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ILMC speaker spotlight: Steve Sayer, the O2 Arena

The International Live Music Conference (ILMC) is now less than a month away and, as more and more chairs and panellists are announced, IQ catches up with some key speakers to hear what they hope to get out of this year’s conference.

Following on from the previous Speaker Spotlight with IF Media Consultancy’s Jeremy PatersonIQ talks to Steve Sayer, vice president and general manager of the O2 Arena in London.

Sayer is chairing the Venue Summit: Citizen Venue session, which features panellists Sara Lamik from Tauron Arena Krakow, Marie Lindqvist, CEO of Stockholm Live, and talent buyer and booking agent Stefan Lohmann, and focuses on the social and environmental responsibility of live music venues.


IQ: What do you expect to be the main talking points at your panel?

SS: I expect and hope we will cover a lot of ground. Environmental sustainability and all those related shifts will definitely be a focus. I also expect us to speak about the UN’s broader sustainability goals, diversity and inclusion, and the impact venues can have both positives and negatives on the local community.

We will look to share best practise and signpost some great initiatives that we’re starting to see in our venues. Greta [Thunberg] will undoubtedly get a mention, as will Coldplay and maybe the Green Rider. We won’t have all the answers but we’re keen to stimulate debate and discussion.

We will look to share best practise and signpost some great initiatives that we’re starting to see in our venues

What is your personal experience of being a ‘citizen venue’, whether it’s around sustainability or something else?

For me, being a ‘citizen venue’ is about being in harmony with your community, investing in the fan experience, striving to do the right thing as a responsible business should do, creating a positive and inclusive culture for employees to work in and putting your best foot forward when it comes to issues such as sustainability.

I think we can look to what the football clubs have been doing for many years in their local catchment with their community outreach programmes, that go well beyond football coaching and soccer schools.

Music venues are vibrant hubs within communities and neighbourhoods not dissimilar in that way to sports teams – just that our fan base and content differs of course. We create value for local communities in terms of employment, economic impact, place making and having fun etc, but we can also impact in other ways.

A ‘citizen venue’ in my view is one that is fit for the future. It recognises it has these impacts and responsibilities and seeks to amplify the good and mitigate the less good.

[Venues] create value for local communities in terms of employment, economic impact, place making and having fun, but we can also impact in other ways

Is there more pressure now for arenas to be seen to be giving back to local communities? If so, is that a good thing?

I don’t think there is necessarily more pressure as such, but there is much more awareness and consciousness amongst the fans, promoters, artists, along with our own employees and other local stakeholders. I know at The O2 and within AEG venues the pressure comes from ourselves to ensure that we can be both successful and sustainable.

Is there anything else you’re particularly looking forward to seeing at ILMC?

Alongside catching up with old friends and meeting new ones, I always look forward to The Open Forum and having a few drinks at The Arthurs with the team. In addition I’m looking forward to the 5G workshop and the 2020 Vision session… I could go on!

ILMC’s Citizen Venue panel is taking place at 2.15 on Thursday 5 March at the Baglioni hotel. 


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EAY 2017: CEE arenas shrug off post-crash gloom

A majority of central and eastern European (CEE) arenas reported strong growth in 2016, boosted by growing demand and increased consumer confidence, IQ’s European Arena Yearbook 2017 reveals.

Almost all the arenas surveyed in eight CEE countries – Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Serbia – recorded positive results last year, with some even recording their most successful year to date, as they shrugged off the last remnants of the global financial crisis, which hit central and eastern Europe particularly hard.

While GDP is still not as high as in western Europe, demand is strong, consumer confidence has returned to the market and average audience figures are higher than some of the more affluent nations: the arenas surveyed sold 4,368,253 tickets to 882 events, generating €130.5 million.

Sport dominates the calendars at arenas across the region, accounting for 56% of programmes. Music makes up 26%, while family shows and miscellaneous events make-up 9% and 6%, respectively. Only 11 comedy shows took place in these arenas last year, an average of one per arena.

The largest attraction for people is clearly music events, which draw the highest average attendance: 7,761 (survey average attendance: 4,953).

“They used to regard it as very important to be seen as having significant and cool cultural festivals, but that’s changing”

‘Miscellaneous events’ are the next biggest draw, pulling an average crowd of 6,946 to corporate events and exhibitions.
Family and sports events attract average audiences of 4,300 (survey average: 5,157) and 3,610 (4,662) each.

Promoter Nick Hobbs, who books acts at all levels across central and eastern Europe, the Balkans and Turkey, says there’s starting to be a trend of people moving away from festivals and towards arena shows. “The festival market doesn’t seem to be doing as well as it was, but arenas are doing better,” he says. “That’s because sponsorship – which is essential for festivals, but not usually part of the P&L [profit and loss] of an arena show – is struggling, as companies shift their focus away from music.

“In some countries, such as Poland, municipalities are shifting their marketing spend away from cultural events due to the political climate. They used to regard it as very important to be seen as having significant and cool cultural festivals, but that’s changing due to a much more culturally conservative government.”

With the economic situation in many countries improving, arenas are seeing steady growth.


Read the full feature in the digital edition of the European Arena Yearbook 2017: