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John Empson joins UK promoter Senbla

London-based promoter Senbla has hired John Empson, known for promoting Eden Sessions, Wilderness and last year’s Legitimate Peaky Blinders Festival, to lead the company’s growing experiential events business.

Empson – who was instrumental in setting up Eden Sessions (now run by AEG Presents) in 2001, and later programmed Wilderness, Citadel and Somersault festivals for Mama Group – will also support Senbla CEO Ollie Rosenblatt in “maximising potential across all verticals”, according to the company.

“The experiential side is clearly a huge growth area, marrying music and IP, entertainment and interaction,” comments Rosenblatt on the appointment. “We see huge potential, as do our partners at Sony Music Masterworks, with the exploitation of IP.”

“I have known John for quite some time now,” he adds. “One conversation led to another and we found a great common ground and an area that could really be developed.”

The Empson-created Legitimate Peaky Blinders festival, based on the hit BBC TV series of the same name, will also return for a second outing next year under the Senbla umbrella.

“I couldn’t be more excited to join Senbla,” says John Empson. “Their ambition, creativity and enthusiasm is unmatched in this industry.

“With the backing of Sony, we’re working together on ground-breaking new live formats, developing a major experiential arm and presenting a raft of original immersive events and festivals. There’s more to come.”

“We’re working together on ground-breaking new live formats, developing a major experiential arm”

The appointment of Empson follows Senbla’s recent acquisition of two festivals, Strawberries and Creem and The Cambridge Club, and news it will be bringing performances by Michael Bublé and Olly Murs to new outdoor venues, including the 15,000-capacity Royal Crescent Bath and 15,000-cap. Chewton Glen in Hampshire, in 2021.

In other company news, 2021 will also see Senbla enter the US market through a strategic alliance with artist manager Jonathan Shank’s Terrapin Entertainment, which was last month acquired by Senbla parent company Sony Masterworks. The alliance will see Terrapin and Senbla develop and produce IP-driven live entertainment productions.

Rosenblatt was also instrumental in the recently announced Sony Music Masterworks 50% acquisition of Seaview Productions, the Broadway producer, which will collaborate with Senbla on specific projects.

“Although clearly 2020 has thrown up enormous challenges, what is clear is that this has given everyone a moment to reflect,” Rosenblatt continues. “The Senbla family has always been one of diverse productions, creative ideas and a huge appetite to grow. To develop and expand you have to be slightly uncomfortable. Therefore, more than ever, we have to be inventive, broad and bold, pushing beyond what we consider to be the norm. The audience expects more from a live experience.

“Next year also sees our new venues come into play: the Royal Crescent is set to become one of the crown jewels in the touring circuit, particularly for international artists, with its absolutely exquisite and quintessentially English backdrop, as does Chewton Glen in the most stunning of settings next to the New Forest. Our foray into the US with Jonathan Shank is very special;  he is someone I have known and admired for a number of years. The prospect of working together in a more cohesive way has always been something that has excited me, so I am truly delighted we made this happen and for us to now formally be in business together.”


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ILMC speaker spotlight: Christoph Scholz, Semmel Concerts

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.

First up is Christoph Scholz of SC Exhibitions, a division of German promoter Semmel Concerts and the company behind Los Angeles conference the Experience Economy Meeting (TEEM) – formerly the Touring Exhibitions Meeting.

Scholz will appear alongside Kilimanjaro Live’s Lucy Levitt to co-chair ILMC’s Touring Entertainment: Game For a Show panel – which this year moves to a bigger room to satisfy demand – to discuss why family shows, touring exhibitions and other kinds of immersive, alternative content are piquing the interest of promoters and fans alike.

Joining the chairs are Harlem Globetrotters’ Arnold Bernard, Secret Cinema’s Amy Farrant, Hartshorn-Hook Enterprises/Immersive Everywhere’s Brian Hook, Nicolás Renna from Proactiv and Alex Homfray of Alex Homfray Cultural Destinations.


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

CS: My co-chair, Lucy Levitt, and I are expecting some exciting guests this year. We will ask Arnold Bernard from Harlem Globetrotters how they have managed to keep such an iconic sports entertainment troupe relevant for so many years.

Amy Farrant, the marketing director of [immersive cinema experience specialist] Secret Cinema, is also joining the panel. Secret Cinema has just signed a deal with Disney and is expanding globally – this will deliver us plenty of talking points. Brian Hook from [theatre experience company] Immersive Everywhere also be there to will tell us everything about the forthcoming Doctor Who Experience in London.

“Our aim is to explore the key developments across touring exhibitions, pop culture and family shows”

You’ve moved up to a bigger room for 2020. How do you expect the session to compare to previous years?

We are hosting a special double-panel event this spring, which provides a great opportunity for our colleagues in the experience and live entertainment fields.

The first will be at ILMC on 5 March in London. Then, on the first weekend of May, we will also have a panel at The Experience Economy Meeting (TEEM) in Los Angeles. The second panel will pick up on the themes discussed in London, creating a fantastic intercontinental partnership of ILMC in London and TEEM Los Angeles.

Our aim with both panels is to explore the key developments and brightest new spectacles across touring exhibitions, pop culture and family shows.

“Touring exhibitions are benefiting from globalisation much in the same way as live touring is”

What are some of the biggest trends you’re seeing coming through in the family/touring/alternative entertainment world?

Looking at the classic staples in this non-traditional touring sector – which includes everything that is not rock, pop or another musical genre – touring exhibitions, family shows and events such as comic conventions are benefiting from globalisation much in the same way as live touring is.

There are more venues, more markets opening up and more opportunities. I am personally fascinated by the likes of The Haus of Gaga in Las Vegas or The Zone: Britney Spears in Los Angeles.

Are we seeing new forms of fan worlds here?

To find out the answer to this question and more, come along to ILMC’s Touring Entertainment panel at 5 p.m. on Thursday 5 March.


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