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Manchester Arena celebrates 25th year with virtual show

A virtual charity concert will be aired later this month to mark the 25th anniversary of the 21,000-capacity Manchester Arena, the largest indoor arena in the UK.

Taking place on Friday 17 July from 8 p.m., the pre-recorded event will feature Lionel Richie, Alice Cooper, Tim Burgess, Emeli Sandé and the Hoosiers, and will be broadcast across the arena’s social media channels to celebrate reaching the quarter-century milestone.

The event, which is organised in conjunction with Future Agency, will also raise money for local organisations including homeless shelter the Booth Centre, cancer treatment specialist the Christie and community-focused charity Forever Manchester, as well as music therapy charity Nordoff Robbins.

“Our 25th anniversary celebrations were set to be very special indeed”

Each charity will receive 25% of the money raised. Donations can be made here.

“Our 25th anniversary celebrations were set to be very special indeed,” says James Allen general manager of the ASM Global-operated arena.

“However during this period of pause, we have adapted the format to ensure that we can deliver an evening of top quality entertainment to your home, so everyone can enjoy the celebrations without leaving the house.”

Since opening in 1995, Manchester Arena has hosted acts including Beyonce, Chris Rock, U2, Kylie Minogue, Take That, Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson and The Rolling Stones.

 


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VenueShield: ASM Global prepares for venue reopenings

ASM Global, the world’s biggest venue operator, has taken the first steps towards reopening its properties with a new series of hygiene protocols, dubbed ‘VenueShield’, to be put in place for when restrictions are eased after the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic passes.

Described as a “comprehensive, best-in-class programme” which will provide “trusted protection” for visitors, VenueShield will be rolled out at more than 325 of ASM Global’s venues, which include leading entertainment arenas such as Manchester Arena in Manchester, UK; König-Pilsener Arena in Oberhausen, Germany; the Globe in Stockholm; the SSE Arena in Wembley, London; Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai; and American Airlines Arena in Miami.

“At the very heart of this effort is our focus on making our employees, tenants and guests safe and comfortable in a welcoming environment,” comments Bob Newman, president and CEO of ASM Global. “ASM’s unique and unmatched worldwide footprint of leading convention centres, arenas, stadia and theatres provides the input, data and resources to adapt to our guests’ needs and expectations while further enhancing the quality of their experience in our venues.”

VenueShield protocols will be tailored towards each venue, according to ASM, with a VenueShield taskforce responsible for implementing the new measures (in accordance with international healthcare guidelines from the US’s CDC, the UK’s NHS, Australia’s PHAA and the WHO, among others).

“At the very heart of this effort is our focus on making our employees, tenants and guests safe”

Among the measures being explored are the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), food safety measures, air quality control, surface cleaning, physical/social distancing, temperature checks, thermal cameras, hand sanitisers, reduced touch points, contactless transactions and daily monitoring systems.

Additionally, consultants have been hired to assist with “more technical aspects of the protocol”, adds the company, such as air purification, filtering and the maximisation of fresh-air exchange.

“We realise that each of our venues across the globe are economic engines for their respective communities, representing local tax revenues, travel revenues and jobs,” continues Newman. “We look forward to reopening these local and regional economic foundations, stimulating local economies and again delivering the entertainment experience that has defined us for decades.”

ASM Global, headquartered in Los Angeles, Manchester, Brisbane, Dubai and Sao Paulo, was formed last October by the merger of AEG Facilities and SMG.

The company’s rivals in the international large-venue space, including Live Nation and Oak View Group, are also believed to working on similar guidelines in anticipation of the lifting of lockdowns around the world.

 


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The decade in live: 2019

The start of a new year and, perhaps more significantly, a new decade is fast approaching – and while many may be thinking ahead to New Year’s Eve plans and well-meaning 2020 resolutions, IQ is casting its mind back to the most pivotal industry moments of the last ten years.

The final edition of IQ’s decade in live brings us right up to the present day. From the turbulent early post-financial crisis years, the live industry has emerged triumphant, repeatedly setting new records and reaching new heights in the latter part of the decade.

A number of artists have cropped up repeatedly during IQ’s decade analysis with both Bon Jovi and U2 topping the year-end tour chart twice.

