The New Bosses 2023: Dylan Cherry, Endeavour Live
The 16th edition of IQ Magazine’s New Bosses was published in IQ 121 this month, revealing 20 of the most promising 30-and-unders in the international live music business.
To get to know this year’s cohort a little better, IQ conducted interviews with each one of 2023’s New Bosses, discovering their greatest inspirations and pinpointing the reasons for their success.
Catch up on the previous interview with Daniel Turner, an agent at Earth Agency (UK) here. The series continues with Dylan Cherry, senior promoter at Endeavour Live (NZ).
I started DJing when I was 16 in high school on a fake ID. I didn’t charge the club until I was 18 as I was terrified they would find out I had my 19th birthday there three years in a row. They worked it out eventually. I started a weekly live band night when I was 18 called REKKIT which was hosted in a bar in central Auckland that showcased local acts. I eventually started programming club shows for bigger bands like Badbadnotgood, Slow Magic, Hayden James, King Tuff, Mini Mansions, Kaytranada, Unknown Mortal Orchestra etc.
I then joined the Red Bull team and worked on the New Zealand leg of Sound Select for two years as well as somehow found myself hosting the day show on Kiwi FM and DJing at festivals with some friends such as Hollywood DJs. I was booked to perform at Rhythm and Vines which led me to get to know Hamish Pinkham, the founder and programme director. He brought me on board to work on the festival as well as their other company Endeavour Live.
I’ve programmed five Rhythm and Vines with Hamish, including a kiwi-only pandemic edition and we have also created the festival brands Spring City, Gardens, BreakOut (soon to launch in London) and the Golden Run series. We’ve toured Fatboy Slim, Groove Armada, Angus and Julia Stone, Netsky, Wilkinson, Crooked Colours, Set Mo, Basement Jaxx and many more including some of the biggest electronic shows in the world during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Your DJing exploits sound fascinating. What advice would you give to anyone who is trying to find a job in live music?
Start your own club night! There’s lots of amazing talent everywhere, find it and grow together.
Where is your favourite venue for discovering new talent?
The Tuning Fork in Auckland. I’ve seen everyone from IDLES to Billie Eilish during their early touring years and have loved using it to showcase local talent like Harper Finn and NO COMPLY.
What events, tours or festivals are you most looking forward to in the year ahead?
I’m really looking forward to a festival we do in Auckland called Spring City. It’s in the Auckland Domain and when the sun sets with the Auckland Museum in the background it’s all time. It’s a really beautiful historic piece of land and last year we successfully debuted Spring City with Groove Armada, Channel Tres and Kiwi legends Ladyhawke and Zane Lowe.
“Our audiences are passionate, engaged and at some points extremely rowdy”
Being in such a remote country must prove challenging when it comes to booking international acts. Are there any particular events you collaborate with to try to entice talent to NZ?
We are fortunate that New Zealand is an incredibly beautiful place to visit and most people relish the opportunity to tour here. Not to mention it’s an important part of building your audience across the Australasian and Asia Pacific regions. Our audiences are passionate, engaged and at some points extremely rowdy. Plus, throw in a visit to Hobbiton and you’re good. We are blessed to have some great friends and partners in Australia that throw amazing festivals so it’s not too difficult to get a good and appealing run together across the region.
You are a big champion of homegrown talent. Are there any young Kiwi acts you work with that you think people overseas should be keeping an eye on?
I am constantly impressed with drum and bass duo LEE MVTTHEW’s. We did a six-hour show at Spark Arena where they DJ’d the whole time and it’s something I’ll always be proud of. I love what SACHI is currently doing bringing back free club shows, I think EMWA is going to be the next Skrillex, Elliot and Vincent are one of the best bands in the world and I love what Beccie B is doing both with DJing and with her Sugar and Spice collective. She’s a bonafide legend.
“We are blessed with some incredible superstars in our backyard including BENEE, L.A.B, Montell2099 and The Beths”
The pandemic gave Kiwi acts a unique opportunity to grow their fanbases. Has that process continued post-Covid, or are international artists still dominating ticket sales?
It’s nice to have the ability to showcase international acts again after a long stretch of Covid isolation but we will always heavily feature local talent. We were lucky to still be able to hold large events including our festival Rhythm and Vines in New Zealand to bring that much-needed escape. Plus, we are blessed with some incredible superstars in our backyard including BENEE, L.A.B, Montell2099 and The Beths to name a few and honoured to have them on our lineups.
As a New Boss, what one thing would you do to make the live music industry a better place?
Magically cheapen international freight.
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Remote control: New Zealand market report
With the pandemic in the rear-view mirror, concerts have returned to New Zealand, or Aotearoa as it is increasingly being referred to by many inhabitants, and touring is back in full force – mostly – in the world’s most remote market. Lars Brandle reports.
The home of the legendary Flying Nun Records, and the birthplace of Lorde, Broods, Benee, The Beths, stadium-fillers Six60, and many others, New Zealand has a thriving music scene.
With a population of more than 1.6m, Auckland remains NZ’s biggest market. But a glance at touring itineraries reveals the country’s touring landscape has hotspots on both islands.
Ed Sheeran’s 2023 Mathematics Tour of New Zealand (promoted by Frontier Touring) dropped into Sky Stadium in the capital, Wellington, and Auckland’s Eden Park – the nation’s home of rugby.
Rod Stewart played Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin and Mission Estate Winery in Hawke’s Bay in April 2023, and blink-182 will visit in February 2024 (both Live Nation) with dates at the 12,000-capacity Sparks Stadium in Auckland and the 9,000-capacity Wolfbrook Arena in Christchurch.
