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

AEG Europe submits Edinburgh Park arena proposal

AEG Europe has submitted a planning application for its proposed 8,500-capacity arena project in Edinburgh.

If granted approval by the city council, the venue will support the regeneration of the Edinburgh Park area alongside master developers Parabola.

Spanning 18,500 square metres, the arena is estimated to attract more than 700,000 visitors per year, with the company hoping to receive planning permission by June 2024 with a view of appointing an external contractor to start work thereafter.

“We are thrilled to be progressing with our plans for a spectacular new arena for Edinburgh,” says AEG Europe president and CEO Alex Hill. “The city has long been renowned as a destination for global culture and one of the world’s best for the arts and live entertainment. We’re excited to build on this reputation and bring world-class live music and entertainment to Edinburgh, as well as investing in the wider Edinburgh Park community through the creation of 1,000+ employment opportunities.”

“It’s been fantastic to see such strong support for our plans, and therefore we are hopeful for a swift and clear decision following our planning application”

The application follows a series of in-person public consultation events, held in December 2023 and January 2024. AEG has previously stated it hopes to launch the venue in 2027.

“We’re delighted by the feedback and valuable insights we’ve received during the extensive consultation and public exhibition process,” adds Alistair Wood, EVP of real estate & development for AEG Europe. “It’s been fantastic to see such strong support for our plans, and therefore we are hopeful for a swift and clear decision following our planning application.

“If we were able to secure planning permission, our focus would then immediately turn to identifying a building contractor and naming rights partner to bring this exciting project to life on site.”

Edinburgh’s current largest indoor venue is the 3,000-cap O2 Academy Edinburgh.

 


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.

 

Mogwai to headline, curate new UK festival

Scottish post-rock band Mogwai will headline and curate the new Big City Festival in their hometown of Glasgow this summer.

In partnership with local promoter Regular Music, the event will launch on 29 June at Queen’s Park, with 12 acts performing across two stages.

The bill includes seminal shoegaze group Slowdive, returning songwriter Nadine Shah, Neu! guru Michael Rother, and Scottish Album of the Year winner Kathryn Joseph.

Beak>, Michael Rother, bdrmm, Cloth, Elisabeth Elektra, Free Love, Goat Girl and Sacred Paws also feature on the lineup.

“It’s an honour to have so many brilliant artists join us for what promises to be a special day”

“We are proud to announce the inaugural Big City festival in Glasgow this June in partnership with Regular Music,” says Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite.

“It’s great for us to have this event in our hometown of Glasgow. It’s an honour to have so many brilliant artists join us for what promises to be a special day.”

In addition to live music, Big City Festival will feature a literary tent in association with White Rabbit Books and a “full selection of licenced bars and food trucks”.

Mogwai were formed in Glasgow in 1995. Along with Braithwaite, the band consists of Barry Burns, Dominic Aitchison and Martin Bulloch.

Last month, the quartet released a trailer for their new documentary If The Stars Had A Sound which follows their journey from inception to the present day.

 


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.

AEG Europe gives update on Edinburgh arena plans

AEG Europe has provided an update on the company’s plans for a new 8.500-cap arena in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The promoter and venue operator is seeking planning approval for the venue in Edinburgh Park, with hopes to launch it in 2027.

A second public consultation event took place in the Scottish capital earlier this week, which features more detail of the scheme, along with a replica model of the proposed arena.

“We did a gap analysis of the UK to see where the big gaps were in terms of arenas, and Edinburgh was the best place,” AEG Europe’s EVP for real estate and development Alistair Wood tells the Edinburgh Evening News.

“We are not planning to go head to head with the Hydro in Glasgow but perhaps see artists who play there also play here. So we are really excited. This should be a great thing for Edinburgh.”

Wood says that AEG plans to bring 150-plus events a year to the venue.

“We are not going to get Beyoncé playing in this arena. But we could attract the likes of the Kaiser Chiefs and other similar level music acts”

“It’s been a long time in the making, but it’s privately funded and in a great location with unbeatable transport links,” he continues. “Momentum is key for us, we don’t want the project to stall and these plans to be forgotten about, we want to get going and get the place open as quickly as possible.”

Wood also responds to concerns that the Edinburgh proposal is not of a sufficient scale to compete with Scotland’s biggest indoor venues, Glasgow’s 14,300-cap Hydro and the 15,000-cap P&J Live in Aberdeen. Edinburgh’s current largest indoor venue is the 3,000-cap O2 Academy Edinburgh. The Royal Highlands Centre, situated on the outskirts of the city, holds 10,500 and is occasionally used for concerts.

