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Lizzo, ASAP Rocky to headline first-ever Virgin Fest

The line-up for the inaugural Virgin Fest has been announced, with acts including Lizzo, ASAP Rocky, Anderson .Paak, Major Lazer and Ellie Goulding making up the bill.

Virgin founder Richard Branson first revealed his plans for Virgin Fest in 2018, following the end of the brand’s partnership with the UK’s V Festival. The festival launched following the acquisition of the Kaaboo festival brand by Virgin’s music festival arm – also named Virgin Fest – last year.

Marking the 50th anniversary of the Virgin brand, the festival is taking place on 6 and 7 June 2020 at the Banc of California Stadium (22,000-cap.) and Exposition Park (160-acre) in Los Angeles.

As well as its music programme, which also features Jorja Smith, Kali Uchis, Japanese Breakfast, Clairo and Celeste, Virgin Fest will showcase an interactive fair with new technologies and gaming.

“By combining Virgin’s signature hospitality and ingenuity with a strong sense of purpose, our team built the festival of tomorrow, today,” comments Virgin founder Branson.

“We are proud to bring Virgin Fest to LA and to be on track to become one of the United States’ greenest festivals”

“We are proud to bring Virgin Fest to LA and to be on track to become one of the United States’ greenest festivals.”

Sustainable initiatives such as a single-use plastic ban, solar programme, surplus food donations and a partnership with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority will help reduce the event’s carbon footprint.

“Music is an emotional force of transformation – it can change people’s moods, their outlook on life, and sometimes, it can unite the world,” says Jason Felts, CEO and founder of Virgin Fest.

“We are embracing the dream that music can bring to get us to a better place – for our fans, for our people, for our communities and for our planet. We envision a tomorrow where festivals live and breathe the extraordinary – Virgin Fest looks to lead that charge.”

Tickets for Virgin Fest are available here. A two-day pass costs US$229, with VIP options available for $499 and mega VIP tickets for $1999.

Photo: Andy Witchger/ Flickr (CC BY 2.0) (cropped)

 


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Virgin Fest to debut in LA in 2020

Marking the 50 year anniversary of the Virgin brand, the inaugural Virgin Fest will take place on 6 and 7 June 2020 at the Banc of California Stadium and Exposition Park in Los Angeles, California.

Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson and CEO Jason Felts confirmed the venue and date of the weekend event yesterday (11 December).

The announcement follows Felts’ September acquisition of US festival brand Kaaboo.

The LA festival will take place across multiple stages throughout the 160-acre outdoor space of Exposition Park and 22,000-capacity indoor California Stadium. The line-up is due to be announced in early 2020, along with ticket sales.

“My love of music led me to start Virgin Records nearly five decades ago. I’m thrilled that Virgin’s musical heritage lives on through Virgin Fest,” comments Branson. “We look forward to bringing Virgin’s expertise in customer experience, innovation and entertainment to our festival in Los Angeles, a place that has always been very near and dear to my heart.”

“I’m thrilled that Virgin’s musical heritage lives on through Virgin Fest”

Virgin was formerly involved with the UK’s V Festival, promoted by Live Nation, Metropolis Music, MCD Productions and SJM Concerts. The brand ended its partnership with the event in 2017.

The year after V’s end, Branson revealed plans for a US festival, “an innovative, multi-experiential” event which would focus on “music, exploration, innovation and generosity”.

Environmental initiatives also form a major part of Virgin Fest, which will include a ban on single-use plastics, a reusable cup deposit scheme and the use of renewable energy sources such as biofuels and solar power.

“With a focus purely on people and planet, I am proud to launch a first of its kind music and tech experience built upon a foundation of positivity, equality and unmatched hospitality,” says Felts.

“We hope to uplift our shared humanity by igniting a spirit of community for all, so that our fans feel welcomed, safe and free to enjoy the experience through music and forward thinking regardless of gender, race, sexual preference, religion, political party or disability.”

More information on the line-up, ticket sales and VIP offerings will be available here.

VIRGIN FEST | JUNE 6 + 7 2020 | LOS ANGELES from Virgin Fest on Vimeo.