When the Foo Fighters drop by in January 2024 for Frontier Touring, Dave Grohl and co will rock out on both islands with a trek that includes Auckland’s GO Media Stadium (Mt Smart Stadium), Christchurch’s Orangetheory Stadium, and Wellington’s Sky Stadium.
“The top end of the New Zealand market is doing incredibly well with huge success for P!nk across three stadiums, Harry Styles and arena acts Lewis Capaldi, Lizzo and Blink-182 also looking at sold out dates,” says Mark Kneebone, managing director of Live Nation NZ.
“It does feel like there are changes in our market. But that might be generational”
“We are back from the pandemic,” notes Brent Eccles, director of Eccles Entertainment, the full-service booking agency and concert promoter. “It does feel like there are changes in our market. But that might be generational.” Venues and cities all across Aotearoa have “become more professional” and are “keen to work with promoters to get international artists to come to town”.
Formed by Brent and Helen Eccles in 2000, Eccles Entertainment exclusively represents Frontier Touring, Illusive Presents, Chugg Entertainment, Arena Touring, and Roundhouse Entertainment in NZ.
The challenge, he continues, is making shows work on all levels in a busy marketplace. The sweet spot for ticket prices “is all-important, and we need to set these uniquely for NZ.”
The good; the not so good
NZ’s music scene is vibrant, and Kiwis rarely miss out on the big tours, although the problems promoters are faced with are many and varied. The tyranny of distance can’t be adjusted; it’s a challenge doing business in this stunning part of the world, whose Scottish influences can be spotted in town names from Invercargill to Dunedin, Balfour and more.
Caroline Harvie-Teare, chief executive at Venues Ōtautahi, reports “a strong return in international acts” and, “in some respects, exceeding pre-pandemic levels”. Mark Gosling, general manager for Spark Arena, says business “has been fantastic this year,” with shows “selling well albeit later than pre-Covid”.
Rising costs across the live music ecosystem are another issue giving promoters headaches. And the spectre of a recession was confirmed in June 2023 when NZ’s central bank raised interest rates to a 14-year high. The country is now in a “technical recession” as the economy shrank in the first quarter. Locals, who are already feeling the pinch from inflation, will also feel the sting of higher mortgage repayments. Whether it has a marked impact on discretionary spending, for concert tickets and food and beverage at shows, remains to be seen.
“NZ radio is far more supportive than Australia”
The NZ market “on most levels has always been solid, and they love their music”, says legendary Australian concert promoter Michael Chugg. “NZ radio is far more supportive than Australia,” and its fans plug into a “club and university circuit, with a few wineries and some beautiful regional town halls”, he notes. “It’s a strong local market for local and Australian bands and smaller internationals.”
Venues sizes, however, have always been a problem, notes Chugg. “For decades, you played outside, or you did venues up to around 3-4,000 [capacity].” Wellington, the capital, “desperately needs an indoor arena,” he adds. Having to use ferries to move equipment between islands, and “the cost of sitting around for two to three days makes it tough.”
Chugg Entertainment produced Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road dates in NZ, his business is behind The Chicks’ trek, which includes two concerts this October at Christchurch’s Wolf brook Arena, and Robbie Williams’ return, which will see him perform to 50,000 fans at two Mission Estate Winery shows. The outdoor winery network in NZ is, like its bigger brother, Australia, a popular destination with older, concert-loving audiences.
The plight of grassroots live music venues has an advocate in Save Our Venues NZ. When the pandemic closed music rooms around the country in 2020, the organisation, with support from industry support groups MusicHelps and Boosted NZ, raised almost NZ$500,000, to support 30 “crucial small music venues” across NZ.
Save Our Venues NZ celebrated a win in April 2023 when Christchurch City Council endorsed the commencement of planning changes and non-regulatory initiatives to protect live music venues in the South Island city. The organisation worked alongside venues to develop a solution with council that “mitigates noise conflict with residents and ensures there is a plan for the future of live music in the city,” reads a statement. It’s hoped councils in other populated areas will follow suit.
“We are staging on-sales across different cities at different hours of the day, even in situations where there might only be a few thousand tickets per market to put on sale”
The live music industry’s mortal enemy, Viagogo, doesn’t have any friends in New Zealand, where the Commerce Commission took the rogue ticketing agent to court for a civil trial. The Commission is tasked with policing the Fair Trading Act and launched proceedings at Auckland’s High Court in early 2023 following a flood of consumer complaints over Viagogo’s practices. At the time of writing, the court case was ongoing. The live music industry is monitoring the outcome.
As NZ tries to squash Viagogo, the country welcomes an international ticketing brand, AXS, whose domestic operations are led by Andrew Travis, CEO of AXS Australia and New Zealand. The AEG-backed operation has quietly ticketed a couple of major shows for Frontier Touring, also a partner with AEG Presents, including Foo Fighters at Orangetheory Stadium in Christchurch.
The incumbent ticketing companies in Australia and New Zealand “have real structural issues that have resulted in systems that don’t compare well to global standards in terms of reliability and capacity”, comments Dion Brant, CEO of Frontier Touring. “We are staging on-sales across different cities at different hours of the day, even in situations where there might only be a few thousand tickets per market to put on sale.” Ideally, he adds, the promoter “shouldn’t have to worry that your ticketing company might have issues handling the load if you put them up at the same time. We hope that the entry of AXS into the market will sharpen competition and force all players to improve. As the proverb says, ‘a rising tide floats all boats.’”
