formed in 2013, the Group runs Electric Brixton (cap. 1,700) in London, SWX (1,800) in Bristol, and NX (2,100) in Newcastle.

The collaboration with Ticketmaster comes as NX (the former O2 Academy Newcastle) hosts its first concert since undergoing a £2.7 million redevelopment.

SWX has also been given a redo, costing £3.2m, after an arson attack damaged the building. The restored venue reopened in early September, just over a year after the incident.

“I’m delighted to renew our long-term ticketing partnership with our friends at Ticketmaster,” says Dominic Madden, Electric Group CEO.

“It’s a great and easy fit and I know that we will receive the focus that is required to support our existing venue estate and the mighty new NX Newcastle.”

“Spaces like these are the heartbeat of the live industry, a breeding ground for talent”

Today’s announcement coincides with the appointment of Sam Isles as senior vice president of Ticketmaster Clubs International, heading up the division across Europe.

Already a veteran of club venue ticketing with a stint at Brixton Academy, Sam joined Ticketmaster to lead TicketWeb UK, and then launched the international arm of Ticketmaster’s Artist Services division, leading its market expansion.

In her new role, Isles will drive Ticketmaster’s ongoing investments in creating industry-leading technology and DIY solutions to serve the unique ticketing needs of clubs and independent venues with innovative tools and solutions to grow their business.

“Having worked with the team at Electric Brixton for more than ten years and now SWX Bristol, we know they’re going to bring a one-of-a-kind vision to NX Newcastle,” says Sam Isles, SVP Clubs International.

“Spaces like these are the heartbeat of the live industry, a breeding ground for talent and where fans discover the artists they’ll love for decades to come. They are vital, and our mission at Ticketmaster is to provide the world-class tools and support that can empower these iconic rooms.”


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Sam Fender cancels US dates, citing mental health

British singer-songwriter Sam Fender has cancelled his upcoming US tour dates, citing mental health concerns.

The 28-year-old from Newcastle announced that he is “taking some time off the road” to look after his mental health, after admitting that he was “burnt out” from touring.

The news comes soon after Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Shawn Mendes cancelled the remaining dates on Wonder: The World Tour to focus on his wellbeing.

Fender’s scrapped US dates include three remaining headline shows in the US, support slots with Florence and the Machine, and a performance at Life is Beautiful festival in Las Vegas.

“It seems completely hypocritical of me to advocate discussion on mental health and write songs about it if I don’t take the time to look after my own mental health,” reads a statement on Fender’s social media channels.

“It’s impossible to do this work on myself while on the road”

“I’ve neglected myself for over a year now and haven’t dealt with things that have deeply affected me. It’s impossible to do this work on myself while on the road, and it’s exhausting feigning happiness and wellness for the sake of business. My friends and colleagues have been worried about me for a while and it’s not going to get better unless I take the time to do so.”

Apologising to fans, Fender has also cancelled a number of rescheduled UK record store dates. However, the singer-songwriter said that he is “super excited” for his Australia dates in November and “everything to come in 2023″.

Earlier this month, Fender announced a 2023 headline show at St James’ Park in his hometown of Newcastle. He will become the first Geordie to top the bill at Newcastle United Football Club’s ground.

Fender’s agent Paul Wilson spoke to IQ earlier this year about the artist’s long-term ambition to perform at St. James’ Park, among other things.

 


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Sam Fender to play historic gig at St. James’ Park

Sam Fender is to become the first Geordie artist to headline St James’ Park in his hometown of Newcastle, UK.

The North Shields singer-songwriter says it is “a dream come true” to announce a show at the 55,000-capacity football stadium, home to Premier League club Newcastle United.

The 28-year-old’s historic concert is set to take place on 9 June 2023, with support from Inhaler and Holly Humberstone.

It will see Fender follow in the footsteps of Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and Ed Sheeran who have all performed at St. James’ Park.

“Ever since I started this band, I always used to joke with the boys that one day we might play St James’ Park in Newcastle,” says Fender.

