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Trailblazers: Chris Jammer and Louise Young, S&C

Welcome to the latest edition of Trailblazers – IQ’s regular series of Q&As with the inspirational figures forging their own paths in the global concert business.

From people working in challenging conditions or markets to those simply bringing a fresh perspective to the music world, Trailblazers aims to spotlight unique individuals from all walks of life who are making a mark in one of the world’s most competitive industries. (Read the last Trailblazer interview, with Kingdom Collective’s Nick Griffiths, here.)

This week, Trailblazers holds its second joint interview, with Chris Jammer and Louise Young of Cambridge-based, independent music festival Strawberries and Creem.

Founded by a team of five friends in 2014, Strawberries and Creem started out as an 800-capacity summer garden party. Now in its fifth year, the event has grown to accommodate 15,000 festivalgoers annually to its home on the outskirts of Cambridge, UK.

The festival has welcomed the likes of Skepta, Nelly, Wiley, Octavian, T-Pain, Shaggy and Shy FX over the years. Recognised for its high levels of diversity, Strawberries and Creem received a highly commended accolade for inclusivity in Festicket’s 2018 awards.

Strawberries and Creem returns this year on Saturday 15 June for its largest event to date, with performances from Stefflon Don, Ms Dynamite and Sean Kingston, among others.

IQ talks to festival co-founder Jammer and head of operations Young about Strawberry and Creem’s journey from a “party in a field” to a legitimate music festival, future ambitions and the satisfaction of putting on a successful event.

 


How did you get your starts in the industry?
Jammer: I stumbled across the industry if I’m perfectly honest. I was studying land economy at university with the intention of working in finance. My first real experience in the industry came as a club promoter for local club nights in Cambridge.

This is where I met [fellow co-founders] Will, Frazer, Sam and Preye. As a group of mates we were just putting on events for the fun of it and not really following any rule book. We just did what we saw fit and wanted to do at the time.

Young: Chris stole my line! I was working in finance when I was looking for something that would be more creative and more active. I’ve always been very organised and a bit of a control freak, so when the boys had the idea to start the festival they needed someone to bring it all together and I was in the perfect position to do so.

Can you tell me about your current roles?
Jammer: My current role is head of brand and business development. I assist on the partnership deals we do too. There is a lot of crossover within the business as you would expect with a small team.

My main focuses are developing the brand and working out new revenue streams to keep us moving forward into new spaces. We don’t just want to be a music festival. Strawberries & Creem and [fellow Cambridge-based festival] The Cambridge Club are bigger than that. I have input on both the site content side of things, along with what we put out on social media and our marketing as well.

Young: I do all things operations and event management. Day to day, I’ll be doing anything finance-related to security planning to artist liaison. It’s extremely varied and as Chris says there is a lot of crossover, we all support each other to make sure that we achieve what we set out to achieve. Although I’m not sure you’d catch the boys in a police intelligence meeting or talking about the medical provisions – that fortunately is where we all play to our strengths!

“We’d love to get to the point where we have such a strong brand that people will buy a ticket to the festival just because they want to be there, not only based on the line-up”

Who, or what, have been the biggest influences on your career so far?
Jammer: The likes of P Diddy and Dr Dre who have built empires out of doing something they love have really influenced me and my career. I love that they both didn’t stop with making music and have branched out into different industries, and I want our brands to be able to do that in the future too.

Young: For me, it’s generally other festivals and events. We’d love to get to the point where we have such a strong brand that people will buy a ticket to the festival just because they want to be there and they trust our reputation thanks to past experiences, not only based on the line-up.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Jammer: For me the most rewarding aspect of this job is the clean up and debrief week after the festival – knowing what we have just pulled off. Working all year primarily for one event is often scary and there is a lot of pressure on having a successful day. That feeling of knowing you have achieved what you set out to do 12 months prior is priceless.

Young: I don’t often get much spare time in the months surrounding the festivals, they become quite a blur. But I do try and stand at the back of the stage for a few songs and just watch people’s faces in the crowd. The joy on everyone’s faces is just amazing and reminds me of the whole reason why we do the festivals – to create that feeling, that happiness for all of our crowd.

And the most challenging?
Jammer: The November/December period is always hard for me as it’s so far away from the next festival and the buzz of summer has worn off. It’s really hard to keep motivated at that time of year for me personally. Hopefully this will change his year as we branch out a bit more and have other projects to work on!

Young: It’s the responsibility. We strive to get as many people to the festival as possible, we’ve grown massively year on year but with that comes the increased responsibility and stress. My job is to make sure everyone has an amazing but also a safe time. You hear some horror stories about festivals but I strive each year to make sure I put everything in place so nothing like that happens in our field.

“I don’t like that artists or events are sometimes put in a box, pigeonholed into certain genres and vibes”

What achievements would you say you were most proud of?
Jammer: I think I’m most proud of being in a position as a company to have a number full time employees. In the early years when myself and Lou were working full time on this we couldn’t afford to pay ourselves enough to live comfortably. Being able to support two more members of full time staff now is a great feeling to have.

Young: I’d definitely agree with Chris, we have grown from a party in a field to an official company, which now means people can earn a living doing what they love doing. I’m also extremely proud of the fact we have all remained the best of friends. It’s extremely challenging and stressful at times, and a few choice words are often exchanged, but we all just get on so well and still love each other at the end of the day!

What, if anything, do you think the music industry could do better?
Jammer: I’d love to see a real push for more diversity across the board and more of a blurring of the lines. I don’t like that artists or events are sometimes put in a box, pigeonholed into certain genres and vibes.

Previously we’ve been labelled a ‘grime’ or an ‘urban’ festival because we’ve had grime MCs at the top of the bill. But we celebrate a wide range of genres from D&B to house to dancehall. Often artists or events are labelled incorrectly which I don’t think is necessary – just enjoy the music for what it is!

Young: Something that we’ve tried to do this year, get more female artists on the line-up. There is still a massive divide between female and male artists, and across other industries too. I’ve also found that lots of the key roles within festival management are male-led, but I always try and work with female contractors where possible and encourage more to get into the industry.

