Heavenly Sent: Inside Lewis Capaldi’s biggest-ever tour
When Lewis Capaldi played the final UK show of his Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent tour in Aberdeen on 15 March 2020, little did anyone know that 24 hours later, a ban on mass gatherings would be introduced that would curtail any further shows for the best part of two years.
However, during the intervening period, the singer-songwriter worked with his representatives to crank up anticipation of his soon-to-be-released second album (Broken By Desire To Be Heavenly Sent) to such an extent that his return to performing live is smashing records.
Indeed, Capaldi’s return to Aberdeen’s P&J Live Arena on 23 January this year set a new high bar of more than 15,000 tickets sold. “His shows in Scotland for this tour were amazing. He has been very open about his mental health and that anxiety can cripple him sometimes, so it was so powerful to see him enjoying the shows, because hometown shows come with huge pressures,” states promoter Craig Johnston at DF Concerts. “Our Aberdeen show became the highest-selling indoor show in Scotland’s history: it’s an incredible achievement.”
That historic gig was all the more special for production manager Nick Lawrie, who has been on the road with Lewis since he only needed a car to get from gig to gig. “I was asked early on if I could look after him. In fact, the only person who has worked with him longer is Aiden Halliday, his musical director, who started on keyboards,” says Lawrie.
Having taken on driver duties, front of house, monitors, and part-time production manager in smaller venues, Lawrie stepped up to full-time PM as the size of show grew. “On the last tour, we had seven trucks, but we’re up to 14 trucks for the UK and European arenas tour,” says Lawrie, adding that the touring party numbers in the 80s including drivers, etc. “We were six buses for the UK leg – it’s a big tour!”
“The thing about Lewis is we never skipped a moment of building”
Hailing from Aberdeen, Lawrie is delighted that the P&J show broke records. He commends everyone involved on the road for their hard work, while singling out artist manager Ryan Walter and agents Ryan Penty and Alex Hardee for making sure everyone is looked after.
“A lot of the Lewis camp has been around for a long time and that definitely helps,” contends Lawrie. “As for the tour routing, we have a couple of spicy overnights in Europe where we’ll have to advance the rigging package, but thankfully, his manager and agents are mindful about burnout, from Lewis himself right the way down through the crew. The fact they take our welfare so seriously is really appreciated by everyone on the road.”
Examining Capaldi’s tour history hints at an artist who has an impressive work ethic, having put in the long hours around the world playing tiny venues and step by step growing his fanbase at every opportunity.
“The thing about Lewis is we never skipped a moment of building,” says Ryan Penty who represents Capaldi along with Alex Hardee at Wasserman Music. “In London, for example, we started at The Waiting Room [120 capacity], then we played a show at Oslo [350-cap] where there was an 18-plus age restriction, which was a little bit of a hiccup, at the time. But from there we played the Scala , then we went straight to Shepherd’s Bush Empire [2,000], then Brixton Academy [4,921], then Wembley Arena [11,500] for two shows on the weekend before the pandemic. And then last year we played two nights at The O2 [18,500]. That sort of sums up the hard work Lewis and the whole team have put in everywhere, just organically growing the audience each time.”
Assisting team Capaldi on the journey are a team of promoters whom he has remained fiercely loyal to. There are no fewer than eight promoters involved in his 12 UK dates, for example. One of those long-term partners is Anna-Sophie Mertens, VP of touring at Live Nation. “I first came across Lewis Capaldi in mid-2016, before any of his music had been officially released,” she says.
“He wandered on, plugged in, looking pretty casual about the whole thing, then started to play… and it was jaw-dropping”
“I was struck by his voice and the simple, yet remarkable, beauty of the songs, so I arranged a meeting with his management to talk about what plans they had in mind for him. Usually [at that stage] artists and managers would be looking for London showcase opportunities, but they wanted the opposite and felt strongly about getting live show experience outside of London and building from north to south. So, I focused on delivering just that, with a support to Seafret in spring 2017. I got to meet Lewis for the first time at Birmingham O2 Institute3 on that tour, and the room just fell silent when he went on – everyone being in absolute awe. It was a sign of great things to come.”
