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Arenal Sound promoter acquires Benicassim

Spanish promoter the Music Republic has acquired the Festival Internacional de Benicàssim (FIB) from Maraworld.

The Music Republic, owned by brothers David and Toño Sánchez, promotes festivals including Arenal Sound, Viña Rock, Granada Sound and Madrid Salvaje.

In a statement, the Sánchez brothers state they will “take over the festival and run it for successive years.” The new FIB owners also note they intend to “maintain [FIB’s] essence and position it once more as a leader on the global scene.”

According to El Mundo, the acquisition of FIB signals the end of Maraworld, which is majority owned by MCD Productions and SJM Concerts.

“We have been told that we are shutting down but we do not have any more details,” a representative from Maraworld’s offices in Madrid told the publication.

“We intend to maintain [FIB’s] essence and position it once more as a leader on the global scene”

Former FIB festival directors José Luis and Miguel Morán founded Maraworld in 1997. Irish promoter Vince Power acquired the company in 2009, selling his share to MCD Productions owner Denis Desmond and SJM Concerts director Simon Moran four years later, after encountering financial difficulties.

With Festival Republic’s Melvin Benn as festival director, the new team revived the struggling festival, putting on “the best FIB of the decade” in 2017, which saw 177,000 festivalgoers view performances by Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kasabian and Foals, among others.

The 25th edition of FIB took place from 18 to 21 July 2019 and was attended by 114,000 people, almost 30% less than the previous year’s 160,000. The festival saw performances from Kings of Leon, Lana del Rey, George Ezra, Jess Glynne and the 1975.

Live Nation and SJM Concerts declined to comment.


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SJM’s Chris York: becoming the guvnor

The first time that Chris York recalls meeting Simon Moran was at a Levellers concert at London’s Brixton Academy in 1993, promoted by Moran’s company SJM Concerts. “I was there purely as a punter and this man came up to me and berated me for trying to steal his acts,” remembers York with a smile. “I pointed out, probably not as eloquently as I might have done, that that was actually my job seeing as I didn’t technically work for him. He retorted, ‘Well, you should do then.’”

A few months later, York made the 200-mile journey up the M1 from London to Manchester to take up Moran’s offer and join SJM. Back then, there were five of them working out of a nondescript workspace shared with post-punk band The Fall, where the “much-missed” Mark E Smith could regularly be seen “swaying in the lifts in the mornings.”

Fast-forward a quarter of a century to today and SJM employs 65 people, puts on around 2,500 concerts and events a year, and proudly stands as the UK’s biggest independent promoter, with The Stone Roses, Take That, Coldplay, Muse, Robbie Williams, Peter Kay, Adele, The Killers, Arctic Monkeys, The Courteeners and Little Mix just a few of the many acts it has worked with in recent years.

“I’ve always felt at home at SJM,” says York, who recently celebrated 25 years at the company that he has played a key role in turning into a promoting powerhouse. “It’s always had the right ethos. We’ve always been artist-focused and tried to develop talent, and I think Simon and I share the right attitude about how we want to take things forward. Certainly, whenever we’ve been recruiting new staff we are always keen to add people who aren’t identical to ourselves. In order for the company to keep progressing and be relevant to new challenges, you’ve got to find people who aren’t doing exactly what you do.”

“In order for the company to keep progressing and be relevant to new challenges, you’ve got to find people who aren’t doing exactly what you do”

“Chris has been a huge part of the SJM story over the last 25 years,” says Moran. “He’s made a massive contribution in all facets of the business – clients becoming bigger, getting and retaining new clients, growing the business and gaining people, [investing in] buildings. He’s a very, very bright guy. He works hard. We’ve become really good friends and we’ve got implicit trust.”

“I think Simon’s style and my style are distinctly different, but they work well together, and I guess the biggest barometer of that is that we have gone on to be a very successful company,” reflects York, whose personal clients include Noel Gallagher, Foo Fighters, Massive Attack, Stereophonics, Lily Allen, Smashing Pumpkins, Underworld, Fatboy Slim, Green Day, Placebo, Lorde, Robert Plant, Morrissey, Kraftwerk, Swedish House Mafia, and The Chemical Brothers, among others. York is also one of SJM’s four directors alongside Moran, Rob Ballantine and Glenn Tyrrell.

Respect and admiration for the 49 year old extends throughout the industry. “Chris is, if not the best, one of the best promoters that I have ever worked with in the world,” says Underworld manager Mike Gillespie, who has known him since the mid-1990s. “He is loyal and sticks with his artists. Whereas a lot of promoters are naturally very cautious and hedge their bets, he is a bold and confident risk taker and is always looking at what the next step can be.