What advice would you give to someone hoping to make it in live music/entertainment?
Jammer: Be brave and be bold. I think we have been very ambitious in what we have set out to do. It has of course been important to think carefully about what we are doing and not to be too bullish without planning, but dreaming big has certainly helped to get us to where we are today.

Young: Know what your goal is and stick to it. There is so much competition and people will often try and lead you down certain paths but stay true to who you are and focus on what you want to achieve.

 


If you’d like to take part in a future Trailblazers interview, or nominate someone else for inclusion, email IQ’s news editor, Jon Chapple, on jon@iq-mag.net, or Anna Grace on anna@iq-mag.net.

Trailblazer: Nick Griffiths, Kingdom Collective

Welcome to the latest edition of Trailblazers – IQ’s regular series of Q&As with the inspirational figures forging their own paths in the global live entertainment business.

From people working in challenging conditions or markets to those simply bringing a fresh perspective to the music world, Trailblazers aims to spotlight unique individuals from all walks of life who are making a mark in one of the world’s most competitive industries. (Read the previous Trailblazers interview, with Kyō’s Godwin Pereira, here.)

This week, IQ talks to the multifaceted Nick Griffiths, founder of creative agency Kingdom Collective and director of the Beat Hotel Marrakech, a four-day cultural residency taking place near Marrakesh, Morocco.

Beat Hotel, perhaps best known from its stage at Glastonbury festival, will this year hold its inaugural festival from 28 to 31 March at a boutique hotel in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. Performers include Young Fathers, Maribou State, Gilles Peterson, Hunee and Palms Trax, while an accompanying literary programme and celebrations of Moroccan cuisine will complete the cultural experience.

Launched in 2011, Kingdom Collective is a culture and communications agency based in London. The agency works with clients such as Red Bull Music Academy and Red Bull Studios, Glastonbury Festival, Pioneer DJ and Gala Festival for PR, talent booking and event management.

Here, Griffiths speaks about both elements of his professional life, the lessons he’s learnt working in the music industry and his love for live experiences.

 


How did you get your start in the industry?
I moved to London in 2004 with an English degree and a cheap suit in search of employment – hopefully in music.  My first proper job was as an assistant at music PR company-turned-experiential agency Slice.

There are so many agencies in this space now, but back then there were only a handful, and Slice was probably among the first wave, so it was a great place to start. I learned the basics of live events, from a promotions and programming and production point of view, working for clients like Heineken, Southern Comfort, Diesel, Yahoo! and Beck’s.

Tell us about your current role.
I wear two hats, really: one as founder of creative agency Kingdom Collective, and one as a director of the Beat Hotel, both of which came into being in 2011.  It was the same time I was doing Land of Kings – a multi-venue music and art festival in Dalston – and realised I loved the buzz of putting on independent events as well as the big-brand stuff.  In fact, sometimes, I still get more from producing a 200-cap. club night in a basement than some of the big budget brand events.

Setting up Kingdom Collective was a way of being able to pursue both interests, in a way where one would feed the other. So, in 2011 we first did the Beat Hotel at Glastonbury, which we’ve done each year since, and has led to the four-day festival in Marrakesh this March.

Who, or what, have been the biggest influences on your career so far?
My time at Slice had a big influence on my younger self, in terms of the people I met and the work, but also seeing that it was possible, and perfectly valid, to have a variety of interests.

I also still get influenced and inspired by going to events that I’m not working at, whether it’s gigs, festivals or brand shows.  It’s important to keep an eye on what everyone is up to, but I also love being at shows so I try to go out as much as I can.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Being able to work in those moments where people are having the best part of their day, week or year.  Music events in particular are a release for people and, at their best, can create an energy that can be life-affirming.  If that ever stops, I think I’ll know it’s time for a career change.

“Music events are a release for people and can create an energy that can be life-affirming.  If that ever stops, I’ll know it’s time for a career change”

And the most challenging?
For me the challenge is around balancing the creative and the commercial.  We always want to keep the excitement and passion for what we do, but there are commercial realities to consider; keeping your integrity and staying true to what you stand for across all of your work, is really important.  Sometimes that means knowing when to let things go.

What achievements are you most proud of?
Taking the Beat Hotel from being a small cocktail bar at Glastonbury to doing our own festival in Morocco has been lots of fun, and we never really had any expectations about what it might become.

I’m also proud of the work Kingdom Collective has done for Red Bull.  The takeover of the London Eye for Revolutions in Sound for Red Bull Music Academy’s 15th birthday will take some beating.  A celebration of UK club culture, we put 30 legendary clubs into the Eye’s 30 pods and live streamed the whole event.

What, if anything, could the music industry do better?
We’ve started to see a shift towards more women and diversity across the industry, but I think a lot of it has been PR rather than real change.  Most labels, agents and managers are still overwhelmingly male, in my experience, as well as the line-ups of festivals. Committing to 50/50 line-ups, as some events have, is bold and commendable, but I’d like to see more change behind the scenes in the industry, which will take more than a few magazine headlines.

What advice would you give to someone hoping to make it in live music/entertainment?
We did a campaign around regional music scenes with WeGotTickets and asked 50 promoters, venue owners and industry insiders that same question. The near unanimous answer was “Don’t be a dick”.

I can’t think of a better answer.

 


If you’d like to take part in a future Trailblazers interview, or nominate someone else for inclusion, email IQ’s news editor, Jon Chapple, on jon@iq-mag.net.

Trailblazer: Julia Lowe, Neverworld/Camp Wildfire

Welcome to the latest edition of Trailblazers – IQ’s regular series of Q&As with the inspirational figures forging their own paths in the global live entertainment business.

From people working in challenging conditions or markets to those simply bringing a fresh perspective to the music world, Trailblazers aims to spotlight unique individuals from all walks of life who are making a mark in one of the world’s most competitive industries. (Read the previous Trailblazers interview, with Kyō’s Godwin Pereira, here.)

The second Trailblazer of the new year is Julia Lowe, singer-songwriter, graphic designer and creative director of UK festivals Neverworld (formerly LeeFest) and Camp Wildfire.

