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Music Venue Trust’s decade of defiance

Across the globe, in almost every town and city, hidden gems pulsate with the raw, unbridled energy of live music.

Often tucked away off the beaten track, these intimate spaces carry a profound significance that transcends mere bricks and mortar. They are sanctuaries where local music scenes breathe and evolve, providing a stage for emerging artists to share their stories – cultural beacons where community, authenticity, and resilience truly take precedence.

In an era of endless mass production, these venues stand as a testament to the enduring power of music and fans’ unwavering passion, where that intimate connection between artist and audience is not only appreciated but revered. They are the very lifeblood of musical culture. But such grassroots music venues are facing existential threats.

2023 was the toughest year yet for them, something that becomes crystal clear perusing news stories on the topic. “Brutal,” “A dire crisis,” and “Devasting” scream the headlines – and with, on average, more than one venue closing every week, the topic is now routinely reported on by the mainstream media.

In the UK, the perfect storm of Brexit, Covid, the cost-of-living crisis, inflation, and the knock-on effects of wars and global instability has pushed many venues to the brink; government intransigence and ignorance often impede even the most basic common-sense efforts to help.

“These are places that make people go out and that get people inspired”

Yet the fight for their survival is not without hope. Last year marked the tenth anniversary of the Music Venue Trust, a ground-breaking charity that does vital work developing solutions, lobbying for change, and ensuring the music industry, politicians, and the wider public remain cognisant of the seriousness of this issue. Their achievements over the last decade have been notable, with their work inspiring dozens of similar organisations and impassioned individuals the world over; progress, albeit slowly, is being made.

Reflecting on this milestone, though, and taking stock of where the fault lines lie in this battle, it remains clear that there is much to be done – and quickly – if catastrophe is to be avoided. “These are places that make people go out and that get people inspired,” MVT CEO Mark Davyd said on a trip to Parliament this time last year. “[But] we’re not near the edge, we’re over the edge, and we’re tumbling down. You need to throw a lifeline down.”

Rising up, back on the street
The Music Venue Trust was created to promote a simple yet clear idea. “Ownership of the physical buildings was the key issue,” Davyd tells IQ, “and the trust was created with that name specifically as a reference to the concept of a National Trust for Music Venues – a model of benevolent ownership that would support the sector against all the other challenges it faced.”

The idea came to Davyd after the financial crisis of the late 2000s, and specifically, the closure of London’s Astoria in 2009. “That was the moment I realised no one seemed to care about the live music ecosystem,” he says. “There was a definite feeling for a number of years that things were so bad that obviously somebody would step in and do something. But finally, in 2013, we realised nobody was going to – we would have to do it ourselves.”

“We are focused on advocating for cultural politices that can safeguard these spaces for continuous improvement”

And while that remains one of MVT’s goals – “It took us nine years to finally deliver that ownership model,” says Davyd; they purchased The Snug in Atherton in 2023 – a far greater scope of activities, services, and other problems have presented themselves over the years. In the same vein, differing legislative and economic realities in other territories, coupled with much later start dates, means that similar organisations in other parts of the world have often focused on more immediate practical measures.

Face to face, out in the heat
“We have secured direct support for programming and infrastructure in the venues,” says Carmen Zapata Corbalán, manager of Associació de Salas de Conciertos de Catalunya (the association of concert halls in Catalonia – ASACC), “and our ongoing efforts are focused on advocating for cultural policies that can safeguard these spaces for continuous improvement, even amidst changes in political leadership.”

Formed when it was realised that the live music sector required a spokesperson to advocate for smaller venues, ASACC has advocated for such spaces to be considered “cultural assets” alongside requests for the regulation of music venues to fall under the jurisdiction of the Departure of Culture, instead of its current position under the Department of Security and Police. To do so, they document the closure or cessation of concerts in venues – including a campaign called “The Last Concert?”, whereby the facades of venues were painted as obituaries – and lobby for new entertainment laws that acknowledge and support venues as cultural activities.

To date, their most notable achievement is ensuring that individuals under 18 years of age could attend concerts accompanied by parents or legal guardians, but, adds Corbalán, growth in the number of ASACC’s associated venues in recent years, from 39 to over 90, “is a clear indication of its utility and impact. This growth demonstrates that it has been successful in achieving its goal and has made a positive impact on the community it serves.”

“If people really fundamentally understood how access to live music makes us healthier, government may be more willing to wrap their heads around the kind of policymaking that’s required”

The Canadian Live Music Association (CLMA) is also currently celebrating its tenth anniversary. An organisation whose mission is to entrench live music’s economic, social, and cultural value in both the public and private sectors. “What we’re attempting to do is influence public policymaking,” says Erin Benjamin, president and CEO, “and the education of government, along with our storytelling, has been fundamental.”

The “story” is getting through, too. “Canada saw over $70m in designated money for live music in a historic budget during Covid – never had the words ‘live music venues’ appeared in a federal budget, ever,” she says. “That was monumental and something that we return to government to remind them of today.”

And the CLMA is keen to take a holistic view of such venues and the benefits they bring beyond money – much of their effort is directed towards their social and cultural impact, too. “If people really fundamentally understood how access to live music makes us healthier, mentally and physically, government and others may be more willing to wrap their heads around the kind of policymaking, economic or otherwise, that’s required to ensure the sustainability of these types of businesses,” says Benjamin.

