Scottish industry slams gov’s reopening roadmap
The Scottish live industry has dubbed the government’s roadmap out of lockdown ‘meaningless’ and ‘vague’ for the return of live entertainment.
According to the NME, the government has confirmed that from 17 May, socially distanced indoor performances will be allowed to take place with up to 100 attendees while outdoor events and festivals can welcome up to 500 people.
The next phase of reopening will commence in early June when those numbers will hopefully increase to 200 people for indoor venues and 1,000 for outdoor events.
“It’s currently meaningless for the viability of live entertainment in Scotland”
By the end of June, it is hoped that event organisers will be able to host events for up to 400 indoors and 2000 outdoors – although higher capacities will be open to negotiation.
Sturgeon has not yet disclosed a provisional date for the ending of social distancing restrictions – while British prime minister Boris Johnson is poised to lift all restrictions by 21 June.
Commenting on the roadmap, Geoff Ellis, CEO of DF Concerts – Scotland’s biggest concert promoter and owner of King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut (cap. 300) in Glasgow – told IQ: “It’s currently meaningless for the viability of live entertainment in Scotland. A maximum of 100 people indoors and all physically distanced is under 20 people in King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut – to put it into context.
“The Scottish music industry remains closed and in a more precarious position than in England and Wales”
“We need Scottish government to give us a proper roadmap that goes beyond ‘level 0 by end of June’ as that still means physical distancing will be in place. However, based on common sense and logic arising from the progress being made in Scotland with both the suppression of the virus and the roll-out of the vaccine programme, I am very optimistic for shows without restrictions by the late summer – at the very latest in good time for our TRNSMT festival at full capacity.
“Meanwhile though, the Scottish music industry remains closed and in a more precarious position than its counterparts in England and Wales due to a lack of further committed funding from Scottish government.”
Donald MacLeod – MD of Holdfast Entertainment Group, promoter at CPL, and owner of Glasgow-based clubs The Garage and the Cathouse Rock Club – told IQ: “The latest ‘draft’ guidance from the Scottish government on social distancing for the hospitality sector is as clear as mud, and a cut and paste socially distanced shambles.
“The latest ‘draft’ guidance on social distancing for the hospitality sector is as clear as mud”
“It is obvious that whoever drafted them has not one scintilla of business sense or an ounce of care for the sector, whose operators are desperate and struggling to make ends meet in these exacting times. For venue owners, promoters, managers, bands and of course Scotland’s battalions of live music fans, with the Scottish government still not committing or even discussing with the sector indictive re-opening dates, pilot test events, and contemptuously refusing to include them in the strategic opening Tier Levels, I fear the worst. This is not a roadmap to recovery but an industry car crash.
“Now that we have the vaccine, the peddling of fear and caution from the government and their army of health advisors must stop and replaced with a concerted and confident drive back to normality, otherwise Scotland’s hospitality and live music industries will become a cultural wasteland.”
The uncertainty surrounding the potential Covid restrictions that may be in place in summer has already caused a number of major Scottish festivals to cancel, including The Belladrum Tartan Heart (July) and Glasgow’s Summer Nights (July/August).
However, DF Concerts is set to go ahead with TRNSMT between 10–12 September on Glasgow Green with headliners Courteeners, Liam Gallagher and The Chemical Brothers, as well as Edinburgh’s Summer Sessions in early August with headliners DMAs, Tom Jones, Anne-Marie and Travis.
No date for return of live entertainment in Scotland
Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon declined to set a date for the return of non-socially distanced live entertainment in her rival ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown, presented today (16 March).
Unlike south of the border, where British prime minister Boris Johnson (the de facto leader of England, the UK’s biggest nation not having its own devolved administration) has set 21 June as the provisional date for a return to normality, Sturgeon said that while it is possible Scotland could be at ‘level zero’ (little or no restrictions) by the end of June, “it is not possible to provide specific dates or details” that far ahead.
Under the first minister’s timetable, stay-at-home (lockdown) orders will be lifted on 2 April, with other services, including hairdressers and garden centres, able to open from 5 April. Further easing expected on 26 April includes allowing people to socialise outside and hospitality businesses to reopen outdoors for alcohol service, and “potentially” indoors for non-alcoholic drinks and food.