Part music festival, part adventure camp for adults, Camp Wildfire – co-founded by Lowe and LeeFest founder Lee Denny – “combines the thrill of learning new skills, challenging yourself and adventuring like kids with the hedonism of a traditional music festival,” Lowe explains. “Adults get to spend a weekend in a beautiful pinetum with likeminded people, while turning their hand at things like hovercraft racing, bushcraft, astronomy and craft.”

Ahead of the events’ return this August (last year’s pirates’n’mermaids-themed Neverworld was headlined by Bastille, Clean Bandit and Declan McKenna), Lowe talks taking inspiration from Wes Anderson, applying her design background to festival stages and why she’s going to keep on nailing her three-point turns…

 


How did you get your start in the industry?
Mine was actually a combination of coincidence and excellent timing! Ten years ago, I was playing in a band [Keston Cobblers Club] and had just graduated as a graphic designer. We were booked to play at Neverworld, then called LeeFest, and the graphic designer had dropped out. I got wind of this and offered Lee [Denny] my graphic design services.

I loved festivals and live music, and desperately wanted to be involved. We spent the rest of that summer working every hour possible to turn around a rebrand. Therein began a harmonious friendship – after spilling boiling hot tea on his foot – and soon, a fantastic business partnership.

Tell us about your current roles.
As with any creative start-up, Lee and I both pitch in with anything and everything that is thrown at us. As a general trend, though, Lee is more numbers and production, and I am more design and creative, though we meet in the middle at strategy: we are both obsessed with telling clear stories, and consistency and experience.

Who, or what, have been the biggest influences on your career so far?
I spend a lot of time surrounding myself with other artists and brands who are ‘nailing it’! I am inspired by so many different things, and I believe that immersing yourself in other people’s talent and skills makes your desire to improve and learn even stronger.

I have also always been fascinated by theme parks. As a teen, I used to sit in geography class, secretly drawing rollercoasters in my notebook and fantasising about running my own park. I love the immersiveness, the excitement and the timelessness of it. I think a lot of my design for music festivals is influenced by that sensation.

I am also obsessed with film and production design. The director, Wes Anderson, has had such a huge influence on me. Moonrise Kingdom was one of the original inspirations for Camp Wildfire. We love it.

Both of our festivals are immersive; a world where you can lose yourself – and maybe your drunken friends – for the weekend. I’m pretty sure that both films and theme parks have played a huge part in that.

“Both of our festivals are immersive; a world where you can lose yourself for the weekend”

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
I’m always awestruck by the transition of the stage design from paper to reality.

It all begins with a sketch, colour palette and moodboard – then a few months of hard work later I am standing there at Neverworld behind 5,000 people, looking up at a real-life version of that sketch. It’s quite breathtaking. I feel so lucky.

How about the most challenging?
Firstly, we had to learn an awful lot in a very short space of time. You read as much as you can and try and learn from the best, but at the end of the day you just have to hold your breath, cross your fingers and dive in. There have been some really, really challenging moments.

At Camp Wildfire, in the second year, the weather was biblical, and torrential rain turned the beautiful forest into a boggy quagmire. It set us back about three days, and we’d been quite ambitious with the activities, so at one point were dragging a climbing wall/high-wire tower through the mud! Because of the nature of Camp Wildfire, and the fact that we’d had to re-site some of the adventure activities and bands, we spent a solid five hours on the first morning, directing hundreds of customers to their activities. Coupled with a week of barely any sleep and a few angry customers shouting at me…

Luckily, 99% of people were really kind and patient and our friends and family were incredible – they stepped in as extra stewards to get people to the right place!

Secondly – and this sounds clichéd – but being a woman is pretty challenging in this industry. You have to keep fighting to be heard and respected, and be noticed – but also not noticed too much, so that people think you’re making a fuss.

I had a really funny moment while doing a four-point turn in a gigantic lorry, in a tiny back-road, one year at Neverworld. There were six male site crew on a tea break all watching me in a slightly supercilious way. I felt really smug when I did it in slickly in three moves!

I am very lucky, though: Lee and my other close colleagues are complete feminists; they’re wonderful.

“It’s hard for me to pinpoint the exact thing that prevents a lot of women getting into the industry, but I’m doing my best to help break the cycle”

How has the business changed since you started out?
I think festivals are starting to recognise the need for strong creative and powerful stories. Having come from a design background, it has always been incredibly high priority for me – I’ve never been a fan of ‘clearspan tent chucked in a field’…

Being in a band means I play at a lot of festivals, and as I travel around Europe seeing different set-ups, I get an overarching sense of what’s working and what isn’t.

What, if anything, could the music industry do better?
More women. But you already knew that!

Being a woman myself. and being lucky enough to have been raised by a wonderfully powerful mother, makes it hard for me to pinpoint the exact thing that prevents a lot of women getting into the industry, but I’m doing my best to help break the cycle.

I’m hoping that by hiring women to join our team, as well as keeping on nailing my three-point turns and never not doing a job because I could ask a man to do it, will gradually help change perspectives.

It’s even harder on tour in a band, because as the only woman I can go for days without even seeing another girl. I’d love more women to get into the tech/production side, too. So, if you’re reading this, and you know a girl that’s interested in music, festivals, tech or design, send them my way!

What advice would you give to someone hoping to make it in the festival sector?
Work. Really. Hard!

I pretty much lost my social life for three years marketing the festivals – unless you count hanging out with Lee in the office at 4am, drinking dregs of rosé wine because it’s the only thing left in the fridge and nothing else will keep us awake, as ’sociable’…

It’s completely worth it, though, when you see all those people enjoying the festival.

 


If you’d like to take part in a future Trailblazers interview, or nominate someone else for inclusion, email IQ’s news editor, Jon Chapple, on jon@iq-mag.net.

Trailblazers: Godwin Pereira, Kyo

Welcome to the latest edition of Trailblazers – IQ’s regular series of Q&As with the inspirational figures forging their own paths in the global live entertainment business.