“This is literally [going to] be the biggest show we’ve ever done – our first stadium show”

“This is literally [going to] be the biggest show we’ve ever done – our first stadium show, which is so weird to say. I can’t wait, it’s gonna be absolutely lush and I hope to see you all there.”

Fender has won two Brit awards, the critics’ choice rising star in 2019 and best rock/alternative singer in 2022, both of which have been turned into beer hand pulls at the Low Lights Tavern in North Shields, where he worked and was discovered at the age of 18.

Both his albums, 2019’s Hypersonic Missiles and 2021’s Seventeen Going Under topped the UK charts, and he had supported the likes of The Killers and The Rolling Stones before headlining a sell-out 45,000 crowd in London’s Finsbury Park in June this year.

Fender’s agent Paul Wilson spoke to IQ earlier this year about the Finsbury Park show and the artist’s long-term ambition to perform at St. James’ Park.

 


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UK fest cancelled due to ‘oversaturated market’

The UK’s This is Tomorrow festival has been cancelled for 2022, with organisers blaming an “oversaturated market” for the decision.

The 15,000-cap event in Newcastle’s Exhibition Park sold out last year, when it featured performances by headliners including Sam Fender, Gerry Cinnamon and Dermot Kennedy. It was set to return from 3-5 June, but no acts had been announced and the event has now been pushed back to 2023.

“We are sorry to tell you that we have taken a business decision to not run This Is Tomorrow festival this year,” says a festival statement. “It’s disappointing we know, but we can promise you a seriously strong line up of acts when we come back with a bigger and better event on 26-28 May in 2023.

“We appreciate your support in buying early bird tickets for this year but, with an oversaturated market and an ongoing economic crisis, 2022 is not the time for the festival to expand further and build on last year’s success.”

“The recent discussions and restrictions placed on the licence for Exhibition Park present a challenge, but this is not the reason we are choosing to have a year off”

Kilimanjaro Live stepped in to stage This is Tomorrow 2021, held last September, after allegations of inappropriate behaviour and bad business practices” were levelled against Newcastle-based promoter SSD Concerts. The claims also led to mass cancellations at SSD’s Hit The North Festival in Newcastle last October after the firm released the findings of an independent investigation.

Chronicle Live reports that Newcastle City Council imposed strict new limits on large-scale events in Exhibition Park – including heavier restrictions on noise levels – following a flurry of complaints from residents regarding last year’s festival. However, organisers say that was not a factor in the cancellation.

“The recent discussions and restrictions placed on the licence for Exhibition Park present a challenge, but this is not the reason we are choosing to have a year off, and we are looking forward to This is Tomorrow returning to its traditional place in the calendar during the May bank holiday weekend,” adds the statement.

“We have begun the process of refunding all of you who took advantage of the early bird offer – and we hope to be in a position very soon when we can announce our exciting plans for 2023.”

 


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Sage takes naming rights for ASM’s Gateshead arena

ASM Global has unveiled tech giant Sage as the naming partner for its Newcastle Gateshead Quays arena and conference centre development in the UK.

Opening in 2024, the 12,500-capacity arena is the centrepiece of a £260 million regeneration scheme which will include a conference and exhibition centre, restaurants, a hotel and large areas of ‘outdoor realm’ and performance space on the same site.

The development will be the North East’s largest business and entertainment district, welcoming more than one million visitors annually and providing an estimated £70m annual boost for the local economy, as well as creating 2,000 jobs.

“This ambitious and transformational development will create a genuinely unique events campus with an iconic waterfront location, so it is fantastic to be teaming up with an equally iconic North East brand in the form of Sage,” says Tom Lynch, SVP, Europe for ASM Global.

“ASM Global has enjoyed over 25 years of success in the North East and we look forward to joining forces with Sage to take live entertainment, conventions and exhibitions to new heights, and cement the region’s reputation as a sought-after business, leisure and cultural destination.”