Anton Lockwood at DHP Family tells a similar tale. “I got an email from his manager, sometime in early May 2017, with a link to the song Bruises, which got my interest enough to offer Lewis a slot, at two weeks’ notice, at Dot to Dot Festival,” says Lockwood.
“I saw him for the first time with my colleague Dan Roberts at Hy-Brasil bar in Bristol, where there was a small but decent crowd. He wandered on, plugged in, looking pretty casual about the whole thing, then started to play… and it was jaw-dropping. One of those few times when you turn to the person you’re with and you both just say, ‘Fuck me, this guy is incredible. He’s going to be a superstar!’”
Mertens continues, “Once the music finally got released to the wider world, the headline live shows slotted in perfectly with sold-out shows across the board. The campaign gathered real momentum with Lewis’s songs really connecting with his fans of all ages and his humour and character making him instantly likeable and relatable, too. We found ourselves finishing his first album campaign with two shows at The O2, and they sold out in minutes. I am not sure this has ever been done before on a first album campaign.”
Capaldi’s legendary reputation to elicit laughter from his audience, as well as delivering a powerful set, has seen his popularity blossom. And the demand from fans to witness his shows is not lost on his promoter partners. Lockwood comments, “The thing with Lewis is, what you think he’s like from his social media, he is actually like that – and people respond to that.”
“We’ve no reason to change our promoters, because everyone’s done a great job. Everyone sells all the tickets”
Kilimanjaro Live promoter Steve Tilley agrees. “Lewis’s social media game is second to none,” he states. And Tilley discloses just how deep the loyalty to promoters runs through the Capaldi camp. “Kilimanjaro has been involved in Lewis’s career from the very start, and when Carlo Scarampi was working for us, he was given some parts of the UK when those decisions were made. I got involved after Carlo moved over to Communion, retaining our interest in the artist but working with Communion going forward in collaboration.”
Recalling his initial interaction, Tilley continues, “I saw Lewis supporting Bastille and suggested we put him forward to support Ed Sheeran at the 2019 Leeds and Ipswich gigs, which he subsequently went on to play. We also booked Lewis for the mainstage at Belladrum in 2019, just as he was exploding in career terms. So many people wanted to get into the mainstage arena to see him that we had to close it! We also added Lewis to Kew The Music in 2019 when Jess Glynne had to cancel her slot, and with only about two weeks’ notice, we sold out the show in minutes. It was a crazy time.”
Continuing their collaboration on the current tour, Kilimanjaro and Communion are co-promoting Exeter Westpoint Arena. “It sold out absolutely effortlessly,” reports Tilley. Addressing the decision to stick with the promoting team, everywhere, Penty notes, “We’ve no reason to change our promoters, because everyone’s done a great job. Everyone sells all the tickets. It was split up at the start for a reason, and everybody did their bit to help Lewis get to where he is, so people should be rewarded for that. In the UK & Ireland, we’ve got Futuresound, SJM, Communion, DHP, Kilimanjaro, Live Nation, DF Concerts, and MCD – just about everyone’s got a slice of the tour.
Let it Roll
With the UK leg of the tour wrapping up on that 2 February show in Exeter, Capaldi’s European promoters have been counting the days to welcome him back – many having first witnessed him live at the IFF [International Festival Forum] in 2017.
Michael Šimon, booker and promoter for Selection in Czech Republic, has Capaldi back for just his second headline show in Prague on 17 February, having also booked him for Colours of Ostrava Festival in 2019. “When we first saw him at IFF, his enormous talent was clear to us,” says Šimon. “The first costing for November 2019 was built on a cap of 750 tickets. A few years later, Lewis’s second show in Prague will take place in the biggest arena in the Czech Republic, the [18,000-cap] O2 Arena Prague.”
“He played a lot of shows but never the wrong places, allowing his fanbase to grow continuously”
In Switzerland, Stefan Wyss at Gadget abc Entertainment also recalls Capaldi’s showcase at IFF. “Alex Hardee told us very early about this super-talented guy from Scotland. At IFF we were really impressed – Lewis was sick and had a bad voice, but it was still a massive voice.”
That showcase led to a booking. “His first show in Switzerland was at Openair St. Gallen in 2018 on the tent stage. After that, we sold out – way in advance – his first headline at [the] end of 2018 with 500 tickets in Zürich.”