From people working in challenging conditions or markets to those simply bringing a fresh perspective to the music world, Trailblazers aims to spotlight unique individuals from all walks of life who are making a mark in one of the world’s most competitive industries. (Read the previous Trailblazers interview, with Aventus’s Annika Monari and Alan Vey, here.)

Following October’s interview with O Beach Ibiza’s Tony Truman, Trailblazers begins 2019 in conversation with another club boss: this time, Godwin Pereira, founder and CEO of south-east Asian club brand Kyō.

The Kyō brand debuted in Singapore in 2013, quickly becoming one of the city-state’s most popular clubs and pulling in international heavyweights such as François K, Osunlade and Nic Fanciulli for its house and techno nights. In December 2016, it expanded to Kuala Lumpur, opening a 6,000sqft, 770-capacity club (divided into two spaces, main room Kyō and smaller space Ren) at the city’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

Since opening, Kyō KL has welcomed DJs including Seth Troxler, Dubfire, Talib Kweli, Pan Pot and Jeremy Olander, and recently agreed a partnership with London’s the Egg that saw it take over the club in October.

“Kuala Lumpur has the right elements for a club concept like Kyō to thrive,” said Pereira last year. “It has a cosmopolitan dynamism and a music scene teeming with numerous subgenres and collectives, although there is yet to be one specific venue that caters to all of these genres. Kyō KL was created to fulfil this purpose: housing a spectrum of genres, both up-and-coming and forgotten, to bring together a community of music lovers who can enjoy these in one venue.”

 


How did you get your start in the industry?
I started young, in the back end, as a roadie and rigging boy. My interest grew from there – to learning the business, booking DJs, doing everything. It was a natural life path to somehow end up owning a club. It drives me nuts but it’s very rewarding and I love it still.

Who, or what, have been the biggest influences on your career so far?
DJs and music, first and foremost. Clubs like Paradise Garage and Studio 54 are influences, for sure – about how humans going into clubs and relate these emotions. [DJs like] François K and all that are huge inspirations for me.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?
I say, when people ask, that I am in the business of selling memories. If people meet and hook up in my club, that’s a good enough job for me.

What achievements are you most proud of?
In terms of growth for such a small brand – we started in a back street in the business district. We started as a joke. And within five years we’re in a five-star hotel… I think coming from an underground club to a five-star hotel in a basement is a great achievement and shows how strong our brand is.

“We started as a joke. And within five years we’re in a five-star hotel”

How has the business changed since you started out?
I think when we started it was more underground. Our first three months was really an experimental lab. We were seeing what people were and were not responding to.

With this new club we have two rooms, so we have more intimate stuff upstairs and then went more mainstream in the main room. We can do the stuff we want to in the week, but more edgy in the small room at the weekend.

What could the industry do more of?
I think it’s just making artists more accessible. The biggest struggle for mid-sized clubs like us is that it’s hard to afford the big guys. That’s the hardest bit.

Some guys realise that – Seth Troxler and those guys were looking for an intimate vibe instead of the 60,000-people festivals, so we hope artists can see what we are trying to do for them: to offer more intimate shows.

What advice would you give to someone making their start in the industry?
Keep your head clear and have a great legal advisor. Just be hungry for information. That’s what keeps driving things forward.

Go and immerse yourself in something and experience it.

 


If you’d like to take part in a future Trailblazers interview, or nominate someone else for inclusion, email IQ’s news editor, Jon Chapple, on jon@iq-mag.net.

Trailblazer: Denis Sullivan, Herschend Live

Welcome to the latest edition of Trailblazers – IQ’s regular series of Q&As with the inspirational figures forging their own paths in the global concert business.

From people working in challenging conditions or markets to those simply bringing a fresh perspective to the music world, Trailblazers aims to spotlight unique individuals from all walks of life who are making a mark in one of the world’s most competitive industries. (Read the previous Trailblazers interview, with Annika Monari and Alan Vey, here.)

Denis Sullivan, VP of international development at Herschend Live (formerly Harlem Globetrotters International), has charted a career path perhaps unlike any other. His four-decade career in live entertainment has taken him from humble beginnings in production to working with Louis Walsh and Boyzone, repping artists at the Kurland Agency, heading up global touring at World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and, finally, leading business development internationally for the world’s most famous exhibition basketball team.

When he says it’s the road less travelled, he’s not joking…

 


How did you get your start in the industry?
Louis Walsh gave me my start, as such. I was doing production and sound tech work when we met. At that point he had just launched Boyzone, and I became his rep on the road, looking after the band and dealing with all the venues he would book. Louis booked us in every truck stop, barn and theatre he could find, four or five nights a week for two years straight. Louis also instilled the notion in me that we were in the T-shirt- and poster-selling business as much, if not more, than the ticket- and CD-selling business. He was very smart in that respect, and very good to me.

Shortly after that finished in early 1997, five friends of mine were in a band, Rubyhorse. They called me up, told me they were going to America in two weeks and asked if I wanted to go. So, off we set, looking for adventure. They actually ended up doing really well for a time: they played all the major late-night talk shows, put out a couple of albums and had a hit [‘Sparkle’], before being swallowed up in the all the record company mergers that were happening around that time.

At the same time, an agent by the name of Elizabeth Rush – ex-William Morris, Tour Consultants Inc., Concerted Efforts – was setting up her own shop, and for some reason I have not figured out to this day, she offered me a job and taught me the agency business from the ground up.

Tell us about your current role.
I run the international business for Herschend Live, of which the Harlem Globetrotters is part. We also have a couple of other projects in development that will come under that umbrella, so stay tuned for news on that.

Herschend Enterprises is an amazing company which focuses on family entertainment, so whether you are visiting one of our many theme parks, aquaria and adventure tours, or watching one of our TV programmes, the business model is the same: to create memories worth repeating. If you do that, the financial part of the business takes care of itself.

The company is led by some of the most brilliant people I have come across – from Andrew Wexler, our CEO of Herschend Enterprises, to Howard Smith, president of Herschend Live, and the entire executive team, our chart is coursed by a long-term vision, rather than short-term gain, and an eye on creating a tremendous culture in which people are inspired to bring their best every day. It’s a privilege to be part of it.