 


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Virgin Fest CEO Jason Felts acquires Kaaboo

Jason Felts, chief executive of the festival arm of Richard Branson’s Virgin brand, Virgin Fest, and co-founder of Virgin Produced, has acquired Kaaboo festival from its co-founders.

Through a Virgin Fest affiliate, Felts, former chief brand officer for the festival, has acquired all of Kaaboo’s assets from Bryan E Gordon and Seth Wolkov. The pair, chairman and president of Denver-based private investment holding company, the Madison Companies, launched Kaaboo in 2015 at the Del Mar Racetrack (44,000-cap.) in California.

Financial details of the sale have not been disclosed.

The Kaaboo sale  comes days after the announcement that the festival had entered into a multi-year partnership with baseball team the San Diego Padres, moving the festival to Petco Park baseball stadium and renaming the event from Kaaboo Del Mar to Kaaboo San Diego.

“I attended the first Kaaboo Del Mar in 2015 with my parents,” says Felts. “It became clear that Kaaboo shared a like-minded approach to Virgin with customer service, while delivering a unique, differentiated, multi-sensory festival product.

“It was on that basis that we first invested and supported this vision in 2016. We look forward to the future of the Kaaboo brand and its festival experiences under our ownership.”

The Kaaboo team debuted two new spin-off festivals this year, a two-day event in the Cayman Islands and a three-day festival in Texas. A 2020 Cayman Islands festival, announced immediately after the close of the sold-out inaugural edition, has since been cancelled. No announcement has been made regarding a continuation of the Texas festival.

“It became clear that Kaaboo shared a like-minded approach to Virgin with customer service, while delivering a unique, differentiated, multi-sensory festival product”

Kaaboo co-founders Gordon and Wolkov comment: “We’re thrilled and delighted to have had this unique vision and grateful to be validated by this acquisition with such an experienced and progressive team.

“We are appreciative of Richard (Branson) and Virgin’s early support of our brand and confident that, in Jason and his team’s capable hands, the journey that we started to offer adults [of] a truly differentiated festival experience is sure to live on and grow for many years to come.”

Virgin Group founder Branson announced the launch of his own “multi-experiential” music festival last year, following the termination of Virgin’s V Festival sponsorship. The festival, also named Virgin Fest, was pegged to debut in the US this year.

The final Kaaboo Del Mar wrapped up on Sunday (15 September). Acts including the Dave Matthews band, Kings of Leon and Mumford and Sons played the sold-out event, with attendance surpassing 35,000 each day.

The first edition of Kaaboo San Diego will take place from September 18 to 20 next year, held in and around the San Diego baseball stadium, Petco Park (42,445-cap.). Tickets for the event, priced from US$199 for a three-day pass to $17,500 for the ‘Ultimate Hang’ VIP package, are available here.

 


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Venezuela border tensions following rival concerts

Sir Richard Branson’s Venezuela Aid Live went head to head with the Venezuelan government’s Hands Off Venezuela on Friday, embodying the continuing power struggle between president Nicolás Maduro and self-declared, internationally recognised interim president Juan Guaidó.

The Virgin Group founder announced plans earlier this month to host a charity concert to raise funds for humanitarian aid for Venezuelans and increase international awareness of the crisis in the country.  The concert was backed by opposition leader and self-declared interim president, Guaidó. In response, Venezuelan president Maduro organised his own, rival concert, in support of his now widely unrecognised government.

The concerts took place on either end of the Tienditas bridge, which connects Venezuela and Colombia. Venezuela Aid Live was held in the Colombian border city of Cúcuta, whereas the government-backed event took place on the Venezuelan side of the bridge.

More than 30 artists played at Branson’s event, which was attended and supported by the presidents of Chile, Colombia and Paraguay. Venezuelan singer Reymar Perdomo opened the concert with ‘Me Fui’, which has become an “angry hymn” for expatriate Venezuelans.

Fellow Venezuelan expat, Danny Ocean, performed ‘Dembow’ and reggaeton hit ‘Me Rehúso’. Other notable performances came from Mexican Paulina Rubio, Colombian Carlos Vives and Argentinian Diego Torres.

Luis Fonsi performed his famous reggaeton song ‘Despacito’, announcing afterwards: “Please, people of Venezuela, know that you are not alone.”