In Austin, Texas, Rebecca Reynolds – president and founder of the Music Venue Alliance Austin (MVAA) – found “a patchwork of regulatory agencies and requirements that made it nearly impossible for venues to be in constant compliance.” Focused support was their answer; to start with, it was issues like sound complaints and parking, she says, whereas more recently, they’ve been “spending a lot of time on disaster relief, liquor taxes, and insurance.”

“These businesses are critical to culture and economy at the local level”

She notes that while property ownership for all venues would be ideal, “I am not sure that is everyone’s goal. We do need a regulatory environment that honours the fact that these are tax-paying businesses that do not benefit from philanthropic support but are critical to culture and economy at the local level and throughout the spectrum of the music industry.”

Directed conversations with lawmakers, building trust among the venue community, and working with those in position to implement the MVAA’s goals have paid dividends. “After lobbying our state legislature for three legislative sessions, we established a fund that will reimburse businesses up to $100k in alcohol taxes per year, to be put back into the production of live music in their spaces,” she says. “We also successfully lobbied the City of Austin to create a new fund, supported by hotel occupancy tax revenue, to provide grants for commercial music businesses.”

Reynold’s success in Texas directly influenced and inspired Chris Cobb, one of the founders of the Music Venue Alliance Nashville (MVAN). A volunteer-led organisation since its foundation in 2017, the MVAN has nonetheless proved influential thanks to what Cobb describes as “unbelievable grit and determination.” Again, legislative change around funding and tax are big goals – a venue grant fund and an alcohol tax refund are the current initiatives they are advocating for – and they scored some major successes in fundraising and preventing closures during Covid.

“Tax breaks,” says Cobb when asked about their main goals. “Taxes collected from independent venues make up an inconsequential percentage of total tax collected but are a significant cost to venues. Whether it be beer, liquor, or others, we must see a change in venue tax.”

“Now we are an organisation that promotes the interests of all cultural organisers, not just live music”

To this end, Cobb and MVAN are determined to “remind people – the right people – why venues are so important. But we have to be focused and more strategic, so we’ve just hired our first lobbyist, which is very exciting.” That cost is being split with the recently launched the Tennessee chapter of the National Independent Venue Association, and MVAN has also partnered with a local charitable organisation, their musicians’ union, the Musicians Association, and Belmont University on a music census to identify challenges and provide policy recommendations.

Norway’s Norske Kulturarrangører (NKA) has a little more history fighting for the arts – it started life back in 1982, working to promote the interest of volunteer-based rock clubs in Norway. “But now we are an organisation that promotes the interests of all cultural organisers, not just live music. So our approximately 500 members range from Live Nation, lots of rock and concert halls, and rock/blues clubs, whether public, volunteer, commercial, or global,” says Anders Tangan, the organisation’s senior advisor.

In Norway, gentrification is a major threat to grassroots venues, says Tangan, so much of NKA’s work revolves around protecting them from eviction. But the spectre of tax also looms large here. “In 2009, we managed to halt the proposal to put VAT on culture – we still have 0% VAT to this date, but the debate goes on,” says Tangan. “And in 2019, we managed to stop the taxation of volunteer work at venues and festivals.”

Overall, they’ve found that collaboration is key to achieving the required changes. “Historically, it’s been difficult coming together and speaking with one voice,” he says. “During Covid, this changed, and we could see that different organisations united, and real change was made. I think that will be important in the future – to unite and try to speak as one across the culture sector.”

“We are working to expand our reach and influence to ensure independent stages have a seat at the decision-making table”

Of course, new organisations and associations continue to pop up all over the world, united by the urgency of the fight and inspired by the precedent the Music Venue Trust has set. Australia’s Independent Live Venues Alliance (ILVA) is not even a year old yet but has already succeeded in getting grassroots venues “on the agenda,” as Jade Flavell, one of the founders, put it, and in “changing the language and thinking in media and political circles.”

Direct lobbying and coming to the table with practical and constructive ‘solutions’ that make it easy for those in power to say ‘yes,’ are one way that ILVA – the first organisation of its kind in Australia – plans to keep “chipping away” at the issue, says Flavell; ditto launching public awareness campaigns and calls to arms. And these are already bearing fruit; a few days after our initial interview, another Flavell, emails with news of a significant victory.

“The State Government of South Australia just announced a new programme to support small-medium dedicated live music venues with grants of up to $60,000 over 12 months towards costs associated with presenting original live music,” she writes. “ILVA worked closely on this programme with the minister for arts/small business Andrea Michaels – an engaged and sympathetic minister – and we were instrumental in securing this funding and ensuring it was targeted to dedicated original live music venues.”

Back in the US, the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) is a little older than ILVA – three years to be exact – and, according to executive director Stephen Parker, was formed with “an initial singular goal in mind – to convince Congress and local governments to invest in the recovery of independent venues, promoters, and festivals.”

“We need the whole industry to accept that it has a responsibility to make sure that aspiration and opportunity exists for new and emerging artists in every town and city”

Inspired by how Davyd and MVT had “leveraged the collective voice of grassroots venues to influence government,” their top priority is the “financial and operational sustainability of our members” and a foundation of advocacy. Having already secured what Parker calls “the largest arts investment in US history,” their approach is two-fold. “We are working to expand our reach and influence to ensure independent stages have a seat at the decision-making table, and we are building coalitions of music and event industry organisations that are active at the federal, state, and local levels,” he adds.

Rising up to the challenge of our rival
And the next goal in their sights? “The biggest thing that would have an immediate impact is comprehensive ticketing reform that finally regulates a secondary resale market that is predatory for fans, artists, and venues,” says Parker. “Fraud is rampant in the secondary resale market, and our industry deserves the consumer protections that other industries have enjoyed for decades.”

