fbpx

PROFILE

MY SUBSCRIPTION

LOGOUT

x

The latest industry news to your inbox.

    

I'd like to hear about marketing opportunities

    

I accept IQ Magazine's Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy

The perfect storm: Inside the UK’s only live shows

Selling over 72,000 tickets for a concert series that began when live shows in the UK were – strictly speaking – not allowed, is no small undertaking. But then neither is building a new outdoor arena for shows at a time when strict social distancing rules are in place.

All the things that could have gone wrong would’ve gone wrong on the opening weekend but they didn’t,” says Jim Gee, a director at Manchester-based production company, Engine No.4.

Gee and his team have spent the last few months working tirelessly on the launch of the UK’s only major summer concert series of 2020 at the country’s first socially distanced arena in Newcastle. And it’s a remarkable story in a time of lockdowns, postponements and cancellation.

The Virgin Money Unity Arena is set to host 29 events in 26 days, featuring artists including Supergrass, The Libertines and Maximo Park.

Sam Fender opened the series on 11 August with a sold-out show, which Gee deems were an enormous success despite the high stakes. We went from never having done this kind of event before, straight to a full-capacity for the first show but it opened with a bang,” he says.

“We went from never having done this kind of event before, straight to a full-capacity for the first show”

The 2,500-capacity shows are the vision of SSD Concerts boss Steve Davis, with whom Engine No.4 worked on Newcastle-based festival This Is Tomorrow.

Having one pandemic project under their belt already – the UK’s first socially distanced dining concept, Platform 15, at Escape to Freight Island at Depot Mayfield, Manchester – Engine No.4 was the ideal choice for Davis and SSD, and the team set to work on finding the perfect site for the concert series they’d dreamt up.

We looked at various places around Newcastle and the Racecourse ticked all the boxes. We needed a big car park capacity, a big arena capacity and a big capacity in between those sites for walking and socially distanced queueing,” explains Gee.

The site features 500 viewing platforms each accommodating up to five people. Attendees were given 20-minute slots in which to arrive, though Gee says that was the only aspect that didn’t quite go to plan on the first night.

Avoiding queues was one of the key factors in the event running smoothly, along with space and sanitation

“The thing that slightly caught us off guard was how quickly people arrived. They were raring to get in ahead of their segmented times so we ended up having slightly longer queues getting into the event than anticipated, but we tweaked that after the first night,” he says.

Avoiding queues was one of the key factors in the event running smoothly, along with space and sanitation, says Gee. And the rest is “purely common sense and over-speccing things”.

“Over-speccing things” meant equipping the arena with 150 hand sanitizer stations; eight food operators; more bar frontage; and approximately four times more toilets than an event of that size would usually require.

But of course, over-estimating facilities is just one of the factors driving up costs for an event like this. “Holding an event for 2,500 with facilities that could normally take 35-40,000 people clearly isn’t a brilliant financial model,” he laughs.

Gee notes that for events like these, commercial support from sponsors like Virgin Money is crucial. He also says that although the financial model of socially-distanced events like this one isn’t sustainable, it is a step closer towards a viable model.

“There was a lot of stakeholders working together in the perfect storm”

“I think you can mitigate those costs in some way with the length of the run,” he says. “What we’ve done here is a bit like the venue model. If you can create a temporary venue and put enough shows into that venue then at some point you might start to break even and maybe make a bit of money but to try and do this for a weekend or a festival or a week doesn’t make sense,” he adds.

The desired time frame was another crucial consideration when choosing the site, says Gee, but the Racecourse was able to provide the licences and planning permission required for the event.

However, the success of the event wasn’t just down to right place, right time. “There was a lot of stakeholders working together in the perfect storm,” says Gee, crediting the enthusiasm of Newcastle City Council, the emergency services, Virgin Money and the artists who have to “buy into the concept”.

According to Gee, the series has been such a success so far, Newcastle City Council has been approached by a number of other local authorities asking for pointers. On top of that, the Department for Culture, Media and Sports and Public Health England has accepted an invitation to view the systems in place.

“A lot of hoops have had to be jumped through to make this work and it isn’t particularly economically sustainable but what we’ve managed to create could be used as a model going forwards,” says Gee.

 


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

UK live music at “record high” £1.1bn value

The live music sector contributed £1.1 billion (US$1.42bn/€1.28bn) to the British economy in 2018 – a 10% year-on-year increase – according to UK Music’s inaugural Music by Numbers report.

Music by Numbers 2019 – which builds on and replaces the umbrella body’s forerunner Measuring Music and Wish You Were Here reports – reveals the UK music industry continued to grow across every sector last year, with live once again leading the charge.

UK Music, which includes the UK Live Music Group, measures the health of Britain’s music business each year by collating data on its contribution in goods and services – known as gross value added (GVA) – to the UK’s gross domestic product (GDP), including export revenue.