From 17 May, it is hoped “small-scale”, capacity-limited events, both indoor and outdoor, will be able to resume, pending the successful continuation of the UK’s vaccine roll-out.
“I do believe that over the coming weeks as more and more adults are vaccinated it will be possible to set a firmer date”
“It is not possible to provide specific dates or details for coming out of lockdown beyond 17 May – that will depend on what impact there is from the changes already made,” said Sturgeon. “However, my hope and ambition is that from early June, all of Scotland will effectively be in level one of the levels system, allowing for a further easing of restrictions – and possibly moving to level zero in late June.”
Level zero, said Sturgeon (pictured), would include “many of the things that we took for granted before the pandemic: normal family gatherings where we can hug our loved ones, sporting events, gigs and nightclubs. I cannot set a date for that point yet, but I do believe that over the coming weeks as more and more adults are vaccinated it will be possible to set a firmer date by which many of these normal things will be possible, and I am very optimistic that this date will be over the summer.
“Thanks to the sacrifices we all made three months ago, and the success of the vaccination programme, we are now in a much better and brighter position, with well-earned optimism as we look ahead to the summer. We are getting the virus under control, but it is still dangerous, and to reach these dates it’s more important than ever now to stay within the rules.”
At press time, Scottish music festivals such as Eden Festival (10–13 June), Trnsmt (9–11 July), Belladrum (29–31 July) are still planning for a return this summer.
M’era Luna rebooks all 2020 acts for next year
FKP Scorpio has announced that all acts billed to play the 2020 edition of gothic festival M’era Luna will be returning in 2021.
The promoter was forced to call off M’era Luna 2020, along with twin festivals Hurricane and Southside, Highfield, Deichbrand, Elbjazz and Limestone, when the German government imposed a ban on large-scale events until the end of August.
The 25,000-capacity festival will return from 7 to 8 August 2021, headed up by ASP, Gdansk and the Sisters of Mercy.
“We are very happy that we could reward the solidarity and patience of our guests in this manner,” says FKP Scorpio CEO Stephan Thanscheidt, who spoke on the recent IQ Focus Festival Forum panel.
“The rapid reconfirmation of our entire line-up would not have been possible for our visitors without a great effort of our team and our artists. Thanks for all parties, but especially to our guests who have kept us in this difficult time with a lot of support, the loyalty.”
“We are very happy that we could reward the solidarity and patience of our guests in this manner”
Scorpio has also reconfirmed a number of headliners for its Hurricane and Southside festivals, including Seeed, Martin Garrix, the Killers, Kings of Leon and Rise Against.
Thanscheidt references FKP’s ‘three-ticket solution’ programme, which offers all ticket holders three options: transfer tickets to 2021, opt for a credit voucher in accordance with government regulations, or ask for a cash refund.
Several festivals have announced a high rebooking count for 2021. In the UK, metal festival Bloodstock has confirmed 95% of its 2020 acts for next year, says festival director Rachael Greenfield.
Scotland’s Trnsmt has also retained a high proportion of acts for next year, including headliners Courteeners, Liam Gallagher and Lewis Capaldi, whereas From the Fields’ Bluedot Festival announced the rebooking of headliners Bjork, Groove Armada and Metronomy concurrently with the cancellation of its 2020 edition.
Primavera Sound today (27 May) announced its line-up for 2021, reconfirming acts including Iggy Pop, the Strokes, Tyler the Creator and the National.
A recent Festicket survey has indicated that appetite for next year’s festival season is high, with over 75% of 110,000 respondents saying they would book tickets for 2021 events within the next eight weeks.
Scotland’s Trnsmt 2020 cancelled
Scotland’s biggest music festival, Glasgow’s Trnsmt, has called off its 2020 edition following comments made yesterday (23 April) by the country’s first minister which suggested public gatherings were likely to be banned for the foreseeable future.