Ah, yes. Ticketing. It’s a common issue mentioned by most of the organisations IQ speaks to and is something of a personal bugbear for Mark Davyd. Determined to make the wider music industry take greater responsibility – morally and financially – for the plight of grassroots music venues, he thinks ticketing is one of the most effective, easiest ways of achieving this.

“We need the whole industry to accept that it has a responsibility to make sure that aspiration and opportunity exists for new and emerging artists in every town and city in the UK,” he says. “A simple £1 levied on each ticket at arena level, funnelled back into the grassroots, would ensure that venues across the country can continue to support the artists and crew that emerge from the grassroots sector.”

“It’s doable and it’s worthy”

He notes that football already has a version of this in place, as does the French music industry. Furthermore, he adds that the French are going even further; from May, a 1.75% tax on streaming services in the country will be paid into a central fund and then distributed to support French artists, venues, and promoters. “We should be doing that here,” he remarks pointedly.

With eight new arenas being built across the UK in the coming years, Davyd told Parliament last year, “The distribution of wealth in this industry has got to change and be sustainable for grassroots, or we are all heading down over the cliff. Not a single one of those should open unless it has a policy where every ticket sold is investing back into grassroots music venues and grassroots artists – say no to them unless there is a pipeline.”

Tax, in the form of VAT, is also an issue in the UK, he says. The current VAT rate of 20% applied to tickets is “crushing the economic viability of this sector” and, he notes, is the highest of any major music nation in Europe – second only to Lithuania in the amount charged for putting on new and emerging talent. “That is ridiculous,” he says.

Even if Parliament is dragging its feet, Davyd’s calls have not completely fallen on deaf ears; part of MVT’s success has been co-opting other businesses and organisations into their campaigns and persuading them to change their own modus operandi. Gigtix, who launched a safe ticket reseller website in 2020, adopted the £1 donation model from the beginning; the money goes directly to MVT. “Would £1 really hurt all these companies selling tickets so much?” says Stephen Lee, the company’s director.

“The majority of fans would happily pay more if it meant venues had better facilities and survived”

“It hasn’t hurt us – it’s doable and worthy.”

He also believes the general ticketing ecosystem could do with an overhaul and that venues themselves can adopt a new – and somewhat controversial for some – approach. “We believe they themselves must dynamically price their tickets to generate enough profits to survive,” he says. “It’s vital, and venues shouldn’t frown upon it – the majority of fans would happily pay more if it meant venues had better facilities and survived.”

Even Ticketmaster have joined the fight; while not going as far as adopting the mandatory £1 approach, they at least give fans the option of donating when they purchase. “This year, we’ve hit a major milestone in our collaboration by introducing the optional Music Venue Trust donation across our marketplace, giving the millions of fans who come to Ticketmaster the opportunity to help UK grassroots venues,” says Andrew Parsons, managing director of Ticketmaster UK. “It’s our way of doubling down on supporting the crucial work MVT does.”

Since 2016, Ticketmaster has been the main sponsor of Venues Day – an event established by MVT COO Beverley Whitrick for grassroots music venues in the UK. In 2021, they launched a booking fee rebate where venues receive a 50% rebate on all booking fees, and just last year, they launched an annual MVT charity upsell option across their site, with Ticketmaster matching all donations received.

Of course, some venues and entertainment groups are taking it upon themselves to implement change. Many feel it’s the least they can do. “It isn’t rocket science, and it isn’t a huge amount of effort,” says Lisa Mart, venue director at Swansea Arena, which is part of the Ambassador Theatre Group. “And it’s mutually beneficial.”

“Collaboration is key for there to be lasting change”

From October last year, the arena implemented a year-round charity upsell of a minimum of £1 on all music events announced and held at the venue, as well as announcing an annual fundraiser event – the Swansea Arena House Party – which will feature a creative industries fair and workshops; the aim is to raise £20,000 from that event alone, with all ticket proceeds going directly to MVT.

Working together with other venues and organisations and being acutely aware of how vital audience awareness is, also lends a practical edge to the arena’s efforts. “Collaboration is key for there to be lasting change,” says Mart. With lack of late-night transport in South Wales a problem, they lobbied the government for more investment; they also lobbied about the lack of available and affordable outdoor poster sites for smaller venues.

And they’re keen on even simpler solutions, like sharing facilities, equipment, parking spaces, and general knowledge or expertise. “We are all in a WhatsApp group, so they [other local grassroots venues] know they can jump in and ask for or offer help where needed,” says Mart, all part of a plan to “make the most of the people being brought into the city.”

It’s been an extremely challenging decade for everyone involved in the arts, particularly grassroots music venues – not just in the UK but worldwide. Speak to people involved in the fight and they’ll tell you how frustrating the pace of change is and how reluctant those with power or influence can sometimes be to make it. “The closer we get to real long-term sustainable solutions to the challenges faced by the grassroots music ecosystem, the more defensive the music industry becomes about taking the action that is so obviously needed,” says Davyd.

“Music Venue Trust’s dogged determination and passion as advocates for grassroots venues serve as an inspiration for all of us”

But across the last decade, real strides have been made, and those campaigning for change remain filled with hope and determination – not least when they gaze upon the tireless dedication of MVT and what they’ve been able to achieve. “I’d give us a ten out of ten for determination to get things done,” says Davyd, “and I’d rate us a five or a six for getting it done quickly, but that’s the reality of trying to nudge a giant oil tanker like the music industry towards a more ethical and considered position.”

