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Royal Albert Hall CEO Craig Hassall to step down

The Royal Albert Hall has announced the departure of CEO Craig Hassall, who will step down at the start of the 2023 season.

He joined the iconic London venue (cap. 5,272) in 2017 from his previous role as CEO of Opera Australia. He led extensive plans for the Hall’s 150th anniversary in 2021, and subsequently its survival and recovery through the Covid-19 pandemic.

During his six-year tenure, Hassall oversaw a multimillion programme of refurbishment of the Grade I listed venue, as well as “dramatic” growth in the Hall’s own concert promotions.

Hassall has accepted a position as president and chief executive of Playhouse Square in Cleveland, Ohio.

Craig said: “After six wonderful years at the Hall it is time for me to bid a very fond farewell. I have genuinely loved working with the team, and despite all the recent challenges we have faced, it has been a huge privilege to lead the Royal Albert Hall through some great times (and some daunting ones!)”

“[Hassall] has played a pivotal role in sustaining us through the Covid-19 pandemic”

Ian McCulloch, president of the Royal Albert Hall, says: “We have benefitted from Craig’s many talents for nearly six years. During this tenure, Craig has accomplished a great deal for the good of the Hall and the wider cultural sector.

“He has played a pivotal role in sustaining us through the Covid-19 pandemic, in enhancing our reputation and in enabling the Hall to reach even wider audiences. He will be leaving us with our deep gratitude and goodwill.”

Hassall will now lead one of North America’s top performing arts centres in Playhouse Square, the second largest theatre district in the US, with 11 venues in total. He replaces outgoing CEO Gina Vernaci, who retires in February after a 39-year career with the organisation.

“Playhouse Square has a great history of accomplishment and leadership in the performing arts industry,” Hassall continued. “It’s poised to play an even bigger role and I am honoured and excited to have the opportunity to partner with the board of Trustees and this talented team to take Playhouse Square to the next level.”

Hassall will relocate to Cleveland to join Playhouse Square in early 2023, after completing the London Christmas season and the bedding in of the annual Cirque du Soleil season.

The Hall will announce plans for Craig’s replacement in due course.


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Inside the Royal Albert Hall’s sustainability push

The Royal Albert Hall’s Lucy Noble and Neal Hockley have detailed the historic London venue’s sustainability focus in a new interview with IQ.

The Hall’s sustainability group meets quarterly to co-ordinate activities geared towards reducing the RAH’s environmental impact as part of plans to make the building as eco-friendly as possible.

Since 2016, work has been ongoing to change all the lighting in the 5,500-cap auditorium to LED, which has cut electricity usage by two-thirds in the completed areas. However, modernising the beloved Grade I listed Victorian building is not without its challenges.

“There are constraints with the structure of the building being 152 years old now and, because of the listing, not being able to change some of the key features,” explains building project engineer Hockley. “It would be nice to put modern insulation into walls and things like that, which we can’t do, and it would be lovely to get rid of the glass roof because of all the heat gains that come through from that, but obviously that would have massive implications.

“It is a challenge, but it is possible to work with it. We’re running a new filter system, which is far more efficient. We have seen electrical consumption reduce through that and the LED rollout as well. The EU directive to get rid of halogen lighting has driven everyone to try and work to LED. But obviously it’s a large auditorium, and I’m told red is the hardest colour to light against because of the colour rendering. It’s taken us quite a while to get to this point.”

Through various efficiency measures, the Hall has managed to keep emissions at 2019 levels, month-on-month, despite major projects such as new chillers to cool the auditorium.

It has also invested in a £900,000 upgrade of its ventilation system in response to the pandemic, opting to use EC rather than belt-driven fans due to being less harmful to the environment. The VAV (variable air volume) units respond to the CO2 in the air, so can tell when a room is not being used, with the fan speed being turned down automatically. Previously, they would run 24 hours a day.

“When we do a project, at the heart of it is efficiency and trying to reduce our carbon as much as we can”

“At the moment it’s on full speed because of Covid, but eventually we will see the electricity consumption drop, because it can sense the pressure and then the fan speed reduces,” adds Hockley. “It’s just an example that when we do a project, at the heart of it is efficiency and trying to reduce our carbon as much as we can.”