Large events such as sporting matches, concerts and festivals may not be permitted for “some months to come”, said Nicola Sturgeon, who explained: “I cannot conceive that in the near future we will be going back to having large numbers of people gathering together at large events, given the need to keep some kind of social distancing.”
Trnsmt, launched in 2017 as an unofficial replacement for DF Concerts’ T in the Park, was this year scheduled for 10–12 July, with headlines Courteeners, Liam Gallagher and Lewis Capaldi.
In a statement, DF says: “We are absolutely gutted to announce that, due to the comments made by the first minister of Scotland during the daily briefing on 23 April, Trnsmt will be unable to go ahead as planned in July 2020. We did not want to take this step but it is unavoidable.
“We are working hard to try to get the 2021 line-up as close to this year’s as we can”
“The health and safety of our fans, artists, staff and community will always be our top priority. We are now working hard with all the artist teams to try to get the 2021 line-up as close to this year’s as we can, and will be able to update on this fully over the next two weeks. We’d like to thank the artist teams for their hard work in helping us to try and achieve this.”
Fans are urged to hold onto their tickets for next year’s event (9–11 July 2021), though refunds are also available.
At press time, DF Concerts’ other major summer event, 8–20 August’s Summer Sessions in Edinburgh, is still on – as is as is Kilimanjaro Live’s Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival (30 July–1 August), though organisers concede cancellation is “looking more likely as time progresses”.
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the world’s largest arts festival, was called off on 1 April.
Wee will rock you: Scotland market report
Let’s talk about Scottish independence. We’re referring, obviously, to Gerry Cinnamon, the staunchly indie, Glaswegian guitar-basher who has packed a career’s worth of touring milestones into the past two or three years.
There was the pair of sold-out shows at Glasgow’s Barrowland Ballroom in 2017 – the first unsigned artist to manage such a feat. Then Cinnamon really went up in the world, with two Christmas 2019 gigs at Glasgow’s SSE Hydro and one at Aberdeen’s 15,000-capacity P&J Arena – the biggest indoor show ever in Scotland. And, surely capping it all off, next summer’s show at Hampden Park: 50,000 tickets… all long gone.
“He grew up literally a stone’s throw away from Hampden, in Castlemilk,” says Geoff Ellis, CEO of DF Concerts. “We sold it out in a day.”
The fact that Cinnamon has also quickly converted local-hero status into arena-filling UK and Ireland success underscores Scotland’s status as a rigorous proving ground for its own artists, of whom he and Lewis Capaldi, are just the latest to break in a big way.
“If you go down well here, you are not going to be too shabby when you go out in the rest of the world,” theorises Hold Fast Entertainment’s Donald MacLeod, who operates Glasgow venues the Cathouse and the Garage.
Scotland in 2020 isn’t necessarily an easy place to get ahead, but it is bursting with local talent, busy promoters and full venues. The nation’s live industry added £431 million to the broader economy last year and sustained 4,300 full-time jobs, as well as drawing 1.1m music tourists – a jump of 38% from 2017 [source: UK Music].
Scotland in 2020 isn’t necessarily an easy place to get ahead, but it is bursting with local talent, busy promoters and full venues
There are all sorts of storylines in the wider drama of Scotland’s live music business. Edinburgh is on the up, with the tantalising prospect of an arena on the horizon at last. Glasgow, traditionally a supercharged music city with a perpetual tendency to steal the thunder of the more genteel capital, a 45-minute journey away, still does the business, but it isn’t having its best moment after losing the pivotal O2 ABC to a devastating fire last year.
Meanwhile, the festival scene evolves – out with T in the Park, in with TRNSMT and others. The Highlands, islands and notable towns and cities work hard to make the case that there is life outside the Central Belt. And Scotland’s thriving trad scene makes the case that there is more to life than pop.
But still the talent keeps coming. “We are not short of talent and bands coming up. We punch well above our weight,” says MacLeod.
Biffy Clyro, Franz Ferdinand, Calvin Harris, Young Fathers, Chvrches, Paolo Nutini, Amy Macdonald and Tom Walker have all attested to that in recent years, and Scottish venue calendars are reliably stuffed with local favourites: Capaldi, Simple Minds, Texas and Deacon Blue at the SSE Hydro this year; Jesus & Mary Chain and The Twilight Sad at Barrowlands; Edwyn Collins and Susan Boyle at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall.