Other acts to perform well throughout the decade include Bruce Springsteen, Taylor Swift and Pink – with three top-five appearances, including one top spot, each; Beyoncé, with four top-five tours; Metallica with three; and AC/DC, Roger Waters, Coldplay, Guns N’ Roses, Bruno Mars and the Rolling Stones, who all achieved double top-five appearances.

Major industry players were hard at play in 2019, as Live Nation completed 20 acquisitions over the year, as well as recording its highest-ever quarterly operating income in Q3; AEG Facilities and SMG finalised their mega-merger to create ASM Global; Superstruct continued its run of festival roll-ups; Oak View Group launched internationally; CTS Eventim expanded its rapidly-growing promoter network, and much more.

However, perhaps the biggest deal of the year came from one of the live industry’s most controversial members – Viagogo. The company’s US$4.05 billion all-cash acquisition of fellow secondary ticketer StubHub signals that the secondary ticketing debate will carry over well into the new decade.

 


2019 in numbers

The live concert business is seeing out the decade in style, with new records set in gross revenue by the top 100 tours worldwide.

The ten biggest touring artists of 2019 brought in a collective $1.6bn, falling short of the more than $2bn brought in the year before, with 2018’s charts skewed by Sheeran’s massive Divide tour ($432.4m) and Swift’s Reputation stadium tour ($345.1m).

Sheeran was the man of the moment in 2019, as his colossal Divide tour became the highest-grossing tour in history after knocking U2 off the top spot in August. The tour wrapped up having generated $768.5m and sold 8.8m tickets over three years. The singer came in at number three on 2019’s chart, grossing $211.7m.

Pink, the highest-grossing artist of the year, generated $215.2 million on her Beautiful Trauma trek, which sold 1.8m tickets in 2019, adding to 2018’s 1.3m, and earning her Ticketmaster’s global ticket of the year accolade.

Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour came in at second, grossing $212m, with Metallica’s WorldWired tour at four with $179m and the Rolling Stones’ No Filter tour at five with $177.8m.

Twelve artists grossed more than $100m in 2019, one more than the year before, with BTS, Bon Jovi, Ariana Grande, Michael Bublé, Fleetwood Mac, Paul McCartney and Backstreet Boys, in addition to the top five, clearing the nine-figure mark.

 


2019 in brief

January
DEAG acquires the remaining 24.9% of shares in MyTicket from German publishing house Axel Springer SE.

Scandinavian promoter Beatbox Entertainment rebrands as Down the Drain Concerts, after its parent company Down the Drain Group.

February
More than ten million people “attend” EDM star Marshmello’s virtual concert in the popular free-to-play video game Fortnite.

Live Nation acquires or takes a majority shareholding in promoters Planet Events and Embrace Presents; marketing company Neste; festivals Blockfest and Tons of Rock; and ticketer Moshtix (through Ticketmaster).

Providence Equity Partners, the parent company of festival operator Superstruct, buys into industry leading staging specialist Tait.

March
Oak View Group (OVG), the US-based venue development, advisory and investment company co-founded by former AEG CEO Tim Leiweke and ex-Live Nation chairman Irving Azoff, launches its new international business at ILMC.

CTS Eventim announces plans to combine 26 of its majority-owned promoters into a new London-based, pan-European live entertainment network, called Eventim Live.

Australian promoters Michael Gudinski and Michael Chugg announce a new joint venture between their respective companies, Frontier Touring and Chugg Entertainment.

The decade in live: 2019

Marshmello performs in-game in Fortnite to over ten million people © Keneth Cruz

April
AEG Presents joins forces with Frontier Touring, Australia’s last major independent promoter, in a strategic joint venture that sees the companies merge operations in Australia and New Zealand.

Competition regulators examine the proposed mega-merger of venue behemoths AEG Facilities and SMG, as the companies look to roll up an international portfolio that includes more than 300 venues.

Providence Equity-backed Superstruct Entertainment takes corporate control of Global’s festival arm, amid rumours Broadwick Live is undertaking a management buyback of its events.

May
Superstruct Entertainment invests in Down the Drain Group, forming a partnership with the largest independent concert and festival promoter in Denmark.

BookMyShow, India’s largest online ticketing company, expands into the Middle East after signing a five-year deal with AEG Ogden’s Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai.

DEAG becomes the latest major live music player to invest in the fast-growing esports sector, acquiring a minority stake in ally4ever Entertainment, a specialist gaming events agency.