The venue’s artistic director Lucy Noble is one of the speakers at this year’s Green Events & Innovations Conference (GEI), the leading gathering for sustainability at live events. Presented by A Greener Festival (AGF) in partnership with the International Live Music Conference (ILMC), the 14th edition of GEI will take place at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington, London on Friday 29 April.

Noble, who is also chair of the UK’s National Arenas Association (NAA), reveals the RAH is introducing a green rider for promoters, encouraging them to use the venue’s own PA and lights; bring cups or bottles to refill from the coolers, or use Harrogate Spring Water if bottles are needed; and dispose of any show-related waste via the recycling companies listed in the rider.

“You wouldn’t believe how much wastage there is in terms of food, single use plastics, etc, so this is trying to combat that and I think most people are up for that now,” she tells IQ. “We will soon get rid of plastic front-of-house. We haven’t had plastic straws, forks and knives for many years, it’s all wooden now, and we try to use sustainable suppliers.

“We work with Harrogate Water, who are moving to a bottle that is 100% made from recycled materials and is 100% recyclable. People sometimes look at plastic and think it’s the big evil, but if you work with plastic that is from a recycled nature it can actually be really good. Harrogate Water is already operating on a net zero basis and we try to work with companies with strong sustainability credentials.”

“We will put a carbon management plan together over the course of this year”

Hockley, who has worked for the RAH since 2016, is in the process of putting together a carbon management plan for the venue, including key performance indicators (KPIs) around achieving net-zero carbon.

“We will put that plan together over this year,” he says. “It’s bringing items that the Hall is doing already under one document, if you like, with KPIs so that we can benchmark where we are every year. So with our energy, we’ve benchmarked a year, but there are other things that we need to benchmark as well and that plan will bring everything together and demonstrate how we are going to get to net zero.”

The venue has also brought audio in-house, dramatically reducing the number of lorries travelling to and from the Hall, with the majority of shows now using its audio rig. In addition, it plans to integrate a power monitoring system where any member of staff can log in and check the amount of power being used on a show-specific basis, allowing them to monitor the emissions created by a single show and work with the promoter to cut them.

Tonight (25 March) sees the continuation of the Teenage Cancer Trust charity concert series at the Hall with a concert by The Who, followed by Liam Gallagher (26 March) and Ed Sheeran (27 March).


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Steve Strange wins posthumous honour at Pollstar Awards

The late Steve Strange was honoured at last night’s annual Pollstar Awards, held at the Beverly Hilton’s International Ballroom in Los Angeles.

The legendary booking agent and X-ray Touring co-founder, who passed away in September 2021, posthumously won International Booking Agent of the Year.

In what Pollstar dubbed the most emotional moment of the night, manager Andy Gould paid tribute to the late agent, bringing a cardboard cutout of Strange onstage with him.

“This guy wasn’t just my friend, he was all of our friends; he wasn’t my agent, he was kind of all of our agent,” Gould said. “I miss him so fucking much, I really do. And I think I speak for everyone in the room: We need more Steve Stranges.”

A number of other international execs and venues also scooped awards at the 33rd annual ceremony, including Barrie Marshall (Marshall Arts) who took home International Promoter of the Year – not for the first time.

“I think I speak for everyone in the room: We need more Steve Stranges”

London’s Royal Albert Hall, which celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2021, was honoured not once but twice with the Milestone Award and International Venue of the Year.

Elsewhere, Harry Styles was presented with the Major Tour of the Year award for his ‘Love on Tour’ arena run. Styles’ manager Jeffrey Azoff of Full Stop Management also received recognition in the Personal Manager of the Year category.

Other award-winning executives include Amy Corbin of C3 Presents (Talent Buyer of the Year), Bob Roux of Live Nation (Bill Graham Award/Promoter of the Year) and Dave Rowan of High Road Touring (Bobby Brooks Award/Agent of the Year).

CAA, meanwhile, won Booking Agency of the Year.