And new artists, too: “Walt Disco, Slow Readers Club, Tamzene, The Snuts, The Dunts – are all selling out venues above 1,000-cap,” says Ellis. “We have got a really good, healthy scene at club level and that gets people engaged a bit more in terms of live music.”
“We have got a really good, healthy scene at club level and that gets people engaged a bit more in terms of live music”
You might imagine Scottish promoters were a tough, rivalrous bunch, but a photo tweeted by Donald MacLeod in December was a picture of harmony: the key figures from DF Concerts, Regular Music, PCL Presents and Triple G, smiling on the fairway at Loch Lomond Golf Club at an away-day put on by SSE Hydro.
“Aye, that was a good laugh,” says MacLeod, who in addition to his Glasgow clubs is a director of promoter Triple G, chair of Nordoff-Robbins Scotland and a columnist for The Sunday Post. “It’s a lot of promoters for the size of the market. But we all get on well. We are not bitter rivals, we are frenemies. We will all, at times, work with each other.”
Glasgow-based DF, part of LN-Gaiety Investments since 2008, is Scotland’s largest promoter, proprietor of the three-year-old TRNSMT at Glasgow Green, and the Summer Sessions series in Edinburgh and Glasgow each August, as well as shows from club- to stadium-level, and the celebrated King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut on St Vincent Street in Glasgow.
“2019 was a great year for us as a business,” says Ellis. “I think it was great for the market generally in Scotland. But it’s not easy – you have to get the pricing right, and you have to really work it. Scotland is only five million people. If you are doing a show at the Hydro, you are selling to all of Scotland.”
There are numerous independents, including PCL, Triple G, Synergy, 432 Presents, EDM specialists Fly Events and Electronic Edinburgh, and Highlands and islands specialist Beyond Presents.
“Scotland is only five million people. If you are doing a show at the Hydro, you are selling to all of Scotland”
But the largest is Edinburgh’s Regular Music, which continues to do large-scale business. Its properties including the annual concerts at Edinburgh Castle’s Esplanade and Summer Nights at Kelvingrove Bandstand in Glasgow. Eleven of the latter’s twelve 8,500-cap nights sold out in 2019, with stars including Teenage Fanclub and Hue & Cry, plus Suede, Patti Smith, Burt Bacharach and The National.
“We only promote in Scotland, and that’s our identity,” says Regular’s John Stout. “We are always conscious that Live Nation and AEG can offer Europe-wide and kind of exclude us. But we have got good relationships with a lot of bands that come back to us year after year. Stereophonics come back to us every time; we are working with Bon Iver and Lana Del Rey, so it’s not all going to the big guys.”
Another Regular regular are local boys The Proclaimers, who are in a career purple patch. “In Scotland alone, between September 2018 and September 2019, we did just over 70,000 tickets,” says Stout. “That includes two sold-out Edinburgh Castle shows, a sold-out Hydro, and a theatre tour. They will tour any town that has a 500-capacity venue. They have built that audience through hard work and quality.”
Beyond Events, which operates from Ullapool on the north-west coast, 45 miles from Inverness, has operated for 20 years across the great open spaces outside the two largest cities, from festivals down to tiny rooms, and latterly sometimes in Glasgow and Edinburgh, too.
Continue reading this feature in the digital edition of IQ 88, or subscribe to the magazine here
Festival Fever: how summer 2020 is shaping up
The 2020 festival season, and the long nights, sunny days and happy times that come with it, may seem an age away as winter proper sets in for many across Europe. However, as the festival booking window moves ever earlier and line-up announcements come in thick and fast, there’s no better time to take a look at the top talent gracing the stages of major festivals next year.
Positivity characterised the reports from festival chiefs IQ spoke to at the end of the 2019 season, despite some having expressed concerns around the lack of talent on tour.
Full 2019 festival analysis will appear in the the European Festival Report in the end-of-year issue of IQ Magazine, providing an in-depth look at capacity and attendance, ticketing and pricing, VIP sales, challenges and concerns, new technology and much more.