June
BTS-mania hits London for a second time, with the Korean pop superstars making history by playing to 120,000 people over two nights at Wembley Stadium – and another 140,000 fans across the world via a £21-a-head livestream.

Oak View Group (OVG) partners with Live Nation to build and run a new entertainment and sports arena in Santa Giulia in Milan.

DEAG acquires a majority stake in three promoters: Stuttgart-based C2 Concerts; I-Motion, the German division of electronic music behemoth, LiveStyle; and Swiss concert promoters Live Music Production and Live Music Entertainment.

The decade in live: 2019

Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena © AEG Ogden

July
Live Nation makes moves in Latin America, confirming it will acquire a majority stake in South America’s biggest festival, Rock in Rio, and in Latin America’s largest promoter, Ocesa Entertainment.

Google suspends secondary ticketing site Viagogo as an advertiser indefinitely, following pressure from industry organisations, anti-touting groups and politicians.

After five years as partners, London’s Coda Agency formally merges into its Los Angeles-based parent company, Paradigm Talent Agency, becoming Paradigm London.

August
Ed Sheeran’s ÷ tour becomes the highest- grossing concert tour of all time, breaking the current record of $735.4m set by U2’s 360° stadium tour in July 2011.

Superstruct Entertainment invests in Germany’s ICS, adding leading metal event Wacken Open Air to its stable of European festivals, which also includes recently acquired hip-hop event Parookaville.

Australasian live entertainment powerhouse TEG, the parent company of Ticketek and TEG Dainty, acquires the UK’s MJR Group.

September
Through its Swedish division, FKP Scorpio Sverige, FKP Scorpio acquires Stockholm-based promoter Woah Dad! Live.

Oak View Group launches the International Venue Alliance, a network of independent venues modelled on its US Arena and Stadium Alliance, with Silverstone Circuit as founding member.

AEG takes full control of its ticketing business, AXS, from co-owners TPG Capital and RockBridge Growth Equity.

The decade in live: 2019

Ed Sheeran’s ÷  tour became the highest-grossing of all time in 2019, generating a total of $768.5m © Ed Sheeran/Instagram

October
CTS Eventim expands into Russia, acquiring 51% of concert promoter Talent Concert International.

AEG Facilities and SMG complete their merger to create a single worldwide venue management company: ASM Global.

Private equity firm Silver Lake Partners acquires Australia’s TEG, adding to a live portfolio that also includes Oak View Group, MSG and Endeavor.

November
Upcoming shows by Spanish star Enrique Iglesias in Croatia, Belarus and Latvia are cancelled, as Iglesias’s agency, CAA, declares a lack of compliance on behalf of promoter Art BG.

In a landmark deal that brings together the world’s two largest secondary ticket sellers, Viagogo announces its acquisition of StubHub for $4.05bn in cash.

Just four months after its indefinite suspension from Google Ads, Viagogo advertisements once again appear at the top of Google’s search results as the ban is lifted.

December
CTS Eventim makes official its acquisition of a majority stake in Barracuda Music, formerly the largest independent promoter in Austria.

Live Nation makes its 20th acquisition or equivalent deal of the year, taking a controlling stake in the live entertainment division of Malaysian promoter PR Worldwide.

 


The decade in live: 2019

Keith Flint (1969–2019) © The Prodigy

Who we lost

Croatian concert promoter Jordan Rodić; the Prodigy frontman Keith Flint; singer-songwriter Scott Walker; Stephen Fitzpatrick and Audun Laading of UK band Her’s and tour manager Trevor Engelbrektson; VMS Live founder and managing director Steve Forster; Matt Ward, Manchester Arena’s head of event marketing and PR; ATC Live agent and LeeFest/Neverworld festival director Chris Meredith; SFX Entertainment founder Robert FX Sillerman.


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ASM Global to manage Baltimore venue

Venue management giant ASM Global has added Baltimore’s Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric (2,565-cap.) to its expanding portfolio.

The Modell Lyric joins recent ASM additions the Gateshead Quays (12,500-cap.) in the UK the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium (23,000-cap.) in Ohio, USA. ASM Global also holds a 25% stake in Australian stadium operator VenuesLive.

ASM Global, which formed as the result of a mega-merger between AEG Facilities and SMG, has a five-year agreement with the Lyric Foundation for management of the Baltimore venue. An Outback Concerts-promoted Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band show will be the first to take place under ASM’s management on 16 and 17 June 2020.