“We are a feeder system for the entire live events industry”

Who have been the biggest influences on your career to date?
I’ve been very fortunate – I haven’t had many employers, but I like to think I took the best lessons from all of them. Louis Walsh certainly had a huge impact on me. Elizabeth Rush has been a great friend and mentor to me down through the years; I still call her today when I want to bounce an idea off someone. Ted Kurland, who really honed my skills as an agent.

I ran global touring at WWE for eight years, and Vince McMahon taught me so much… his influence on me professionally can’t be overstated.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
In the family entertainment world, we are often people’s very first experience of a live event. One can never recapture that feeling. What we are doing is giving people their first taste of an experience that cannot be replicated online, on TV or on any other platform. We are showing these kids who come to see our shows that going to see something live, at a venue, is cool.

We are a feeder system for the entire live events industry, be it concerts, exhibitions, Broadway or sporting events. That is the most rewarding part of the job.

And the most challenging?
Controlling the uncontrollable. Weather, exchange rates, political events, terrorism… I once got a call from the ops team telling me the ship our show containers were on had been taken hostage by pirates and it was unlikely to be released in time to reach port for show day – there isn’t a lot that can prepare you for that phone call!

Also, with the sheer number of shows coming out now it takes more work to stay relevant and sustainable. We don’t take a year off to make a record – we tour every month of the year – so doing that in a sustainable manner to still sell millions of tickets each year takes quite a bit of work.

“The ship our show containers were on had been taken hostage by pirates … there isn’t a lot that can prepare you for that phone call!”

How has the business changed since you started out?
We, as an industry, are so much smarter. When I started it was ‘book the venue, throw some advertising up and hope it all works out’. Now, with the analytics we have access to, we can really get granular in our decision-making process. We can compare venue performance more accurately; measure the impact of our marketing spend in a much more targeted way; predict how a price increase will impact selling patterns; and know how a show will sell before we ever go up on sale.

What, if anything, could the industry do better?
We could give back more to the communities we visit. How much catering gets thrown out at the end of a night that could be donated to a local homeless shelter? To me, there is no reason in the world that every major show should not have a local charitable or social tie-in.

Michael Martin at Effect Partners and Maria Brunner from Insight Management both do tremendous work in this area, but we all have an unparallelled opportunity to improve the world we live in through this industry. We should embrace and make the most of that.

What advice would you give to someone hoping to make it in live entertainment?
Seek people out. Ask questions. Work like you mean it. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to mentor you.

As a whole, we have very generous people in the industry who all pretty much came up the same way. I do believe we have a responsibility to pay it forward to the next generation in that regard.

 


If you’d like to take part in a future Trailblazers interview, or nominate someone else for inclusion, email IQ’s news editor, Jon Chapple, on jon@iq-mag.net.

Trailblazers: Annika Monari and Alan Vey, Aventus

Welcome to the latest edition of Trailblazers – IQ’s regular series of Q&As with the inspirational figures forging their own paths in the global concert business.

From people working in challenging conditions or markets to those simply bringing a fresh perspective to the music world, Trailblazers aims to spotlight unique individuals from all walks of life who are making a mark in one of the world’s most competitive industries. (Read the previous Trailblazers interview, with O Beach Ibiza’s Tony Truman, here.)

This week Trailblazers welcomes its first-ever joint interviewees: Alan Vey and Annika Monari, founders and co-CEOs of blockchain ticketing start-up Aventus Systems.

Aventus is the developer of the Aventus Protocol, an open-source Ethereum-based protocol that aims to create a “more fair, secure and transparent event ticketing industry” by eliminating counterfeiting and unauthorised ticket resale.

Since launching in 2106, the company has secured partnerships with new entertainment venture Kind Heaven, located at the Caesars Entertainment-owned LINQ Promenade in Las Vegas, as well as bringing on board the likes of Professor Mike Waterson, who recently released a follow-up to his 2016 secondary ticketing review, and former Eventim UK MD Rob Edwards.

Aventus raised US$20m in an initial coin offering (ICO) last September to fund its vision of a global standard for ticketing.

 


How did you get your starts in the industry?
Vey: I did my thesis on film rights distribution with Bafta and the BBC at Imperial College London with help from Professor Will Knottenbelt, the director of the Centre for Cryptocurrency Research and Engineering. Annika and I made a killer team so we started Aventus after researching what blockchain technology can bring to solve core challenges in the entertainment industry.

Monari: When it came to the ticketing industry, neither of us had any prior experience other than as consumers. We don’t see ourselves as a ticketing company – we’re a software company building IaaS [infrastructure as a service] and SaaS [software as a service] solutions into the ticketing and wider entertainment industry. We want to strengthen and support existing ticketing providers using cutting-edge solutions on the blockchain.

Tell us about your current roles.
Monari: We founded Aventus together and are now joint CEOs. Our day-to-day role includes the development, marketing and growth of the Aventus protocol and associated infrastructure, as well as the technology that allows ticketing companies and inventory rights-holders to get commercial benefits from the blockchain.

Who, or what, have been the biggest influences on your career so far?
Vey: For both of us, Professor Knottenbelt has had a huge influence after introducing us to the Ethereum blockchain. He also introduced us to Daniel Masters, CEO of Global Advisors and chair of Coinshares, who secured us funding just months after we finished university and helped make our token-sale launch a reality.

Monari: Mike Jones, the former CEO of Myspace and the founder of Science Inc., a venture-building studio and incubator, taught us some invaluable lessons on how to build relationships and get to market quickly. Also, Cary Granat, CEO of Immersive Artistry and former president at Miramax, has been a key mentor in the events industry world. We teamed up together for Kind Heaven, an immersive Las Vegas experience which will become one of our first proof of concepts for ticketing on the blockchain.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Monari:
It’s cool being able to go to a traditional company and a huge player in the industry – someone who is very knowledgeable but quite set in their ways – and introduce them to something new. We lead them through the process, get them to understand and engage, and when you succeed it’s very rewarding.