The great outdoors… Festivaland
Iconic festivals like Rhythm and Vines, which is now in its 21st year, regularly put up the “sold-out” sign and have become a rite of passage for young New Zealanders. The three-day music festival this year is held from 29 December at Waiohika Estate, Gisborne, with various packages currently on sale. A three-day GA festival pass with camping comes in at about NZ$525, inclusive of fees.
Endeavour Live operates a portfolio of festival brands including Spring City, The Golden Run, and Gardens Festival, in addition to touring talent at greenfield locations such as The Auckland Domain.
“There is room for new themed festivals in the market, with the likes of hip-hop and country opportunities to sit alongside more established genres like reggae and MOR – winery-style events”
Endeavour Live event producer Hamish Pinkham is confident there’s untapped opportunities. “There is room for new themed festivals in the market, with the likes of hip-hop and country opportunities to sit alongside more established genres like reggae and MOR – winery-style events,” he tells IQ.
Catering to an “elderly raver” market has proven a “strong proposition,” he continues, with recent tours from Groove Armada and Fatboy Slim selling out. Both British acts were able to play multiple outdoor venues around the country, including wineries. Also, legacy drum ‘n’ bass music acts like Wilkinson and Sub Focus “continue to do the business up and down the country,” with the former hitting three arenas, a “just reward for over ten years’ touring history in the region.”
Smaller club tours are facing the challenge of tightened discretionary spending and competition from the raft of stadium and arena tours that passed through during the busy southern summer. “It’s been difficult to flood new artists into the touring circuit recently,” says Pinkham.
Eccles has the last word. “As we recover from the Covid period, we seem to be seeing more and more artists on all levels touring Aotearoa and, in most cases, having successful tours.” When the big shows come to town, it’s creating a buzz and “everyone wants to participate.”
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NZ: Rollback of restrictions “too late” for festivals
Festival organisers and promoters in New Zealand say that the government’s rollback of restrictions is “meaningless” at this point in the events calendar.
Prime minister Jacinda Arden earlier today (23 March) announced the removal of vaccine pass requirements, most vaccine mandates, QR code scanning and outdoor gathering limits.
In addition, the limit for indoor gatherings will be doubled, from 100 to 200 people.
The mandate removal and end of the vaccine pass will go into effect from 5 April, while the other changes go into effect from midnight on Friday (25 March).
Splore festival’s John Minty told Stuff he is “bemused” by the timing of the government’s announcement, saying it had come “out of the blue” after months of uncertainty around when festivals could resume.
“It’s sort of like it’s coming out of the blue in a way”
“It hadn’t been indicated that if certain things happen, we would have less restrictions,” Minty continues. “So it’s sort of like it’s coming out of the blue in a way.”
The festival was originally scheduled to happen between 25–27 February at Tāpapakanga Regional Park but was canned after the government announced a move to the ‘red’ traffic light setting.
Minty said Splore organisers would now assess whether they could pull together the festival for late April.
The government’s announcement comes too late for Live Nation-owned Rhythm and Vines, after the traditional New Year’s event was postponed until Easter, and then cancelled for the first time in its 19-year-history.
“It’s a little too late for our events this summer… the heart has been ripped out of the events season,” says Rhythm and Vines co-founder Hamish Pinkham.
“It’s a little too late for our events this summer… the heart has been ripped out of the events season”
The Gisborne festival will celebrate its 20th anniversary at the end of the year instead.
Elsewhere, Auckland-based promoter Brent Eccles is pleased to hear that Covid-19 rules are set to be relaxed but felt the changes were “meaningless” at this point in the events calendar – a month into autumn.
“We don’t have any outdoor shows in winter, obviously, so that they’ve gone to one hundred per cent capacity outdoors for us right now is a bit meaningless,” said Eccles.
“It’s good for summer, because we have got the Foo Fighters, Ed Sheeran, and Six60 coming. So that’s good that there are no restrictions there.”
The government’s announcement comes too late for a slate of other festivals including The Other Way (Auckland), Outfields music festival (Auckland), Northern Bass (Northland) and Electric Avenue (Christchurch) – all of which have either been cancelled or postponed.
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NZ’s new traffic-light system causes first disruptions
The fate of New Zealand’s upcoming festival season is to be determined by a new traffic-light system, which came into effect last night.
Under the new system, each region in the country has been assigned a colour (green, orange or red) based on vaccination rates and the spread of Covid-19 in the community, as well as a set of corresponding restrictions.
In regions assigned ‘red’, venues using vaccine certificates are limited to 100 people with 1-metre social distancing.
In ‘orange’ regions, these venues face no limits on gatherings at events, retail, hospitality.
Venues that don’t use vaccine certificates are not permitted indoor or outdoor events under red or orange.
“Getting vaccinated is how we can return to the shows and festivals we love”
Auckland is among a number of regions in the North Island that have been assigned ‘red’. Wellington, Waikato and all of the South Island are among the regions moving to orange. No region starts at green.
The traffic-light system is bad news for Live Nation-owned festival Rhythm and Vines, which was scheduled to take place on New Year’s Eve in Gisborne – currently ‘red’ on the system.
Organisers yesterday announced that, for the first time in the festival’s 19-year history, the event will be rescheduled to 15 April until 17 April 2022.
In a statement, the festival organisers said: “Rhythm and Vines’ mission has [been] and always will be a safe and secure festival for all involved, and [we] believe this decision will allow us to keep delivering the best festival experience that over 400,000 young Kiwis have enjoyed since 2003.
Northern Bass refuses to pull the plug yet, even though the event site in Mangawhai falls under a ‘red’ light
“Rhythm and Vines would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to everyone who has continued to support this year’s festival including all staff, contractors, artists and suppliers who will have been affected by this decision.