“It’s the size of the market,” says Wood. “If you look at the overall location of Edinburgh, it extends quite a long way north and south, but not west. So we had to be realistic.

“We are not going to get Beyoncé playing in this arena. But we could attract the likes of the Kaiser Chiefs and other similar level music acts as well as comedians like Michael McIntyre, and this capacity is perfect for them. A lot of shows at the Hydro don’t play to a full venue, so we think this is the perfect size for Edinburgh and the perfect size for our first venue in Scotland.”

Subject to planning permission, work is expected to begin on the project in early 2025.

“We have had a positive pre-application consultation with the public and planners,” adds Wood. “Generally the feedback has been very positive. People are delighted that we are planning to build an arena in Edinburgh, and we can’t wait to deliver it.”

 


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.

AEG Europe unveils Edinburgh arena plans

AEG Europe has unveiled plans for a new 8.500-cap arena in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The promoter and venue operator is seeking planning approval for the venue, which would be located in the heart of Edinburgh Park.

The park’s owner, award-winning developer Parabola, has agreed to sell the west Edinburgh site for the new venue to AEG, which notes the location offers “unrivalled” public transport and motorway access, including two nearby tram stops, two mainline stations, bus connections and motorway links.

Subject to approval, work is expected to begin in early 2025, with the first live events taking to the stage in 2027.

“AEG is thrilled to announce this spectacular new arena for Edinburgh,” says Alex Hill, president and CEO of AEG Europe. “It’s a location with immense potential, amplified by Parabola’s transformative development and regeneration of Edinburgh Park. The much needed 8,500-capacity arena will bring world-class live music and entertainment to Edinburgh, further cementing its reputation as a destination for culture and global tourism,. We look forward to this development becoming an integral part of the local community.”

“This investment will complement all that is on offer at Edinburgh Park and ensure that the arts and culture has an outstanding live performance facility”

A planning application will be submitted to the City of Edinburgh Council in the coming weeks, and it is anticipated the matter will then be determined within six months. Public consultation exhibitions will be held at Edinburgh Park as part of the planning process.

“Parabola is delighted to be working with AEG in the delivery of such an iconic venue for the city,” adds Peter Millican OBE, chairman and founder of Parabola. “This investment will complement all that is on offer at Edinburgh Park and ensure that the arts and culture has an outstanding live performance facility. The new Edinburgh Arena will put west Edinburgh on the map as a new cultural destination.”

The Scottish capital’s current largest indoor venue is the 3,000-cap O2 Academy Edinburgh, although the Royal Highlands Centre, situated on the outskirts of the city, holds 10,500 and is occasionally used for concerts.

 


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.

DF Concerts to bring Summer Sessions to Stirling

Promoter DF Concerts is bringing Scotland’s long-running Summer Sessions to the foot of Stirling Castle, Stirling City Park in June/July 2024.

The announcement comes just weeks after DF, Live Nation and Cuffe & Taylor announced the live music series will expand to five new destinations in England and Wales next year.

Stirling, which is within an hour’s travel time for 50% of Scotland’s population, joins Edinburgh and Glasgow as Summer Sessions hosts in Scotland. New 15,000 to 30,000-cap events are also set to take place in Bedford’s Bedford Park, Chepstow Racecourse, Derby’s Markeaton Park, Plymouth’s The Hoe and Southampton’s Guildhall Square.

“Summer Sessions has gone from strength to strength with the announcement of more cities hosting events in 2024 and Stirling Summer Sessions will be a very welcome addition to Scotland’s event calendar next year,” says DF CEO Geoff Ellis. “Stirling City Park is a very unique event space, sitting in the dramatic shadow of Stirling Castle and we cannot wait to bring some world-class acts to the city as it celebrates its 900th anniversary.”

Founded in Glasgow back in 2013 and expanded to Edinburgh in 2018, Summer Sessions has showcased acts including The Cure, Simple Minds, Florence & the Machine and Paloma Faith. The first headliners announced for 2024 are Nile Rodgers & Chic – who will play Bedford and Southampton on 7 July and 23 June, respectively – and Jess Glynne, who will perform in Bedford on 28 June.

“Stirling City Park will be a superb venue for the Summer Sessions, as it has been for previous large-scale concerts and events”

“Next year is the Burgh of Stirling’s 900th anniversary so it’s hugely exciting and fitting for us to host the Summer Sessions for the first time as we celebrate this major milestone,” says Stirling Council leader Cllr Chris Kane.