A full list of Pollstar Awards 2022 winners is below:

Major Tour of the Year: Harry Styles, Love on Tour

Best Rock Tour: Foo Fighters

Best Hip-Hop Tour: J. Cole, The Off-Season Tour

Best R&B Tour: Earth, Wind & Fire, Miraculous Supernatural Tour

Best Pop Tour: Maroon 5

Best Country Tour: Chris Stapleton, Chris Stapleton’s All-American Road Show Tour

Best Latin Tour: Enrique Iglesias / Ricky Martin, Live in Concert

Comedy Tour of the Year: Sebastian Maniscalco, Nobody Does This Tour

Best Support/Special Guest Act and Tour: Garbage (Alanis Morissette)

Best Residency: Lady Gaga, Jazz & Piano, The Las Vegas Residency, Park Theatre, Las Vegas

Best Family, Event or Non-Music Tour of the Year: Disney on Ice

Best New Headliner/Artist Development Story: Billy Strings

Music Festival of The Year (Global; over 30K attendance): Austin City Limits Music Festival, Austin, Texas

Music Festival of The Year (Global; under 30K attendance): Ohana Festival, Dana Point, Calif.

Nightclub of the Year: Troubadour, West Hollywood, Calif.

Theatre of the Year: Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, Tenn.

Arena of the Year: The Forum, Inglewood, Calif.

Red Rocks Award – Outdoor Concert Venue of the Year: Ascend Amphitheater, Nashville, Tenn.

Best New Concert Venue – Small Venue: Brooklyn Bowl, Nashville, Tenn.

Best New Concert Venue – Arena: Climate Pledge Arena, Seattle, Wa.

Best New Concert Venue – Outdoors: Sofi Stadium, Los Angeles, Calif.

International Venue of the Year: Royal Albert Hall, United Kingdom

Venue Executive of the Year: David Kells, Bridgestone Arena

Talent Buyer of the Year: Amy Corbin, C3 Presents

Small Venue Talent Buyer of the Year (Under 10,000 Capacity): Donna Busch, Goldenvoice

Bill Graham Award/Promoter of the Year: Bob Roux, Live Nation

International Promoter of the Year: Barrie Marshall, Marshall Arts

Bobby Brooks Award – Agent of the Year: Dave Rowan, High Road Touring

International Booking Agent of the Year: Steve Strange, X-ray Touring

Booking Agency of the Year: CAA

Independent Booking Agency of the Year (Global): High Road Touring

Rising Star Award: Molly Warren, Live Nation

Personal Manager of the Year: Jeffrey Azoff, Full Stop Management

Road Warrior of the Year: Ken Helie (Dead & Company)

Transportation Company of the Year: Rock-it Cargo

Best Concert Visuals: Bandit Lites

Best Concert Sound: Clair Global

Marketing/PR Executive of the Year: Allison McGregor, CAA

Best Brand Partnership/Live Campaign: Amazon/Climate Pledge Arena Naming Rights

Best Hang: Austin City Limits Music Festival, Austin, Texas

Best Person to Score a Dinner With: Irving Azoff, The Azoff Company (TIE), Michael Rapino, Live Nation (TIE)

Life of the Party: Ron Delsener, Live Nation

Damn The Torpedoes: 2021 Touring Artist, Dave Chappelle

Milestone Award: Royal Albert Hall, United Kingdom

Music Unites Award: D-Nice


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UK faces “devastating loss” over cancellations, no-shows

The UK live industry is contending with up to 50% audience no shows and widespread cancellations due to Omicron, a snap industry survey has shown.

The survey, conducted by LIVE, found that 70% of organisers were forced to cancel shows due to take place last week. Jessie Ware, Steps, Paul Weller, Coldplay and Lil Nas X are among the artists forced to cancel due to the virus.

Among the major artists that have this week cancelled remaining shows for 2021 are also The Charlatans (five dates), Supergrass (three), Stereophonics (two), Deacon Blue (two), Del Amitri (three), The Libertines (two) and Amy Macdonald (one).

Cancellations also extend into next year, with 50% of venues having already cancelled shows for January and February– some as many as 10 each – and more expected to follow, according to LIVE’s survey.

Cancellations also extend into next year, with 50% of venues having already cancelled shows for January and February

MØ and Brockhampton are among the artists that have already cancelled or postponed UK/EU tours scheduled for 2022 as a result of concerns around Omicron.

The trade association says that the widespread cancellations, alongside a high rate of audience dropouts, are leading to a “devastating” rise in lost income for the live music industry.