“Getting vaccinated is how we can return to the shows and festivals we love and we encourage everyone to #vaxforlive.”
Elsewhere, New Year’s Eve drum and bass festival Northern Bass refuses to pull the plug yet, even though the event site in Mangawhai has been assigned ‘red’.
The festival organisers say they are crossing their fingers for an orange light status after the next update from the government on 13 December.
“We won’t cancel [yet] – there’s no reason to cancel,” event organiser Gareth Popham told Stuff. “We’ve sold 11,500 tickets and currently have 10,000 kids on a waiting list wanting tickets.”
The sold-out event is set to be headlined by British DJ Andy C and electronic music duo Chase & Status.
Meanwhile, Auckland-born Lorde has postponed her Solar Power Tour until 2023, citing uncertainty around Covid and international touring.
Auckland’s Outerfields festival, originally scheduled for March 6th 2021, has been beset by Covid delays twice and is now tabled for 3 December 2022.
NZ organisers welcome vaccine passport mandate
New Zealand festival promoters have welcomed plans for a vaccine passport, saying it gives them certainty to plan major events this summer.
Prime minister Jacinda Ardern announced plans on Tuesday (5 October) for a vaccine certificate system that could be operational by November.
Arden said the government is looking to mandate its use for large festivals, and that festivalgoers will need to get vaccinated this month if they want to go to such events over the summer.
Once available, the vaccine certificate can be printed out or displayed on a mobile phone. A beta version is already available.
Hamish Pinkham, director of Live Nation-owned Rhythm and Vines Music Festival, told Stuff that the vaccine certificate was good news for promoters and would give him the clarity he needed to run the December event.
“It makes sense that we follow the overseas success in this area.”
Callam Mitchell, director of event production company Team Event, which runs five major events in Christchurch including Electric Avenue in February, says the certificate system means they could plan events with confidence.
“We encourage everyone who wants to attend events this summer to get vaccinated as soon as possible, bearing in mind it’s an eight-week period between doses and the vaccine becoming effective,” says Mitchell.
Bay Dreams director Mitch Lowe, who runs two events set for early January in Nelson and Tauranga, also welcomed the vaccine certificate: “It makes sense that we follow the overseas success in this area.”
New Zealand is on pace to fully vaccinate about 90% of its eligible population by the end of November.
The NZ Normal: What live is like on the other side
When IQ catches up with Stuart Clumpas, he is at the wedding of Live Nation New Zealand chief Mark Kneebone, and the following morning is flying his plane to Queenstown for an outdoor gig. “How very New Zealand-of-the-moment is that?” he comments, adding how fortunate he feels to be in a place that has dealt so well with the pandemic.
“What New Zealand has been able to do, by a combination of fortuitous positioning on the planet, a little bit of taking a punt and getting it right, and just a very cooperative element throughout society, is to stop Covid in its tracks, and then put up strict-but-fair barriers to prevent the virus getting into the country,” says Clumpas.
However, while going to a gig remains all but a dream for billions of people around the world, the reality in the Land of the Long White Cloud is that live music professionals are suffering from some of the same issues as their peers in nations where concerts remain banned.
“We’re in a bubble that nobody can leave or get into”
Indeed, never has the term Kiwi been more appropriate, as the national icon is a flightless bird, very much symbolising the current dilemma. “I feel like I’m the living embodiment of The Truman Show,” confesses Clumpas. “We’re in a bubble that nobody can leave or get into.”
Former Live Nation chairman Clumpas, who still consults for the company but otherwise runs Auckland’s 12,000-capacity Spark Arena and sister venue The Tuning Fork (cap. 375), contends that New Zealand’s ‘new normal’ comes with caveats. “It’s normal to all extents and purposes, but there is an uncomfortable feeling or an unease behind it; everybody knows that it ain’t the norm, even though you go about life being normal… it’s hard to explain.
“In terms of business, though, we’re able to have shows without restrictions, as there is no community Covid here.” (At press time, the New Zealand government announced that a 56-year-old woman who had completed the compulsory two-week quarantine had subsequently returned a positive test. She was ordered to self isolate at home.)
“Covid-19 [has] had a massive impact on the number of events we’ve been able to deliver”
While anyone remotely interested in live entertainment might be looking enviously at the freedoms the people of New Zealand are enjoying, for those working in the territory the reality is a lot more fragile. Clumpas, for instance, reports that Spark Arena’s business is 85% down, while others disclose similar struggles.
“Covid-19 [has] had a massive impact on the number of events we’ve been able to deliver. Since lockdown we have hosted 61 performance events in our venues; for the same date range in the previous year we hosted more than 130 events,” reports Gus Sharp, event sales and planning manager for WellingtonNZ, which through its Venues Wellington division operates six buildings: Michael Fowler Centre (capacity 2,500 seated); TSB Arena (cap 6,000); Shed 6 (1,400); The Opera House (1,388 seated); the Wellington Town Hall, (2,200 mixed); and the St James Theatre (1,700 seated).
Sharp continues, “The largest single night event we delivered was a drum and bass rave at the TSB Arena which, on the night, had a capacity of 4,000.”
Detailing Live Nation New Zealand’s post-Covid journey, managing director Mark Kneebone, recalls, “We started off with smaller shows like the Together Again series which were among the first socially distanced shows in the world, which we kicked off at the Tuning Fork, Auckland in late May 2020.
“The largest single night event we delivered was a drum and bass rave at the TSB Arena which had a capacity of 4,000”
“Initially, the capacity for the events were 100 people, including all staff. These events were all seated, with fans in pods, and with lots of health and safety precautions such as temperature checks, socially distanced seating, table service, staff wearing PPE and contact tracing.