“With its stunning backdrop of Stirling Castle and accessible location near the city centre, Stirling City Park will be a superb venue for the Summer Sessions, as it has been for previous large-scale concerts and events. We can’t wait to welcome music fans from across the country for this major festival and to showcase everything Stirling has to offer.”

Dates and the full programme of events will be be announced soon.

Next year’s Glasgow Summer Sessions will return to Bellahouston Park after a brief hiatus, while Edinburgh Summer Sessions will now take place at the Royal Highland Showgrounds, which hosted Connect Festival, Paolo Nutini and The Killers in 2023.

 


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.

Scotland’s Summer Sessions expands across UK

Live Nation, DF Concerts and Cuffe & Taylor have announced the expansion of Scotland’s long-running live music series Summer Sessions to five new destinations in England and Wales in 2024.

The new 15,000 to 30,000-cap events will take place in Bedford’s Bedford Park, Chepstow Racecourse, Derby’s Markeaton Park, Plymouth’s The Hoe and Southampton’s Guildhall Square.

The first headliners have been revealed as Nile Rodgers & Chic – who will play Bedford and Southampton on 7 July and 23 June, respectively – and Jess Glynne, who will perform in Bedford on 28 June.

“We see an incredible opportunity to deliver world-leading live shows all around the UK under the Summer Sessions banner”

Founded by DF Concerts back in 2013, Summer Sessions will also return to Edinburgh and Glasgow in 2024, with more cities to be announced soon. Previous headliners have included Eminem, Foo Fighters, Kendrick Lamar, Florence + The Machine and David Guetta.

“The runaway success of Summer Sessions in Scotland has proven the event is one which resonates with music fans and artists alike, whilst also bringing brilliant economic benefits to host cities” says Cuffe & Taylor co-founder Peter Taylor. “We see an incredible opportunity to deliver world-leading live shows all around the UK under the Summer Sessions banner, and very much expect the events to become regular fixtures in music fans’ calendars.”

Next year’s Glasgow Summer Sessions will return to Bellahouston Park after a brief hiatus, while Edinburgh Summer Sessions will now take place at the Royal Highland Showgrounds, which hosted Connect Festival, Paolo Nutini and The Killers in 2023.

 


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.

Celebrating 10 years of Glasgow’s OVO Hydro

Consistently recognised as one of the world’s busiest venues, the OVO Hydro in Glasgow has revolutionised Scotland’s live entertainment sector. Now, as the arena marks its tenth birthday, its promoter clients, suppliers, and staff acknowledge the £125m building as one of the greatest investments in Scotland’s history.

When Rod Stewart opened what OVO Hydro 2022 was then the SSE Hydro in Glasgow in September 2013, it marked a new era in arena-scale gig-going in the city that has changed the landscape both physically and culturally.

Designed on a Greek amphitheatre model by Fosters + Partners and built on the once neglected Queen’s Dock area of Glasgow that now forms the Scottish Event Campus, the £125 million arena’s spaceship-sized expanse has become the centrepiece of a trinity of neighbouring venues. The original Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre opened in 1985, with the Clyde Auditorium, better known as the Armadillo, following in 1997.

A full decade in the planning, disaster struck in June 2013 when a major fire broke out during construction. Despite the extensive damage, the arena opened just one month behind schedule.

Ten years on from that curtain-raising Rod Stewart show, and what is now the OVO Hydro has hosted more than 1,000 concerts and is on the map as one of the most successful concert venues in the world.

Up until 2019, when Aberdeen’s P&J Live venue opened, the 14,300-capacity Hydro was the largest entertainment venue in Scotland and the fifth largest in the UK. And to underscore the demand for live entertainment in Scotland, in 2019, the Hydro was the second busiest venue in the world (according to Pollstar’s annual numbers), with only New York’s Madison Square Garden getting bigger audiences than the 1m-plus per year the Hydro now regularly attracts.

“Since the Hydro opened, Glasgow is usually one of the key cities for artists to come to along with London, Manchester, and Birmingham. That has transformed everything”

With the likes of Fleetwood Mac, and Bruno Mars following Rod Stewart’s curtain-raising performance, the Hydro has gone on to host almost every major act in the world. This has included shows by Beyoncé, David Byrne, Billie Eilish, Kylie Minogue, and what turned out to be the last-ever appearance in Scotland by Prince.