Just a man and his will to survive
Serving as an inspiration to others, what Davyd and MVT have done is best summed up by Michael Bracy, founder of the Music Policy Forum. “So much of what makes them so effective is their authenticity,” he says. “The Music Venue Trust’s dogged determination and passion as advocates for grassroots venues serve as an inspiration for all of us, and what may not be as visible is their remarkable generosity as collaborators and their eagerness to learn from others. They know they don’t have all the answers but are constantly in dialogue with other advocates and stakeholders from across the globe.”

“Mark Davyd is not just a pioneer, and he’s not just a visionary – he has changed the world with his work,” adds Erin Benjamin. “And if it weren’t for him and the Music Venue Trust, we would not be having these conversations.”

“That vision of what this network could be is achievable and could be delivered within a decade… if everyone just got behind it and did what they should be doing to make it a reality”

It’s a sentiment echoed by everyone IQ speaks to, but keenly aware of the battles – and difficulties – that lie ahead, all are focussed on creating a better, more sustainable future for grassroots venues and ensuring they don’t just survive but thrive. Music as we know it may depend upon it.

“The dream is a network of energy self-sufficient venues, benevolently owned by a not-for-profit entity, operated by a not-for-profit organisation, operating without Business Rates or VAT on tickets, housing accommodation that artists can use for free, with a fleet of electric vehicles that artists can travel in, and plugging into an excellent backline to perform on stages with the best available sound and lighting,” says Davyd of the MVT’s plans for the next decade. “That vision of what this network could be is achievable and could be delivered within a decade… if everyone just got behind it and did what they should be doing to make it a reality.”

 


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LN’s Berchtold: ‘Artists are developing faster’

Live Nation president/CFO Joe Berchtold tackled issues around ticketing, breaking artists and the company’s “hyperlocal” touring strategy in a new interview.

Berchtold told the Morgan Stanley’s Technology, Media & Telecom Conference in San Francisco on 5 March that the live sector was “a global latent demand business”.

Explaining that social media platforms had changed the game “so that fans everywhere are discovering and hearing the same music at the same time”, he added. “Ninety percent of fans are saying that when they discover somebody on social media, it makes them more interested in going to see them live.

“So, we now have seven billion people who are interested in Beyoncé and then, on the supply side, you have artists touring more broadly, with more shows on a given tour than we had in the past.

“There’s a billion people out there who we think over the next several years have the opportunity to be going to concerts and are not all going today. They absolutely are out there.”

Berchtold referenced certain acts ascending to arena and stadium level faster than ever before, pointing to Bad Bunny and Karol G as examples.

“A lot of that opportunity in Europe is focusing on where can we add those music-oriented arenas… and use that to help drive the business”

“They need to now make their income on the roadm but we’re also seeing a phenomenon where artists are developing faster,” he said. “I think in part because of the social media and the discovery, they’re able to find their tribe, they’re able to find their people and enough of a critical mass in more markets where you move from being a club act to an amphitheatre or arena act much faster.

“So every year what’s going on is you have the existing pool of artists continuing to tour, but then you’re adding more in on top of that. So you’ve got a great increasing supply, massive latent demand and affordable luxury.

Berchtold went on to break down the firm’s “hyperlocal strategy” that has borne fruit in the United States.

“It is recognising that you may not go from San Francisco down to the South Bay to go to a concert here because it’s going to take you an hour and a half,” he said. “You’re not going to do that, so we can play down in San Jose and play in San Francisco. You can play in LA, San Diego and Orange County. These are different markets. In Europe, it’s the same. We’re a little earlier days in terms of the hyperlocal, but the US has the benefit of this incredible arena infrastructure.

“When we talk about how we continue to grow, that’s where the Venue Nation side of it comes in. Where can we find markets that don’t have an arena [or] the hospitality that fans today want, so can’t gross what an artist needs to gross. A lot of that opportunity in Europe is focusing on where can we add those music-oriented arenas… and use that to help drive the business over the next several years.”

“It’s easier to buy in ‘A’ asset and turn it into an ‘A+’ than to buy a ‘C’ asset and convince yourself you’re going to turn it into an ‘A'”

Asked about Live Nation’s 2021 acquisition of Latin America’s largest promoter Ocesa, Berchtold described the deal as a “home run”.

“It’s easier to buy in ‘A’ asset and turn it into an ‘A+’ than to buy a ‘C’ asset and convince yourself you’re going to turn it into an ‘A’,” he said. “It’s a world class management team. which matters a lot. And it is delivered on everything we thought. We’re helping deliver more shows and they’re growing their business.”

He continued: “Sometimes it’s better to have a little luck. We closed that acquisition right as Latin music globally, particularly in the US, was taking off. Being able to work with that management team and drive a lot of regional music from Mexico into the US and so we talk long about Bad Bunny and Karol G and Peso Pluma, all these artists who are now selling out arenas and stadiums.”

On the heels of Live Nation’s EVP corporate and regulatory affairs Dan Wall penning a lengthy blog post debunking arguments that the company was responsible for high ticket prices, Berchtold also spoke out in its defence.

“Two-thirds of tickets are under $100,” he said. “A third of our tickets are under $50.”

“We’re not going to solve the problem that 20 million people want two million Beyoncé tickets”

He added: “It is a fascinating industry right from a semi-academic standpoint, because ticketing is so ubiquitous in all of our lives yet, as we’ve learned over the past year or so, it’s massively misunderstood in terms of how it operates,” he said. “Forget about the math behind the numbers, just the basic decision-making of who does what and who decides what.”