“As the situation in the country became under control and restrictions were lifted, shows could happen at full scale again and we were back on the road as quickly as we could be.”
Kneebone continues, “The biggest headline show we did in 2020 was Benee, with the tour covering eight shows ranging from theatre to arena level in four cities across NZ, and included two sold-out shows at Spark Arena.”
On the festival front, Live Nation benefitted from the demand for entertainment outdoors at its 29-31 December Rhythm & Vines festival, which with an all-Kiwi line up, selling more than 25,000 tickets and attracting 83,000 attendees across the four days.
“We also had to create our own gigs, which is something that others elsewhere might want to look at”
Away from music, WellingtonNZ also hosted the world premiere of Digital Nights – Van Gogh Alive, an out-door digital projection exhibition of works by Vincent van Gogh. “It had more than 44,000 people through the gates,” says Sharp. “This was a fantastic outcome considering that for part of the eight-week season, crowds were unavoidably limited to no more than 100 people a session.”
Creativity has also been a challenge at Spark Arena, where Clumpas flags up a successful beer festival. “We also had to create our own gigs, which is something that others elsewhere might want to look at,” he says, citing the world’s biggest ever pub gig, which was organised in partnership with promoter Eccles Entertainment.
“This harks back to the 80s when the likes of INXS and Midnight Oil would play to 2,000 people in these huge pubs – nobody would pay to get in but they’d all come in and drink like hell,” explains Clumpas.
“It was Brent Eccles’ idea, where he put on all these Kiwi bands who were big in the 80s. It was fabulous – we had 3,000 people and because we didn’t have an international Spark Arena in Auckland has introduced Covid tests at the venue’s entrances touring production manager to deal with, we ran the room and we were able to do a whole bunch of shit that never in a month of Sun- days we would have been allowed to do – and people absolutely loved it.
“Such ingenuity is needed because New Zealand’s limited talent pool has already been used – to great effect”
“For example, there’s a famous takeaway hamburger caravan called The White Lady in central Auckland where people go in the early hours on their way home after a big night. We brought The White Lady into the venue and put it at the back of the room.
“And above the stage, Brent had this video screen on a loop, saying ‘No shorts or stubbies or jandals allowed in this bar, mate. Get too drunk and you’re fucking getting chucked out.’ The bands love it, and every punter who came up to me thought it was hilarious and begged us to do it again.”
Eccles, too, was thrilled at the success of the format. “We’ll definitely do it again,” he tells IQ. “In fact, I have plans to take the idea to Australia, when it’s possible.”
Delighting at the details of the event, Eccles says, “All the bars were on the floor of the arena, like a pub, and we had signage up for legendary 80s places like The Globe, the Windsor Castle and the Gluepot, which don’t exist any more. Such ingenuity is needed because New Zealand’s limited talent pool has already been used – to great effect – but venues throughout the country are struggling to fill their many vacant diary dates.
“Our local acts are boosted by getting to work with that state-of-the-art production gear”
Boosting the domestic scene
There are, of course, silver linings. Clumpas points to the amazing production support that has flourished thanks to all of the international tours that have visited New Zealand in the last decade.
“Our local acts have worked incredibly hard to deliver some great shows, and they are boosted by getting to work with that state-of-the-art production gear so they can look and sound as good in an arena as any of the international acts,” he says.
“We’ve certainly seen some homegrown success stories come out of 2020,” agrees Sharp. “The 4,000-capacity rave mentioned earlier was a purely domestic line-up: that’s something that probably wouldn’t have happened before Covid reared its ugly head.
“We’ve also had homegrown superstars such as Benee doing three sold-out nights in a row in one of our GA venues. The demand for homegrown talent is a fantastic thing to see and may well be ushering in a golden era for New Zealand performers and audiences.”
“We may well be ushering in a golden era for New Zealand performers and audiences”
Live Nation’s Kneebone observes, “Demand has been really strong as we came out of lockdown which has been great to see. We of course wanted to give extra thought and messaging around health and safety precautions. There will never be a one-sized fits all approach for marketing, so we continue to partner closely with artist teams to determine the right strategy. We’ve found things work smoothest when fans have all the details upfront so their expectations are aligned from the onset.”
Kneebone also tips his hat to the way in which home-grown talent has stepped up to entertain their fellow citizens. “Domestic acts have the spotlight to themselves at the moment and are headlining all the festivals around the country,” he notes. “Fans have been incredibly supportive of that, too, which means the industry can keep the wheels turning while enjoying all the best that Kiwi talent has to offer.”
Although he is the New Zealand representative of Australian giant Frontier Touring, Eccles has had no acts from that agreement to promote during the last few months. However, Eccles Entertainment was established in 2000 and has been built on a roster of Kiwi talent that has helped its founders retain all their employees throughout the pandemic. Indeed, with local act Six60 in the midst of a stadium tour that has sold 120,000 tickets, the company has the biggest tour of the NZ summer.
“Six60 are capable of selling out Western Springs, which is 50,000 capacity and a hallowed ground, as its had gigs by the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Bob Marley – all the massive acts – so they are huge in New Zealand,” he says.
Looking ahead, Eccles is having to pull on all his experience to come up with new and unique ways to maintain interest for his roster of domestic talent.
“There are a lot of challenges to deal with and it’s going to be an exciting year for New Zealand artists”
“I don’t want to give away any secrets, but I’ve been asking the acts if there is somewhere they’ve always wanted to play, or some other act they’d love to work with,” he reveals. “You’ve got to offer something unique, especially after it starts to get cold here in April. But I’m really excited, as there are a lot of challenges to deal with and it’s going to be an exciting year for New Zealand artists.”