Comedy shows such as the stage versions of Scottish TV sitcoms Still Game and Mrs Brown’s Boys have also graced the Hydro’s stage for multiple shows. The 2014 MTV Europe Music Awards was held at the Hydro, which was also used as a venue for that year’s Commonwealth Games. In 2021, the Hydro was also used for COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference that brought together one of the largest gatherings of world leaders to discuss environmental issues in a changing world.

While the Covid-induced lockdowns during 2020 and 2021 closed down live music across the world, the Hydro was co-opted as a vaccination centre. Once live music returned, the venue hit the ground running to sate a refreshed desire for large-scale events.

From Wee to Stoater
But what makes the OVO Hydro so special for artists and audiences alike? For Scotland-based promoters such as Geoff Ellis of DF Concerts and Mark Mackie of Regular Music, the Hydro filled a gap in the market that Glasgow audiences were crying out for.

“I guess the biggest thing with the Hydro is the fact that it’s available all year round,” says Ellis, “whereas previously, the SECC was only available for a few weeks at a time in-between everything else going on there. So, the Hydro has completely opened up the market.

“As a venue, the Hydro was long overdue for Glasgow, and its success hasn’t surprised anyone.”

“The fact that it’s a purpose-built entertainment venue makes the actual experience of going there a good one for fans, and that again has really transformed the market, with audiences coming, not just from Glasgow, but from all over Scotland and beyond. This has meant we can do a lot more shows in a venue that feels intimate because of the way it’s been built as an amphitheatre.”

Ellis continues, “I used to say our biggest competition for arena shows isn’t other promoters in Scotland, it’s other cities in the UK or the rest of Europe. Whereas now, since the Hydro opened, Glasgow is usually one of the key cities for artists to come to along with London, Manchester, and Birmingham. That has transformed everything.”

Mackie agrees. “People loved going to the Hydro right from the start,” he says. “There was no hesitancy from people wondering if it was any good or not. They embraced it right away. As a venue, the Hydro was long overdue for Glasgow, and its success hasn’t surprised anyone. We needed a custom-built arena and not an exhibition hall but something that was flexible, and which could work for everything.

“In the past, a lot of artists couldn’t come to Scotland because there was nowhere big enough for them to play, so Scotland would miss out on all the big tours, which doesn’t happen now. Audiences are proud of that, and everyone working at the Hydro is proud of that as well.”

“The fans really are the heart and soul of the venue, and I think you would struggle to find another audience who match the relentless energy and enthusiasm of the Glasgow crowd”

As Mackie notes, the Hydro has also enlivened its immediate neighbourhood beyond its sister venues. “My big regret is that we didn’t buy a restaurant nearby before it opened,” he jokes. “Because the presence of the Hydro has really brought that part of Glasgow to life with bars and restaurants, so that part of the city is really buzzy now, and that’s great to see. That’s how you judge the ongoing success of somewhere like the Hydro. Just ask any Glasgow taxi driver. They love it, too.”

Phil Bowdery of Live Nation comments, “When the Hydro first opened, it was as if the local community wore the venue as a badge. That made for a great honeymoon period in terms of ticket sales – and that has continued. People in Glasgow like going there, and there is very little in terms of shows that can’t play the Hydro.”

Matt Woolliscroft of SJM similarly points out the way the Hydro has “given Scotland a proper world-class destination venue. Glasgow would always find itself on a tour route as the SECC was always a satisfactory gig. But the Hydro is exceptional and was a very welcome development for arena-level touring.”

Such praise is music to the ears of the venue’s director of live entertainment, Debbie McWilliams. “The Hydro has earned its place amongst the best arenas in the world, and SEC’s expansion is far-reaching, positively impacting the wider economic interests of the city, with hotels, transport, and hospitality just a few of the sectors benefitting from the increased year-round footfall,” McWilliams tells IQ.

“Glasgow is a music city, and throughout its history has been renowned for its atmospheric music venues”

Regarding the need for the arena, McWilliams points out its place in Glasgow’s musical legacy. “Glasgow is a music city,” she says, “and throughout its history has been renowned for its atmospheric music venues. The legendary Apollo and Barrowlands put Glasgow on the world music stage, and King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut plays a significant role in launching some of the biggest names in music touring today.

“[But the city] needed a venue with the technical capability and audience capacity to continue this legacy and attract the biggest artists in the world. The success of the Hydro affirms the need for this building in Glasgow.”

State-of-the-art
Built with large-scale productions in mind, the arena’s loading doors allow trucks direct access to the bowl floor, under which all power and services are housed meaning that in theory, services can be lifted at any point on a production. Following discussions with a number of prospective touring production clients, the architecture features a stepped mother grid that runs with the contours of the building’s roof.