While describing Ticketmaster as “the most effective concert selling platform that exists”, Berchtold conceded that evidence from the past couple of years indicated there needed to be an increased focus on the fan experience.

“We’re not going to solve the problem that 20 million people want two million Beyoncé tickets,” he said. “If she has 150m social followers and two million tickets, a lot of people are going to be disappointed in the middle. But there are things from a technology standpoint [and] from a communication standpoint, that can be done better, I think have got better over the past year, but we continue to have a long ways that we need to go.”

In closing, Berchtold addressed the ongoing antitrust investigation into Live Nation and Ticketmaster by the DoJ.

“We’re fully giving them everything they asked for and they’ll define the timetable,” he said. “Meanwhile, we’ll continue to run a great business. Again, I’ll say it over and over, our strategy, our culture, is to super-serve the artists. I don’t think we have anything to be ashamed of with having that as a strategy.

“I think that our structural behaviour is positive for the industry. Big is bad today, but I feel very good about how we are as a company trying to operate what we’re trying to do and what our opportunities are going forward.”

 


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ILMC 36: The pros and cons of dynamic ticketing

Dynamic ticketing took centre stage during ILMC’s Ticketing: At What Price? panel, as leading executives debated whether the growth of market-based pricing in the US will be replicated in other major international markets.

Chaired by Kilimanjaro Live promoter Steve Tilley, the session brought together Eventim Norway and Sweden’s Marcia Titley, Ticketmaster UK’s Sarah Slater, AXS’ Chris Lipscomb and Arnaud Meersseman of AEG Presents.

Recalling going to see Bruce Springsteen at New York City’s Madison Square Garden last year, Tilley admitted he was prepared to pay “whatever it costs” to get into the show. However, Meersseman pointed out the practice was less established in territories like France, which made it harder to compete when booking top acts.

“We’re being pushed more and more by artists to incorporate dynamic pricing,” he said. “To them, it doesn’t make sense on a financial level to tour Europe compared to the US, where dynamic pricing is widely common.”

Meersseman speculated there would be “massive pushback” against the practice across France. “It’s also a question of accessibility, and fans are likely to end up wondering whether gigs will only be reserved for the rich in the not-too-distant future,” he warned.

Lipscomb added that dynamic pricing is already happening in several European markets, including the UK, and predicted it will increase in prominence sooner than most think.

“Ten percent of all UK shows may already be sold under dynamic pricing. In a couple of years, I’d expect that number will increase by 30%-40%”

“Ten percent of all UK shows may already be sold under dynamic pricing,” he said. “In a couple of years, I’d expect that number will increase by 30%-40% and maybe even rise higher to 70%-80%.”

The discussion segued into the secondary market, with Titley noting that while countries like Norway and Denmark put laws in place to prevent resales above face value, dynamic pricing was necessary to “drive higher revenue”.

“Ultimately, it’s all about protecting the fans, and I believe in combining tech and legislation to eradicate those excessive profit margins,” she said.

Ticketmaster has successfully introduced its own fan-to-fan resale service in the UK, and Slater said: “There are plenty of safe, face-value resale sites to sell your tickets to in the UK. We’ve heavily pushed the fact that tickets are transferable, but we always encourage customers to only buy from authorised sites.”

Sam Shemtob, director of Face-value European Alliance for Ticketing (FEAT), made a brief cameo to explain the role that the EU Digital Service Act will play in combating illegal ticket listings.

“If the ticket is being sold by a trader, that needs to be listed right at the front in a clearly accessible manner, and ticket resale sites will now be banned from using design tricks that manipulate consumers into decisions, such as “pop-ups” or giving prominence to specific choices,” explained Shemtob.

“Nailing the on-sale is absolutely critical, but marketing the shows via a long-term campaign with the artists up until the actual event is just as important”

Shemtob, who is collaborating with the European Commission on how to streamline a complaints mechanism for fans and promoters, launched ‘Make Tickets Fair’ last year — a campaign to educate and empower fans to avoid being ripped off by ticket touts.

“The platforms will also be required to make it clear throughout the buying process that the tickets listed are provided by a third party,” he said. “If a platform fails to do this and fans are led to believe that the tickets are provided by the platform itself, the platform can be held responsible for any tickets listed in contravention of national laws.

“All of these sites need to have a clear and simple complaint mechanism.”

Another major talking point was the perception that tickets must be bought as soon as they go on sale.

“Obviously, nailing the on-sale is absolutely critical, but marketing the shows via a long-term campaign with the artists up until the actual event is just as important,” Slater said, citing the concert industry’s shift towards post-sale engagement, which includes events integrations in collaborations with Spotify and TikTok, as well as creative marketing strategies to keep fans engaged.

“Most people think that if they can’t get tickets within the first hour, they’ll end up being scammed when attempting to purchase them at a later time,” added Meersseman. “It all ties to what we discussed earlier about properly educating customers on the ticket sale process.”

 


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Ticketmaster appoints Danny Hannaford to UK team

Ticketmaster UK has announced the appointment of ticketing veteran Danny Hannaford as senior director, client product solutions.

Hannaford brings a wealth of experience across various ticketing platforms, most recently serving as UK general manager at TEG-owned ticketing firm Ticketek.

Prior to that, he oversaw ticketing strategy and digital delivery for London’s The O2 and led ticketing at Hammersmith’s Eventim Apollo. He also headed up multiple special event projects at AEG Presents, as well as Global Live.