The ability to rely on domestic talent has given the industry a lifeline, although it appears to be a limited one. Recalling the shows at Spark Arena with Benee, Clumpas notes that fans were generally being a little more conscious of each other’s personal space.
“Perceptively you can see people standing a little bit further away in the queue and not in each other’s face. And instead of rushing the door, there was a calmness as they gave each other a bit more space.” Indeed, such considerate audience behaviour prompted Clumpas to allow the audience to choose how they wanted to experience the concerts. “We had what we call free-flow, where nothing is allocated, and that allows people to stand for a bit, then go grab a seat. So it’s up to them if they want to go and sit at the front or the back. And it worked really well.”
The arena’s sparse booking calendar also allowed some imaginative formatting for Benee’s visit. Judging that she would sell about 10,000 tickets, the decision was made to spread that across two nights. “It was Benee’s first tour and rather than do 10k on one night, when she’d never even played to half that, her management, who are smart boys, decided to do two shows at 5.5k as that wasn’t so daunting for the artist,” says Clumpas. “We took the view that we could do anything – even a whole number of nights at 2,000-cap, because we weren’t doing anything else.”
“We only have four or five bands that can sell-out half an arena, so we’ve kind of run out of talent”
Around the world, one of the key issues that the live entertainment business is having to face when it returns is a lack of personnel to kickstart operations.
Thousands of industry professionals have been made redundant throughout the pandemic, while others have simply moved into new areas of employment so that they can pay the bills, creating a significant headache for event organisers whenever the green light for mass gatherings is given. And despite a busy outdoor season currently underway, it seems colleagues in New Zealand are already facing identical problems.
Detailing the precarious nature of the NZ recovery, Clumpas explains: “Unlike in the UK, we have a very thin local market and that goes back to the fact that the business here used to be run out of Australia, bringing in loads of bands from overseas but never developing a local market.
“At arena level, we only have four or five bands that can sell-out half an arena, and the biggest comedian here can maybe sell 3,000 tickets, so we’ve kind of run out of talent: business is down by about 85% and we’ve had to lay people off because we don’t have enough things to put on at the arena.”
“We took an approach of leniency with contracts and generally acknowledged the completely unprecedented situation”
Sharp comments, “We have not escaped unscathed – even the relatively short disruption has had a huge influence on the industry and we are still feeling the effects.”
But, as with countless businesses around the planet, WellingtonNZ and its affiliates have been collaborating with others to try to mitigate the pain. “As a public organisation, our focus is on helping our partners through,” pledges Sharp. “We took an approach of leniency with contracts and generally acknowledged the completely unprecedented situation. This proved to be the right way to deal with the situation as it generated goodwill and strengthened relationships, both of which will bear fruit as the impacts of Covid on the sector start to recede.”
A team of five million
The willingness of the population to cooperate is key to New Zealand’s fight to keep the virus out, according to Scotland-born Clumpas, who emigrated to Auckland in 2002. “One of the first things that struck me about living in New Zealand is that there is a really strong community feel among its citizens, no matter who they are, rich or poor. And with Covid, everyone realised we are all in this together,” says Clumpas.
Highlighting that communal attitude, Clumpas refers to the Grab & Go facilities at Spark Arena, which relies on audience honesty to help themselves to food and drink and then pay before entering the auditorium. “It lets people move more quickly at the intervals and, of course, Kiwis pay – they would not dream of taking stuff and not paying. It’s remarkable but it sums up society here.
“Overall we are seeing similar ticket-buying patterns to pre-Covid times”
“Our prime minister, Jacinda [Ardern], referred to it as ‘a team of five million.’ It’s a genuine thing where people understand this is for the good of your fellow man, so they play the game. I find that hugely different to the US or the UK, where people might ignore the government because they don’t like their politics or whatever.”
Demand & supply
While industry leaders in Asia, Europe and the Americas speculate that the pent up demand of live music fans will propel the business back toward profit when the pandemic restrictions are lifted, it’s interesting to gauge how the Kiwis have handled their restart.
WellingtonNZ’s Sharp contends that marketing is still crucial to selling tickets, although “in the immediate post-lockdown period we did see huge enthusiasm for a return to live events and tickets flew out the door,” he admits. “The second lockdown definitely shook confidence, but overall we are seeing similar ticket-buying patterns to pre-Covid times.”
Eccles is revelling in those promoting challenges, citing his big- gest pub gig strategy as an example where he captured the imagination of ticket buyers. “We had a unique way of marketing the pub gig using The Sound radio station,” says Eccles. “We went on air with 100 tickets priced at $29.90 to announce the event, then as each band was announced we went to $39.90 for the next 100 tickets, then $49.90, right up to $79.90 when we revealed the headliner, and that kept people’s interest all the way through.
“Exemptions aren’t granted lightly, but they do show [that] the government understands the importance of live events”
“It was great fun and allowed people to remember the old days, as well as seeing the bands they used to see in those pubs back in the 80s.”
Underlining the local appetite to find entertainment, Sharp adds, “Overall attendance has been similar to what we’d expect in any other year. It shows that New Zealand crowds have confidence that they can safely enjoy events, which they continued to voraciously attend.”
New Zealand’s strict border controls make it tricky for anyone who is not a citizen of the country to visit. It’s not impossible for overseas acts to perform shows, but it’s not simple, either.
Sharp says international acts can secure a border exemption place on the grounds of their importance to the local events industry. “These exemptions aren’t granted lightly, but they do show [that] the government understands the importance of live events to both the cultural and economic wellbeing of the country.”