Right now, however, we turn our focus to the 2020 season. Over the coming weeks, IQ will post regular updates of the line-ups that have already been revealed.
So, without further ado, let’s have a look at what our first round of festival bookers have in store for us over the summer to come…
British Summer Time Hyde Park
When: 3 to 12 July
Where: Hyde Park, London, UK
How many: 70,000
AEG’s British Summer Time (BST) Hyde Park has announced Little Mix as the first of six headline acts. The girl group will play on the opening Saturday (4 July) of the 2020 concert series. Taking place across two weekends, BST last year saw performances from Celine Dion, Stevie Wonder, Robbie Williams and Barbra Streisand.
BST, this year sponsored by American Express, was founded in 2013, after AEG signed a contract with the Royal Parks, the body that manages Hyde Park.
Elsewhere in London, AEG’s three-year-old All Points East has made its first line-up reveal in the form of Australian psych-pop titans Tame Impala.
Tickets for Little Mix at BST Hyde Park go on sale on Thursday 28 November at 9 a.m. (GMT). Tickets for Tame Impala at All Points East are available here, for £65.
AEG’s BST Hyde Park has announced Little Mix as the first of six headline acts
When: 12 to 14 June
Where: Donington Park, Leicestershire, England
How many: 110,000
Festival Republic’s Download festival is embarking on its 18th year in 2020, with headline acts Kiss, Iron Maiden and System of a Down playing alongside Deftones, Gojira, Korn, the Offspring and Baby Metal.
Download’s popularity in the UK has led to an extension of the brand, with sister events spawning over the years in Australia, Japan, France and Spain. The rock festival has also been praised for its efforts around accessibility, sustainability and inclusivity.
Tickets for Download 2020 are available here. Weekend camping costs £250, with the non-camping option priced at £216.
Download embarks on its 18th year in 2020, with headline acts Kiss, Iron Maiden and System of a Down
When: 19 to 21 June
Where: Eichenring in Scheeßel/Gewerbepark in Neuhausen ob Eck, Germany
How many: 68,000/60,000
FKP Scorpio’s twin festivals, Hurricane and Southside, contributed to the German promoter’s best-ever weekend last year. The 2020 editions of the festivals see recently announced acts the Killers and Rise Against join a bill also featuring Martin Garrix, the Lumineers, Twenty One Pilots, the 1975, Kings of Leon, Seeed and Bring Me the Horizon.
Stephan Thanscheidt, CEO and head of festival booking at FKP Scorpio, recently lauded the diversity of the Scorpio festival portfolio, which includes “intimate indoor festivals” as well as multi-day open air affairs like Hurricane and Southside.
Tickets for Hurricane/Southside 2020 are available here, priced at €189 (£161) for three days. The price will go up to €199 (£170) at 12 p.m. (CET) on 2 December, when a limited number of €99 (£85) day tickets will be released.
The 2020 editions of the festivals see recently announced acts the Killers and Rise Against
When: 8 to 11 July
Where: Espacio Mad Cool, Madrid, Spain
How many: 60,000
Changes are afoot as Live Nation’s Mad Cool festival enters its fifth year, with a 25% reduction in capacity and extra day of programming. Already confirmed acts for the extended 2020 event include Taylor Swift, the Killers, Kings of Leon, Faith No More, Billie Eilish, Twenty One Pilots, Foals and Anderson Paak.
“Our promise to the music world and the audience is this,” state organisers, “that Mad Cool 2020 will be better quality, more exciting, more spectacular, more memorable, safe, comfortable and sustainable than ever before.”
Tickets for Mad Cool 2020 will be available on 1 December at 12 p.m. (CET). A one-day festival ticket costs €65 (£56), with a four-day pass priced at €159 (£136).
Already confirmed acts for the extended 2020 event include Taylor Swift, the Killers, Kings of Leon and Billie Eilish
When: 25 to 27 June
Where: Törnävänsaari, Seinäjoki, Finland
How many: 32,000
Founded in 1979, Fullsteam Agency’s Provinssi festival counts System of a Down, the Chemical Brothers, Hassisen Kone, Korn, Gojira, Deftones, Charli XCX and Hatari among its 2020 acts.