“We are excited to welcome the Lyric to the ASM Global family of performing arts centres,” says Bob Newman, president and CEO of ASM Global. “We have a long and successful history in Baltimore at the Royal Farms Arena (14,000-cap.) and more recently at MECU Pavilion (4,400-cap.).

“ASM Global understands the Lyric’s vision and mission”

“The Lyric further expands our portfolio in the region and compliments the other two facilities, enabling us to better serve our patrons, promoters and partners in the area.”

“We are happy that our first booking at the Lyric is Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band,” adds Bob Papke, vice president of theatres for ASM Global. “The Modell Lyric is an incredible venue and we look forward to bringing a variety of artists and attractions to the theater.”

John Denick, chair of the Lyric Foundation comments that ASM Global “understand[s] the Lyric’s vision and mission.

“They represent a great opportunity for growth, and we look forward to a long and successful relationship,” says Denick.

The Modell Lyric, a not-for-profit performing arts centre serving the greater Baltimore area, has hosted acts including Aretha Franklin, Robbie Williams, Chris Rock, Diana Ross, Santana and the Grateful Dead.

Tickets for the Ringo Starr show go on sale at 10 a.m. EST today (Friday 15 November) here.

 


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AEG Facilities, SMG merge: ASM Global is born

AEG’s venue management arm, AEG Facilities, and Onex-owned SMG announced today (1 October) that they have completed their merger to create a single global facility management and venue services company, ASM Global.

The companies, which between them operate and run many of the world’s most important large entertainment venues, first announced their intention to merge in February. The completion of the merger comes following the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority approval of the deal in September.

ASM, headquartered in Los Angeles, has key operations based in West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, as well as offices in London and Manchester, England; Brisbane, Australia; and Sao Paulo, Brazil.

ASM’s portfolio includes Sydney ANZ Stadium, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena, Manchester Arena and Lausanne’s Vaudoise Arena, as well as convention and exhibition centres, performing arts centres and theatres. Overall, the company will operate more than 300 facilities across five continents.

Some AEG-owned venues, including the O2 Arena in London and the AccorHotel Arena in Paris, remain under AEG control do not currently feature in the ASM portfolio online. The Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin and Los Angeles’ Staples Center, which were previously thought to be excluded from the deal, are included in ASM’s portfolio.

Bob Newman, former president of AEG Facilities, has been named president and CEO of ASM, effective immediately. Prior to joining AEG Facilities, Newman spent more than 20 years at SMG, last serving as a regional vice president for the company. Wes Westley, former CEO and president of SMG, will focus on strategic growth initiatives and facilitating the integration process.

“This marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter in our industry and one that will establish a new standard of excellence in managing live experiences”

“This marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter in our industry and one that will establish a new standard of excellence in managing live experiences,” comments Newman.

“Bringing together the combined global expertise of each company with the best content and cutting-edge technologies, we will be able to realise the full potential of the world’s greatest spaces, places and events, create amazing experiences for guests, offer exciting new opportunities to employees and deliver the highest value for all stakeholders. Equally important, our deep bench of talent and shared resources will enable ASM to accelerate innovation and capitalise on the growing market opportunities.”

Westley adds: “I am very proud to have had the opportunity to lead such an incredible organisation as SMG. We have a long history of working closely with our public and private partners and are confident in our ability to continue to meet and exceed their expectations.

“ASM’s focus moving forward will be on providing added value and best-in-class services to its customers.”

Onex, AEG and their respective affiliates are contributing their entire equity investments in SMG and AEG Facilities, respectively, and are now equal co-owners of ASM.

 


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UK’s CMA clears SMG-AEG Facilities merger

The UK’s competition regulator, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), has approved the planned merger of AEG Facilities and SMG.

The CMA was one of a number of regulatory authorities investigating the merger of the venue management giants, which was announced in February. If, as expected, the authority’s counterparts across the Atlantic also clear the merger, a new joint venture, Los Angeles-headquartered ASM Global, will likely launch in October of this year, according to an AEG spokesperson.

“We are pleased that the proposed merger of AEG Facilities and SMG has received unconditional clearance from the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA),” says AEG. “The parties anticipate closing the transaction in early October.”

“We are pleased that the proposed merger of AEG Facilities and SMG has received unconditional clearance”

SMG has been contacted for comment.