The findings of this year’s report include:

GVA from recorded music also rose, by 5% to £535m – remaining at around half the contribution of the live sector – while total record label revenues grew for the third consecutive year (3% in 2018).

“The figures in this report are testament to the outstanding creativity of our world-leading artists”

Employment in live, meanwhile, increased 7% to 30,529.

“Our report reveals firm evidence that the British music industry is in great shape and continuing to lead the world,” comments UK Music CEO Michael Dugher. “The figures are hugely encouraging and show that, as well as enriching the lives of millions of people, music makes an incredible contribution to the UK’s economy.

“Live music is now at a record high and continues to draw millions of fans from both the UK and abroad to our arenas and smaller venues alike.

“Music exports are another amazing success story, with the best of British creative talent being showcased across the globe. However, this is not a time for complacency. We face many challenges to ensure we keep our music industry vibrant, diverse and punching above its weight. 

“Live music is now at a record high and continues to draw millions of fans from both the UK and abroad”

“We need to do more to protect grassroots venues by helping them combat soaring business rates. We need to nurture the talent pipeline, including by reversing the decline of music in education, so that children from every background have access to music. 

“We need to make sure that creators get fair rewards for their content and are not ripped off by big tech. And we urgently need to ensure that the impact of Brexit doesn’t put in jeopardy the free movement of talent, just at the time when we should be looking outwards and backing the best of British talent right across the world.”

The UK live music industry first broke £1bn GVA in 2016, though the 2018 figure is around £100m higher, indicating continued growth.

Writing in the Music by Numbers 2019’s foreword, culture secretary Nicky Morgan pays tribute to emerging British acts including Sam Fender, Dave (pictured) and Little Simz, and says “the figures in this report are testament to the outstanding creativity of our world-leading artists”.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Sam Fender tops March’s Radar Station chart

British singer-songwriter Sam Fender, the 2019 recipient of the Brit Awards Critics’ Choice, tops the table for March, with former Nashville star Lennon Stella holding strong at number two and Mexican-American soul singer Omar Apollo coming third.

IQ’s monthly Radar Station chart uses an algorithm to identify the fastest-growing new artists by analysing data across a number of online platforms, including Spotify, Facebook, Songkick and Last.fm. Last month’s chart-topper was electronic and acoustic fusion artist Still Woozy.

Newcastle, UK-born indie singer-songwriter Sam Fender first came to attention in 2017, when his single ‘Play God’ earned him a place on the list of nominees for the BBC’s Sound of 2018. Fender went on to release his debut EP Dead Boys in November 2018.

This year, Fender won the Brits Critics’ Choice award, joining past winners Adele, Florence and the Machine, Ellie Goulding and Sam Smith. The singer recently announced he will be playing alongside Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Laura Marling in London’s Hyde Park on 12 July.

Fender won the Brits Critics’ Choice award, joining past winners Adele, Florence and the Machine, Ellie Goulding and Sam Smith

Fender is embarking on a European and UK tour this month, ahead of summer festival appearance at Glastonbury, All Points East, Isle of Wight Festival, Lollapalooza and Down the Rabbit Hole, among others.

Canadian singer Lennon Stella of Nashville fame has maintained her position at number two in the Radar Station chart. Stella released her latest single ‘Bitch (takes one to know one)’ on 15 March. The singer has explained that the song is about “girl power” and aims to reclaim the pejoratively used, gendered insult.

Stella is currently touring in the United States, following the release of her debut EP Love, me last year.

Soulful singer-songwriter Omar Apollo released his first EP Stereo in May last year. The bilingual singer, born to Mexican parents in Indiana, has recently moved to Los Angeles and is touring extensively throughout the United States.

The singer, real name Omar Velasco, makes the trip to Europe in June, with dates planned in Norway, Germany, the UK, Spain, France and Belgium.

See the full chart, along with links to artists’ Facebook pages and booking agency details, below.

 

This monthLast monthArtistCountryAgency
16Sam FenderUKCAA
22Lennon StellaUSCAA
316Omar ApolloUSParadigm (USA), Coda (UK & Europe)
415CrumbUSGround Control Touring (USA), ATC Live (Europe)
59Dominic FikeUSUTA
67JpegmafiaUSParadigm (USA), WME (RoW)
738Polo GUSN/A
846Samm HenshawUKCAA
914Tierra WhackUSUTA
104IdlesUKParadigm (USA & Canada), Coda (RoW)
1112DuckwrthUSICM Partners
1296Boy HarsherUSSwamp Booking (Europe), Ground Control Touring (North America)
1381GashiUSN/A
1417Jade BirdUKCoda (UK), Paradigm (USA)
1533ShaedUSParadigm
1660MallratUSN/A
1718Soccer MommyUSHigh Road Touring (North America), ATC Live (Europe)
1829Flora CashSEParadigm (Americas), UTA (RoW)
1950BadflowerUSAPA
2032Jakob OgawaNorParadigm (Americas), Primary Talent (RoW)

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free digest of essential live music industry news, via email or Messenger.