Turning to Capaldi’s work ethic, Wyss comments, “He played a lot of shows but never the wrong places, allowing his fanbase to grow continuously. And I’m sure his humour and charisma helped a lot. If you look at his live history in Switzerland – [nine shows across four years] – it’s very impressive for a new artist in a small market.”
And Wyss predicts the momentum will keep building. “He will [take] another massive step [this year],” he says. “Hallenstadion in Zürich will be sold out with 13,000 tickets. And he is also headlining Openair St. Gallen. It will be a massive year for Lewis.”
Commenting on Capaldi’s tireless efforts, Selection’s Šimon reveals, “During his first Prague show, we watched Lewis sign hundreds of CDs for hours after the sound check. He did it with a dedication and respect toward each and every fan.”
“The way Lewis engages his fans on social media is just brilliant and different from anyone else”
Other promoters attest to his enthusiasm and drive. Mertens notes, “Lewis and his whole team have a strong work ethic. If it is the right thing to do, they will find the time and way to make it work. In the early days, he was flying back and forth between the US and the UK almost weekly to ensure he was making an impact with the right opportunities.”
One recipient of such an opportunity was Alessandro Ravizza at Vivo Concerti, who promoted Capaldi’s first Italian show in 2017 at Linecheck Festival. “Some of the people knew Bruises, but he captured the attention of every single person in that room,” recalls Ravizza, who has since promoted two headline shows for the Scottish crooner.
“As an Italian promoter, you don’t always have the chance to work with artists on each step of their touring career; but I think Lewis, management, and Ryan/Alex had a long-term vision, and they’ve worked very hard on every territory to grow a loyal, organic fanbase. Also, the way Lewis engages his fans on social media is just brilliant and different from anyone else, and this helps us as promoters a lot when it comes to selling tickets.”
DF’s Johnston concurs. “Lewis has an amazing talent of making everyone, even people who have never met him, feel like they are his best mate, and that is an incredible tool for us when selling tickets.”
As the tour rolls through Europe, Ravizza reports that Vivo Concerti will sell out the 8 March gig at Mediolanum Forum in Milan. “To be honest, Clemente [Zard], Andrea [Ritrovato], and I felt very confident even without listening to any songs of the new album because we knew demand was there,” he says. “After hearing the new songs, it was pretty clear. We’re looking forward to seeing one of the greatest artists of his generation connecting deeply with his people.”
“It was always a perfect execution of putting the right building blocks in place”
Another beneficiary of Capaldi’s artistry is Live Nation Denmark promoter Anna Brink. She says, “In 2018, we sold out Vega Small Hall in Copenhagen, a 450-cap venue. There has been an increasing demand for his shows ever since, and the next hard-ticket show we did was in 2019, which we upgraded from a 1,550-cap venue to a 5,000-cap venue and sold out. It’s amazing for an artist to grow like this in such a short time, especially in a smaller market like Denmark. We’ve now sold out his Royal Arena show on this tour, so we couldn’t be happier.”
Brink adds, “Lewis has a wonderful team around him, and I love working with them, especially his agents, whom I’ve known for a long time, so it’s great to be able to share this success together.”
Mertens comments, “Lewis has a great team, from his band, his tour and production managers and road team who have, for the most part, been there right from the start. A particular mention needs to go to Ryan Walter, Lewis’s manager, who right from the start had a strong vision in place and ensures every step, every release, every artwork, every tour announcement and on-sale is meticulously planned and slotted into Lewis’s career. It was always a perfect execution of putting the right building blocks in place.”
To Tell the Truth I Can’t Believe We Got This Far
While the crew on the road now numbers in excess of 70, the core members have been with Capaldi from early on in his career.
DF Concerts’ Johnston observes, “Most of Lewis’s live crew are Scottish, and we’ve all worked together before on other acts and projects over the years. It’s worth mentioning that King Tut’s gets a lot of credit for bringing through new artists, but all of his crew have done shows in Tut’s as well, so it also brings through the new tour managers, production managers, sound engineers, lighting engineers, backline tech, etc.”