The CMA launched a preliminary (‘phase-1’) investigation into the merger in April, following a partial deferment of the case to British authorities by the European Commission. Regulators at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the US are also believed to be looking into the transaction.

Plans for the deal revealed in early February by private-equity firm Onex Corporation, which completed its acquisition of SMG Holdings in January 2018.

Onex says it and AEG Facilities will each own 50% of ASM Global (a trading name of Wildlife Holdings Inc.) – which will manage more than 300 large venues worldwide – following the merger.

 


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SMG’s UK venues go digital with Ticketmaster

Ticketmaster is introducing digital ticketing technology across all SMG Europe-operated venues in the UK, beginning with the 21,000-capacity Manchester Arena.

Fans attending events at SMG Europe venues will be able to receive tickets directly to their phones, send tickets securely to friends and use Ticketmaster’s fan-to-fan marketplace to re-sell tickets to fellow concertgoers.

Ticketmaster has also introduced tickets with moving barcodes to prevent to use of screenshots for counterfeiting tickets.

SMG Europe, the European subsidiary of leading venue operator SMG, runs 11 venues across the UK, including the First Direct Arena in Leeds (13,500-cap.), the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre in Scotland (8,500-cap.) and Newcastle’s Utilita Arena (11,00-cap.)

Digital tickets will be immediately available for all upcoming events at the Manchester Arena, including shows from Westlife, Carrie Underwood, Kiss, Boyzone, Cher and Christina Aguilera.

The digital ticketing technology will roll out across the remaining venues in due course.

“We are committed to bringing the benefits of digital tickets to fans across the country”

“We know fans want the buying and using of tickets to be as simple, straightforward and safe as possible, which is why we are excited to begin rolling out digital tickets at our flagship venue, the Manchester Arena,” says John Sharkey, executive vice president of European operations at SMG.

“Being able to partner with Ticketmaster to do this also helps to give fans the peace of mind that while they can now receive their tickets straight to their mobile, it is being powered by a ticket agent they know and trust,” adds Sharkey.

Ticketmaster UK’s managing director Andrew Parsons comments: “We are committed to bringing the benefits of digital tickets to fans across the country. Partnering with SMG Europe to introduce this technology across their entire UK estate is a major step in that journey.”

Ticketmaster is expanding its digital ticketing offering worldwide, recently introducing the technology to Marriner Group-operated Forum Melbourne, making it the first fully digital venue in Australia.

SMG Europe has used Ticketmaster as its official ticketing partner since 2016.

 


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AEG Facilities–SMG merger draws regulator scrutiny

Competition regulators on both sides of the Atlantic are examining the proposed mega-merger of venue behemoths AEG Facilities and SMG, as the companies look to roll up an international portfolio that includes more than 300 venues.

Should the deal proceed as the two companies hope, a new venture, known as ASM Global, will be launched, with headquarters in Los Angeles. It would oversee 310 arenas, stadia, convention centres and performing arts venues across five continents, including some of the world’s best-known live music locations.

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced today (11 April) that it has launched a preliminary (‘phase-1’) investigation into the merger, following a partial deferment of the case to British authorities by the European Commission.

Interested parties are invited to comment on the case – which will examine “whether the creation of [ASM Global] may be expected to result in a substantial lessening of competition within any market or markets in the United Kingdom for goods or services” – before 29 April 2019, ahead of the 24 June deadline for the phase-1 decision.

The CMA investigation also reveals that the new company will be called Wildlife Holdings Inc., presumably trading as ASM Global. Wildlife Holdings – to be jointly owned by AEG (Anschutz Entertainment Group Inc.) and Onex Corporation – applied for the “ASM Global” trademark on 7 February.

Regulators at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the US are also believed to be looking into the merger.

Plans for the deal revealed in early February by private-equity firm Onex, which completed its acquisition of SMG Holdings in January 2018. The investment powerhouse says it and AEG Facilities will each own 50% of ASM Global following the merger – a deal it expects to complete in late 2019.

Complicating the merger is a stipulation that certain venues owned by AEG, such as the O2, AccorHotels Arena, Mercedes-Benz Arena and Staples Center are excluded from the deal, with AEG also retaining control of its owned venues and entertainment districts in Los Angeles, London, Hamburg and Berlin, as well as its sports, music and sponsorship divisions.

