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New Toronto arena to double as ‘global hub for esports’

Global esports and entertainment organisation OverActive Media is set to build a multipurpose 7,000-seater arena in Exhibition Place, Toronto, projected to be complete in 2025.

According to the company, the venue will host 200+ events a year, driven primarily by music and entertainment bookings, while also serving corporate events, award shows and ‘a full slate of esports events increasing over time’.

OverActive Media is the owner of four major global esport franchises, including Toronto’s two professional teams – Toronto Ultra of the Call of Duty League and Toronto Defiant of the Overwatch League.

“We are already in active discussions to attract some of the biggest esport events in the world”

The venue will be home for both teams and the company hopes to establish the Toronto arena as a “global hub for major international esport events”.

The arena, designed by Populous, is just one aspect of the privately financed $500 million project, which includes a theatre-style entertainment venue and hotel complex.

“Today is another important step in the evolution of OverActive Media. We are building a world-leading, 21st-century sports, media and entertainment company and this best-in-class performance venue will be the chosen home for a new generation of fans that think differently about their entertainment choices and experiences,” says Chris Overholt, president and CEO at OverActive.

“It has always been our intention to develop a venue and hosting strategy and to build a facility that could not only serve as an iconic home for our two franchises, but ultimately emerge as a global hub for major international esport events. We are already in active discussions to attract some of the biggest esport events in the world. This venue will redefine Toronto’s event hosting opportunities in every way,” added Overholt.

The arena will be the first new sports or entertainment venue built in Toronto since 2007 when the city opened BMO Field, a 40,000-capacity outdoor stadium at Exhibition Place.

 


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eps establishes Canadian division

Germany’s eps has expanded its international operations with the launch of a new division in Canada.

The Munich-based company, the global leader in temporary event floor and crowd-control products, has appointed Joe Novak as managing director of eps Canada, headquartered in Toronto.

Okan Tombulca, managing director of eps group, says: “We’ve been working in the Canadian market for many years. After numerous requests from our clients to work there directly, we wanted to fulfil their wish. Therefore, I am very pleased that we managed to make this possible and that we founded eps Canada.”

Novak joins from the Rogers Centre/Toronto Blue Jays, and is also founder of Act IV Productions.

“I am delighted to welcome Joe Novak to the eps family,” continues Tombulca. “He has always been passionate about the live entertainment industry and has great knowledge and experience. Joe is the perfect addition to our international eps team and I am looking forward to the start of eps Canada.”

“I am very excited about this groundbreaking opportunity to serve the Canadian market”

“I’ve been collaborating with eps for many years. I am very excited about this groundbreaking opportunity to serve the Canadian market and lead the launch of eps Canada here in Toronto,” adds Novak.

“Having a local presence will enable eps to expertly service all promoters, venues, festivals and special events across Canada.”

The new division will offer a full range of live event infrastructure solutions, including drivable plastic systems, pedestrian pathways, pitch coverings, heavy-duty roadways, security fencing, stage barricades, crowd control solutions and CAD services.

The launch of eps Canada brings eps’s network to ten subsidiaries globally, including its main business in Germany: Canada, Denmark, Italy, Poland, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Australia, the US and Brazil.

 


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Coroner: ‘inadequacies’ caused Radiohead drum tech death

An investigation has found that “inherent deficiencies” in design and construction led to the stage collapse that claimed the life of Radiohead drum technician Scott Johnson in 2012.

The conclusions of the inquest, which took place in Johnson’s hometown of Doncaster in the UK, come after those of a previous investigation in Toronto, where the fatal incident took place.

Johnson was killed when a stage roof collapsed before a Radiohead show at Downsview Park in Canada.

“Inadequate technical advice coupled with wholly inadequate construction techniques led to the collapse of the roof system which led to Scott Johnson’s death,” stated coroner Nicola Mundy at the UK inquest.

“It’s quite clear from what I have heard that the design and construction itself had inherent deficiencies within them”

“It’s quite clear from what I have heard that the design and construction itself had inherent deficiencies within them.”

Speaking at the inquest, Ken Johnson, the father of the drum technician, stated that the coroner’s comments were “exactly what we needed someone to say” and should enable an acknowledgement of the “negligence” that led to the fatal accident.

A previous Toronto-held inquest returned a verdict of ‘accidental death’ in April, a conclusion that Radiohead deemed “frustratingly insufficient” given that the collapse was “shown to be preventable”.

The Canadian inquest also resulted in a set of non-binding recommendations for improving safety at live events.

A court case brought against Live Nation, Optex Staging and stage engineer Domenic Cugliari was stayed in 2017.