“The music industry can be very traditional and resistant to change”

Vey: Getting a great team together and being able to build industry changing products is very rewarding. Going out to meet all these important people in the entertainment space and bring good news and exciting relationships back to our team always feels great.

And the most challenging?
Vey: We haven’t done this before, so people think we have no idea because we’re young, or try to take us for a ride. We’ve publicly raised a lot of money, so certain people look at us like a piggy bank. We’ve tried to address this by hiring a senior and experienced management team with a background in the entertainment industry who can bring that gravitas to the table.

Monari: It’s hard to hire the right people. Mike Jones gave us a lot of mentorship and advice around who and how to hire, and there are two types of people we look for. The first are really driven, vibrant, hungry people, who are perhaps less experienced but want to make a difference and to learn. Then there are the heavy hitting industry experts, who will bring that expertise and perform at a high level, bringing real ROI.

What achievements are you most proud of?
Monari: The token sale itself was an incredible moment. Having come up with an idea, standing in front of tens of thousands of people pitching it, and then having it validated to the degree where people crowdfund you in minutes is really an amazing feeling.

We worked so hard for six months and we were almost in tears one day. At that point we knew that even if we didn’t get there, we’d given it everything we could.

What, if anything, do you think the music industry could do better?
Monari: The music industry can be very traditional and resistant to change. The way they do things is entrenched, so coming in with new technology can be challenging.

The way we see it, events – and entry to those events – have existed since before the Colosseum in Roman times. It’s an age-old industry and we’re trying to introduce the tools to do things in a more efficient and technologically driven way.

 


If you’d like to take part in a future Trailblazers interview, or nominate someone else for inclusion, email IQ’s news editor, Jon Chapple, on jon@iq-mag.net.

Trailblazer: Tony Truman, O Beach Ibiza

Welcome to the latest edition of Trailblazers – IQ’s regular series of Q&As with the inspirational figures forging their own paths in the global concert business.

From people working in challenging conditions or markets to those simply bringing a fresh perspective to the music world, Trailblazers aims to spotlight unique individuals from all walks of life who are making a mark in one of the world’s most competitive industries. Read the previous Trailblazers interview, with Cambridge Folk Festival’s Becky Stewart, here.

Next up is Tony Truman, co-founder and operating partner of O Beach Ibiza, a beach club which debuted as Ocean Beach Ibiza on the Mediterranean party island in 2012.

Alongside business partner Duane Lineker, Truman’s vision was to create a ‘daytime destination’ on the west coast of Ibiza. Specialising in daytime parties, the 2,000-capacity venue has hosted performances by the likes of Ibiza House Orchestra, Sandy Rivera, Horse Meat Disco and DJ Spoony, and is now firmly established as a clubbing institution in the highly competitive Ibizan market.

But before he was a nightclub baron, Truman was a tearaway youth who just wanted to go to his school’s end-of-year party…

 


How did you get your start in the industry?
I started out in the business when I was very young. I was 15 when I was expelled from school for being somewhat of a naughty boy, and because of that I was banned from going to the famous final-year party. Even though I’d been chucked out of school I still asked if I could go, because it had a reputation of being so good – but they said no, obviously! I was absolutely devastated as everyone went to this party, including all my friends. It was actually my mum who suggested I have my own party… and, with that, I did! I hired a boat on the Thames in London, but the only night I could hire it was the same night as the school party. I took a gamble, hired it and had 250 people turn up to my party. Only 17 attended the school party! It was then I found my making and started my path as a party promoter.

That same year was the first-ever trip I made to Ibiza with my family and friends. We met some older lads that showed us the ropes, taking us to all the big superclubs such as Ku, and I was blown away at the scale of the venues and the events. I knew for sure that this is what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be.

Tell us about your current role.
I, along with Duane Lineker, one of my business partners, am an operating partner of O Beach (formerly Ocean Beach) Ibiza, as well as a number of other businesses we have collectively on the island. The role differs between winter and summer: in the winter there is a lot of planning – whether that be recruitment or events, as well as dealing with many day-to-day business decisions – so this is where a lot of my time is taken up with work.

As soon as summer begins, this is where the fun part of my job starts. I spend a lot of days hosting at my table in the beach club, which consists of a lot of partying with lots of people from the island, other industry associates and friends, celebrity guests and, of course, my own family and friends. It really is lots of fun and I get to see the venue in action – but now I’m getting older, it may be time to reduce that to maybe three or four times a week!

There is obviously serious daily work to do but, luckily, I have an amazing team and partner to do most of mine for me.

“I am proud we took an derelict old car park in the wrong end of town and turned it into one of the most famous beach clubs in the world”

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Standing on the stage day after day and seeing all the happy faces on the dancefloor and all around the beach club – people having the time of their lives, having fun, laughter all around and, ultimately, making happy memories that will last forever. The fact that I am in a position to give people that opportunity to have real fun and be themselves, and also for my staff, who love doing the job they do.

And the most challenging?
The most challenging is to keep at the forefront of what we are doing – making sure you are constantly giving people what they want in a world where trends change all the time. Staying on top of a competitive market like Ibiza is hard work, as you are up against some of the biggest and best clubs in the world, but a bit of competition is what keeps the magic alive and keeps you spontaneous.

What achievements are you most proud of?
I am most proud of my family and the close bond we share, as well as the fact I have so many lifelong friends from school and my younger years who are still around me and working with me.

From a business perspective I am proud that we took an old derelict car park in the wrong end of town – they said – and in six short years have become one of the most famous and best beach clubs in the world, all without putting on the biggest promoters and biggest artists. It’s all been down to our core values, determination and an amazing team.

How has the business changed since you started out?
The biggest change I have seen is the volume of people we get through the doors. We are sold out most days of the week now, and when you host 155 parties back to back there’s a lot of work involved for the entire team. The first year, we only had one semi-busy day a week, and the following year three busy days – and from there, it just grew and grew into the machine it is today.

“Never forsake your dignity for the sake of your destiny”

What, if anything, could the music industry do better?
A saying we created, and stand by in our values, is, “We are here to celebrate, not educate”, and this is directed at our music policy. This is because we play what our crowd want and not necessarily what is current and supposedly ‘cool’.