The CMA investigation reveals the new company will be called Wildlife Holdings, trading as ASM Global

For its part, Onex has committed to contributing its entire equity investment in SMG into the merger. SMG’s assets include Manchester Arena in the UK, König-Pilsener Arena in Oberhausen, Germany, and numerous arenas, stadia and convention centres across North America.

While the merger hopefuls hailed the deal as “a major step for our industry,” competitors are less enthused about what it could mean internationally. Former AEG president Tim Leiweke, who now heads up Oak View Group (OVG), states that the company’s lawyers are poring over the merger agreement to “figure out whether this is anti-competitive,” while others are also expecting a degree of interest from regulators, given the number of venues that will be under the one roof.

“It’s a frightening prospect,” notes one venues veteran. “When Live Nation were mooted to be interested in purchasing SMG, that kinda made sense. But Live Nation is not in the same league as AEG when it comes to venue ownership.

“My real fear is that if this goes ahead, there will be zero room for negotiation with ASM Global, which will be so powerful that they could simply dictate terms for the likes of security, caterers, cleaning and other contractors.” A culling of staff across AEG Facilities and SMG would also be expected.

Another source notes that the deal could further escalate artist fees should AEG Presents leverage its position with its venues in bidding wars with Live Nation. And he suggests that a resurrection of the bookings feud between AEG and OVG ally Madison Square Garden Company could broaden to other rivals, as venue operators look to safeguard their interests.

“However, not everyone is against the deal.  Brad Mayne, president and CEO of the International Association of Venue Managers, told Convene that he sees positives in the merger from a business point of view. “The more venues you manage, the greater strength you have to leverage in negotiations,” notes Mayne. “You can say to a vendor that if you’re willing to accept the terms of a deal in one venue that you can help them get into other venues that you manage.”

With officials at AEG and SMG gagged during the merger process, one key unanswered question surrounds ASM Global’s business model, as its constituents operate very different strategies: while AEG invests heavily in facility construction and development, SMG has historically collected management fees to run venues.

 


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Cashing in on live music: Meet the investors buying into the biz

The global live music industry has experienced a significant uptick in fortunes over the past decade. A switch in favour – from listening to recorded music at home, to physically attending the live event – has facilitated immense growth and profitability, driven by escalating ticket prices and the desirability to attend high-end live experiences.

This financial success has created a world of possibility for live music events, which are becoming more and more appealing to investors and fans alike. Thanks to consumer preference and industry adaptability, “the sector is growing more rapidly than the economy as a whole,” according to Lisa Boden, partner at Edition Capital, an investment company specialising in the entertainment and leisure industry.

“It is therefore an attractive space to invest into,” she adds.

Journalist and entertainment stock-market analyst Manfred Tari believes that while traditional industries are becoming saturated with investors, private-equity firms are speculating on different business sectors that have not previously been properly explored.

“The stock markets are not delivering the profit margins usually required by investors, so investors are looking into other industries to gain that 10% profit margin or more,” says Tari. “The live music industry is providing one of these different investment fields.”

Big money
Private-equity firms are pouring money into the live industry like never before, acquiring stakes in major talent- booking agencies, buying up popular festivals, and entering into partnerships with venue management companies.

“The live music sector is growing more rapidly than the economy as a whole”

“Whenever a deal takes place, it shows what kind of strategies are being used by investment companies,” explains Tari. “One particular deal that comes to mind is the merger between AEG facilities and SMG, backed by the huge private-equity company, Onex. This merger explains well what is going on in general – private-equity companies are looking for opportunities and just jumping in.”

The recently announced ASM Global merger could boast a portfolio of 310 arenas, stadia, convention centres and performing arts venues, if the deal is given the green light by monopoly watchdogs. The venue management colossus would span five continents and has been hailed by supporters as a “major step” for the live music industry.

Meanwhile, in the outdoor space, festivals are proving to be a highly lucrative aspect of the industry. Providence Equity Partners is the private-equity backer of Superstruct Entertainment, a festival owner and operator led by Creamfields founder James Barton. The company has acquired stakes in major European festivals, including Barcelona’s Sónar, Hungary’s Sziget, Norway’s Øya and Flow Festival in Finland.

Also tapping into the potential profitability of the festivals sector, Edition Capital serves as an example of one of the investment giants gambling on the continued popularity of the business. Investing in festival promoter Impresario Festivals was “one of the most prominent investments that we as a team made,” says Edition partner, Boden.

