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Rebecca Kane Burton: “Socially distanced venues don’t work”

Beverley Knight’s landmark 23 July show at the London Palladium was a “blessed relief” for everyone involved – but it also showed that socially distanced concerts aren’t viable for the vast majority of music venues, according to Rebecca Kane Burton, CEO of West End venue chain LW Theatres.

British soul singer Knight played to a crowd of around 640 – some 30% of the Palladium’s normal capacity – as part of government-backed ‘pilot’ scheme designed to how venues might operate with social distancing ahead of the planned return of indoor shows on 1 August (now pushed back to at least the 15th). A second pilot event took place at another London venue, the the 1,250-capacity Clapham Grand, on 28 July, with Frank Turner playing to a 20% full room.

“The most horrible thing about the past 19 weeks has been not being able to open these doors,” Kane Burton, reflecting on the Palladium pilot event, tells IQ. “The excitement and thrill of working with my team again to put on that show was a blessed relief.”

Kane Burton (pictured) is full of praise for both Knight and the Palladium team, describing the former as the perfect performer given the circumstances.

“Not many people would be ballsy enough to get on stage with the room only 30% full,” she says, “but Beverley did it with gusto – she got everyone up on their feet dancing, which in turn made people feel like they were allowed to enjoy themselves.”

“The excitement and thrill of working with my team again was a blessed relief”

As for the LW/Palladium team, the message from Public Health England was that “they couldn’t find one flaw” in how the show – which featured temperature checks and a host of hygienic gadgetry – was organised.

However, while she says she considers the Palladium show a success, Kane Burton – like Ally Wolf from the Clapham Grand – is clear that it should not be used a blueprint for how live events may reopen safely in the UK.

For a start, both shows lost money – “Normally the ratio of staff to customers [at the Palladium] is 1:40,” explains Kane Burton, “but for Beverley Knight, it was 1:10; no promoter is going to pay for that” – and while Knight did her best, even the PHE officials present noticed the lack of atmosphere present with a sparse, mask-wearing audience.

“Socially distanced venues don’t work,” says Kane Burton. With a 70% empty venue, “you’re not allowed to have that moment of escapism” that comes with seeing a show at a packed venue, as the Knight gig showed, she adds.

“To get an atmosphere you need to fill the place to the rafters. That’s how you get a rocking Palladium, and that’s how you bring venues back to life.”

Knight agrees. “I would not encourage any performer to step inside an auditorium where they’re playing to 30% capacity,” she tells IQ. “Financial considerations aside, that energy that you need isn’t there.

“To get an atmosphere you need to fill the place to the rafters”

“And equally for the audience listening: they appreciated what we’re doing on stage but they didn’t feel ‘in’ the gig. The euphoria wasn’t there.”

Along with much of the UK live music industry, Kane Burton is now pushing the British government for a reopening date for non-socially distanced shows, as well as working with PHE to develop guidance for post-Covid-19 performing arts.

While the Beverley Knight show didn’t provide a roadmap for the future of live in the UK, it did signal to the rest of the concert business that venues are pushing hard to reopen when they’re allowed, concludes Kane Burton.

“We wanted to send a message to all promoters and agents that we, as a venue industry, are not resting on our laurels,” she says. “We’re here in the trenches, and everything we’re doing is about getting the industry back on track.”

“We need to get going again, because without live music, this country loses its soul,” she adds. “We can’t just sit here and do nothing.”

 


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Twickets partners with Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s Palladium

Via a new partnership with Twickets, Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s LW Theatres has became the first theatre operator in the UK to offer consumer friendly face-value ticket resale across its venues.

Tickets purchased via LW Theatres box offices can now be resold via Twickets’ website or mobile app for no more than the price originally paid, offering an alternative to traditional secondary ticketing sites.

LW Theatres, formerly Really Useful Theatres, operates seven London venues: Theatre Royal Drury Lane, Cambridge Theatre, Adelphi Theatre, Gillian Lynne Theatre, the Other Palace, Her Majesty’s Theatre and the 2,286-capacity London Palladium, which is popular live music venue.

Launched in 2015, Twickets has worked with artists including Adele, Stormzy, Ed Sheeran, Arctic Monkeys, Mumford and Sons and the 1975, and facilitated the ethical resale of more than half a million fans’ tickets. The LW partnership is its first official tie-in with a UK theatre group.

“Our goal is always to improve the ticket-buying experience, fill venues and keep customers happy”

Rebecca Kane Burton, CEO of LW Theatres, says: “We continue to strive to not only offer our customers an incredible experience, but also help them when things don’t go to plan. Providing a safe, secure and easy way to resell tickets is best practice and yet another step LW Theatres is taking to innovate and improve theatre-going.”

The UK is in the midst of a market shift away from rip-off secondary ticketing platforms and towards capped consumer friendly resale services,” Twickets’ founder, Richard Davies, adds.