Provinssi recorded its second-highest attendance in history (76,000) at it 40th anniversary event in 2018, contributing to a record-breaking summer for Fullsteam in 2018, which forms part of the FKP Scorpio group.
Earl bird tickets are now available, with one-day passes costing €89 (£76) and a three-day ticket priced at €149 (£127).
Fullsteam Agency’s Provinssi festival counts System of a Down, the Chemical Brothers and Korn among its 2020 acts
When: 27 June to 4 July
Where: Roskilde, Denmark
How many: 85,000
Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, non-profit Roskilde festival has announced a handful of acts so far including Taylor Swift, Thom Yorke Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, Pusha T, Mura Masa and Whitney.
Speaking to IQ following a “fantastic” 2019 edition, Roskilde chief executive Signe Lopdrup stressed the importance of having a future-facing attitude as the anniversary event draws near, stating that, “one of our goals is to show fans something they haven’t seen before.”
Tickets for the full eight-day festival experience plus camping are available here for DDK2250 (£257).
Roskilde festival has announced a handful of acts so far including Taylor Swift, Thom Yorke and Pusha T
When: 10 to 12 July
Where: Glasgow Green, Glasgow, Scotland
How many: 50,000
The fourth edition of DF Concerts’ city-centre festival Trnsmt will see headline performances from Courteeners, Liam Gallagher and Lewis Capaldi.
Ian Brown, Sam Fender, Foals, Keane, Snow Patrol and Rita Ora are also on the bill for the 2020 festival, following a sell-out third year in which the event became “an established part of Glasgow’s cultural calendar”, according to festival director Geoff Ellis.
“The response that we’ve had to Trnsmt since we launched in 2017 is amazing to see,” comments Ellis.
“The fact that it has become such a pillar of the UK festival scene every year is testament to the incredible music fans that we have here in this country.”
Tickets for Trnsmt 2020 go on sale on Friday 30 November at 9 a.m.
TM UK records biggest weekend for digital tickets
The long weekend of 12–14 July was one of the biggest in recent memory for the Ticketmaster UK team, with more digital tickets processed at greenfield sites than at any time since the technology’s introduction.
A third of tickets at Trnsmt in Glasgow (Friday 12–Sunday 14 July) were mobile-only, and 100% of Ticketmaster tickets at Lovebox (12–13 July) and Citadel (14 July), held in Gunnersbury Park, London, were delivered to fans’ mobile phones.
Festivalgoers were reminded in advance to download tickets using the TM mobile app; for those that didn’t, wifi hotspots were set up in the queue so getting into the festival was as quick as possible.
A transfer function, meanwhile, enabled fans to pass tickets to the phones of other people in their party – every person needed their own individual downloaded ticket – meaning Ticketmaster and the festivals knew every person entering the site (rather than just the buyer), reducing ticket fraud while increasing in- and post-event marketing potential.
“Our team scanned more mobile tickets than ever before at events across the UK last weekend, with 100% of tickets at Lovebox and Citadel delivered to fan’s mobiles,” explains Andrew Parsons, managing director of Ticketmaster UK.
“It was a fantastic outcome for us and, most importantly, the fans”
“What we saw was the fast and frictionless entry of fans into the shows they love, along with a significant reduction in ticket fraud. A further benefit of mobile tickets is that we now know the individual attendees who walked through the festival gates, so we’ve increased our marketing potential even further.
“We’re in the business of happy fans, and it’s clear from a very successful weekend that mobile is the way forward.”
Rory Bett, CEO of Lovebox and Citadel promoter MAMA, adds: “This was our first foray into using mobile tickets at Lovebox and Citadel and we’re pleased to say it was huge success. It was one of the most effortless experiences we’ve had getting fans on site, and quick, too.
“Together with the Ticketmaster team it was a fantastic outcome for us and, most importantly, the fans. We’re now looking ahead to the rest of the festival season and beyond.”