Through the Impresario Festivals investment, the company acquired a number of UK festival brands “with clearly unique audiences,” such as London’s Field Day, 80s-themed Rewind, and laidback surf festival, Boardmasters. “We sold that business in 2016, more than doubling the investors’ money,” Boden tells IQ.

Tari notes, “A main effect that we will see from these kinds of investments, like in the case of Superstruct and Waterland Private Equity, is that private-equity firms will now be looking to consolidate their place, investing in multiple similar companies and synchronising between them.”

“Private-equity firms will now be looking to consolidate their place, investing in multiple similar companies and synchronising between them”

In December 2018, Netherlands-based investment firm Waterland Private Equity acquired six leading Scandinavian promoters and agencies to create All Things Live, which it described as a “new independent market leader in Nordic live entertainment.” The company, comprising ICO Concerts and ICO Management; Friction and Atomic Soul Booking; Blixten & Co and Maloney Concerts, represents 140 Nordic artists and promotes almost 3,000 local and international events. All Things Live has a combined annual revenue of US$96 million, according to the company.

“Headliners coming to one event can now be supplied to many concerts across the private-equity firm’s portfolio. That is how these kinds of investments will change business structures,” observes Tari.

It’s all about the experience
Live shows and events have not always proved as financially fruitful. Indeed, recorded music dominated the industry as the chief generator of cash flow up until a decade ago, and according to collection society PRS for Music, the change in fortunes for live music in the UK occurred in 2008, with the United States following suit a few years later.

The origin of this movement of value from recorded content to live experience transcends the music business, extending to the wider entertainment industry and consumer habits in general. “People, particularly millennials and Generation Z, are spending increasing amounts of disposable income on doing things rather than owning things,” notes Boden.

This tendency to favour live experience over material possessions is commonly referred to as the experience economy, of which “the live entertainment sector is at the forefront,” says Boden.

That shift is proving enticing for large investment firms who can see that the live music industry is revelling in changing consumer preference, as leading festival and event promoters tap into the specific trends that accompany the era of the experience economy.

“People, particularly millennials and Generation Z, are spending increasing amounts of disposable income on doing things rather than owning things”

“The live experience – festivals and events – brings in a lot of other trends, such as personalisation, relevance and the availability of additional content to augment the experience,” says David Fisher, investment director at Edge Investments, a venture-capital company that specialises in creative industries finance.

Fisher explains that the businesses with most growth potential are those that “think about the experience economy and live events in a different way,” making a particular effort to target customers and personalise services.

“We are seeing this trend towards personalisation in every industry,” says Fisher. “Being able to understand the customer – what they’ve bought before, which kind of content they enjoy – is vital for offering the right solution to each customer’s requirements.”

In February 2019, Edge completed a $4.6 million investment in Festicket, a ticketing platform that packages together festival tickets, travel, accommodation and add-ons. “An attractive element of Festicket is that they get to know their customers,” Fisher tells IQ. “They identify a target, personalise their services and bring that target to specific customers, hence the ease of their tailored packaging, with festival tickets, accommodation and travel all in one place.”

Festicket sent 70 million emails last year, according to Fisher, “ensuring the development of a personal relationship with consumers.”

An individualised service and fresh outlook is a must for Boden, too. According to the Edition partner, the most attractive element for a potential investor is “an ability to attract and retain a loyal audience.” She adds, “Ultimately, the event needs to have a unique niche – it can’t just be another middle-of-the-road festival or event.”

“These investments mean that tickets will get a bit more expensive for fans and the entire industry set-up is going to change”

Indeed, the burgeoning international festival scene and the increasing willingness of festivalgoers to travel abroad is allowing further expansion of the festival market and offering ever more lucrative opportunities to investors.

Edition recently invested in Mainstage Festivals, a company that blurs the lines between music festivals and travel, offering festivalgoers a holiday as well as a live music experience. Last year, Mainstage launched Kala, the first international music festival to take place in Albania, receiving critical and public acclaim.

A bright future?
As long as the experience economy continues to thrive, the trend of external investors injecting funds into the live music industry shows no signs of slowing down.

The creativity and inventiveness of industry professionals, as well as swift technological advances, are enhancing the quality of live experiences, prolonging their impact and keeping both consumers and investors hooked.