These losses are compounded by drastic falls in tickets sales, with expected ticket sales for 2022 live music falling by over a third in the last few weeks, the association adds.

Lucy Noble, National Arenas Association chair and artistic director at Royal Albert Hall, says ticket sales for the London venue have “fallen off a cliff in the past fortnight due to the climate of uncertainty”.

“Ticket sales have fallen off a cliff in the past fortnight due to the climate of uncertainty”

“We have already had a £20m loan from the government but we don’t want to accumulate any more debt,” she tells IQ.

Mark Davyd, CEO of The Music Venue Trust, warns that the position of the industry is taking “a dramatic turn for the worst”.

“Without swift action from the government the entire sector risks collapse within weeks not months,” he tells IQ. “We are currently organising the sector to make applications for all available funding, but more than 50% of grassroots music venues across the UK do not meet the criteria to qualify for the funding currently available.

“The government needs to act on VAT, business rates, retail, hospitality & leisure grants and additional restrictions grants without delay. None of this is new; the government did an excellent job of preventing music venue closures in the last 23 months. We simply need that support reopened to deal with the latest phase of the pandemic.”

“Without swift action from the government the entire sector risks collapse within weeks not months”

Commenting on the snap survey, a spokesperson from LIVE said: “These statistics paint a bleak picture for the sector which is why it’s absolutely vital that the government provides additional support immediately. We need urgent assistance to avoid the live music industry running into the ground, forcing venues to shut up shop and a Christmas of Misery with job losses, and freelancers and artists without work.

“We also face a double-whammy as next year’s sales take a nosedive, meaning organisers do not have the cash needed to cover soaring costs as they struggle to stay afloat while operating at a loss.”

LIVE, on behalf of more than 3,100 businesses in the sector, is now calling for urgent financial support from government, including:


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NAA chair Lucy Noble reacts to England’s ‘Plan B’

National Arenas Association (NAA) chair Lucy Noble has outlined the implications of the UK government’s “Plan B” measures for live music in a new interview with IQ.

In an effort to combat the spread of the Omicron variant, prime minister Boris Johnson announced last night that the wearing of face masks will be mandated in all venues from next Wednesday (15 December), and vaccine passports will be required to gain entry.

Johnson said the new rules, which include negative LFTs following extended lobbying by the live sector, would “help to keep these events and venues open at full capacity, while giving everyone who attends them confidence that those around them have done the responsible thing to minimise risk to others”.

Noble, who is artistic director at London’s Royal Albert Hall, anticipates the tightened regulations to hit public demand at what is traditionally a busy time of year.

I’m mostly worried about the impact on ticket sales

“I think ticket sales and attendances will be impacted,” she says. “I think there will be more no-shows over the coming weeks. And it’s going to cost arenas to check everyone – it’s a huge undertaking, a huge cost and it also impacts on customer service. But I think we can get over all of that; I’m mostly worried about the impact on ticket sales.”

Noble says ticket sales had been “really strong” before declining slightly amid the emergence of the new Covid variant last month. She adds the significant volume of no-shows reported by other venues had not been replicated at the Hall, which took out a £20 million loan from the government’s Culture Recovery Fund last year.

“People see the Royal Albert Hall as a really special night out, so they don’t really want to forego that,” she surmises. “Events always see no shows, but ours are at the same level as they were before the pandemic.”

Meanwhile, the Hall’s 150th anniversary celebrations, which were due to kick off on 29 March 2021 – exactly 150 years to the day of its opening – will now extend to 2023 due to the disruption caused by Covid-19.

“It was sad that we were shut for our actual 150th birthday,” reflects Noble. “But what was exciting was that we had commissioned [composer] David Arnold to write a piece to celebrate the Hall’s 150th birthday and that, fortuitously, landed on the day that we could open at full capacity – 19 July.

“That was a wonderful way to come out of the pandemic, but also to celebrate the hall’s anniversary and it was a great concert. We have lots of other exciting things planned for it – we plan to extend it through to the end of 2023 now – so we’re just going to have a long 150th birthday.”

I’m feeling positive about our recovery as an industry

Noble, who previously held a hybrid commercial/artistic role at the venue, was recently appointed as its first artistic director by CEO Craig Hassall. The Hall is also recruiting a new chief operating officer in 2022.