“Effectively, if you ignore the pandemic shutdown, he’s doubled the size of the production in less than a year”
As for the production itself, the back-to-back September 2022 shows at The O2 in London proved to be a rehearsal for the current tour. Nick Lawrie says, “By about the second week, every day was starting to feel the same, which as a production manager is kind of what you want. Now we can concentrate on finding efficiencies and trying to identify areas where we can tighten things up.”
One of the main features of the production is a giant video cube, which raises and lowers to the stage, and at one point, features Capaldi using its roof as a B-stage. “We have a customised automation system, which is pretty complicated, and the show relies on a fair amount of trim – 17 metres on the grid. Some arenas don’t allow that, so it’s something we have to adjust every day, as well as making sure that every seat in the house has good sightlines,” explains Lawrie.
Matthew Bull at All Access Staging reveals the production from last year’s O2 shows was slightly reduced for ease of use, loading in and out. However, with two trucks for staging alone, it’s still an impressive set up.
“They asked us for a rolling stage because of what they wanted to do with video, etc, so we supply that on the top level, as well as the risers on either side for the backline and cameras,” says Bull. And the feedback from the road he reports is all positive, “They’re a really friendly bunch, and the tour seems to be running really smoothly, so it’s great to be involved again with Lewis.”
Neg Earth Lights has been working with Capaldi since his last tour. “This production is much bigger, so Lewis has done very well in terms of scaling things up, because effectively, if you ignore the pandemic shutdown, he’s doubled the size of the production in less than a year,” says Neg Earth’s Sam Ridgway.
“We’re playing some of the biggest arenas in Europe, and I have to say it’s the best tour party I’ve ever worked with”
He adds, “Nick Lawrie is great to work with. Following The O2 shows, we had a production debrief and drew up plans on how to make improvements to the rig to make things more tour friendly.”
Those tweaks included adding a specialist automation company, WI Creations, to the equation. Involving automation of course complicated matters, with sound supplier FE Live completely redesigning its kit as a result.
“It’s fairly tricky audio-wise because of the three-sided cube, so we’ve had to design audio around that,” says FE’s managing director Ryan Mcilravey. “The O2 shows allowed us to trial stuff, and after those shows, we rebuilt our kit into bigger packaging because audio has to be assembled pretty quickly once everything else is loaded in.”
Like many of the suppliers on the tour, FE Live began working with Capaldi in 2018 and have witnessed the speed at which the artist moved to academy-sized shows and then onto even bigger venues.
“Fourteen months later, we’re playing some of the biggest arenas in Europe, and I have to say it’s the best tour party I’ve ever worked with,” says Mcilravey. “Lewis is very loyal to his suppliers and crew, so there are a lot of Scottish people who know each other well, but even so, it’s not that common to have 70-plus people on the road and everyone gets along.”
“It was glaringly obvious that Lewis would be playing arenas in a short space of time”
One of the key crew members is backline expert Paul Gibson, who handles tech for bass and guitars, including Lewis’s. He reveals that when Covid hit, the decision was made to sell all the Kemper equipment, which has now been replaced with Quad Cortex. “The equipment only recently came out, and I think we’re the first large production to use it, so that has been a bit of a challenge,” says Gibson. “It’s controlled by playback, so we had to get a couple of programmes made but that process has been quite exciting.”
Gibson, who has been working with Lewis Capaldi for close to six years, observes that while lots of production departments have stepped up their game, the biggest notable change for him is somewhat easier. “There are a few more stairs for me to climb in the arenas.” He adds, “Even the new suppliers who have been brought in are amazing. Usually, when you’re on the road, little cliques develop, but that hasn’t happened on this tour – we’re just one big family.”
Another happy traveller is Bobby Langley from Global Merch Services, who first encountered Capaldi at The Great Escape in 2018, thanks to a tip from Alex Hardee. “It was glaringly obvious that Lewis would be playing arenas in a short space of time,” states Langley.
“From my side of things, we inherited some incredible creative to work with. Lewis approaches his music as an art, rather than jumping on any bandwagon. There can be a temptation when you’re working with artists who reach arena level to just play it safe when it comes to merch, but if you keep being creative, you get a better result for everyone.”
For an emerging superstar – or “Scotland’s Beyoncé,” as Capaldi has jokingly referred to himself – the temptation to cash in can be overwhelming. But there’s no trace of greed among Capaldi’s inner circle, with tickets for the tour priced amazingly low for such a large arena production.