“At the same time, he can be stubborn, belligerent and awkward, but that’s part of what makes him brilliant. He will tell it you like it is and he doesn’t hold back. When you have an act that is doing well people tend to tell you what you want to hear. Chris isn’t one of them, and I really like and respect that. He understands that you’re only as good as your last gig and he’s not afraid to say to the manager or the artist, ‘That’s not good enough.’”

“Chris is, if not the best, one of the best promoters that I have ever worked with in the world. He is loyal and sticks with his artists”

By way of an example, Gillespie turns the clock back five years to when “Underworld had reached a ceiling” in terms of how many tickets they could sell. Through working closely with York over a series of releases and tours they rebuilt momentum and were able to sell-out two nights at London’s 3,000-capacity Roundhouse.

“Chris’s response off the back of that was, ‘Now we do the (10,000-capacity) Ally Pally,’ which really knocked me out,” recalls the manager. The gig sold out six months in advance and Underworld are now selling more tickets in the UK than ever before, he states. “A huge part of that is down to Chris’s willingness to take a risk, his determination to be bold, and his clear vision.”

The Roots of York’s promoting career can be traced back to his childhood in Yorkshire where he developed an “unhealthy interest” in music from a young age and became immersed in Leeds’ post-punk and goth scenes as a teenager. To earn some extra cash while studying chemistry at Warwick, he began crewing and stage managing bands that visited the university. That led him to being elected cultural affairs officer in 1989, booking gigs by The Sundays and De La Soul, and gaining a first real taste of how the industry operates.

“It was a steep learning curve initially, but through that I developed good friendships with people that I still work with today,” says York, who moved to London after finishing his studies and spent 18 months as a booker at punk and indie club The Venue in New Cross.

“It was a really exciting time in music and we put some great bands on,” he says, listing memorable shows by Lush, Pulp, Suede, PJ Harvey, New Model Army and Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine. The job also saw him establish with Steve Lamacq the inaugural NME On Nights with On For ‘92, which ran at The Venue from 1991 to 1993, later evolving into the NME Awards Brat Bus tours.


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A&MAs: One Love Manchester team named ‘industry champions’

Ariana Grande, her manager, Scooter Braun, Festival Republic MD Melvin Benn and SJM Concerts’ Simon Moran were tonight honoured as ‘industry champions’ at the sixth Artist & Manager Awards, recognising their efforts in producing the One Love Manchester concert on 4 June 2017, which raised more than £17m for victims of the Manchester Arena bombing and their families.

The Artist & Manager Awards, organised by the Music Managers Forum (MMF) and Featured Artists Coalition (FAC), celebrate innovation and achievement in the artist management sector. The 2017 ceremony took place this evening (14 November) at south London venue Printworks.

The industry champion award was presented by FAC’s Imogen Heap, who performed with Grande at One Love Manchester, and was accompanied by video messages from Braun and Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester.

“Although this is incredible, I want us to remember that the city of Manchester and all those families are the real heroes,” said Braun. “Sixty thousand people of Manchester came forward and filled that stadium. It was the greatest act of defiance in the face of evil that I’ve ever witnessed, and I will never ever forget it.

“On behalf of myself, Ariana and the rest of the team, I want to say to the city of Manchester, ‘thank you’ – this is your award tonight, and you have taught us all a valuable lesson. Evil will never win.”

Annabella Coldrick, chief executive of the MMF, added: “The terrorist attack at Ariana Grande’s Manchester Arena show was one of the year’s darkest moments, targeting young music fans and their families. It left 22 dead and more than 250 injured. To organise a concert in their memory, and to turn it into a joyous celebration of youth and music, was an incredible achievement.

“I want to say to the city of Manchester: ‘thank you’. This is your award tonight”

“The MMF and FAC are humbled to honour the team behind One Love Manchester, and would like to dedicate this award to all those still impacted by the events of 22 May.”

Other winners at the A&MAs, which was sponsored by Spotify, included Depeche Mode’s longtime manager, Jonathan Kessler, who picked up the Peter Grant award for lifetime achievement, and Tracey Thorn, who was crowned artists’ artist.

The award for manager of the year was presented to Tap Management’s Ben Mawson and Ed Millett by Lana Del Rey, while Rag’n’Bone Man was declared artist of the year, recognising his decade-long journey to success.

Giggs and his management team, Michael ‘Buck’ Maris and Trenton Harrison-Lewis, received the pioneer award from Island Records president Darcus Beese OBE, while Eleven Management’s Niamh Byrne and Regine Moylett received the entrepreneur award for their work on Gorillaz’s album campaign for Humanz. Echo Beach Management’s Jill Hollywood picked up the award for writer/producer manager.

A special tribute was also paid to former MMF president Jon Webster, who stepped down earlier this year to write a book about his experiences at Virgin Records in the 1980s. Performances on the night came from Dermot Kennedy, one of TAP Management’s priority artists, and ATC Managements’ the Boxer Rebellion.

A full list of winners is available from the A&MAs website.


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