“We’re about to embark on our next business plan, and sustainability is a big pillar of that, along with diversity and innovation,” she explains. “We want to think of our talent pipeline, and our future artists and audiences as well.

“We’ll also be looking at the whole visitor experience for the Royal Albert Hall, so it’s not just about the performance; it’s about the Hall becoming a destination in the daytime as well and opening it up more.

“In the new year, we’ll announce a new associate artist scheme where we’re going to be working with younger artists. It will be the first time the Hall has ever done that and we’re quite excited about it.”

Artists scheduled to play the venue in 2022 include Eric Clapton, James Arthur, Brian Wilson, Gladys Knight, Joe Bonamassa and Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.

Noble, who succeeded Motorpoint Arena Nottingham chief Martin Ingham as NAA chair in 2019, adds she has been impressed by the teamwork displayed by the events sector and singles out new trade body LIVE for special praise.

“We were able to influence government to a certain point,” she says. “When [the pandemic] first started, we had no voice at all. So that’s been key. I’ve enjoyed working with my industry colleagues in a way that we never have done before. If there’s one good thing to come out of this, it’s that there is a stronger, more unified voice across the industry – and that’s going to be a great thing moving forward for the whole industry.”

She concludes: “For the NAA, the pandemic has taken up so much of our time, but sustainability will be high on the agenda moving forward. We’ve all got a common goal to improve and work together to eventually work towards net zero

“At the moment, we’re right in the middle of this new variant and I don’t know what that will bring. But I’m feeling positive about our recovery as an industry.”


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Music and theatre sue UK govt for pilot show data

Live music industry body LIVE and a range of theatre businesses, including Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group, Cameron Mackintosh, Michael Harrison and Sonia Friedman, have commenced legal proceedings against the UK government to force it to hand over the report from its series of test events, the Events Research Programme (ERP).

The ERP is the government’s research into Covid-19 mitigations in sport, entertainment and business conferences settings. The music industry and theatre businesses have repeatedly called on the government to outline the scientific basis for its decision to maintain restrictions on events. Despite portions of the ERP economic impact assessment being leaked to the media this week, the government refused calls from many MPs in a debate on Tuesday 22 June to release the report in full.

Several UK festivals, including Kendal Calling, Truck and Let’s Rock, have cited the non-release of the ERP data as a reason for cancelling their 2021 events. “Without this safety guidance, there are numerous aspects of the festival we cannot plan, and which could lay us wide open to last minute unforeseen regulations or requirements which could scupper an already built festival,” reads a statement from Kendal Calling, which cancelled earlier this week.

Stuart Galbraith, CEO of Kilimanjaro Live (which recently acquired Let’s Rock) and co-founder of LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment), the representative body for the live music industry, says: “The live music industry has been very willing to work with government for the last year to show that our industry can operate safely. But it is intolerable that after running pilot shows for the government’s Events Research Programme, at our own cost, we have been blocked from seeing the results, leaving the whole sector in limbo with the real chance that the entire summer could collapse for the second year running.

“Even now, the live music sector has no idea what the rest of the summer brings, and we are left with a complete inability to plan ahead due to the government’s continued unwillingness to provide some form of insurance to enable events to move forward.”

“The govt’s actions are forcing theatre and music companies off a cliff as the summer wears on, whilst cherry-picking high-profile sporting events to go ahead”

In the legal action, lodged today, the parties assert that the government has “flagrantly breached the ‘duty of candour’ which requires it to be transparent when faced with a legal challenge and that none of the reasons given for withholding the Events Research Programme material they seek withstand scrutiny”. They have asked the court to consider their application at an urgent hearing as soon as possible.

“The government’s actions are forcing theatre and music companies off a cliff as the summer wears on, whilst cherry-picking high-profile sporting events to go ahead,” comments theatre impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber. “The situation is beyond urgent.”

As well as declining to publish the ERP results, the bodies argue that the British government is yet to provide any form of insurance scheme for the sector or to make it clear what kind of ongoing mitigations may be required in the future – effectively making it impossible to plan for any live entertainment business. According to recent research from LIVE the potential four-week delay to reopening will lead to around 5,000 live music gigs being cancelled, as well as numerous theatre productions across the country, costing hundreds of millions of pounds in lost income.