 


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Legendary jazz promoter Walter Homburger passes

Walter Homburger, the German-born promoter whose International Artists Concert Agency (IACA) brought jazz and classical music greats including Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Luciano Pavarotti to Canada, has died aged 95.

Born in Karlsruhe in 1924, Homburger, a Jew, emigrated to Canada in 1940 and became a citizen (British subject) two years later. After a spell working on a pig farm in Aurora, Ontario, Homburger made his first foray into concert promotion, which, according to FYIMusicNews’s Nick Krewen, was “a disaster”.

“He borrowed money to guarantee soprano Lotte Lehman a $3,750 haul for three German leider recitals at Toronto’s Eaton Auditorium in 1947, and lost $1k,” Krewen writes. “But his backers felt he had a future and covered his deficit. Their trust was rewarded when three months later Homburger recouped his losses with a sell-out by Russian pianist Vladimir Horowitz.”

In addition to working as a promoter, Homburger was a successful manager, guiding Canadian classical pianist Glenn Gould to global success.

In 1957, Gould became the first Western artist to play the USSR after the second world war. Homburger told Gould biographer Colin Eatock: “I felt it would give Glenn some good publicity. […] But it was the McCarthy era, and I was very concerned about Glenn not being able to get into the United States after visiting Russia. So I had some correspondence with the Canadian government – with [future PM] Lester Pearson, who was at that time our external affairs minister.

“This is a huge loss for … all those fortunate enough to have worked with him”

“The government was behind the idea, and they helped me with contacts in Russia. I asked them to please let their colleagues in the USA know that they are in favour of Glenn going to Russia so that he wouldn’t be banned from the United States.”

Gould performed in Moscow and St Petersburg (then Leningrad), and also gave lectures during the tour, which made him a household name in Russia.

As Homburger’s relationship with Gould ended, in 1962 he became managing director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, a position he would keep until his retirement in 1987. When he retired, the orchestra held a benefit concert, the Great Gathering, which made more than C$2.3m for the orchestra’s charitable foundation.

For his work with the Toronto Symphony, Homburger was made a member of the order of Canada. He was also awarded the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002.

“Walter represented a rare mix in one man: He was a brilliant impresario, a strategic leader and a kind inspiration to all who knew him,” says Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) CEO Matthew Loden. “This is a huge loss for the TSO family and for all those fortunate enough to have worked with him, but we are comforted in knowing Walter’s legacy survives in our collective memories and in the music we make every day.”

Homburger is survived by Emmy, his wife of 58 years, his son Michael, daughter Lisa and four grandchildren.

 


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TFA promotes Kemp, Baskin within senior leadership

Canadian entertainment talent agency the Feldman Agency (TFA) has announced a string of executive promotions and appointments, following the agency’s acquisition in February.

Tom Kemp has been promoted to senior vice president, joining Vinny Cinquemani as two of TFA’s longest standing agents. Kemp acquired the agency, along with president Jeff Craib, from founder Sam Feldman earlier this year.

Joel Baskin takes on the role of vice president, continuing with his responsibilities in artist representation and talent buying.

“I am honoured to work with an amazing team as well as an esteemed stable of artists, managers and partners at TFA,” says Baskin. “I look forward to working with the team to implement new strategies and ways to grow and maximise our clients live touring business for continued success.”

The appointments follow the recent promotion of Olivia Ootes to vice president of operations, after more than 20 years experience at the agency.

“These are all exciting and well-deserved personnel changes, further strengthening what I believe is already a strong and cohesive team”

Elsewhere, the company has promoted employees M’Kaylah Fridal and Izzy Martin within its general administration team and added Adam Shnitzer to its agent roster. The agency has also made new appointments in its financial and entertainment partnerships team, with Chris Lombos joining as controller and Morgan Claringbold as sales coordinator.

“These are all exciting and well-deserved personnel changes, further strengthening what I believe is already a strong and cohesive team,” comments TFA president Jeff Craib.

Co-founded in 1971 by Feldman and business partner Bruce Allen, TFA’s roster includes Diana Krall, Carly Rae Jepsen and Bryan Adams. Following Craib and Kemp’s acquisition, Feldman retains control of Macklam Feldman Management, which represents James Taylor and Elvis Costello.

Feldman also remains involved with management firm Watchdog, booking agency Bruce Allen Talent, and INF Influencer Agency and its parent company A&F Music.

The agency has offices in Vancouver and in Toronto, where TFA co-owners Kemp and Craib operate.

 


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Radiohead drum tech death inquest comes to a close

An inquest into the death of Radiohead drum technician Scott Johnson, who was killed in a stage collapse, has resulted in a set of non-binding recommendations to update best practice for the live entertainment industry.