WellingtonNZ has benefitted from a number of acts who have taken the time to process through the quarantine procedures
But outlining some of the hurdles, Clumpas explains, “For anyone to get into the country now, you first have to book a space in the quarantine hotel, three months in advance. When your flight arrives, you go straight from the airport in a bus to the hotel, which is fenced off. The army run the thing and you are there for two weeks in managed self-isolation. If you leave without permission, you face three months in jail.”
WellingtonNZ has benefitted from a number of acts who have taken the time to process through the quarantine procedures. “We had Belgian drum and bass DJ Alix Perez play in November, and UK DJ Sub Focus on 7 January, both playing to sold-out crowds,” says Sharp. Elsewhere, the Wellington-based organisation has focused on securing alternative format events that can run for multiple weeks, such as Grande Experiences’ Van Gogh Alive concept.
“The exhibition was staged twice in New Zealand. The first was Digital Nights – Van Gogh Alive, which was the first time it had been held outdoors. It proved so popular that it returned for a run of indoor exhibitions at venues throughout the country,” says Sharp.
And with Spark Arena remaining dark for much of the time, Clumpas is currently exploring the idea of hosting dance events. “Perhaps by getting overseas DJs to go to their local club to set-up a video link so they can play to Auckland – they see us, we see them. I don’t think you can do that with a band because they need the interaction, but it might work with a DJ set,” he muses.
“Part of the issue is working out how we can scale up [crew] while making sure we retain that watertight border”
To attract others to physically visit, Spark Arena’s management is even looking at getting into the hotel business. “We have an idea to set-up luxury accommodation that we can run in conjunction with the army and security firms, and we pay for it,” says Clumpas. “So maybe we set up 20 suites where we can bring in an artist and they can rehearse there and stuff but keep isolated. It means that anyone who is prepared to come in and maybe do ten dates in 3,000-seater theatres, will be able to do that. I like to think we can get there.”
But looking at bigger international tours making their way to NZ is not on the cards, even though the likes of Six60 are visiting stadia. “We don’t have the likes of 140 crew places for people going into managed isolation, because we don’t have enough nurses and health professionals to manage the facilities,” Clumpas clarifies. “New Zealand is only five million people and you run out of people fairly quickly here. So part of the issue is working out how we can scale up while making sure we retain that watertight border.”
As the only significant market to properly reopen after a national lockdown, New Zealand has the eyes of the world on it, as live entertainment peers examine its successes and failures to try to piece together their own strategies for relaunch.
Sharp applauds everyone that WellingtonNZ has worked with over the past few months for being flexible enough to reorganise their operations, name-checking the likes of Live Nation, Frontier and TEG; homegrown promoters Eccles Entertainment, Liberty Stage, Breaking Beats and Plus One; and resident outfits such as the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and Royal New Zealand Ballet.
“Everyone, through to our smaller promoters and community organisations, has been deeply affected by the pandemic”
“Everyone, through to our smaller promoters and community organisations, has been deeply affected by the pandemic and shown their resiliency and adaptability in rolling with the punches,” he observes.
Our NZ professionals, meanwhile, warn others around the world not to bank too heavily on a surge of interest when markets come out of lockdown. “There’s no pent-up demand with people think- ing I must see loads of gigs,” says Clumpas. “But that might be different in the US or the UK or Europe, because we were not locked up for that long compared to elsewhere.”
Eccles agrees. “In our experience, the market didn’t come back as hard as people thought it would – it eased back in,” he tells IQ. “Demographics-wise, if the show is aimed at kids, or even teens into the late-20s, then they don’t seem to care. But the older age groups are definitely more wary.”
Sharing some of the negative lessons Eccles Entertainment has learned, he continues, “Looking back at 2020, when we came out of lockdown, we experienced quite a bit of attrition, which was hard to take. So, for a show where we’d originally sold 4,000 tickets, maybe only 2,000 actually turned up on the night for the rescheduled gig. It was quite demoralising.”
“We’ve seen some strange behaviour where pre-sales were soft but the general sale was strong”
But there have also been some pleasant surprises. “We’ve seen some strange behaviour where pre-sales were soft but the general sale was strong. That’s the exact opposite of what you’d expect and I’d never come across any pattern like that before. It’s very odd and I can’t explain why it happened.”
Sharp comments, “The NZ market is recovering well – we’ve seen a strong appetite for live events, which has largely been a result of the competent handling of the crisis by the New Zealand government.
“Having coped so well (so far, at least), it may be easier for us to see things in a more positive light. But there really isn’t much use looking at it any other way.”
It’s a precarious situation though, and Eccles is all too aware that the business is constantly on the precipice. “One thing is for sure, if we have another lockdown in New Zealand, then all the confidence in the market will go,” he states. Clumpas concurs, but he believes a better touring industry may emerge in the long run.
“What it might do, going forward, is that audiences might be more demanding in their expectations. So, bluntly, the venues that take care of the fans and who have got their shit together will do fine or probably better. But it could flag-up some of the venues that have been slack, as people will be more discerning and make choices on how safe they feel, according to the customer service they’ve experienced in the past.
“We will get out of this, but will the business be the same? I’m not so sure,” laments Clumpas. “But I’m hopeful that we will no longer see tours with 247 people on them, where artists might tour with a core of maybe 30 or 40, with advance teams of ten who go to a territory early and get local people to do a lot of the work. It would mean a shift but not necessarily fewer jobs: just less people touring, complemented by more people in each territory, which would mean much less of a carbon footprint, as well as giving places like New Zealand a real chance to grow.”