Peter Gabriel, speaking for WOMAD Festival, says: “Without immediate government intervention, the festival industry is on the brink of collapse. That doesn’t mean cash, it means providing the certainty to enable us to deliver festivals, guidance on safety, and an understanding of how their timing affects us in the real world.

“We struggle to understand why these trials took place if the government can’t now tell us the results and how that will affect all of us”

“At the end of this week, WOMAD will be faced with one very difficult and heart-wrenching decision. Millions of pounds of investment and the livelihood of around five thousand people are at stake. Several pilot events have been successfully run over recent months. But, like other festival teams, we need to be told what that research means for WOMAD. We struggle to understand why these trials took place if the government can’t now tell us the results and how that will affect all of us.”

While today’s suit focuses on forcing the government to release the findings of its pilot programme, the suit is also critical of the lack of guidance for the forthcoming step four – the final stage of reopening, provisionally scheduled for 19 July. Lack of clear guidance was a contributing factor to Kendal Calling cancelling earlier this week despite it taking place after the step 4 date.

Craig Hassall, CEO of the Royal Albert Hall, says: “The chronic uncertainty and endless indecisiveness from government, and pilot events with no published results, have damaged audience confidence and further harmed a sector that has already been decimated by the pandemic. For as long as venues like the Royal Albert Hall, and hundreds more across the country, are prevented from effectively operating with no justification, we cannot play our part in supporting the critical ecosystem of freelancers, small businesses and suppliers who rely on us and who are so desperately in need of work.”

Live entertainment and theatre generate £11.25 billion in gross value added each year, and the sectors support just under one million jobs between them.

LIVE’s members are the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), Association for Electronic Music (AFEM), Association of Festival Organisers (AFO), Association of Independent Promoters (AIP), British Association of Concert Halls (BACH), Concert Promoters Association (CPA), Featured Artist Coalition (FAC), The Entertainment Agents’ Association (TEAA), Music Venue Trust (MVT), Music Managers Forum (MMF), National Arenas Association (NAA), Production Services Association (PSA) and Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR).


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Cirque du Soleil announces return to the stage

Cirque do Soleil Entertainment Group has announced the reopening of four of its most popular shows, which have been closed for more than a year due to restrictions imposed in response to the pandemic.

Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil, the world’s largest producer of circus and other touring entertainment events, was one of the first casualties of the coronavirus, filing for bankruptcy last June after having already laid off thousands of staff. It emerged from bankruptcy protection in November after striking an agreement with creditors.

Two resident shows, O at the Bellagio and Mystère at Treasure Island, will reopen in Las Vegas this summer (1 July and 28 June, respectively), with the affiliated Blue Man Group show also returning to the Luxor Hotel from 24 June. Tickets for all Las Vegas shows are on sale now.

“I just can’t wait to see the lights go back on”

Two Cirque-produced touring events will also reopen: Kooza will return to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic from November, with Luzia opening at the Royal Albert Hall in London in January 2022.

Daniel Lamarre, president and CEO of Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group, says: “This is the moment we have all been waiting for. Almost 400 days have passed since we had to take a temporary hiatus, and we have been anxiously awaiting our return to the stage.

“I am so proud of the resilience of our artists and employees who persevered during the most challenging times with stages dark around the world for so long. I just can’t wait to see the lights go back on.”

“This is only the beginning,” he adds. “We look forward to sharing more exciting news in the coming weeks.”


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Neil Warnock: “It’s time to get entrepreneurial”

UTA’s global head of touring, Neil Warnock, has predicted that the demand for live entertainment when the threat of Covid-19 starts to subside “will be like opening a floodgate”, but says the industry needs to be entrepreneurial about how concerts can return.

“People will definitely want to be entertained, they will want to go and see some music and I think [live entertainment] is going to have a boom time,” Warnock told ILMC head Greg Parmley during his Eurosonic Noorderslag keynote ‘What is the Future of Live?’.

“But if we can’t go and see music the way that we hope to see it, maybe we can provide it in a different way? Let’s be entrepreneurial and think about how we can actually bring everybody together. We’ve got an audience and we’ve got artists so how we are going to actually make it work in a safe environment, in a way that maybe we weren’t looking at before?” he said.