On the other side of the bridge, around 1,000 people attended Maduro’s concert, including members of the national army. Performances came from Venezuelan artists, including singer César “El Magnate” and rock group Yugular.

Branson’s concert was organised to raise money for humanitarian aid for Venezuelans, as the country continues to suffer severe food and medicine shortages. On the day following the concerts, trucks carrying US humanitarian aid attempted to cross the border into Venezuela from Cúcuta.

The Venezuelan National Guard blocked the entry of the aid vans, firing tear gas and rubber bullets at civilians attempting to cross the border. At least three aid trucks near the Colombian border were burned.

 


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Kaaboo Cayman: the Caribbean festival putting out the Fyre

The sold-out, inaugural Kaaboo Cayman took place from 15 to 16 February on Seven Mile beach, Grand Cayman, featuring performances from the Chainsmokers and Duran Duran.

The Caribbean festival hosted 10,000 people over two days of music, comedy and culinary experiences, overcoming obstacles posed following the well-publicised failure of the Bahamas-based Fyre Festival.

The Chainsmokers, Maren Morris and Flo Rida headlined the opening night, with Duran Duran, Jason Derulo, Shaggy, Blondie and Zedd performing on the Saturday. Stand-up comedy performances came from Darell Hammond, Kevin Nealon and Wanda Sykes over the weekend.

Jason Felts, chief executive of Virgin Produced and chief brand officer of Kaaboo Cayman, estimates the economic impact of the festival to be between US$15 to $20 million for the Cayman Islands.

“If we failed here in the Cayman Islands, it would hurt the industry overall, and so we were over-prepared so as to help the industry thrive on the whole”

Kaaboo teamed up with Richard Branson’s Virgin brand, which oversaw artist programming and procurement, and sponsors including Dart Enterprises, Digicel and BritCay.

Felts says it was “challenging” to regain the trust of the consumer and to convince both festivalgoers and industry figures that Kaaboo Cayman would not become another Fyre Festival.

“If we failed here in the Cayman Islands, it would hurt the industry overall, and so we were over-prepared so as to help the industry thrive on the whole,” says Felts. “As you look over our site, you can see the infrastructure is incredible.”

“There is no FEMA tent. I challenge you to find a cheese sandwich,” he adds.

The team is now planning for Kaaboo Cayman 2020, as well as the first Kaaboo Texas, which will take place in May this year at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The fifth annual Kaaboo Del Mar kicks off in San Diego in September.


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“How many concerts are they going to stage?”: Rival factions plot Venezuela shows

There will be rival benefit concerts in Venezuela this week, with British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson and the internationally unrecognised Venezuelan government respectively organising competing anti- and pro-regime events.

Sir Richard – whose music industry ventures include Virgin Records, the UK’s V Festival and the new Virgin Fest in the US – last week announced a Live Aid-style event, Venezuela Aid Live, to raise US$100 million funds for victims of the country’s worsening political and economic crisis.

Branson, reportedly a supporter of Juan Guaidó, the internationally recognised interim president of Venezuela, will hold his event over the Colombian border, in the city of Cucuta, this Friday (22 February). Latin stars Luis Fonsi – of ‘Despacito’ fame – Danny Ocean, Juanes, Carlos Vives, Lele Pons, Maluma, Nacho and Fonseca are slated to perform, as is Spanish singer Alejandro Sanz and Britain’s Peter Gabriel.

Around 300,000 people are expected to attend, with the whole concert available to watch by international audiences via live stream.

“Do we really want Venezuela to turn into another Iraq or Syria and Libya?”

Not to be outdone, the government of president Nicholas Maduro – who clings onto power with Chinese and Russian backing, following a disputed 2018 election – today announced a two-day concert of its own, set to take place in Venezuela on Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 June.

According to Muros Invisibles, a news agency based in Colombia, Maduro’s ‘megaconcert’ will be called Hands Off Venezuela – a rallying cry adopted by those opposed to regime change in Venezuela – and follow a day of protests on Saturday.

Controversially, Maduro’s government has ordered security forces to block Western humanitarian aid from entering the country, despite severe food and medicine shortages, saying the aid is intended by the US to “enslave” Venezuelans.

