Show Patrol: Inside Snow Patrol’s live comeback
Back in October 2012, when Snow Patrol were nearing the end of their hugely successful year-long Fallen Empires tour, their manager Peter Mensch flew out to see them play in Santiago, Chile, and offered some choice advice to the Northern Irish rock band.
“I said to them, ‘Gee, let’s not wait three years to make another record,’” he recalls.
Snow Patrol evidently took the advice to heart, as they didn’t take three years to make a follow-up to Fallen Empires. They took seven. “That was not part of the plan,” deadpans Mensch. “They are the band that’s taken longer off than any band I’ve ever managed, so I’m learning on the job. There isn’t a playbook: Seven-year Absences for Dummies.”
The reason for the group’s prolonged withdrawal, singer-songwriter Gary Lightbody explained last year, was down to his personal struggles with writer’s block, depression and alcoholism. Thankfully, the singer gradually overcame his demons, which helped provide the creative fuel for Wildness, Snow Patrol’s seventh studio album, which was released last May, debuting at No. 2 in the United Kingdom, topping the charts in Ireland, and becoming a top-ten hit throughout Europe.
Having not played live in almost five years, 2018 also saw the long overdue return of Snow Patrol to the touring market, beginning with a small run of 900- to 2,000-capacity shows in England, Ireland and America. They were followed by some European festival dates and a three-month stretch supporting Ed Sheeran on a sell-out run of US stadiums. In December, the band kicked off its own European arena tour, which included sell-out shows at Belfast’s SSE Arena, Arena Birmingham, Dublin’s 3Arena, Glasgow’s The SSE Hydro, London’s The O2 and Amsterdam’s Ziggo Dome, as well as dates at Hamburg’s Barclaycard Arena and Berlin’s Velodrom.
“I didn’t know if we’d be able to be as big as we were in 2012. Or if we’d be smaller. Or how much smaller”
“I didn’t know what to expect,” admits Mensch about the Wildness Tour, which continues throughout 2019 and includes 21 dates in North America; headline shows in Dubai, Mexico, Colombia, Paraguay, Chile, Brazil, and Argentina; as well as European festival dates and a 33,000-capacity homecoming concert at Ward Park, in the band’s hometown of Bangor, Northern Ireland.
“I didn’t know if we’d be able to be as big as we were in 2012. Or if we’d be smaller. Or how much smaller,” continues Mensch. “When your last dates are six years apart in some cases, you don’t know [if the fan base is still there]. As your audience gets older they get tougher to motivate… [Snow Patrol] could have just disappeared altogether.”
“When a band is away for seven years there’s always a little bit of a grey area as to what they are going to come back to, especially with such a changed landscape in the industry,” says X-ray Touring’s Steve Strange, who has been Snow Patrol’s agent since their second album, 2001’s When It’s All Over We Still Have To Clear Up, when the band was playing 80- to 200-capacity rooms. Breakthrough album Final Straw, released two years later, and its 4 million-selling follow-up Eyes Open, featuring the huge global hit Chasing Cars, made Snow Patrol one of the UK’s biggest touring rock bands. They’re popularity may have dipped slightly in the years since then, but they’re still a major touring force around the world, as the success of their latest tour proves.
“They don’t have a fickle audience. It’s a very loyal one and my prediction has proved correct,” notes Strange, who says he was “never concerned” about the band’s ability to still move tickets, despite their lengthy time out of the spotlight. “They’re a band that has got a great legacy of hits and that has come back with a very strong record. I’m very happy with where we are. We’re in very good shape for a band that has let a seven-year gap happen between cycles.”
“When a band is away for seven years there’s always a little bit of a grey area as to what they are going to come back to”
X-why-z’s Christian Vadillo-Bilda, who promoted five shows in Germany, notes, “It was hard to predict in the beginning which level of venue we should go for, as the band has been away for such a long time. So we decided to go for a mixture of 5,000-capacity venues to arenas in some markets, and it worked well. We sold out the ‘smaller’ venues and did up to 7,000 tickets on the bigger shows.”
Before Snow Patrol could return to the road, however, a comprehensive review of the band’s live set-up was required, explains long-standing tour manager Neil Mather. “The technology had changed so much in the six years they had been away from touring. We went to the lock-up and there was equipment there that was at least twice the size of what it now is. The backline pretty much required a complete rebuild from top to bottom along with a re-evaluation of the whole set-up.”
Rehearsals subsequently took place in London at Music Bank and SW19 at the start of 2018, ahead of the band’s keenly anticipated live return at London’s Islington Assembly Hall on 11 April 2018, swiftly followed by dates at New York’s Irving Plaza and Hollywood’s Fonda Theater. From there, the band travelled to Ireland for a brief run of intimate club and theatre shows before jetting back to America, where they spent three months performing to over a million people as the main support on Ed Sheeran’s gigantic stadium tour. The invite to open for Sheeran came direct from the singer, who supported the band on their 2012 Fallen Empires Tour and has written a number of songs with Snow Patrol’s Johnny McDaid.