“The Hydro has earned its place amongst the best arenas in the world”

This was designed to eliminate potential complaints common at other arenas where certain seats look downthrough the production, causing sightline kills. The original mother rigging grid has a loading capacity of 60 tonnes, but in 2019, a newly designed baby grid with 30-tonne lifting capacity was introduced. The resulting 90-tonne rig improved stage positions and increased existing capacities to 12,500 seated (4%+) and 5,000 to 6,500 (30%+) standing places, thus producing a maximum arena capacity of 14,600 (12%+).

Other capital improvements include:

Standing Ovation
The plaudits from the Hydro’s clients are universal. Danny Betesh and Angie Becker of Kennedy Street admit that while they were initially cautious about the Hydro, their fears proved to be unfounded.

“Some of us wondered whether it was absolutely necessary, as we had been looked after and accommodated for many years in Hall 4 at the SECC,” states Betesh. “Now, a decade later, we know the answer, and yes, it has been a real upgrade for promoters, and a must-play venue for major artists on their UK tours.”

Toby Leighton Pope of TEG calls the Hydro “one of the best venues in Europe, not only from an artist’s view but from a fan’s view, too.”

And it isn’t just promoters who are full of praise for the Hydro. Those behind merchandise, security, and ticketing are equally fulsome in their feelings towards the venue.

“One of the best venues in Europe, not only from an artist’s view but from a fan’s view, too”

As managing director of security company G4S, Chris Burr has seen the changes from the early days of SEC. “The presence of the Hydro has been fantastic,” he says. “We’ve been security provider to the SEC for a number of years, but the Hydro has amplified things, bringing a much greater volume of events to Scotland, which has given us the opportunity to develop a workforce that is sourced locally.

Indeed, he reports, “We’ve relocated our event headquarters into the Scottish Event Campus, so we’re based onsite, and if you look at the campus as a whole, it’s a really vibrant place now.”

Phil Jones of National Merchandise has worked with the Hydro since day one and calls it “the entertainment destination for Scotland. Even just as a building, in a world where some venues can be pretty boring-looking sheds, from the moment it first landed, it looked pretty iconic. Saying ‘it landed’ seems appropriate because it does look like a UFO.

“From a merchandise point of view, if we do a bespoke t-shirt for an artist, it flies off the shelves within minutes. The people of Scotland love a t-shirt.”

John Giddings of Solo Agency simply says that his experience of the Hydro is “Fantastic. I love working there. It gives the opportunity for premiere-league acts to earn the money they can afford to play for.”

“[The Hydro team] are passionate about what they do, which is infectious. They’re the type of team that make you always want to go that extra mile to deliver for, every single day”

Ticketmaster UK boss Andrew Parsons goes a step further, naming the Hydro as his favourite venue.

“Having the opportunity to partner on ticketing with the Hydro was a truly landmark moment for Ticketmaster,” he says. “Playing a small part in supporting them through the evolution into one of the great arena venues in the world has honestly been one of the stand-out projects for myself and the team. Supporting the Hydro team in their continued success remains a guiding principle for all of us.”

Parsons highlights the importance of the Hydro’s full-time staff, who bring a very human face to operations. “As a team,” he says, “they have always been amongst the very best in the business, and without question, one of the partnerships we are most proud of. Exacting but always with a smile! And always with the intention of delivering for fans and artist teams. They are passionate about what they do, which is infectious. They’re the type of team that make you always want to go that extra mile to deliver for, every single day.”

Canny Management
Much of the attitude comes from the top.

At the centre of operations is the venue’s director of live entertainment, Debbie McWilliams, who has worked at the SEC in various capacities since 1989. Starting her career as assistant to the operations director, McWilliams then worked in ticketing for 20 years, helping establish the venue’s box office before becoming box office manager. The opening of the Hydro saw bookings added to her remit.

“I’m proud that we have built a diverse team of talented people across the business. Nurturing and providing a clear development path for our people is at the heart of everything we do”

McWilliams has been in her current post since 2019 and is responsible for the overall management, ticketing, booking, and commercial partnerships of all three SEC venues.

“I’ve been incredibly fortunate to witness, and play a part, in the evolution of the campus as it has grown from one venue to three,” she says of her tenure.

The passion and sense of care that McWilliams exudes is evident among all the Hydro’s staff, and it is telling that, in an industry with a high turnover, many of those at the Hydro have been there since the start.