Dylan Baddour, a Colombia-based journalist, reports Venezuela Aid Live will take place near the Tienditas International Bridge, which is clogged with shipping containers containing US aid. Yesterday evening, Maduri said Venezuela would instead import 300 tons of aid from its ally, Russia.

Despite the deepening humanitarian crisis, Roger Waters – the outspoken former Pink Floyd frontman and a supporter of Maduro – has criticised Sir Richard for his perceived ties to the pro-Western Guaidó, alleging Venezuela Aid Live is a front for a US-backed coup.

In a video posted to his Facebook page, Waters says: “Even if you listen to their shtick, it has nothing to do with humanitarian aid at all. It has to do with Richard Branson – and I’m not surprised by this – having bought the US saying, ‘We have decided to take over Venezuela, for whatever our reasons may be.’

“But it has nothing to do with the needs of the Venezuelan people, it has nothing to do with democracy, it has nothing to do with freedom, and it has nothing to do with aid.

“I have friends who are in Caracas right now. There is, so far, no civil war, no mayhem, no murder, no apparent dictatorship, no mass imprisonment of opposition, no suppression of the press, none of that is going on – even though that is the narrative that is being sold to the rest of us.

“They’re now making up a concert. How many concerts are they going to stage?”

“So we just need to back off – particularly Richard Branson.”

He also appealed to Gabriel – a friend who usually shares Waters’ politics, for example in their support of the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement – to “please call me. I want to talk to you about this, because it’s very easy to be led down a garden path that ends in regime change. Do we really want Venezuela to turn into another Iraq or Syria and Libya? I don’t. And neither do the Venezuelan people.”

It is unclear whether Waters will perform at the Maduro-backed concert, which has so far yet to announce a line-up. IQ has contacted the Venezuelan information ministry for comment.

The move by Maduro’s government to stage a rival concert is “desperate”, Guaidó tells the Associated Press. “They’re debating whether the aid should come in or not […] They don’t know what to do.

“They’re now making up a concert. How many concerts are they going to stage?”

 


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Richard Branson plans Venezuela Aid Live concert

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson has announced plans for a concert to raise funds for humanitarian aid in Venezuela and bring global attention to the Latin American country’s ongoing crisis.

Venezuela Aid Live will take place on 22 February in the Colombian city of Cúcuta on the Venezuelan border. The concert will feature a “fantastic line-up of top Latin American and global artists,” and will be available to watch by international audiences via a live stream.

In a video address, Branson announces that he aims to raise US$100 million through donations in six days to go towards securing essential humanitarian aid for Venezuelans.

“Venezuela is suffering. Not that long ago it was the wealthiest country in South America and now it is facing the worst humanitarian crisis in the western hemisphere,” says Branson.

“Venezuela is suffering. Not that long ago it was the wealthiest country in South America and now it is facing the worst humanitarian crisis in the western hemisphere”

“I know a thing or two about the music business, and I’m old enough to remember how George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh and Bob Geldof’s LiveAid moved the world to action,” says Branson.

The Virgin founder says he will help to organise “a beautiful concert to bring global attention to this unacceptable and preventable crisis, and raise funds for essential humanitarian aid.”

According to Branson, the concert comes in response to calls from Venezuela’s internationally-recognised interim president, Juan Guaidó, and opposition politician Leopoldo López.

The Nicolás Maduro-led Venezuelan government has ordered security forces to block humanitarian aid from entering the country, despite severe food and medicine shortages.

Information about the concert and instructions on how to make a donation can be found here.

 


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Richard Branson announces new US Virgin Fest

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson has announced the launch of Virgin Fest, a new “multi-experiential” music festival set to debut in the US in 2019.

Virgin was formerly involved in the UK’s V Festival, promoted by Live Nation, Metropolis Music, MCD Productions and SJM Concerts. V debuted in 1996 as twin festivals in Hylands Park, Chelmsford, and Victoria Park in Warrington, with headliners Pulp, Paul Weller and Elastica. The northern England leg moved to Leeds in 1997, before settling in Weston Park in Staffordshire in 1999.