“Lewis doesn’t do any VIPs – there’s no meet and greets, there’s no golden circle, there’s no end-of-the-aisle uplift”
“Lewis doesn’t do any VIPs – there’s no meet and greets, there’s no golden circle, there’s no end-of-the-aisle uplift or anything like that,” says Penty. “He’s always wanted to keep the face value ticket prices affordable, so on the UK dates for this tour, we’re at £45, £55, and £65, which is the top price for the very best seats.
“We don’t want his fans to feel like he’s ripping them off at any point, and I know he just wants to make sure that everybody feels like they’re not excluded from seeing him because of the price.
“Originally, the tickets were going to be even cheaper, but we had to push the price a little because the costs of everything have gone through the roof since this tour was routed two and a half years ago. But in the end, we worked hard to keep ticket prices reasonable. At the end of the day, if the fans come and have a good night, and they’ve had value for money, they’ll come back.”
Having been planned three years ago, the current tour has been a long time in the making, but the results have made the wait worthwhile.
“We first started discussing and planning the tour dates in 2020, but we had to push back our plans several times due to the pandemic, so I am very excited to see the new tour and album campaign finally kicking off,” says Live Nation’s Mertens. “This tour is only the beginning of the many things we have planned on the live side for Lewis Capaldi in 2023 and beyond. I am extremely excited for things to come.”
And hinting at those future plans, Penty says, “He’s confirmed for Electric Picnic, and Reading and Leeds festivals, and we’ve recently announced additional outdoor shows in August for Manchester, Belfast, Chepstow, and Edinburgh at the Royal Highland Centre.
“But the focus now turns to 2024. We’ve got dates held internationally, and we’re looking at bigger venues, especially in the UK where the sales we had for the arena tour were ridiculous.”
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The New Bosses 2021: Paris Harding, SJM
The New Bosses 2021 – the latest edition of IQ’s annual celebration of the brightest young talent in the live business today, as voted for by their peers – was published in IQ 103 this month, revealing the 12 promising promoters, bookers, agents, entrepreneurs that make up this year’s list.
To get to know this year’s cohort a little better, IQ conducted interviews with each one of 2021’s New Bosses, discovering their greatest inspirations and pinpointing the reasons for their success.
Catch up on the previous 2021 New Bosses interview with Anna Parry, programming manager at the O2, London, here.
Born and raised in Liverpool, Harding belongs to a family of musicians, artists and performers, with multiple generations of his family having a presence in and around the industry.
Influenced by the first grime wave, Harding learned to produce music and opened a small recording studio where he worked with local talent, and ultimately landed remix placements with the likes of Wiley, Sneakbo, Dappy, Steve Aoki, Iggy Azalea and others.
Stints as a club DJ introduced him to other emerging acts, prompting him to promote his own events and underground nights, which led to curating line-ups and securing talent for local festivals. His focus then switched to touring and concert promotion and in 2019 he began a new chapter at SJM Concerts.
What has been the highlight of your career, so far?
I’ve been lucky enough to have many, which have all been relatively important to where I was in life and what my goals were at that time.
I would say the present moment – even as we limp out from a global pandemic – feels like the highlight for me; the artists, tours and projects I’m able to work across on a daily basis whilst being such a fan and follower of the music and culture itself and be able to make a real contribution to it… incredible.
What advice would you give to anyone trying to find a job in live music?
Think laterally; your specialities and skillset can be used and will be needed in numerous ways. Try not to become restricted to the idea of only having one role or path. Say yes to opportunities that feel uncomfortable, pick up the experience and aim to become the nucleus.
“Think laterally; your specialities and skillset can be used and will be needed in numerous ways”
The pandemic has been hard on us all – are there any positive aspects that you and SJM are taking out of it?
With so much uncertainty and changes made throughout the industry, it has definitely forced us all to be more introspective and compassionate. We’ve had to collectively help each other navigate our way towards normality on a business and personal level, and there’s a much greater sense of unity as a result of this.
As a new boss, what one thing would you change to make the live music industry a better place?
In the immediate future, maintaining a fluid mindset to how we build our way back to normal. What we’ve experienced in the last 16 months globally means the scaffolding will very likely need to be rebuilt somewhat differently, and we all need to be on board and willing to do that.