However, the UTA chief is optimistic that the pandemic – and the subsequent shakeup in the agency landscape – has given the industry the fresh sense of entrepreneurship that is needed.

“We’re seeing seeing some very interesting developments, as we always do in these circumstances, where agents have left the major agencies to set up their own shop and, to me, that’s very exciting because I think [those agents] are the new entrepreneurs of the future,” he said.

“I think what’s going to come out of this is very refreshing because it’s shaken up the industry. It’s all made us think of what we’re going to do and I think in the next couple of years we’re going to see some exciting stuff happening. I think the strong will get stronger, the entrepreneurs will make money, and the people we lose, we should probably have lost anyway.”

“Nationally, we should be looking at our own artists that don’t have to leave the country and how best we utilise their time”

Warnock said that one way agents could be enterprising in the current climate is to come up with innovative ways to utilise and develop their domestic roster, until international touring can properly resume.

“Nationally, we should be looking at our own artists that don’t have to leave the country and how best we utilise their time and how best we put bills and events together within the UK. And so we’re providing entertainment with local talent as much as we can and developing or redeveloping some of the talent that maybe hasn’t been out to a number of cities or towns in many years.

“For example, if you have an artist that has done 10 arenas, there’s nothing stopping them doing 50 theatres. Also, there’s a lot of smaller open-air events that one could look at and say ‘how can we successfully promote that?’. I think it’s just about entrepreneurship and thinking on the ground about how best we’re going to do this.”

While Warnock says the return of European touring will rely on both the safety and economic viability of shows, he’s hopeful about organising tours in Australasia in the not-too-distant future, where many countries have got the virus under control and are embracing a return to live.

“I can see artists flying independently and doing a Japanese tour, once they’ve got the situation under control, and maybe playing Singapore and Hong Kong if they are safe. Same, if Australia and New Zealand begin to open up, but they can be toured seperately or South America,” he said.

“Nationally, we should be looking at our own artists that don’t have to leave the country and how best we utilise their time”

As for Brexit, Warnock believes that the UK will find a practical solution for touring because it has to, but until then “we become third country status”.

“If you look at that as a definition of where the UK is in the world, that then gives you an idea of what can happen in terms of work permits, and how we actually work with our partner countries across across Europe. So we’ll be treated in the same way as the US, or Australia or Canada going into Europe.”

During the keynote, Warnock also addressed the snowballing popularity of livestreaming and says he believes it’s going to be a component of the live experience going forward.

“I don’t see it going away. Some are saying if you’ve got an artist that can generally sell 15,000–20,000 tickets in London, why not put them in the Albert Hall and sell 5,000 concert tickets and 15,000 livestream tickets,” he said.

“My view is, fine, I would much rather keep the live component going and play to all of those 20,000 people but I think this is going to depend on the artist and what they want to do with their time and their lives.

“Not every streaming show has been an unbelievable success, the big ones where there’s been good investment have proved to do well. But even then, it’s not guaranteed that a streaming show is going to do which is the same with live.”

Eurosonic Noorderslag concludes today.


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New funding rounds announced in UK

Millions of pounds worth of further grants and loans have been made available in England and Scotland to help the UK live industry recover from Covid-19.

Arts Council England (ACE) has opened applications for a second round of repayable finance for culturally significant organisations in England.

The programme, which is part of the UK Government’s £1.57 billion Cultural Recovery Fund (CRF), aims to support those organisations as they transition back to a ‘viable and sustainable operating model’ during the 2021/22 financial year.

The budget for the second round is up to £100 million and the minimum amount that can be applied for is £1m. The final round of CRF grants, totalling around £300m, are expected to open for applications in early January.

Organisations who have previously been awarded a CRF loan are not eligible to apply for further CRF loans, while previously successful grant applicants can.

Last week, the Government and ACE announced the first-round recipients of the repayable finance scheme which included London venues the Royal Albert Hall (£20.74m) and Southbank Centre, while Alexandra Palace (pictured) was awarded £2,967,600 from the £60m Capital Kickstart Fund. The latest grants and loans marked a milestone £1bn in funding allocated.

Elsewhere, the Scottish government has announced an extra £13 million to provide further support for the events sector in Scotland.