For Snow Patrol, “the Sheeran tour was a fantastic opportunity to reposition the band in the States,” says Strange, who credits it with boosting ticket sales for the group’s headline run of US shows in April and May, many of which have since sold out. As well as reacquainting American audiences with Snow Patrol, the Sheeran trek also gave members and crew the chance to work on plans for their own headline tour.
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“She’s one of the kindest, most supportive people”: Emma Banks collects MITs
Some 1,200 people, including hundreds of international promoters who’d flown in for the occasion, gathered at Grosvenor House Hotel in London last night to celebrate with CAA agent Emma Banks as she picked up the 2018 Music Industry Trusts (MITs) Award.
The charity event, in aid of the Brit Trust and Nordoff Robbins, saw Banks join the ranks of previous MITs recipients including Sony Music CEO Rob Stringer, Universal Music CEO Sir Lucian Grange, Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun, Syco’s Simon Cowell and Glastonbury Festival founder Michael Eavis.
Banks, announced as the recipient of the 2018 award in May, was introduced by Peter Mensch, manager of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Muse and Metallica, then presented her award by Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Chad Smith, who paid tribute to “one of the kindest, most supportive people” he knows.
Video tributes, meanwhile, came from Smith, Kylie Minogue, Katy Perry, Tenacious D, CAA’s Mike Greek and Rob Light, Norah Jones, Kraftwerk, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Arcade Fire and others, while there were live performances by Florence and the Machine, Beth Ditto and Texas.
Banks, the co-head with Mike Greek of Creative Artists Agency (CAA) London, is a six-time winner of the best agent (‘second-least offensive agent’) award at the Arthur Awards, the live music industry’s Oscars equivalents. In addition to Florence, Kylie, Perry, the Chilis and Arcade Fire, Banks’s roster includes Lorde, Muse, Green Day and Haim.
“This is a cross between your wedding reception and your wake,” she joked as she took the stage to receive the award. Banks then gave a speech paying tribute to women in the music industry, using the occasion to highlight that while things are better than they were, there’s still work to do.
“I’ve come to realise how important this is for women in the industry in general”
“I started a couple of years before the MITs started [in 1992], and there weren’t women that were recognised in the industry,” she said. “It took 16 years for the MITs to recognise a woman: my lovely friend, Kylie Minogue.”
After namechecking two of her mentors – Ian Flooks, who “I don’t think ever saw me as a woman, just one of his name”, and Gail Colson, who “was a trailblazer, running Charisma Records in the ’70s, then went on to become one of the most important managers in the UK” – Banks told the packed room that she sees her MITs win as an important milestone for women in music.
“Since being honoured earlier this year, and the award being announced, I’ve come to realise how important this is for women in the industry in general,” Banks explained.
“In 2018 we look at a live music business that has so many strong female performers. […] These are women who are running their own businesses, and who are regularly part of the highest-grossing tours list. There are now more women in senior positions at labels, and management companies and talent agencies, at publishers, on the radio – across the whole music business.”
“We’ve come a really long way,” she concluded. “There’s always more to do – but I’m sure that everyone who has been around for a while will acknowledge that we’re making steps in the right direction. And all the other diversity issues that we have in this business – and it’s probably more than just the male-to-female ratio these days – will soon get addressed, I’m quite sure.”
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“I’m a Belieber!”: Peter Mensch buries the hatchet with Justin
Legendary artist manager Peter Mensch used his appearance at last week’s ILMC 30 Breakfast Meeting to put to rest his much-publicised feud with Justin Bieber, telling delegates: “I’m a Belieber now!”
The self-professed ‘greatest manager in the fucking world’ said he had two things to say before the interview started in earnest. First off, he paid tribute to Brian Murphy, West Coast president of AEG Presents and Goldenvoice and co-founder of Avalon Attractions, who died on 6 March.
Then he stood up and removed his jumper to reveal a Justin Bieber T-shirt. Five years ago, he revealed, he’d done a talk at the Royal Albert Hall in which he insulted Justin Bieber and his manager, Scooter Braun, by suggesting the Canadian singer’s career would be over in three years. (He also told the Sun he’d “take Bieber to the woodshed and spank him” to instil some some discipline in the wayward popstar.)
“I was wrong,” Mensch said at ILMC. “I will acknowledge Justin didn’t go away… I’m now a Belieber.”
He also paid tribute to Braun for his role in organising the One Love Manchester tribute event, saying he thinks “Scooter is OK”.
Breakfast Meeting host Dan Steinberg (Promoter 101) – standing in for Ed Bicknell, who’d broken his leg – got the questions off to a confrontational start: “Why so angry?”