“I am fortunate to be part of a fantastic team built on mutual respect and fuelled by a commitment to delivering the best events,” McWilliams affirms. “I’m proud that we have built a diverse team of talented people across the business. Nurturing and providing a clear development path for our people is at the heart of everything we do.”

The Audience Experience
“The fans really are the heart and soul of the venue,” says McWilliams, “and I think you would struggle to find another audience who match the relentless energy and enthusiasm of the Glasgow crowd. This isn’t isolated just to the venue, though. This force is felt right across our brilliant city. Glasgow has a certain charm, and the vibrancy is infectious. It is why global touring artists and their teams love working with us and keep coming back.”

She adds, “From an industry perspective, we continue to rank globally in the top five of the busiest arenas each year, most recently ranking No.1 worldwide on Billboard’s Top Grossing Venues (capacity 10,000-15,000) following another No.1 on Pollstar’s ranking for Top European Arena in February 2023. Year on year we break records for individual shows and cumulative sales, and this is driven by the dedication of the team behind OVO Hydro, who constantly make the arena the best venue in the world.”

And it hasn’t just been music events that have benefitted from the improvements.

“The development of OVO Hydro will always be driven by fan experience and the changing needs and wants of audiences”

“Back in October 2021, we were front-page news across the globe as we hosted COP26,” she says. “Across seven days, we hosted nearly 40,000 world-leaders and delegates for one of the most important climate change conferences of our time. Although we were already on our sustainability journey, the event brought this into sharper focus for us and, in early 2022, we were awarded the world’s first A Greener Arena certification, presented by A Greener Future.”

With this in mind, OVO Hydro looks set to continue its evolution in radical ways that put sustainability at its core.

“As a world-class venue, we are constantly prioritising better outcomes for our clients, our community, and our environment, and this continues to be a critical focus for OVO Hydro as we look toward the next ten years,” says McWilliams. “Last year, we launched our ambitious SEC Net Zero 30 sustainability strategy, which centres around five key goals: climate, governance, partnerships, people, and resource, each providing the focus for the work ahead.

“The strategy includes a focus on reducing our carbon footprint through energy, water efficiency, and green travel. Our Sustainable Events Toolkit provides this guidance to event tours, including energy and water efficiency, green travel, waste, and catering. Our toolkit is shared with all our live event clients during event planning.”

“The live entertainment industry is expected to evolve significantly as technology advances and audiences become more connected than ever before”

For audiences, too, there is much to look forward to, “The development of OVO Hydro will always be driven by fan experience and the changing needs and wants of audiences,” says McWilliams. “We’ve observed since the return of live, that there is an increased demand for elevated VIP experiences, and in response, we recently revamped our Hydro members offering with our new-look dining and drinks space, and we are progressing with plans for a second, making sure we are always meeting consumer demands.”

The Future Starts Here
“The live entertainment industry is expected to evolve significantly as technology advances and audiences become more connected than ever before,” McWilliams observes.

“Technological advancements can help drive growth in ticket and merchandise sales, help create more immersive experiences, and enable event organisers to gain more insight into their target audience and their preferences.

“Additionally, increasing the use of digital technologies such as virtual ticketing and digital marketing will help make ticket sales and event promotion more efficient and effective. The live entertainment industry will likely continue to focus on customer experience, as well as improved production quality and organisational capabilities.”

With its first ten years proving a spectacular success, OVO Hydro looks like it will be catering for the best fans in the world for a long time to come.


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.

Belladrum introduces parking charge to cut traffic

Organisers of Scotland’s Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival are introducing a car parking charge for next year’s 20th anniversary in a bid to ease traffic congestion after the 2023 event was marred by lengthy delays.

The Inverness-based event, owned by DEAG’s Kilimanjaro Live, is the Highlands’ biggest music festival and starred acts including Travis, Bastille, Sam Ryder, Sigrid, KT Tunstall, The Zutons, Pale Waves and Kiefer Sutherland from 27-29 July.

More than 25,000 tickets were sold for this year’s festival, but wet weather and large numbers of motorists arriving early was blamed for long queues, with reported traffic delays of up to five hours to get into the site.

However, with tickets for next year’s edition going on sale this Friday (18 August), promoters have announced they are taking action in a bid to avoid a repeat.

“We are re-introducing car park passes, which must be booked in advance”

“Those caught up in the traffic on the Thursday this year will hopefully be pleased to hear that we are re-introducing car park passes, which must be booked in advance,” says a website post. “This will encourage more car sharing, manage the car park capacities and speed up entry to the festival. You will have the opportunity to select the car park most convenient for where you want to camp. A window sticker will be sent to your home address in advance to ensure you are directed to the correct car park.