“[The industry needs to] maintain a fluid mindset to how we build our way back to normal”
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I want to continue to help bring through new artists and play my part in building their live career experience with the aim of taking them to the highest level possible (with a few arena-level tours under my belt by that time.) I’ve always been involved in the creative process from production, visuals, to release campaigns, so I’d also like to bring those aspects to the table as an all-round offering.
What’s the biggest challenge for you and SJM now that the business is emerging from lockdown restrictions?
I think helping everyone regain confidence in attending shows, managing crowds, performing and travelling safely and successfully. From this, we’ll be able to better play our role in helping the industry thrive again. To achieve this we need patience and a solid end to the year, but things are already looking really positive.
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SJM Concerts partners with Twickets
Twickets has been appointed the official resale partner of SJM Concerts’ Gigs and Tours.
The partnership with SJM, one of the UK’s leading concert promoters, will provide a fan-friendly resale option for all tickets purchased through Gigsandtours.com, allowing users to list tickets for sale via Twickets’ website or mobile app at no more than the price originally paid.
Launched in 2016, Twickets has since served as the official resale platform for leading artists including Ed Sheeran, Stormzy, Foo Fighters, Arctic Monkeys, Mumford & Sons and Elton John. It now attracts more than three million users to its ticket marketplace every year.
“Providing a safe, secure and easy way to resell tickets is best practice”
“We continue to strive to not only offer our customers an efficient and straightforward purchasing experience, but also help them when things don’t go to plan,” explains SJM Concerts’ Matt Woolliscroft. “Providing a safe, secure and easy way to resell tickets is best practice and yet another step Gigsandtours.com is taking to innovate and improve concertgoing.”
Twickets founder Richard Davies says: “The UK is in the midst of a market shift away from rip-off secondary ticketing platforms and towards consumer-friendly resale services. I am proud Twickets is at the forefront of this change, and delighted we can bring our expertise in resale to such an important player in the UK music scene. Our goal is always to improve the ticket buying experience, fill venues and keep customers happy.”
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Six countries, one genre: C2C makes 2020 return
AEG’s Country to Country (C2C) festival is returning in 2020 for the eighth edition of its flagship London event, alongside repeat editions in Ireland, Scotland, Germany, the Netherlands and Australia.
Luke Combs, Darius Rucker and Eric Church will headline C2C’s European festivals, alongside acts including the Cadillac Three, Tanya Tucker, Charles Esten, Brett Young and Old Dominion.
International touring series Introducing Nashville will be present at C2C for the first time this year, with acoustic performances from Abby Anderson, Eric Paslay and Tenille Townes.
C2C 2020 will take place from 13 to 15 March in London’s 20,000-capacity O2 Arena, which yesterday (22 October) celebrated reaching 25 million ticket sales. Simultaneous events will take place at Ireland’s 3Arena Dublin (13,000-cap.), promoted by MCD Productions, and the SSE Hydro (13,000-cap.) in Glasgow, Scotland, promoted by DF Concerts.
The country music festival is also returning to Afas Live Amsterdam (6,000-cap.) and AEG’s Verti Music Hall (4,350-cap.) in Berlin, following successful first outings last year. Greenhouse Talent will co-promote C2C Amsterdam, which takes place from 7 to 8 March, with Semmel Concerts taking charge of the Berlin edition on 6 to 8 March.
“C2C Festival 2020 continues to build on the massive success of Country to Country in the UK and across Europe”
“I am so proud to be part of the C2C family,” said Bob Harris OBE, the main stage host of the London event, at C2C’s line-up launch party at Country Music Week, which began on Monday.
“I can’t wait to listen to the best music in the world, enjoy the fantastic atmosphere of the main auditorium, catch the excitement of the pop-up stages and meet the incredible Country fans that make C2C so special.”
Chris York, C2C Festival promoter for SJM Concerts comments: “C2C Festival 2020 continues to build on the massive success of Country to Country in the UK and across Europe. We look forward to seeing all you passionate country fans in March once again.”
Tickets for all C2C’s European events go on sale on Friday 1 November at 10 a.m. (GMT).