Announcing the end of the partnership, Branson said last October: “We’ve been proud to sponsor V Festival for the past two decades and there have been some incredible performances on the stage. Now, after 22 very enjoyable and successful years, 2017 was Virgin’s last V Festival.”

The Chelmsford V Festival was succeeded by a new event, Rize Festival, in 2018, although the Staffordshire event has not been replaced.

Writing on his Virgin blog after unveiling his new Hollywood Walk of Fame star, Branson says: “Once upon a time, we built the largest independent record company in the world, and that is the reason I believe I’ve been honoured with a star. Running a record company can be a lot of fun, and, yes, it did involve sex, drugs and rock’n’roll! So I had plenty of stories to share with the audience in Hollywood, from Mike Oldfield to the Sex Pistols, Phil Collins to Janet Jackson, the Rolling Stones to Boy George, Peter Tosh to the Spice Girls.

 

“I could go on and on about all of the moments that brought us here (I’ll share more of them soon), but it’s always most important for me to keep the Virgin brand moving forward and that’s exactly what we intend to do together.

“With that in mind, I’m proud to announce Virgin Fest, an innovative, multi-experiential music festival with all of the fun surprises and red-hot service that can only come from Virgin. We followed the Walk of Fame event with a special Virgin Fest launch in Hollywood, complete with a brilliant performance from Nervo (who says you can’t dance at lunchtime?!)

“Virgin Fest is coming to the US in 2019 and will be centred on music, exploration, innovation and generosity. It will feature a unique mixture of diverse music acts, cutting edge technological experiences, exclusive content, and a commitment to sustainability.”

No dates, performers or a venue have yet been announced for the new event, but Branson says its programming will reflect “the heart of the Virgin brand, [which] has always been music and entertainment”, with a “unique mixture of diverse music acts, cutting-edge technological experiences, exclusive content and a commitment to sustainability.”

“But, true to the Virgin brands,” he adds, “we will make sure Virgin Fest also focuses strongly on customer service. We want our festgoers to come away having enjoyed an amazing experience, not just another music event.”

 


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Richard Branson invests in ‘secret gig’ promoter

Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson has invested in Sofar Sounds, a British start-up that promotes ‘secret shows’ in 263 cities worldwide.

Branson, who started a record retail business (now Virgin Megastores) in February 1971 before using the proceeds to found Virgin Records, says Sofar – Songs from a Room – offers an an antidote to “soulless” modern venues by putting on concerts in “unusual, spontaneous places” and creating “new, engaged fans who have been immersed in an authentic, eclectic night, and maybe met a new friend or two as well”.

Writing on his Virgin blog, Branson says: “Like all the best ideas, Sofar Sounds started life as the solution to a personal problem somebody was facing. Co-founders Rafe Offer, Rocky Start and Dave Alexander were fed up of going to gigs and hearing people talk and play on their phones rather than engage with the artist. So they began organising secret, intimate gigs in their living rooms with the simple idea of making every show magical. They quickly discovered that many, many more people wanted the same thing.

“The average Sofar show is oversubscribed by 10 to one. This is the main reason I am excited to be investing: the opportunity to help it expand and reach even more music fans”

“Before long Sofar expanded from secret gigs in London living rooms to secret gigs everywhere from Thailand to Turkey, Brazil to Belgium, Kenya to South Korea. [Over] 260 cities are part of the Sofar community, with music-loving US destinations the fastest-growing, from New York to Los Angeles, Chicago to Dallas, Washington, DC, to San Francisco. As I’ve heard from the many friends and colleagues who have been going to the gigs, every show is different and each city puts its own spin on the distinctive Sofar experience.

“So far there have been more than 4000 Sofar Sounds events featuring over 12,000 artists, and they are growing fast. There will be 290 events this month, and the average show is oversubscribed by 10 to one. This is the main reason I am excited to be investing in Sofar – the opportunity to help it expand and reach even more music fans. By creating more events in its inimitable style, they will in turn be able to support even more artists.”

The involvement of Sir Richard brings Sofar Sounds, founded in 2011, to a total of four investors. The London-based company has secured two previous rounds of investment: seed funding from Index Ventures and LocalGlobe, and seed and series-A funding from Octopus Ventures.

 


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