“We had a vision to welcome a partner that not only has a strong affiliation with the region, but one that shares our values in sustainability and commitment to the local community”

Billed as a “community-focused international venue”, The Sage will sit between the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art and the international music centre, Sage Gateshead. ASM Global also operates the 11,000-capacity Utilita Arena in Newcastle, Gateshead’s twin city, where Sage Group is headquartered. Sage is also a patron of the existing 1,640-capacity Sage Gateshead.

“For this new entertainment and business district in the North East, we had a vision to welcome a partner that not only has a strong affiliation with the region, but one that shares our values in sustainability and commitment to the local community,” says Paul Samuels, EVP of AEG Global Partnerships.

“The Sage has a vision that will provide new opportunities to their customers and also support businesses in the region so we are really proud to be working together with Sage on such an exciting development. As AEG Global Partnerships, we ensure we target the right brands for the right opportunities and we couldn’t have a more perfect fit with Sage.”

ASM Global’s UK portfolio also includes the AO Arena in Manchester, the First Direct Arena in Leeds and The SSE Arena, Wembley.

 


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Electric Group details £1.5m refurb of former O2 Academy Newcastle

Independent music venue owner Electric Group has unveiled plans for the £1.5 million redevelopment of its newest acquisition NX, the former O2 Academy Newcastle.

Opening in October 2022, NX will be a “state-of-the-art 21st-century independent music venue”, to open in March 2022.

The company’s venue portfolio also includes Electric Brixton and SWX Bristol.

“After many years in the planning, I’m delighted to announce our exciting vision for the refurbishment of the O2 Academy Newcastle, which of course has a seminal history and we have the important task of curating the next stage of the venue’s development,” says Electric Group CEO Dominic Madden.

“NX will be a state-of-the-art 21st-century independent music venue. Our vision is to undertake a comprehensive refurbishment of the venue, with a focus on making the main room a more intimate gig experience, both for the music fan and the artist.

“Our vision is to undertake a comprehensive refurbishment, with a focus on making the main room a more intimate gig experience”

“Our plans include the creation of new standing mezzanine staircases on either side of the main room, and with access to an intimate standing platform within the existing balcony and with bars and access to a contained roof terrace for music fans to use.

“This redesign will improve sightlines for music fans and bring them closer to the stage. This 21st-century vision also fully respects the grandeur and history of the existing venue whilst putting the artist and fan experience front and centre of our plans.”

The live diary for NX is already open and is being overseen by Electric Group head of music Mike Weller.

“We operate with an independent mindset, shaping an easy and collaborative culture for promoters to embrace NX with as few financial strings attached as possible,” adds Madden.

“We will be investing substantially to make the venue production complete and we are focused on providing a perfect platform for shows so we can help promoters smash ticket sales.”

 


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UK promoter Magnitude Live launches

Newcastle, UK-based event production company Ingenious Events Group has launched Magnitude Live, a new national promoter headed up by Kieran Stewart, formerly of SSD Concerts.

At SSD – responsible for last summer’s socially distanced Unity Arena – Stewart worked across the company’s portfolio of events and venues, including festivals This is Tomorrow (15,000-cap.) and Hit the North (5,000-cap.) and venues Riverside and Think Tank (350-cap.).

Operating out of Ingenious Events’ Newcastle office, Magnitude Live will focus on “bringing a new wave of artists to the forefront of UK music, offering opportunities to independent artists and delivering a diverse programme of live music entertainment across the country”, according to Ingenious.

“This is a fresh start and the possibilities are endless”

“I’m excited for this new opportunity and taking the reins driving forward this new division, which I believe will be an excellent addition to both the north-east and national music scenes,” says Stewart. “This is a fresh start and the possibilities are endless. We’re looking forward to getting back into venues with some amazing talent as we begin to return to live.”

Ingenious Events Group director Daniel Burnett adds: “This is an extremely exciting move for the company, and with Kieran’s invaluable expertise within the industry I really feel we have the key to bringing a plethora of fantastic live events nationwide. After over a year of isolation we are ready to hit the ground running, bringing gig-goers and fans up and down the country exactly what they have been waiting for.”