More information about C2C Australia, which also returns for its second year in 2020, will be available at a later date. The Australian version of the event, promoted by AEG Presents and TEG Live, takes place in Sydney and Brisbane with a different line-up to other C2C events.
Read more about country music’s rise to global fame here.
UK stadium success for the Hella Mega tour
The Hella Mega tour, the upcoming world tour jointly headlined by Fall Out Boy, Green Day and Weezer, has sold out multiple stadiums in the UK, shifting 150,000 tickets for its three SJM-promoted British shows next June.
The tour sees the three ’90s/2000s rock icons (all of whom are represented by Jonathan Daniel and Bob McLynn’s Crush Music) heading out on the road together for the first time.
The trio will touch down in Europe on 13 June 2020, playing their first show at Paris’s 40,000-capacity La Défense Arena; the UK dates are at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow, London Stadium and John Smith’s Stadium in Huddersfield, on 24, 26 and 27 June, respectively.
North American dates follow in July and August.
For a full Hella Mega tour itinerary, visit hellamegatour.com.
LN, SJM acquire UK’s Rewind Festival
Live Nation’s LN-Gaiety Holdings and SJM Concerts have jointly acquired a controlling stake in the UK’s Rewind Festival, the ’80s themed music festival which takes place annually in Henley-on-Thames (Rewind South) and Cheshire (Rewind North), England, and Perthshire, Scotland (Rewind Scotland).
First held in 2009 (as ‘80s Rewind Festival’), Rewind was formerly owned by Impresario Festivals and was acquired by Global in October 2016. It was one of a handful of events not acquired by either Broadwick Live or Superstruct Entertainment when Global divested its festival assets earlier this year.
Artists who played Rewind 2019 include Thin Lizzy (Rewind North), UB40 (North and South), Bryan Ferry (Scotland), Bananarama (North), Michael Bolton (South) and Foreigner (Scotland).
The festivals will return next summer.
Olympia London boosts live offering
The 10,000-capacity Olympia London is widening its live music programming, with upcoming performances from Korean-American rapper Jay Park and UK grime artist Skepta.
The historic event space, which first opened its doors in 1886, attracts more than 1.6 million visitors annually.
Investors including Deutsche Finance International and Yoo Capital purchased Olympia in 2017 for €330 million, following reports that the Madison Square Garden Company (MSG) was eyeing up the London venue. MSG unveiled plans for a new future-facing London arena, MSG Sphere, in February.
After a short hiatus, live music programming is again becoming a focus for the venue.
“Olympia London is perfectly placed to host music concerts within our existing calendar of events,” says venue director Gillian Kiamil. “We are fortunate to not only have the flexibility, but also the capacity to welcome up to 10,000 people standing at any single gig.”
“Olympia London is perfectly placed to host music concerts within our existing calendar of events”
Hatsune Miku, a Japanese singing synthesiser taking the holographic form of a blued-haired, 16-year-old girl, played at Olympia in December, followed by former Verve frontman Richard Ashcroft in May.
Korean-American hip hop artist Jay Park is performing at the venue as part of his Sexy4eva tour on October 20, before an SJM-promoted Skepta show on November 29.
According to the venue director, concerts are “operationally very different” to other Olympia events, which include trade conference Blockchain Live and the London Dentistry Show. However, adds Kiamil, “the satisfaction we get from seeing fans really enjoying themselves while watching their icons perform live at Olympia London is priceless.”
Over the years, the venue has played host to the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Status Quo, Rod Stewart, the Cure, the Animals and Pink Floyd.
More recent concerts to take place in the venue include the Chemical Brothers in 2008, Bloc Party in 2009 and Primal Scream in 2010.
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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New Bestival owners offer refunds for Camp Bestival 2018
Live Nation-Gaiety and SJM Concerts, the new owners of Camp Bestival, are to provide refunds and discounts on 2019 tickets out of their own pockets for all 2018 ticketholders, after the insurance pay-out from the partial cancellation of Camp Bestival 2018 was lost during the recent administration process.
“The nature of the last few months means that the insurance money that was available to refund 2018 ticketholders, and money from 2019 ticket sales, was entirely lost in the administration,” reads a statement from festival founders Rob and Josie da Bank. The final day of last year’s Camp Bestival was called off due to bad weather.