“Vehicle passes will cost £12 per vehicle. The profit from the sale of these passes will be used to benefit the local communities. Full details will be announced in coming months following consultations with community groups.”

Belladrum’s return is set for 25-27 July 2024.

 


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.

LGBTIQ+ List 2023: Lucy Mackenzie McNae, Two and a Half TMs

The LGBTIQ+ List 2023 – IQ Magazine’s third annual celebration of queer professionals who make an immense impact in the international live music business – has been revealed.

The ever-popular list is the centrepiece of IQ’s third Pride edition, sponsored by Ticketmaster, which is now available to read online and in print for subscribers.

To get to know this year’s queer pioneers a little better, we interviewed each of them on the development of the industry, the challenges that are keeping them up at night and more.

Throughout the next month, IQ will publish a new interview each day. Check out yesterday’s profile with Stefan Lehmkuhl, freelance curator & live entertainment consultant at BMG/Ruined My Rainbow in Berlin, Germany.

The series continues with Lucy MacKenzie McNae (she/her/hers), tour manager (Josef, Twin Atlantic) at Two and a Half TMs in Glasgow, Scotland.


Tell us about the professional feat you’re most PROUD of in 2023 so far.
Giving The Ironworks in Inverness the sendoff it deserved with Twin Atlantic before it closed in February was both a really proud moment and also bittersweet. Despite being from Glasgow, I feel like I grew up in that venue, going from being a touring merch manager there back in 2008 through to TM’ing one of the last shows was quite an experience. As a production, we really wanted to lay everything we could on the table for Caroline and the Ironworks staff, who have always made that venue feel like coming home, no matter who I was on tour with, so going back to close out The Ironworks was important to us all.

Name one queer act you’re itching to see live this year.
Peach PRC.

What advice could you give to young queer professionals?
Just be yourself; get stuck into whatever is going on; be helpful; learn how to lift properly; and always have a sharpie.

In terms of challenges in the industry, what’s currently keeping you up at night?
Costs and expectations? Can I say that? Because it feels like everything is going up except the fees and guarantees.

“It feels like everything is going up except the fees and guarantees”

How do you see the live music business developing in the next few years?
I think there will come a point where it starts to even out again soon; live music has become so expensive from all angles that unless we do everything we can as an industry and public to support independent venues, we are going to lose a lot of soul and the training grounds where most bands and crew learn their crafts.

Name one thing you’d like to see the live music business change.
Touring can be rough, the hours aren’t conducive to being able to keep relationships, and at the lower levels, they are so mentally, physically, and financially draining that it can really shut out a lot of people from being able to continue. More support, both financially and also holistically, would really make a difference to crew, sessions, and artists across the board.

Shout out to your biggest ally in the live music industry.
It takes a team to pull everything together so I can’t name just one. Alison Lamb at Modest! Management, Ross ‘Falcon’ Morgan that I started Two and a Half TMs with, and Ross and Sam from Twin Atlantic have all been instrumental in their own ways. And, of course, Cameron Brisbane for being the best photographer I know (not just because he takes photos of the crew).

 


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.

P&J Live head discusses first full year of trading

When Aberdeen’s brand new £333 million P&J Live arena opened in September 2019, no one could have predicted it closing just seven months later.

The ASM Global-operated venue, which replaced the former 8,500-capacity Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC), opened in the northeast of Scotland with much fanfare.

At 15,000-capacity, the purpose-built venue became the biggest indoor arena in Scotland, boasting the largest standing floor in the UK.

In addition to the arena, the 480-square-metre site comprises conference spaces, exhibition halls, restaurants and two on-site hotels, and is located minutes from the international airport.

With the stage set, P&J Live got off to a roaring trade, hosting concerts from the likes of Alice Cooper, Lewis Capaldi, Stereophonics and the Script. But when the Covid-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, the venue closed its doors and became a vaccination centre.

Four years later, the arena has only just completed its first full year of trading. P&J Live’s head of entertainment, exhibitions & marketing Louise Stewart tells IQ how her team got the business off the ground again.