Of this, £6 million has been committed for the establishment of a new fund which will open this week to support those event businesses which are critical to Scotland’s events sector, and without which the capacity to deliver major events would be significantly reduced.

“This [£13m] will help hard-pressed businesses going forward and ensure that they are ready to support the recovery”

The Pivotal Event Businesses Fund will provide grants from £25,000 up to a maximum of £150,000 to support approximately 50 to 100 event businesses whose primary role as organisers, suppliers, contractors and venues is critical to the survival of the events sector in Scotland, and upon whom the wider events industry and supply chain are most reliant for their own business and operations.

The remaining funding will be used to set up a separate fund to provide broader support to businesses across the full range of the events sector, including the supply chain, and will be announced early in the new year.

The latest funding follows the £10 million announced by the culture secretary in July for the events industry, of which £6 million was allocated to the now-closed Event Industry Support Fund while £2 million was allocated to Scotland’s Events Recovery Fund currently being run by EventScotland.

“The events sector has faced severe challenges throughout 2020 as the restrictions necessary to contain the coronavirus pandemic have left most businesses unable to operate. While the arrival of a vaccine offers grounds for hope, the events sector and its wider supply chain will continue to experience difficulties for some time to come,” says culture secretary Fiona Hyslop.

“We were able to provide financial support for the events sector in the autumn but we have continued to listen and we acknowledge that further funding is required. This additional £13 million will allow us to help hard-pressed businesses going forward and ensure that they are ready to support the recovery when it is safe to operate again.

“Scotland has a well-earned reputation for delivering successful events at local, national and international level. We are working collaboratively with the industry to ensure that the sector has a future to look forward to and that we maintain our position as the perfect stage for events.”


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Final £400m on the way as latest CRF recipients announced

Historic London venues including the Royal Albert Hall, Alexandra Palace and Southbank Centre are among the beneficiaries of the latest round of Culture Recovery Fund (CRF) spending, as the scheme marks a milestone £1 billion in funding allocated.

The Royal Albert Hall (5,272-cap.) and Southbank Centre, along with organisations such as the English National Opera, Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre, were awarded a share of £165 million in low-interest repayable finance, with the Albert Hall receiving a total of £20.74 million from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Arts Council England (ACE).

Hall CEO Craig Hassall says the loan is a “lifeline” that will enable the Victorian arena “restore our minimum reserves and operating finances to a level comparable to before the pandemic struck”.

Elsewhere, a number of venues across the country are receiving grants from the £60m Capital Kickstart Fund. They include the Alexandra Palace, which has been awarded £2,967,600 to enable its 10,400-capacity Great Hall to “continue with a diverse programme of live, Covid-secure events this winter”, and new Manchester arts venue the Factory, which receives £21m towards its completion.

“As well as providing a multi-use space for diverse arts activity,” the Factory will be the permanent home for Manchester International Festival, “which attracts visitors to the city from across the country and creates opportunities for creative freelancers,” reads a statement from DCMS and UK culture minister Oliver Dowden CBE.

“The £1 billion invested so far through the Culture Recovery Fund has protected tens of thousands of jobs”

“Over the last nine months we’ve worked non-stop to make sure we can open the doors safely and keep the parkland well maintained to provide vital green space,” says Louise Stewart, CEO of Alexandra Park and Palace Charitable Trust. “There are many challenges ahead, but for now at least, thanks to this funding, we have some time and resource to deliver our route to recovery.”

The latest grants and loans come as the government makes plans to allocate the final £400 million of the £1.57 billion CRF. Further details of the final round, comprising £300m in grants and £100m loans to help companies “transition back to usual operating mode from April 2021”, will be announced shortly.

According to Dowden, some funding was held back in previous rounds (to enable authorities to assess the “changing public health picture”), and will also be made available to organisations at “imminent risk of collapse before the end of this financial year” in April.

“This government promised it would be here for culture, and today’s announcement is proof we’ve kept our word,” says the culture secretary. “The £1 billion invested so far through the Culture Recovery Fund has protected tens of thousands of jobs at cultural organisations across the UK, with more support still to come through a second round of applications.

“Today we’re extending a huge helping hand to the crown jewels of UK culture, so that they can continue to inspire future generations all around the world.”

More information about the CRF is available from the Gov.UK website.


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