“I don’t give a flying fuck if you can play live… You always get better”
“Because if you manage bands you’re mummy bird and they’re baby bird and anyone doesn’t help you feed them…” responded Mensch. “You’ve got to lead or follow or get the fuck out of the way.”
The ‘mummy bird’ to Metallica, Muse, Red Hot Chili Peppers and others said he got into management after a stint as “the world’s worst tour accountant,” and in the office still sits next to his “best friend and only friend in the business,” QPrime partner Cliff Bernstein.
“The most important thing a manager can do is get the best music out of the act they can,” he told the room.
“I don’t give a flying fuck if they can play live. We managed Foals for two years and no one had seen them live. It’s all about the music. You always get better at live. Maybe you’re never gonna be God’s gift, but you’ll get better.”
Mensch said there’s one key to choosing the artists they work with: “It’s the music. Someone sends us music, we listen to it, someone says ‘it sucks’, end of conversation. Two of us listen and say ‘that’s a good record’ and on the way to Popeyes Fried Chicken we decide to manage them.
“Like Muse’s third album. The first album sold 10,000 albums, second didn’t come out in the US. We listened to the third record [loved it], went to Bologna, went to see them and said ‘we want to manage you in America’ and they started laughing because they’d had zero success in America.”
“The most important thing a manager can do is get the best music out of the act they can”
He also admitted to looking forward to Mondays, not Fridays, “because I don’t work on Saturday and Sunday.”
“So what motivates one of the greatest managers in the world?” asked Steinberg: “I’m fuelled by hate! I’ve had the chip [on my shoulder] since I was ten.
“We’re the best in the fucking world. We want to shove it down people’s throats.”
So what’s the ideal fan experience for Mensch? “Three hours of my favourite band. I want to have a great time and great sound. I wanna bang my head and walk out feeling amazing.”
However, you’re not likely to see him in any small clubs looking for a new act any time soon. “Most music is crap for me. I don’t hear as much amazing music as I used to. I don’t listen to as much new stuff because I only care about my acts. Cliff listens to a lot more – my feeling is, ‘If I don’t manage you, fuck you’.”
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Peter Mensch confirmed for ILMC 30
Legendary artist manager Peter Mensch will be the subject of the ILMC 30 Breakfast Meeting, the leading touring/festival business conference’s keynote interview, organisers announced today.
The news comes as the International Live Music Conference announces the first round of agenda topics for the 30th anniversary edition of the event in March 2018.
From 1979 to 1982, Mensch worked as a manager at Leber Krebs, where he was responsible for AC/DC, Scorpions, Def Leppard and Michael Schenker. Starting on April Fools’ Day 1982, Mensch and Cliff Burnstein formed Q Prime with just Def Leppard. The company’s roster currently includes Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Muse, Snow Patrol, Foals, Silversun Pickups, Cage the Elephant and the Black Keys.
The Breakfast Meeting, which takes place at 10.30 on Friday 9 March, will be hosted by former artist manager and raconteur Ed Bicknell. Previous interviewees in the hot-seat have included artist managers Paul McGuinness and Doc McGhee, WME’s Marc Geiger and Live Nation’s Arthur Fogel.
Also announced is the first round of conference sessions, including ‘BREXIT 2025: Looking back’, chaired by UK Music’s CEO Michael Dugher, which considers the impact of Brexit on the European touring business.
“We’ve never had an edition of ILMC when there were so many topics to cover”
‘Gender: Calm down, what’s the fuss?’, meanwhile, sees Coda Agency’s Natasha Bent chair a panel of industry leaders to discuss gender and inclusivity in the live music business, with guests including renowned investment banking head and mother of nine Dame Helena Morrissey.
Meanwhile, ILMC’s Venue Summit strand will include ‘Venues Summit: Corridors of power’, chaired by Kilimanjaro Live’s Stuart Galbraith, which considers whether venues hold the real power in the global touring business. ‘Venues Venue: Spaces for stars’, chaired by Ahoy Arena’s Peter van der Veer, presents a first look at new data from the NAA, EAA and IQ’s European Arena Yearbook while discussing the race to meet changing consumer tastes.
“We’ve never had an edition of ILMC when there were so many topics to cover,” says conference head Greg Parmley. “The full agenda will be announced in January, and with some of the industry’s biggest names and most active campaigners already confirmed, it’s shaping up fast.”
An invitation-only event, ILMC will welcome over 1,000 delegates to the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington from 6–9 March 2018. Companies supporting ILMC 30 include Live Nation, Ticketmaster, CTS Eventim, DEAG, Showsec, Malaysia Major Events, AirX, Eventbrite, United Talent Agency, WME Entertainment, eps, Emporium Presents, Feld Entertainment, Green Copper and Buma Cultuur.
Full information on ILMC’s schedule of networking and events is online at 30.ilmc.com.