Johnson was killed when the stage roof collapsed before a Radiohead show at Toronto’s Downsview Park in June 2012.

A court case brought against Live Nation, Optex Staging and Services and stage engineer Domenic Cugliari was stayed – meaning no charges would be brought forward – in 2017, sparking outrage from Radiohead and the technician’s father, Ken Johnson.

On March 25, Ontario’s chief coroner began a new inquest into the cause of Johnson’s death. A five-person jury heard testimony from Radiohead drummer Philip Selway and the drum technician’s father, among others.

The Toronto jury returned on 10 April with a verdict of ‘accidental death’ and a set of 28 non-binding recommendations for the live entertainment industry, aimed at bolstering oversight pertaining to safety requirements for temporary stages in Ontario.

Proposals included the establishment of a working group to update best practice for live events, changes to the building code and occupational health and safety laws pertaining to temporary stages, as well as suggestions aimed at engineers.

“For us, we sort of accept that life is different and we expect that emotional rollercoaster, we don’t see a way out for that”

Ken Johnson told reporters he “would be disappointed” if nothing changed as a result of the investigation. Johnson advises on scaffolding safety in the UK and is expected to continue aiding organisations in Canada with the implementation of live performance venue safety.

“For us, we sort of accept that life is different and we expect that emotional rollercoaster, we don’t see a way out for that,” said Johnson.

“I think it just brings some closure, at least. There’s hardly a month gone by in the last seven years where I’m not involved in some dialogue about Scott and what’s happened, so I quite look forward to perhaps not having that dialogue.”

All parties involved in the original court case pleaded not guilty to charges brought under the Occupational Health and Safety Act for wrongdoing.

Radiohead released a statement commending the inquest as “constructive, thorough and fair-minded”.

“It [the inquest] revealed the negligence and failings that lead to Scott’s death,” reads the band’s statement, which goes on to say that “a verdict of accidental death was returned, which feels frustratingly insufficient given that the stage collapse was shown to be preventable.”

The band stressed that “it’s up to all of us now to make sure that these recommendations are implemented.”

Radiohead’s Thom Yorke voiced his outrage at the lack of legal action during the band’s first performance in Toronto since the incident, stating that “the silence is fucking deafening.” The band dedicated their 2016 album A Moon Shaped Pool to Johnson’s memory.

 


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TFA promotes Olivia Ootes to VP of operations

Canadian talent agency The Feldman Agency (TFA) has announced the promotion of Olivia Ootes from director to vice president of operations.

In her new role, Ootes continues to work closely with senior staff on company structure, as well as overseeing the administration of day-to-day operations, including staffing, IT, budgeting and the intern programme.

Ootes has worked at TFA for over 20 years, joining the company’s Toronto office as a junior coordinator in 1998. She moves from the position of director of operations, which she held for five years.

Alongside agent and senior vice president, Vinny Cinquemani, Ootes works directly with leading Canadian artists including Bryan Adams, Burton Cummings, Michael Bublé and David Foster.

“The commitment to growing careers internally, as well the quality of work happening here, has made TFA one of the most reputable companies in the industry”

“Olivia and I have worked closely together for many years and she has been a key player in the development and career of many of Canada’s premiere artists,” says Cinquemani.

Ootes comments: “I am honoured to move into this increased leadership position at TFA, which has been a supportive and encouraging home to me. The commitment to growing careers internally, as well the quality of work happening here, has made TFA one of the most reputable companies in the industry.”

Talent agency and management group TFA has over 40 years experience in the entertainment business, representing artists including Diana Krall, Carly Rae Jepsen, Badbadnotgood and Jann Arden. TFA has offices in both Toronto and Vancouver.

 


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Live Nation acquires Canadian promoter Embrace Presents

Live Nation Entertainment has acquired a majority stake in Embrace Presents, a Canadian venue operator and promoter of concerts, festivals and events in the Toronto area.

The announcement follows the acquisition of Singaporean promoter One Production at the end of January, and an acquisition-heavy 2018 in which Live Nation acquired 16 companies, including Argentine promoter DF Entertainment, Swiss promoter Mainland Music and UK festivals Bestival and Camp Bestival.

The companies plan to combine Embrace’s experience developing emerging talent, boutique festivals and mid-size venue operations with Live Nation’s resources to bring more live events to Canada.

“Embrace has grown to become one of Toronto’s most influential leaders in live events,” says Riley O’Connor, chairman of Live Nation Canada. “We are excited to collaborate with them on new events and utilise their ingenuity and promotion tactics to further strengthen our presence in the marketplace.”