 


IQ: Last month you hosted two of Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road shows. How did they go?
LS: It was such a buzz. The city is still talking about it, which is amazing. In a small city like Aberdeen, something like that dominates so much and there’s a spotlight on the venue. Around 55% of the audience wasn’t from the city – the highest we’ve had – and given that both concerts were midweek, that was great. There were people from Inverness, Perth, Dundee, loads of European countries and even America. The feedback was that it was so easy to access, with the airport around the corner and hotels on site. It was our largest seated music act, with 10,000 at each of his two sold-out shows. It was a little compliment that Elton ended up staying for the two nights [in between his Aberdeen shows] as a pose to going home.

“The perception is that we’re off the beaten track but it is a good place to start a tour as we’ve got the availability”

With the opening of the arena, has Aberdeen become a more attractive tour stop for international artists?
Definitely. We would never have been able to get Elton indoors. We had him outdoors at the AECC with 14,000 people because we had land so we were lucky to be able to do that. We could do 8,500 standing at the old place and we can do 15,000 here so that’s a game changer. To be able to do shows like Michael Buble, BBC Sports Personality of the Year, and to break records with Gerry Cinnamon and Lewis Capaldi is amazing. Another difference is the level of experience we can provide for top artists. The old venue was a bit of a shed – I don’t mind a shed, I love a black box-type venue – but this is just a completely different level and once our clients have been here, they grab it with both hands.

Given that P&J Live is now the largest indoor arena in Scotland, could Aberdeen become a higher priority for agents?
I wish it had that effect but I’ve got to be a realist: Glasgow will always be the must-play city, with how well-established it is and also the content that comes out of there. And that’s great for Scotland – we can’t take anything away from that. It also helps us because we do pick up stuff. The perception is that we’re off the beaten track but it is a good place to start a tour as we’ve got the availability and we could pass down to Glasgow, whereas Glasgow would have to be very conscious of what they were doing in terms of rehearsals and production days. So that’s how we try to pitch it. Various agents have said how brilliant the venue is and production teams are so complimentary because the venue is purpose-built so it’s easy to get around and load in and it’s safe which goes a long way.

“I think the perception has always been that venues make all this money but margins are tight”

How was P&J Live’s first full year of trading?
This year is a tough year for us, compared to last year, with energy costs and price hikes. People are definitely more cautious. Aberdeen’s a small market and it’s a big venue, so for us, it’s about trying to be flexible and creative with our content. We have 280 events this year – 50 are entertainment – but we have a mix of business that keeps us going and makes us a profitable business. In terms of energy, costs have probably doubled and not yet stabilised. It’s great that we’re part of ASM Global which can help us and we can benchmark against other venues and other cities. I think the perception has always been that venues make all this money but margins are tight. Also, stadium shows, outdoor stuff and festivals do affect business but hopefully, we’ve got a place in the market somewhere and we can keep pushing away.

How are you diversifying content to keep business going?
In Hall C, for example, we’re doing a lot more smaller shows which have gone down really well. We’re about to announce a standing show with DF Concerts, which we’re really pleased about. The city doesn’t have a 2,000 cap. standing venue so we’re hoping to fill that space. Also, our conference, exhibition and banqueting businesses do really well. And we’ve done a lot with our premium and moved into more ad hoc inventory which is working really well. We’re really fortunate that our premium is popular. We’re always thinking about what other opportunities that we can find.

“The business has changed a lot from what we can see; there’s a lot more short-lead stuff”

ASM Global recently pledged its support to grassroots venues in the UK via Music Venue Trust. How is P&J Live embracing this?
Promoters work so hard on the early part of artists’ careers and some of those acts might reach us one day. I don’t want to muscle in on the stuff that the Lemon Tree or the Music Hall do because that’s their business and without those venues, artists won’t get to the arena level. It’s about that journey. It’s easy to think “Oh, I need to get this, I need to fill that space” but what does that mean to your business in the future? I think that’s really important to look at. In a small city, there’s not a huge number of venues and clubs so it’s about keeping the scene going especially for the big student population. If people can be in the world of live entertainment from a young age and carry that on, it benefits us in the end. So it’s definitely something that we’re passionate about.

Looking to 2024, how is the diary shaping up and how do you see business developing?
Next year the diary is really strong, a lot of pencils in there and a lot of good content. The business has changed a lot from what we can see; there’s a lot more short-lead stuff. We literally announced Jack Whitehall two weeks ago and it’s in October. That [trend] has done a bit of a full circle because it was like that years ago but then we were booking things 18 months in advance. Although, we’ve actually got pencils for entertainment in the diary into 2027 which is unusual but I think there are definitely more short leads because the world we live in is very on-demand now. It’s about whether someone wants to buy a ticket now for 18 months time or if they want to buy a ticket now, for next month or the next six months.

 


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.