NZ festivals bring in the new year with huge audiences
New Year’s Eve (NYE) events were held as usual in New Zealand (NZ), with festivals welcoming tens of thousands of people to celebrate without social distancing.
Thanks to strict lockdowns and border closures which have all but eliminated Covid-19 in NZ, residents were able to enjoy a full return to live at mammoth NYE events.
NZ’s largest festival, Live Nation-owned Rhythm and Vines, welcomed 20,000 people to the Gisborne site between 29–31 December where social distancing and mask-wearing was not required.
The 18th edition of the music and camping festival – founded in 2003 by University of Otago friends Hamish Pinkham, Tom Gibson, and Andrew Witters – delivered sets from artists including Benee, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Broods, The Beths and Netsky. Single-day festival passes started from NZ$125.
— Rhythm 𝕏 Vines (@RHYTHMANDVINES) December 30, 2020
Elsewhere, Rhythm & Alps celebrated its 10th anniversary by inviting 10,000 people to Wanaka, a resort town on NZ’s South Island, for three days of non-socially distanced festivities.
The event took place between 29 and 31 December, bringing in the New Year with a wholly domestic lineup featuring Six60, Chaos in the CBD and Shihad.
Northern Bass, presented by Fuzen and George FM, also celebrated its 10th chapter with another NYE celebration spanning three days and nights.
Around 10,000 people flocked to the festival site in Mangawhai – just over an hour north of Auckland – for sets from world-renowned artists, producers and DJs including Dimension, Earthgang and LAB.
NZ, which has a population of around 4.8 million, has been lauded for its response to the pandemic and currently only has 72 active Coronavirus cases.
Live Nation acquires NZ’s Rhythm and Vines
Live Nation has taken a controlling interest in Rhythm and Vines, New Zealand’s largest music festival, expanding its market presence in the Australasian nation.
The live music giant’s investment in Rhythm and Vines (R&V) follows its 2016 majority acquisition of the 12,000-cap. Spark Arena (formerly Vector Arena) in Auckland and the launch of the Auckland City Limits festival, promoted by Live Nation subsidiary C3 Presents, the same year.
“Over the course of 15 years, Rhythm and Vines has curated a wonderful line-up of both domestic and international talent in one of the most beautiful parts of our country,” says Live Nation New Zealand chairman Stuart Clumpas. “It has become a household name in New Zealand and we’re excited to be adding the festival to the Live Nation portfolio and welcoming its experienced team to the company.”
Founded in 2003, the three-day, 25,000-daily capacity festivals takes place annually at the Waiohika Estate vineyard in the coastal town of Gisborne. Previous headliners include Public Enemy, Moby, LCD Soundsystem, Wiz Khalifa, Bastille and Chance the Rapper.
The festival joins Live Nation’s portfolio of more than 100 events worldwide, including Splendour in the Grass, Falls Festival and Sydney City Limits in Australia. It is the company’s fifth acquisition of 2018, with Wolfson Entertainment in the US the most recent.
“There has been the long-held view that we’re an extension of the Australian touring market, when in fact NZ delivers unique experiences”
Clumpas says the acquisition “highlights the growing maturity and health of the New Zealand live entertainment market”, which PwC estimates was worth US$122m in 2017. “There has been the long-held view that we’re an extension of the Australian touring market, when in fact New Zealand delivers unique experiences – and Live Nation, as a global player, recognises and invests in that.”
“By joining forces with the global leaders in entertainment, Live Nation, we can ensure our long term vision for the event and continue to grow the festival,” comments R&V CEO Kieran Spillane. “This partnership will allow us to attract the very best acts, delivering a unique festival experience in New Zealand.
Hamish Pinkham, co-founder of Rhythm and Vines, adds: “From humble beginnings, Rhythm and Vines has always tried to do justice to being the first celebration in the world to bring in the new year.
“Over 15 years we have grown the event to become a world-class three day festival. This partnership will ensure this legacy continues and I’m excited for the future of the festival with our partners at Live Nation.”
Rhythm and Vines 2018 takes place across new year’s eve on 29 December 2018–1 January 2019. The line-up has yet to be announced.
Eventbrite partners with Twickets
Face-value resale is now available for Eventbrite-ticketed events in the UK, Australia and New Zealand as a result of a new partnership with Twickets.
The deal, announced this morning, will give promoters the option to opt into the Twickets service, giving customers the option to buy and sell spare tickets at face value by logging into their Eventbrite account on the Twickets platform.
Eventbrite customer Rhythm and Vines, New Zealand’s longest-running music festival, will be one of the first to use the new Twickets integration for its 2017 edition on 29–31 December.
“Partnering with ethical peer-to-peer exchange platforms like Twickets enables our promoters to allow their fans to easily sell their unwanted tickets at a fair price”
Twickets founder Richard Davies, says: “It’s great to be partnering with Eventbrite, who share our commitment to providing fair ticket resale. We are happy to be bringing face-value resale to more events through this partnership, giving eventgoers the peace of mind that they are not only getting a fair deal, but also that they will be guaranteed entry to the event itself with an officially reissued ticket.
“We’re also very excited to be bringing Twickets to new audiences in New Zealand and look forward to our future in the country.”
“There are a number of technology solutions that we have already put in place to help our larger events prevent unauthorised resales of their tickets,” adds Joel Crouch, general manager for Eventbrite in the UK and Republic of Ireland. “At the same time, we want stay true to the fans, who often have perfectly valid reasons to sell their tickets. Partnering with ethical peer-to-peer exchange platforms like Twickets enables our promoters to allow their fans to easily sell their unwanted tickets at a fair price, and assures the buyers of those tickets that they have obtained official, authorised tickets that will get them in.”