Ticketmaster began rolling out SafeTix, its new anti-counterfeiting technology for digital tickets, in North America earlier this year.
Third outing cements Trnsmt as Glasgow staple
The third edition of DF Concerts’ Trnsmt took place at Glasgow Green over the weekend, with headliners Stormzy, Catfish and the Bottlemen and George Ezra playing to sold-out crowds.
Around 150,000 festivalgoers descended on the event from 12 to 14 July to see acts including Lewis Capaldi, Bastille, the Snuts, Gerry Cinnamon and Years and Years. Organisers confirmed the return of the event immediately after the close of the main stage on Sunday, projecting the 2020 dates onto buildings in the centre of Glasgow.
“After three hugely successful years, Trnsmt is now an established part of Glasgow’s annual cultural calendar,” says festival director and DF Concerts chief executive Geoff Ellis.
“This year’s sold-out festival was the best yet with so many highlights. We can’t wait to return to Glasgow Green next summer for another phenomenal weekend of music.”
“Trnsmt is now an established part of Glasgow’s annual cultural calendar”
The festival was smaller in scale than the 2018 event, which took place over two consecutive weekends. A new addition to the 2019 festival came in the form of the female-only Queen Tut’s stage, which aimed “to close the gender play gap”.
Trnsmt launched in 2017, after DF Concerts put major camping festival T in the Park on hold due to “onerous site restrictions”. Ellis recently confirmed that T in the Park would not be making a return.
“It’s all about Trnsmt for us now,” states Ellis, who last year told IQ that the appetite for large-scale camping festivals in Scotland had declined.
Trnsmt also garnered the support of the local council, with Glasgow city council leader Susan Aitken naming Trnsmt an “integral part” of the city’s offering and commending the “vibrancy and enjoyment” it provides.
Trnsmt 2020 will take place from 10 to 12 July on Glasgow Green.
Are gender-neutral line-ups becoming the “new normal”?
Most festivals are now aiming to book a higher percentage of female acts, but opinion remains divided as to whether 50/50 line-ups are the most effective way of achieving gender parity in the wider music industry, conversations with prominent European bookers reveal.
Several festivals have made headlines for the gender balance – or imbalance – of their line-ups this summer. Primavera Sound this year presented its first gender-equal festival bill, with performances from Miley Cyrus, Solange and Janelle Monáe.
Elsewhere, Glasgow’s Trnsmt festival came in for criticism after revealing a line-up in which only 20% of acts were female. Festival organiser DF Concerts later added the female-only Queen Tut’s Stage, to help “to close the gender play gap” and provide “a platform for female acts at a grassroots level to help them become the bill toppers of the future.”
At Roskilde Festival, “we’re moving in the right direction,” Anders Wahrén, head of programming at Denmark’s largest festival, tells IQ. “Our percentage of female acts has come up from roughly 20% to more than 30% in relatively few years.” Although a relative lack of female headliners can “sometimes mean festivals end up fighting for the same performers”, Wahrén says he is “very happy with the headline side of things” this year.
Roskilde 2019, which takes place from 3 to 6 July, will feature headline performances from Cardi B, Robyn and Janelle Monáe, with Christine and the Queens and Rosalia also appearing high up on the bill.
“Everyone of us in this industry should work together to support female bands and artists, and push them up the ladder to success”
Wahrén says it may be possible to achieve a 50/50 balance “faster than we will”, but stresses it is not about achieving absolute parity as quickly as possible. “We need to look more into why the mix is so bad,” he comments. “This doesn’t change with us booking more female artists – it has to do with music in schools and making the music industry more accessible.”
Mad Cool festival director Javier Arnaiz agrees that more needs to be done to boost female talent at an earlier stage. “It is important to work from the bottom,” says Arnaiz. “Every one of us in this industry, including the festivals, should work together to support these female bands and artists, and push them up the ladder to success, one step at a time, until they finally reach the top.”
Initiatives helping to give female artists an early-career leg-up include Festival Republic’s ReBalance, launched in 2017 as a reaction to what MD Melvin Benn described as a “significant lack of female acts”.