When we opened, the music industry was at a point where you could be looked down on if you weren’t playing the ‘right’ music and most up-to-date sounds, which I personally felt was wrong. For me, there is room for all types of music that’s right for the occasion, and that’s where I feel we got it right with O Beach Ibiza.

Who, or what, have been the biggest influences on your career so far?
One of my best friends has been one of the biggest influences. When things were not going quite right in my life a number of years ago, he was one of the loyal people who stood by my side, who always believed in me and who always pushed me by telling me not to give up. So, Mr Barry, I still thank you from the bottom of my heart!

I also think one of the biggest things that has had an impact on my life is becoming a father, as suddenly I realised I had to grow up fast as I had another life depending on me. I am so grateful this happened, as it put all of the surreal crazy life into perspective and made me realise what was important.

What advice would you give to someone hoping to make it in music?
Anything is possible if you are determined and set your mind to it, and believe in it – and above all in yourself. Never forsake your dignity for the sake of your destiny.

 


If you’d like to take part in a future Trailblazers interview, or nominate someone else for inclusion, email IQ’s news editor, Jon Chapple, on jon@iq-mag.net.

Trailblazer: Becky Stewart, Cambridge Folk Festival

Welcome to the latest edition of Trailblazers – IQ’s regular series of Q&As with the inspirational figures forging their own paths in the global concert business.

From people working in challenging conditions or markets to those simply bringing a fresh perspective to the music world, Trailblazers aims to spotlight unique individuals from all walks of life who are making a mark in one of the world’s most competitive industries. Read the previous Trailblazers interview, with WME’s Sam Kirby Yoh, here.

In the hot seat this time is Becky Stewart, operations director for the UK’s long-running Cambridge Folk Festival, which celebrated its 54th anniversary last month with a bumper bill topped by big-name headliners Patti Smith and First Aid Kit.

Here, she speaks on her journey from adolescent morris dancer to running Britain’s best-known folk music event; the challenges of competing with moneyed corporate festivals; and why she’s proud to lead a mostly female team in a male-dominated world…

 


How did you get your start in the industry?
Well, I blame my parents, really. They took me to my first folk festival, which was Warwick, when I was about six years old, and then we spent every summer from there after dancing – yes, morris dancing. At around 17 I worked out I could get a ticket for free if I volunteered, but it would take a few more years till the worlds collided and I got to start doing the fun stuff.

I worked artist liaison at Shepley and Beautiful Days, then I stage-managed at Towersey for about five years. In ‘real life’ I ran a pub, then started working in the events world. There isn’t one single point I can say that was my start – I just kind of ended up here. The first year I came to Cambridge I knew I wanted to work here, though. Never thought I’d end up running it.

Tell us about your current role.
I am operations manager, which in the simplest terms means I make it all fit together. I make sure everyone from staff to artists have all the information they need to do their job; I manage the booking and contracting of all artists, staff, caterers, traders; and I programme and book the fringe performances, street theatre, morris teams, workshops and sessions. Other things we look after include merch, site art, transport, accommodation and anything else you can think of.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
So long as most people have a nice time, I’m happy. That includes audience, staff and performers.

And the most challenging?
I take things very personally. If we get a complaint, especially about something that that person probably has no idea about, it annoys me. I try not to let things wind me up but they do.

Also budget restrictions –they upset me massively!

“At our core is the want to be a musicians’ festival, giving a platform to the best in the business”

What achievements are you most proud of?
This! I am apparently responsible and grown-up enough to be in charge of Cambridge Folk Festival. It still blows my mind. It’s great.

How has the business changed since you started out?
In some ways, not at all. In others, massively. In my case, folk music has a very interesting way of flowing in and out of mainstream music. Cambridge very much sits in a bubble between mainstream music and the smaller folk festivals, and I think that transfers to how we run as well.

We have lead the way in innovations in terms of how to run a site environmentally. We have a 50/50 gender split on our bill, as well as on our crew; we have a female sound tech, the majority of our crew heads are women and the core team are predominantly female. There are still things that we, and the industry, need to get better at.

At our core is the want to be a musicians’ festival, giving a platform to the best in the business – we’re not about bells and whistles.

“We need to be better at looking after ourselves and each other”

What, if anything, could the music industry do better?
We are an independent festival and we, along with many others, are getting priced out of the market by the bigger agency-run festivals.

Gender balance is a big thing. We’re super-proud to say we’ve got it pretty good at the moment, but we’re always looking to be better.

Look after everyone at bit better: we talk about mental health in the music industry, but it’s about life in general, really. We live in a world that is too fast for us to keep up with, and I think we all feel that at some point. We need to be better at looking after ourselves and each other.

What advice would you give to someone hoping to make it in music?
Work, take opportunities, volunteer at everything, take in everything around you. Learn skills – knowledge of what sound and lighting techs do, even if you don’t want to do it, for example.

And if you want to go to uni, do something with a skill attached. I’d much rather employ someone with a proven work record than a degree.

 


If you’d like to take part in a future Trailblazers interview, or nominate someone else for inclusion, email IQ’s news editor, Jon Chapple, on jon@iq-mag.net.

Trailblazer: Sam Kirby Yoh, WME

Welcome to the latest edition of Trailblazers – IQ’s regular series of Q&As with the inspirational figures forging their own paths in the global concert business.

From people working in challenging conditions or markets to those simply bringing a fresh perspective to the music world, Trailblazers aims to spotlight unique individuals from all walks of life who are making a mark in one of the world’s most competitive industries. Read the previous Trailblazers interview, with UTA’s Natalia Nastaskin, here.

Next up is Sam Kirby Yoh, the UK-born, New York-based head of William Morris Endeavor’s East Coast Music division. Kirby Yoh joined WME in 2004, bringing clients including Fatboy Slim, Björk, Groove Armada and the Dandy Warhols, and was made a partner in 2012.