“Danny’s experience here in the UK and internationally is unsurpassed – this man knows ticketing”

“Joining Ticketmaster represents an incredible opportunity to contribute to the forefront of live entertainment and ticketing innovation,” says Hannaford. “I look forward to the journey ahead and am excited to be a part of this dynamic team.”

Earlier in his career, Hannaford launched and headed up Twickets Australia, and was the lead on global ticketing operations at Dice.

“Danny’s experience here in the UK and internationally is unsurpassed – this man knows ticketing,” adds Ticketmaster UK MD Andrew Parsons. “His insights will be incredibly valuable to us and clients alike and we look forward to having him on the team.”

 


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Live music industry ‘reached new heights’ in 2023

Concert attendance was up 20% for Live Nation to more than 145 million last year, with revenue rising 23% to US$22.7 billion (€20.95bn).

The company posted all-time highs for attendance, ticket sales and sponsorship activity in its financial results for full-year and Q4 2023.

Operating income was up 46% to $1.07bn and AOI rose 32% to $1.86bn, doubling since the last pre-pandemic year of 2019, while Live Nation remains the largest supporter of artists, with investment in acts leaping by more than 40% to over $13bn, while there were 50% more international acts in top 50 tours.

“The live music industry reached new heights in 2023, and demand for live music continues to build,” says LN president and CEO Michael Rapino. “Our digital world empowers artists to develop global followings, while inspiring fans to crave in-person experiences more than ever. At the same time, the industry is delivering a wider variety of concerts which draws in new audiences, and developing more venues to support a larger show pipeline.

“Against this backdrop, we expect all our businesses to continue growing and adding value to artists and fans as we deliver double-digit operating income and AOI growth again this year, with our profitability compounding by double-digits over the next several years.”

“Shows are flying out the door from top to bottom”

The company’s share price was up 2.5% to $93.49 at press time. Speaking to investors last night (22 February) on the firm’s earnings call, Rapino reiterated that another year of growth is on the cards.

“This is going to be a great year,” he said. “We’re pacing ahead on our arena and our amphitheatre business, which is the higher-margin business. So, we’re going to have a fabulous year. We’re going to be able to monetise that around the world.

“We just went on sale within the last week on Usher, Justin Timberlake, Jennifer Lopez, just announced Jelly Roll this morning. These shows are flying out the door from top to bottom.”

LN president/CFO Joe Berchtold added: “We’re seeing most of these on-sales still selling front-to-back, meaning most expensive tickets to least. So, we’re seeing strong demand at all price points… All fronts are showing strong consumer demand globally.”

Rapino pointed out that ’25 is already gearing up to be a “monster stadium year”, as compared to the more arena and theatre-focused ’24.

“We expect this to continue to be a double-digit growth business”

“[2025] looks like it’s going to be a monster stadium year again as that pipe kind of reloads itself,” he said. “We made decisions this year: Usher could have been in stadiums. We wanted to get them in arenas this year and put a great show together. Justin Timberlake, Bad Bunny in arenas versus stadiums. So, you make those trade-offs in different years.

“But the good news for us is we’re going to have a fabulous arena/amphitheatre year, festival year around the world. That’s going to drive our overall AOI margin cash flow. Probably bounce back with some bigger stadium activity in ’25 and then the cycle will continue.”

On sponsorship revenue, which was up 13% to over $1bn, Rapino added: “Our demand in terms of clients that want to be part of this live experience surge right now is stronger than ever. Most CMOs want to sit down with us and talk about how can they have some part of this live explosion on a global basis.

“As you’ve seen with Mastercard and updated deal with Verizon and others to be announced, our pipe is up year-over-year. We expect this to continue to be a double-digit growth business, as we’ve seen in the past. We’ve seen nothing slowing down there.”

Ticketmaster GTV was up double-digits to $13bn on fee-bearing tickets for events playing off in 2024  Asked about platinum ticketing, Rapino outlined the differences between the more established US market and other territories.

“They look at the grosses and say, ‘Wow, we’re leaving too much on the table for the scalpers. Let’s price this better'”

“Outside of the US, we’re in the first inning,” he said. “We’re just rolling this out around the world, so that’s the great growth opportunity obviously. We have it in Europe, but still in infancy stages. We’re going to expand it down to South America, Australia, etc. So, first inning on the international business, well received when it gets there.

“Promoters are anxious for it. Artists are anxious for it, because when they sell an arena in Baltimore versus Milan, right now, they look at the grosses and say, ‘Wow, we’re leaving too much on the table for the scalpers. Let’s price this better.’ So that’s our best sales pitch.

“On the US business, we’re probably about in the fifth inning… We still think that’s a multi-year opportunity to continue to grow our top line/bottom line.”

The pair also offered a brief update on the antitrust investigation into Live Nation and Ticketmaster by the DoJ after Bloomberg reported the US Justice Department had sent out a new raft of information requests in its probe.

“I don’t think we’ve got a lot to report,” said Berchtold. “We continue to answer any questions they have. They control the timing, and we’ll watch it play out, but we don’t have any specific updates.”

“We’re 100% cooperative,” added Rapino.

 


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Danish ticket buyers buck post-Covid trends

The majority of Danish ticket buyers make their purchase when sales start, according to a new survey, bucking a post-Covid trend of fans buying at the last minute.

This stat was revealed in a newly published survey of 15,929 ticket buyers, conducted in summer 2023 by Ticketmaster and Dansk Live.