“We are looking forward to growing Embrace in concert with Live Nation to present bigger and more exciting live events”

Embrace continues to oversee all operations in its portfolio, including management of local festivals and the booking and running of Toronto venues Danforth Music Hall (1,425-cap.) and Velvet Underground (400-cap.).

Launched in 2001 by founder and president Adam Gill, Embrace began as an electronic music promoter. The company now presents a more diverse range of live music events including Toronto’s Electric Island (7,000-cap.) festival. Embrace has promoted shows for acts including Leon Bridges, Skrillex, Vance Joy and LCD Soundsystem.

Gill comments: “We are very excited to join Riley [O’Connor] and the entire Live Nation team as we embark on Embrace’s newest chapter. We are looking forward to growing Embrace in concert with Live Nation to present bigger and more exciting live events.”

 


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Mike Tyson to host cannabis music festival on ranch

Former boxing heavyweight Mike Tyson will host Kind Music Festival, a celebration of cannabis and “the next generation of music festivals”, on his 420-acre ranch in Desert Hot Springs, California.

The inaugural Kind Music Festival will make its debut on Saturday 23 February. The one-day pop-up event aims to embrace cannabis as a legalised, recreational product, in line with updates to California’s cannabis regulations.

Up to ten artists will play at the event, including Miguel and Starcrawler. Food trucks, inflatable rides, a bar area and vendor village will also adorn the grounds of the future Tyson Ranch Resort, an entertainment complex and cannabis research and design facility.

General admission tickets for Kind Music Festival sell at US$85 and VIP passes for $165. Part of all proceeds will go to Standing United, a charity dedicated to helping drug addicts and the homeless.

“Kind Music Festival is a revolution, leading the way for a new generation of health and wellness-focused cannabis consumers [that we call] ‘the Kind Generation’,” says an unnamed festival producer in a launch announcement.

“If music pairs with alcohol in a way that enhances the moment, our goal is to show that cannabis products can do the same”

Smoking cannabis in public places remains illegal in California. Rules on the festival website forbid sales or giveaways of cannabis products, as well as the carrying of illegal drugs or paraphernalia. However, a publicist for the festival has stated that festivalgoers will be permitted to light up on festival grounds.

The event is one in a wave of festivals marrying marijuana and music in the United States, as more and more states legalise recreational use of the drug.

The Original Green Mountain Cannabis and Music Festival took place in West Dover, Vermont last year. 1,000 people flocked to the festival, billed as byob/c (bring your own booze/cannabis), to view live music performances, purchase cannabidiol (CBD) products and smoke cannabis in the sun.

The United States is not the only country in which weed and music are mixing formally. In Canada, large legal marijuana producers are teaming up with talent agencies to sponsor events in much the way that leading alcohol brands do. This year, Toronto’s North by Northeast festival will be presented by Aurora Cannabis.

Jay Wilgar, head of UP Cannabis, summarises the thinking: “If music pairs with alcohol in a way that enhances the moment, our goal is to show that cannabis products can do the same.”

 


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Radiohead demand answers for fatal stage collapse

Last night saw Radiohead play their first Toronto show since the fatal accident that claimed the claimed the life of their drum technician Scott Johnson six years ago. During the second encore, the band called for answers and accountability over the 2012 incident.

“We wanted to do a show in Toronto, the stage collapsed, killing one of our colleagues and friends,” frontman Thom Yorke said to the audience.

“The people who should be held accountable are still not being held accountable in your city. The silence is fucking deafening.”

Whilst preparing for a show at Downsview Park in Toronto in June 2012, the roof of the stage collapsed, killing the 33 year-old from Doncaster and injuring three others. The following year, Ontario’s Ministry of Labour brought charges against Live Nation, Optex Staging and Services and stage engineer Domenic Cugliari for wrongdoing under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. All parties pleaded not guilty.

“The people who should be held accountable are still not being held accountable in your city.”

However, with three days remaining on the trial, judge Shaun Nakatsuru was appointed to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, declaring a mistrial. The judge appointed to the case after Nakatsuru’s departure, Ann Nelson, ruled in favour of the defendant’s application to drop the case, citing their entitlement to a trial without unreasonable delays. Last year, the charges were stayed altogether.

Radiohead drummer Philip Selway recently discussed the lack of response from the Canadian justice system on BBC’s Newsnight. He said the court case had “broken down on a technicality,” with everyone involved having received “no real answers”.

Yorke’s passionate speech at last night’s gig at the Scotiabank Arena was followed by a moment of silence. It is reported that members of the crowd interrupted the silence only to shout “we’re sorry” and “we love you”.

 


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