The festival, founded in 2008 and held at Lulworth Castle in Dorset, on the south coast of the UK, was forced into administration in September. Administrator Begbies Traynor later sold the event’s assets (along with those of Bestival itself, as well as several related companies) to Richmond Group, a company controlled by loans tycoon James Benamor which had previously loaned Bestival a reported £1.6 million.
The following month, Live Nation and SJM acquired those assets from Richmond Group (which had set up a new company called Safe Festivals Ltd, since handed over to LN-Gaiety), securing the future of Camp Bestival.
Since then, all parties have been tight-lipped on the future of the da Banks’ larger annual event, Bestival – though new documents filed by Begbies Traylor reveal Safe Festivals owns Bestival Group Ltd and Bestival Ltd, in addition to Camp Bestival Ltd, meaning the ball is likely in LN/SJM’s court. (Safe Festivals paid £958,824 for the companies, slightly less than the £1.1m reported originally.)
“The new owners, LN-Gaiety and SJM, understand how unfair this feels and as a result have agreed to fund discounts and refunds for 2018”
The documents also show that at the time of the acquisition, Live Nation’s Ticketmaster UK was Bestival Group’s largest known unsecured creditor, being owed £1.2m.
A person with knowledge of the situation says they believe the insurance money is still in the possession of Richmond Group, though this could not be independently verified at press time. IQ has contacted Richmond for comment.
The loss of the insurance money, the da Banks’ statement continues, “is unfair to you, our fans. The new owners, LN-Gaiety and SJM, understand how unfair this feels and as a result have agreed to fund discounts and refunds for 2018 ticketholders, and will honour all existing 2019 tickets.”
Anyone who bought a Sunday 2018 ticket can exchange it for a full refund, or apply for a free day ticket to either the Friday, Saturday or Sunday of Camp Bestival 2019, scheduled for 25–28 July. Those who had a 2018 weekend ticket are being offered a 33% discount on 2019 weekend tickets, to be redeemed via an email code.
Spice Girls confirm Spice World UK stadium tour
Seven years after the Spice Girls’ last live show, and 11 years after their 2007–2008 reunion tour, the world’s most successful girl group are hitting the road once again, today announcing six UK stadium shows in 2019.
Promoted by SJM Concerts, Live Nation and Solo, the Spice World UK tour will initially visit Etihad Stadium in Manchester (1 June 2019), Ricoh Arena in Coventry (3 June), Stadium of Light in Sunderland (6 June), BT Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh (8 June), Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol (10 June) and Wembley Stadium in London (15 June).
Owing to Victoria Beckham/Posh Spice’s “business commitments”, the band – managed by Modest! Management and XIX Entertainment – will tour as a four-piece comprising Melanie Brown (‘Scary Spice’), Melanie Chisholm (‘Sporty Spice’), Emma Bunton (‘Baby Spice’) and Geri Horner (née Halliwell, ‘Ginger Spice’). Support will come courtesy of Jess Glynne.
“We are beyond excited to be reuniting next year for a stadium tour,” say the four in a joint statement. “Bringing girl power and our message of friendship and love back to the stage feels more relevant than ever. We hope everyone can join us for one big Spice Girls party.”
“Bringing girl power and our message of friendship and love back to the stage feels more relevant than ever”
“Being in the Spice Girls was a hugely important part of my life, and I wish my girls so much love and fun as they go back on tour,” adds Beckham. “I know they will put on an amazing show, and the fantastic fans past and present are going to have a wonderful time.”
Formed in 1994 by Heart Management’s Bob and Chris Herbert, and signed to Simon Fuller’s 19 Entertainment, the Spice Girls’ breakthrough came with 1996 debut single, ‘Wannabe’, which topped the charts in 37 countries. Their first album, Spice, sold more than 31 million copies worldwide, and the band went on to become the biggest British pop success since the Beatles, selling more than 85m records globally.
They last toured in 2007 and 2008, with the Return of the Spice Girls tour grossing US$107.2m from ticket sales and merchandising, though they returned for a well-received one-off performance for the London 2012 Olympic Games closing ceremony.
Tickets for Spice World 2019 are on sale this Saturday (10 November) from Ticketmaster and SJM’s Gigs and Tours, with Twickets as the official resale partner.