It found that 55% of respondents purchase tickets to concerts as soon as they go on sale, while 24% do so a few months before the concert and 15% answered “as soon as I can afford it”.

For festivals, 34% buy their ticket 10-12 months beforehand, 24% said less than six months prior, 21% said between 6–9 months ahead and another 21% said the same week as the event.

“The reality of the individual organisers is of course very different, as is their audience. Still, it is interesting to see the overall results,” says Esben Marcher, director of Dansk Live.

“It surprises me, for example, that so many people buy tickets when the tickets become available”

“It surprises me, for example, that so many people buy tickets when the tickets become available. It nuances a trend that many in the music world have noticed, namely that the audience in the post-corona period generally bought their tickets much later than before the corona.”

The survey also found that 53% of respondents deemed the current price level for events as “too expensive,” though 87% said they were willing to pay extra for their ticket to get the best seat.

The majority (64%) said that the economic situation (mid-2023) does not hugely impact their consumption of live events.

For event discovery, the survey found that Facebook and Instagram are the most used social media platforms.

Over half of the ticket buyers surveyed attend one-three concerts a year. More than half (58%) of respondents are women and 41% men.

“The survey is interesting for everyone who organises concerts, festivals and other events,” says Marcher. “A nuanced look at the audience’s habits is always welcome, and with the many responses, the survey provides new, broad knowledge that can help the organisers better target potential ticket buyers. At Dansk Live, we are pleased with Ticketmaster’s work with the survey, and we have started planning a comprehensive audience survey.”

 


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Ticketmaster unveils Breakthrough grant recipients

Ticketmaster has revealed the ten UK & Ireland-based breakthrough acts it is tipping to make a splash on the live scene in 2024.

For the first time, this year’s artists will each receive grants of £5,000, underscoring Ticketmaster’s commitment to fostering the next generation of talent.

This year’s handpicked selection includes pop singer, songwriter and social media star Bellah Mae, Irish dance-pop singer-songwriter Jazzy, UK rapper and social commentator Jeshi, R&B songwriter and instrumentalist Elmiene and Irish rock band Newdad.

“We’re committed to having their backs as they grow, helping with the costs faced on the road and showcasing them to a whole new legion of fans”

The list is completed by West Midlands indie artist Nieve Ella, R&B boyband No Guidnce, soul jazz singer, Olivia Dean, Reading rock outfit Only The Poets and cult indie band The Last Dinner Party.

“These ten acts have been shining at grassroots venues up and down the country, and we know they have what it takes to make their mark on this industry,” says Ticketmaster UK MD Andrew Parsons. “That’s why we’re committed to having their backs as they grow, helping with the costs faced on the road and showcasing them to a whole new legion of fans. We can’t wait to see the heights they hit in 2024.”

Previous lists tipped the likes of four-time nominee and two-time MOBO Award winner Central Cee, BRIT Award winner Holly Humberstone, five-time Grammy Awards nominee Wet Leg, and most recently FLO, winners of the BRITS Rising Star Award for 2023.

 


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Ticketmaster and TikTok expand partnership to 20+ markets

TikTok and Ticketmaster are expanding their ticketing partnership to more than 20 new markets, following the launch of the partnership in the US in 2022.

Now, any Certified Artist on TikTok in the participating countries can promote their live dates by adding their Ticketmaster event links to videos before publishing.

Participating countries are the UK, Ireland, Australia, Germany, France, Canada, Mexico, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Switzerland, Spain and Sweden.

So far, the partnership has seen ticketing campaigns for both established and emerging artists, comedians and sports teams, including Niall Horan, The Kooks, Burna Boy and Shania Twain.

According to TM, there have been more than 2.5 billion views of videos utilising the in-app features by artists, sports teams and event organisers since its beta launch.

“We’re giving artists the opportunity to reach ticket buyers in a whole new way”

“This is an exciting moment for the millions of passionate music fans in the TikTok community,” says Michael Kümmerle, global music partnership development lead, TikTok.

“By enabling fans to buy tickets directly through TikTok, we’re giving artists the opportunity to reach ticket buyers in a whole new way and change the game for live events around the world. As we bring fans closer to the artists and events they love, we hope to deliver further value to all artists throughout all stages of their careers and provide more opportunities for a growing fanbase. We are very excited to see how our partnership with Ticketmaster will develop over time.”

Michael Chua, VP of global business development & strategic partnerships, Ticketmaster, adds: “Today’s music lives on a global stage and the demand for ‘live’ has never been greater. Through our partnership, TikTok and Ticketmaster are empowering artists to easily connect their content to event discovery and ticket purchase in-app making it easier than ever for fans around the world to experience their favorite artists live.”

 


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Live Nation issued with subpoena by US Senate

Live Nation has been issued with a subpoena by a US Senate panel for documents regarding its ticket pricing and fees.

In a letter to LN chief Michael Rapino, Senator Richard Blumenthal says the subpoena is in connection with its previously unannounced investigation into the business practices of Live Nation and its Ticketmaster subsidiary.

Blumenthal says the PSI [Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations] first wrote to the company back in March, seeking “documents and information” relating to the probe.

“Despite nearly eight months and extensive efforts to obtain voluntary compliance, Live Nation/Ticketmaster has failed to fully comply with PSI’s requests, including refusing to produce certain documents critical to the subcommittee’s inquiry,” continues Blumenthal.