“I am proud Twickets is at the forefront of this change, and delighted we can extend our service to theatre-lovers via this groundbreaking partnership with LW Theatres. Our goal is always to improve the ticket-buying experience, fill venues and keep customers happy.”

In addition to its UK base, Twickets is active in Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland, Spain and the US.

 


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Mike Hamer joins Really Useful as Palladium manager

London venue operator Really Useful Theatres Group has appointed Mike Hamer, formerly of Koko (1,410-cap.) in Camden, venue manager of the London Palladium.

The hiring of Hamer – who spent 11 years at Koko, and has also worked at V Festival and Glastonbury Festival – follows the appointment of Dave Gaydon (ex-Roundhouse), who is tasked with presenting more live music at Really Useful’s venues, especially the 2,286-capacity Palladium, as head of programming in June.

Other recent hires for Really Useful Group, which owns and operates six theatres in the West End of London, include Vanessa Andreis, who joined in July as commercial partnerships director, and former O2 GM Rebecca Kane Burton, who was named MD last September.

“The appointment of Mike Hamer is yet another key appointment in the new music strategy for the London Palladium”

“The appointment of Mike Hamer is yet another key appointment in the new music strategy for the London Palladium,” comments Kane Burton. “We’re so pleased Mike is bringing his wealth of experience to the world-famous London Palladium at such an exciting time for the venue.”

Hamer adds: “I am thrilled to be joining the team at the London Palladium and driving the live music element forward at this iconic venue.”

Really Useful Theatres is a wholly owned subsidiary of Lord Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group. Its other venues are Her Majesty’s Theatre (1,216-cap.), Adelphi Theatre (1,500-cap.), Theatre Royal, Drury Lane (2,196-cap.), Cambridge Theatre (1,231-cap.), New London Theatre (1,024-cap.) and the newly acquired The Other Palace (312-cap.), which opened as the St James Theatre in 2012 on the site of the former Westminster Theatre.

 


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A year after Una buy, Sky Tickets defunct

Less than a year after announcing its first music-industry partnerships, Sky Tickets – the fledgling entertainment/sports ticketing division of broadcast giant Sky UK Ltd – is no longer doing business, multiple sources have told IQ.

Sky Tickets was, along with Amazon UK’s Amazon Tickets and Alibaba’s Tao Piao Piao/Damai.cn, one of several new ticketing ventures launched by major multinationals in recent years, and appeared to be laying the groundwork for expansion in the live music space with last year’s acquisition of UK start-up Una Tickets.

Concurrent with the buy-out of Una, Sky announced the platform would be the exclusive ticketing partner of Omeara, the new London venue managed by Mumford & Sons’ Ben Lovett – a deleted 19 October tweet from the now defunct Sky Tickets Twitter account read: “Tonight, London’s newest music venue launches. Check out what’s going on at #OMEARA for yourself: https://tickets.sky.com/events” – while then-Sky Tickets director Mark Guymer also confirmed to IQ the the company would provide a “full end-to-end service” for Curious Arts Festival in the New Forest.

Sky also began sending delegates to industry events to drum up business for the new platform; Sky Tickets’ Alex Kennedy, for instance, spoke at the ‘future of live music’ panel at FastForward 2016.

Sky appeared to be laying the groundwork for live music expansion with the acquisition of Una Tickets

However, IQ understands the deal with Omeara fell apart not long after it was announced (one person close to Sky suggests it was a case of the company simply “not managing to get their ticketing plan together”), with tickets currently sold through a variety of agents, and Curious Arts has since moved over to Eventbrite. The web address tickets.sky.com now redirects to the Sky homepage.

Guymer, the man tasked with leading Sky Tickets, has also moved on, joining Really Useful Group, where he is overseeing the launch of its new ticketing platform as managing director. He reports to Rebecca Kane-Burton, the former O2 GM who joined the theatre company last September.

While’s Sky’s future plans for Una/Sky Tickets remain unclear, Sky UK stills holds a significant stake in Una Tickets Ltd, and Sky execs Karl Holmes, Colin Jones and Christopher Taylor remain Una directors. Guymer also notes Sky recently began rolling out its Sky VIP loyalty programme, which includes the chance to win VIP tickets to sporting events and film screenings, in the UK and Republic of Ireland.

Sky UK did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

 


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Really Useful hires first commercial partnerships chief

Really Useful Theatres Group has appointed Vanessa Andreis to the newly created role of commercial partnerships director.

Really Useful, which owns and operates six theatres in the West End of London, has been on a hiring spree of late, poaching The O2’s general manager, Rebecca Kane Burton, last September and last month appointing former Roundhouse head of music Dave Gaydon as its head of programming.