Boden expects to see “increasing numbers of active firms and active funds” taking an interest in the sector in the short term. If larger players become involved in the future – a prospect that she deems likely – investors will gain more exit routes and the public will receive a greater size and diversity of offerings, she says.

Fisher is similarly optimistic: “Bringing investment into an industry is a good thing, as it means businesses can then invest themselves, leading to employment, growth and profit,” he says. “In the UK, the creative industries make up 10% of the GDP. It is important to get investment into such a large sector of our economy.”

These investments are providing attractive cash flows for many major festivals, agencies and venues, facilitating further expansion of the booming international live music industry and proving beneficial for all involved.

“Recipients of funding in the live events arena need to be able to provide that return, otherwise the money will dry up and go elsewhere”

However, the influx of investment may serve to change the live music industry in some less favourable ways, especially for concert attendees and festivalgoers.

“Firstly, these investments mean that tickets will get a bit more expensive for fans,” warns Tari. “Secondly, the entire industry set-up is going to change.”

In the past, the music industry received funding from impresarios or standalone investors who would work with artists and audiences on a more local, personal level. Nowadays, these kinds of investors are making way for huge corporate companies, dealing on a global level.

As a result, “agents now almost have the role of a product manager, so direct relations between the artists and the agent are less meaningful and the industry is becoming more corporatised in general,” says Tari.

Artists benefit from this, to a certain extent, due to the significant financial and professional advantages corporatisation brings. However, “fans are mostly not aware of these kinds of developments, and most have no idea that they are paying higher ticket prices for the benefit of investors,” Tari believes.

Furthermore, the sector cannot rely upon private-equity cash flows to boost the industry indefinitely. “Any sensible financial investor is investing for one reason: to make a return,” explains Fisher. “Recipients of funding in the live events arena need to be able to provide that return, otherwise the money will dry up and go elsewhere,” he says.

Tari echoes the sentiment. “These kinds of investors are looking for live events companies that already have a significant number of artists and a certain financial capacity – they aren’t concerned by the talent involved – it’s all about the financial potential.”

 


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ASM Global: SMG and AEG Facilities to merge

AEG Facilities and SMG, which between them operate and run many of the world’s most important large entertainment venues, have announced their intention to merge, forming a new company called ASM Global.

The merger, announced today by private-equity firm Onex – since December the owner of SMG – will create a venue management colossus spanning five continents, with a portfolio of 310 arenas, stadia, convention centres and performing arts venues.

Onex and AEG Facilities will each own 50% of ASM Global following the merger, expected to be completed in late 2019.

AEG Facilities-run venues include the SSE Arena, Wembley, and the O2 in London (the latter of which is the world’s busiest arena); AccorHotels Arena in Paris, Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin; Barclays Center in New York; and Staples Center in Los Angeles. However, venues owned by AEG – such as the O2, AccorHotels Arena, Mercedes-Benz Arena and Staples Center – are excluded from the deal, with AEG retaining control of its owned venues and entertainment districts in Los Angeles, London, Hamburg and Berlin, as well as its sports, music and sponsorship divisions. Onex is contributing its entire equity investment in SMG into the merger, which remains subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals.

SMG, and its European subsidiary, SMG Europe, run Manchester Arena in the UK; König-Pilsener Arena in Oberhausen, Germany; and arenas, stadia and convention centres across North America.

“This merger is a major step for our industry. We are excited to bring together these complementary businesses”

The new company will be based in LA, with a secondary presence in SMG’s home city, West Conschohocken, Pennsylvania.

Wes Westley, president and CEO of SMG, comments: “This merger is a major step for our industry. We are excited to bring together these complementary businesses to further elevate the standard of excellence in venue management. We plan to accelerate innovation by combining our expertise to deliver increased value and offer enhanced capabilities to municipalities and venue owners worldwide.

“At the same time, we expect that this transaction will offer employees at both our corporate headquarters and field operations tremendous new opportunities.”

“It is an honour and privilege to be a part of this exciting new company, which brings together the two organisations where I have worked for the bulk of my professional career,” adds AEG Facilities president Bob Newman, who becomes president and CEO of ASM. “This transaction draws upon the depth of our combined talent and resources to create an organisation that will deliver value and long-term success, as well as innovative services to our clients around the world.”

AEG competitor Live Nation was believed to be in the running to buy SMG before it was acquired by Onex.

 


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