Upcoming Magnitude Live shows include Sigma, James Hype, Karen Harding, Shane Codd and Harlee. The company has also struck an exclusive ticketing deal with See Tickets.

 


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SSD Concerts boss quits following allegations

Steve Davis, the managing director of Newcastle-based promoter SSD Concerts, has resigned with immediate effect following allegations of inappropriate behaviour at the company.

The company runs four music festivals – This Is Tomorrow, Hit the North, Bingley Weekender and Corbridge festival – and five venues in Newcastle and Tynemouth. In July 2020, the company launched the UK’s first dedicated socially distanced music venue, the Virgin Money Unity Arena in Newcastle.

The allegations about SSD Concerts were posted on workplace review website Glassdoor last week and subsequently shared on the company’s Instagram account, when it was reportedly hacked.

According to a statement posted on SSD Concerts’ instagram yesterday (5 March), Davis will take no further part in the running of the company. He said: “It would appear some people have been upset or made to feel uncomfortable while working at SSD and for that I’m truly sorry.”

The news was also confirmed to NME by Davis’s representative.

According to the statement, an outside organisation will be conducting an independent investigation into recent claims and will act as a point of contact for complaints.

 

 

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A post shared by @ssdconcerts

Anyone who would like to raise a complaint directly to SSD Concerts’ head of HR can email [email protected].

 


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New lockdown forces early Unity Arena closure

The final shows at the UK’s socially distanced Unity Arena will no longer be able ahead after the government announced new lockdown restrictions in north-east England.

Promoter SSD Concerts confirmed today (17 September) that shows by Jack Savoretti (Friday 18 September), Kaiser Chiefs (Saturday 19 September) and Declan McKenna (Sunday 20 September), as well as 19 September’s Bongo’s Bingo event, have been called off. Tonight’s Chase & Status show will go ahead as planned.

Since opening its doors in August, Unity Arena has hosted the UK’s only major live shows since March, welcoming more than 50,000 fans in total and employing over 200 staff and crew.

Jim McGee of Engine No.4, the production company behind the venue, told IQ last month that he’s proud to have been involved in its creation, noting that the open-air venue – which separates fans with a 2m gap between viewing areas – could be used as a model while social distancing is necessary. “A lot of hoops have had to be jumped through to make this work, and it isn’t particularly economically sustainable, but what we’ve managed to create could be used as a model going forwards,” he explained.

The perfect storm: Inside the UK’s only live shows

Since launching, Unity Arena has welcomed performers including Van Morrison, Sam Fender, the Libertines, Supergrass, Ronan Keating and comedian Jimmy Carr.

Commenting on the early closure of the venue, SSD’s Steve Davis says: “It is extremely disappointing to have to cancel these final shows at the end of what has been an incredible six week run of successfully socially distanced concerts. We’re honoured to have been able to provide a little happiness and joy to thousands of music and comedy fans throughout the region and the UK, in what has been such a tough 2020 for everyone.

“We have complied with all government guidance to ensure the safety and enjoyment of our audience, artists and crew throughout. We’d like to thank all who attended these genuinely heartwarming and uplifting events. For the last six weeks, Newcastle has been the leading light for the live music industry and for that, we should all be very proud.

We’d like to thank all who attended these genuinely heartwarming and uplifting events

“Unfortunately, due to the rise in infections in the north east, we must comply with the council’s and the government’s latest advice. This should not take away from the fact that the people of the north east and from all over the world have embraced this pioneering run of shows.

“On behalf of everyone involved – our sponsor, Virgin Money; Newcastle City Council; the dedicated crew and staff who have worked so hard to make this a success – again I thank you so much. Sadly, the new lockdown measures will bring an end to our run, but the safety and the wellbeing of the people of the north east is our prime and utmost concern.”

As of this evening, the north-east of England – Newcastle upon Tyne, Sunderland, Gateshead, Northumberland, South Tyneside and County Durham – is subject to new restrictions, including a 10pm curfew, to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

 


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