Andreis most recently served as executive director of client services and partnerships at Lime Communications, a brand partnerships agency, and previously spent 12 years Warner Bros as director of promotions and partnerships.

Kane Burton, now Really Useful’s managing director, comments: “I’m absolutely delighted to welcome Vanessa to the Really Useful family. The role of commercial partnerships director is a newly created one, and reflects the future vision and strategy for our company.

“Vanessa will be looking to launch the group’s partnership programme: a new direction for the business”

“Not only will Vanessa be looking after all of our non-ticketing revenue across all our venues, but will also be looking to launch the group’s partnership programme – a new direction for the business.”

“I am excited to start a new challenge within this world-renowned and prestigious company,” adds Andreis. “I look forward to working with such a talented team to develop further their already extensive partnerships across the Really Useful Theatre portfolio.”

Really Useful Theatres is a wholly owned subsidiary of Lord Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group. Its venues are the London Palladium (2,286-cap.), Her Majesty’s Theatre (1,216-cap.), Adelphi Theatre (1,500-cap.), Theatre Royal, Drury Lane (2,196-cap.), Cambridge Theatre (1,231-cap.), New London Theatre (1,024-cap.) and the newly acquired The Other Palace (312-cap.), which opened as the St James Theatre in 2012 on the site of the former Westminster Theatre.

 


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Really Useful plans music push with Gaydon hire

Really Useful Theatres, which owns and operates six theatres in the West End of London, has appointed ex-Roundhouse head of music Dave Gaydon as its head of programming.

Gaydon will work alongside Rebecca Kane Burton, formerly general manager of The O2, to present more live music at Really Useful’s venues, particularly the 2,286-capacity London Palladium.

The Palladium, described in a press release as the “jewel in the group’s crown”, recently underwent a £1 million refurbishment, and has in the past 12 months hosted shows by Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson, Coldplay, Bon Jovi and Kaiser Chiefs. (Dylan’s agent, ITB’s Barry Dickins, describes his three nights at the Palladium as a “wonderful experience”.)

Gaydon (pictured) will remain as a director of GOAT Music, the events agency which last year staged its first festival, GOAT Festival, in Goa, India, although Really Useful says his “focus” will be chiefly on his new role.

“I am delighted and feel privileged to be part of the move into a new era for this incredible venue”

He comments: “I am delighted and feel privileged to be part of the move into a new era for this incredible venue. There are a whole host of both heritage and contemporary artists that I know will work fantastically well in the intimate setting of the Palladium, and I’m looking forward programming some great gigs.”

“Since taking the helm here, I’ve been keen to secure the right music person to propel the London Palladium forward and secure the calibre of acts this world-famous stage deserves,” adds Kane Burton.

“Dave’s credentials at the Roundhouse and beyond speak for themselves. I’m thrilled he’s joined us and can’t wait to see how the place flourishes under his creative direction.”

Really Useful Theatres is a wholly owned subsidiary of Lord Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group. Its other venues are Her Majesty’s Theatre (1,216-cap.), Adelphi Theatre (1,500-cap.), Theatre Royal, Drury Lane (2,196-cap.), Cambridge Theatre (1,231-cap.), New London Theatre (1,024-cap.) and the newly acquired The Other Palace (312-cap.), which opened as the St James Theatre in 2012 on the site of the former Westminster Theatre.

 


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The O2 general manager steps down

Rebecca Kane Burton, vice-president and general manager of The O2, is to step down after four and a half years at the London entertainment complex.

As of 1 September, Kane Burton (pictured) will become managing director of West End theatre owner-operator Really Useful Theatres (RUT), a division of the Lord Lloyd-Webber’s Really Useful Group.

Tom Miserendino, CEO and president of The O2 operator AEG Europe, says Kane Burton has been a “valued member of our management team” and “can be rightfully proud of the legacy she leaves and the excellent team in place at the venue.”

“We wish her well for the exciting things she has planned next,” he adds.

Kane Burton was previously managing director of the Alexandra Palace, which she joined in 2008 from English Heritage.

“The world’s number one music venue will always hold a fond place in my heart”

Her appointment reflects “a change in emphasis for RUT”, says the company, which plans to grow its concert business, secure a number of new sponsors and launch its own ticketing company in the new few years.

“I am thrilled about this appointment and cannot think of a better or more exciting time to join Really Useful Theatres,” says Kane Burton. “I have a real passion for theatre and historic buildings and I am fortunate that this role combines the best of both. Working across some of London’s most iconic and innovative theatres in the heart of the West End is a challenge that I am delighted to accept.

“It has been a wonderful four and a half years at The O2 and I am hugely proud of what the team have achieved during my time as VP and general manager. The world’s number one music venue will always hold a fond place in my heart.”

The O2 Arena was once again the world’s best-performing in 2015, selling a total of 1,819,487 tickets, over 700,000 more than second-placed Manchester Arena.

 


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