She is also a member of the advisory board of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, which works to increase diversity in the entertainment industries, and co-founder of Noise for Now, which connects artists with organisations dedicated to advancing women’s rights.

 


How did you get your start in the industry?
I spent all of my student bar earnings going to DJ clubs and live shows. I loved the communal experience of live music. At one of the many shows, I met an agent, Gerry Gerrard, who explained different business roles in the music world. He said I could actually make a living representing the artists I loved – at the shows I wanted to go to.

So, I moved to America to become his assistant.

Tell us about your current role.
I am a partner and oversee the East Coast Music team at WME. I represent artists including Florence + The Machine, Alicia Keys, LCD Soundsystem, Björk, Grimes, FKA Twigs, Alesso, Justice, St Vincent, Galantis, Massive Attack and Sampha.

Who, or what, have been the biggest influences on your career so far?
The artists I have the honour to work with, and all that they create, are the biggest influences on my career.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Being part of a team that works hard to amplify the various creations, both on the artist side and with my many great colleagues here at WME.

What achievements are you most proud of?
Balancing success at home with success at work, most especially when they meet up! I’m always proud of being part of the process of creating unforgettable experiences, such as Björk’s performances in science museums for Biophilia, or witnessing an artist grow into an awe-inspiring festival headliner.

“We still have a long way to go, but I’m energised and hopeful about our future”

As a female in this industry, I’m especially proud of helping drive solutions for equality across our business. Through my work with organisations such as the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, Noise for Now and She is the Music, I’m fortunate to work alongside incredible artists and executives who care deeply about promoting inclusivity in the music industry.

While we still have a long way to go, I’m energised and hopeful about our future.

How has the business changed since you started out?
The business has changed completely on so many levels, especially the discovery and accessibility of music.

What, if anything, could the music industry do better?
Diversity. As referenced above, we must continue to push business practices that advance equality through more opportunity, education and mentorship for underrepresented groups.

What advice would you give to someone hoping to make it in music?
It’s different for someone who is creating the music vs someone who wants to be part of the business. If you create, you must always stay true to yourself and take a moment to put together the right team who will protect your vision.

If you want to work in the business, then educate yourself on all of the different roles, be open to all experiences, from studio to stage, and build your peer group. It’s hard work, but fun!

 


If you’d like to take part in a future Trailblazers interview, or nominate someone else for inclusion, email IQ’s news editor, Jon Chapple, on jon@iq-mag.net.

Trailblazer: Natalia Nastaskin, UTA

Welcome to the inaugural edition of Trailblazers – a new, regular series of Q&As with the inspirational figures forging their own paths in the global concert industry. From people working in challenging conditions or markets to those simply bringing a fresh perspective to the music business, Trailblazers aims to spotlight unique individuals from all walks of life who are making a mark in one of the world’s most competitive industries.

Kicking off the series is the former CEO of the Agency Group (TAG) USA, and now head of US music operations at United Talent Agency, Natalia Nastaskin.

Born in Soviet Russia, Nastaskin moved to the US with her family aged eight, armed with “nothing but hope and drive”. She started her career in entertainment law, founding an eponymous New York legal practice whose clients included TAG, before making the leap full time to the agency world. She is now recognised as a power player in the business, having placed multiple times on Billboard’s Women in Music and Power 100 and Variety’s Women’s Impact lists.

At UTA, Nastaskin is responsible for strategic development and expansion of the agency’s music group – home to many of the world’s touring superstars. As she said in a recent Syracuse University talk: “Music to me was how I grew up, and how I became a person, and how I learned how to exist in this country.”

 


How did you get your start in the industry?
I’ve always loved music but it wasn’t until I was in law school that I discovered the professional side of the music business. One of my friends in school was working at the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) – a lobbying group for the recording industry based in Washington DC – and he helped me land an interview in the anti-piracy unit. From the very beginning of that job, I knew this industry was where I would blaze my trail.

Tell us about your current role.
As head of operations of UTA Music, I oversee the day-to-day management of the global music group. I work closely with a number of divisions, including corporate operations, human resources, IT, corporate communications and our global head of music, to ensure the music department is operating at the highest level in order to provide best-in-class service to our clients and colleagues.

Who, or what, have been the biggest influences on your career so far?
My greatest influences are the bold, unapologetic and resilient female artists who have paved the way for so many who came after them: Debbie Harry, Joan Jett and Madonna, to name a few.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
It’s important to me to be a mentor to the young people making their respective ways in our business. I take time each day to talk to our agents, assistants and support staff to find out what they’re working on, where I can be of service to them and how we can achieve more by working together.  The greatest reward for me is to see my colleagues continually succeed.

“I’m proud to have overcome language barriers, culture shock and gender bias to get to the executive level of my industry”

What achievements are you most proud of?
I was born in the Soviet Union and my family came to the US with nothing but hope and drive. On a macro level, I’m proud to have overcome language barriers, culture shock and gender bias to get to the executive level of my industry and do what I love to do every day.

I am also proud of the full suite of services that we are able to offer our clients at UTA. From developing artists to our well-established superstar clients, cross-agency representation is our greatest strength and that could not be achieved without the creative, dynamic and tenacious team we have built within UTA Music.

How has the business changed since you started out?
New technologies have democratised access to music and its distribution. The spread of mobile technology worldwide has opened new markets for streaming and touring, while artists’ ability to directly communicate with their fans has made the live experience more robust. Knowing where their audience is through the use of streaming data enhances tour routings and captures new markets.

[For example], artists may want to drop special merch or set up a limited-time pop-up shop, and social media enables them to market those offerings directly to their audience. Likewise, using technology to geotarget affinity fans for tour marketing purposes has been a game-changer. I think we’re just scratching the surface.

What advice would you give to someone hoping to make it in music?
I’ve picked up life lessons from different executives throughout my career, which I pass on to others. One that stands out is, “If you don’t step into traffic, nothing will ever happen”, which means in order to drive your business, you have to take risks and step outside of your comfort zone.

 


If you’d like to take part in a future Trailblazers interview, or nominate someone else for inclusion, email IQ’s news editor, Jon Chapple, on jon@iq-mag.net.