“Furthermore, the subcommittee has identified additional categories of documents necessary to complete its inquiry. As a result, the enclosed subpoena also seeks records related to Live Nation/Ticketmaster’s failure to combat artificially inflated demand fuelled by bots in multiple, high-profile incidents, which resulted in consumers being charged exorbitant ticket prices.”

“Live Nation has egregiously stonewalled my subcommittee’s inquiry into its abusive consumer practices – making the subpoena necessary”

Posting on X, Blumenthal, who tabled the “Junk Fee Prevention Act earlier this year, adds: “Live Nation has egregiously stonewalled my subcommittee’s inquiry into its abusive consumer practices – making the subpoena necessary. This subpoena demands that the company promptly comply with our request for documents essential to understand its business practices.”

The Connecticut Senator’s letter calls on LN to submit all requested documents by 18 December.

In a statement, Live Nation says it has “voluntarily worked with the subcommittee from the start, providing extensive information and holding several meetings with staff”.

A Live Nation spokesperson adds: “In order to provide additional information requested about artist and client compensation and other similarly sensitive matters, we’ve asked for standard confidentiality measures. Thus far, the subcommittee has refused to provide such assurances, but if and when those protections are in place we will provide additional information on these issues.”

Live Nation CFO Joe Berchtold offered investors an update on the DoJ’s investigation of the company during this month’s Q3 earnings call. Berchtold also defended Ticketmaster’s practices in a US Senate antitrust panel spurred by the fallout from the presale for Taylor Swift’s stadium tour at the start of 2023.

 


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Live Nation reports ‘strongest quarter ever’

Live Nation says it has delivered its “strongest quarter ever” and is on pace for a record year after reporting revenue of US$8.2 billion (€7.7m) in Q3 2023.

The total represented a 32% increase on the previous quarter’s $5.6bn, while revenue for the year-to-date was up 36% to $16.9bn. The company’s share price was up slightly to $83.42 at press time.

In addition, operating income rose 22% in Q3 and 35% for the first nine months of 2023 to $619 million and $1.1 bn respectively. Plus AOI jumped 35% to $836m in Q3 and 33% to $1.7bn for the year so far.

“We delivered our strongest quarter ever and are on pace for a record 2023, driven in good part by the acceleration of structural growth in the live entertainment industry,” says Live Nation president and CEO Michael Rapino. “While we have benefitted from tailwinds for many years, it has accelerated due to the globalisation of our business along with a fundamental shift in consumer spending habits toward experiences.

“With the majority of opportunity still untapped from Milan to Bogotá to Tokyo and beyond, we expect the industry will continue growing in 2024 and for years to come.”

“The consumer supply-demand seems to be consistent across the globe, small to big”

LN has sold 140 million tickets for its shows in 2023, a 17% year-over-year rise, already bettering 2022’s full year total of 121m. Its Ticketmaster division, meanwhile, has sold 257m fee-bearing tickets for the year-to-date, up 22% on the same period in 2022. Revenue soared 57% to $833m.

Speaking to investors on the company’s earnings call, Rapino said there was no indication of fan interest waning for 2024.

“We have not seen anything taper off in any sense,” he said. “The consumer supply-demand seems to be consistent across the globe, small to big.”

Though acknowledging Beyoncé’s Live Nation-promoted 2023 Renaissance World Tour as “wildly successful”, Rapino said he has no concerns about other tours struggling to replicate its success next year.

“When we look at any artist across Ticketmaster-Live Nation, no artist is going to account for more than 1% of the tickets, so no one tour will ever hurt us year-over-year,” he says. “It’s about our macro portfolio of artists and tours.”

“We’re going to have big, record-breaking tours on the road next year”

He continued: “We think next year – crazy to say, but… we’re looking at double-digit growth over this year. We’re going to have big, record-breaking tours on the road next year, as Bad Bunny just went up again and more to be announced. So we are very confident… that we will overcome this year’s numbers.”

Live Nation CFO Joe Berchtold said the firm was “absolutely focused on continuing to add venues” to its portfolio, and went on to discuss the DoJ’s investigation of the company. Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal reported that the justice department’s probe was focusing on whether the LN uses anticompetitive agreements with venues and artists.

“Not surprisingly, it’s our impression that the DOJ is taking at least the first level look at almost everything that our competitors complain about and from there they look further at some issues and not others,” he said. “If they tell us they have a problem with something, we talked to them about it.

“But, let me emphasise this: as far as we can tell, nobody thinks that the fundamentals that drive our promotions business are unlawful. We pay top dollar to artists and provide them with top-notch tour support and those are good things.”

Berchtold said his understanding was that the DoJ’s investigation was “in its mid-stages at this point”.

“The article also seems to reinforce that the investigation’s looking at specific business practices versus our overall business model”

“I think the article also seems to reinforce that the investigation’s looking at specific business practices versus our overall business model,” he added.

Rapino, meanwhile, said he was “thrilled” by Live Nation’s new multi-year partnership with Mastercard, which was announced earlier this week. The deal gives cardholders exclusive access to concert presale tickets, premium seats and VIP experiences through priceless.com from January 2024. LN’s sponsorship revenue was up 7% to $367m for Q3 overall.

“We’ve been working over the last couple of years to have a great diversity across our partners on the payment side,” noted Rapino. “Thankfully, we didn’t take any of the easy crypto money at the time. We worked hard to make sure we had a stable of great partners.

“Citibank, PayPal and now Mastercard, for international, rounds out our global portfolio in that category. So we’re very, very happy to have them onboard [as a] big part of our business and continue to show strong growth in our sponsorship side, and sponsors lined-up to be part of this live boom.”

 


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