Although featuring exclusively male headliners – Bon Iver, the Cure, the National, the Smashing Pumpkins and Prophets of Rage – Arnaiz says this year’s Mad Cool line-up in general is “quite close to the 50% range”.
The Mad Cool director notes that genre plays a part in a festival’s ability to book many female acts. “It’s not the same to book a Primavera Sound line-up as it is to book one for Download – certain music styles have a low or very low percentage of female artists.”
The organisers of dance music festival Tomorrowland are in agreement, stating that “there are fewer female DJs than male DJs, so maybe that’s reason [why the line-up is male-heavy].”
“We curate our line-up based on the market – we do not choose because of gender”
“We curate our line-up based on the market and we like to have all genres, styles and sub-styles of electronic music represented,” says a Tomorrowland spokesperson. “We do not choose because of gender.”
At this year’s Tomorrowland, Belgian DJ and producer Charlotte de Witte and Russian techno DJ Nina Kraviz will each host their own stage.
Another festival which rejects booking decisions “purely based on gender” is Iceland Airwaves. However, in 2017, the Icelandic showcase event signed the Keychange pledge to achieve a gender-balanced line-up by 2022 – a target it reached last year.
“We’re different in the fact that we’re a showcase festival,” head of marketing and operations Will Larnach-Jones tells IQ, “so we’re never short of having options for artists meeting our criteria.” Recently, says Larnach-Jones, the festival team has gravitated towards lots of “new and exciting” acts that happen to be female-led.
The Airwaves rep admits that it is harder for “mainstream festivals” that “need to have big names on the top of their bills”, but notes that the narrative is changing and that many larger festivals are now lending their support and presenting more balanced line-ups too.
Bluedot festival is one more ‘mainstream’ event supporting the curation of more neutral line-ups. The festival signed up to Keychange last year and this year around 40% of acts are female, says head of programming Emma Zillmann.
“Gender-balanced line-ups really will – and should – become the new normal”
“I think it’s important to state that with most of those [female artists], the woman is the lead of the act,” says Zillmann.
However, the festival’s headliners – New Order, Kraftwerk and Hot Chip – are very male-heavy, with only one female member between the acts.
“It’s really tough – that is really the best line-up that we could have got this year for the budget that was available,” says Zillmann, “and we’re on track to sell out in advance again, even with a 35% increase in capacity.
“So on the one hand I feel incredibly happy, but on the other I’m still not where I want to be with our gender balance.”
Rather than placing the emphasis solely on bookers, Zillmann believes that the whole industry needs to work on “pulling together to build fanbases for talent and making sure that people of all genders are given equal bites at the apple.”
Although booking 50/50 gender-balanced line-ups remains a challenge, and can involve some risk for an event, the Bluedot booker says she believes that equal line-ups “really will – and should – become the new normal.”
Outdoor entertainment tax threatens Glasgow festivals
Geoff Ellis, chief executive of Scottish promoter DF Concerts, has warned Glasgow City Council that he may move flagship Glasgow event Trnsmt festival (50,000-cap.) out of the city, if a new tax on outdoor entertainment comes into force.
Council leaders voted to introduce a new concert ticket tax to raise money for the council’s budget and balance the toll taken by big events on the city’s parks. The levy would result in an additional charge of £2.50 to each ticket.
The council says that the tax would raise £650,000 a year from events such as Trnsmt, which debuted in 2017 and takes place on the weekend formerly occupied by T in the Park, Glasgow Summer Sessions (35,000-cap.) and Kelvingrove Summer Nights (2,500-cap.), with £150,000 dedicated to the upkeep of the city’s green spaces.
Ellis of DF Concerts calls the levy “well-meaning, but ill-conceived and short-sighted”.
Ellis says he now has “some difficult decisions to make” concerning the outdoor events that he runs in the city. The DF Concerts boss states that his events generated an economic impact of more than £10 million last year.
“Quite simply we are now accelerating towards the cliff edge in terms of outdoor events in this city,” Ellis told the Evening Times.
“Quite simply we are now accelerating towards the cliff edge in terms of outdoor events in this city”
“It is of concern to me that promoters and other event organisers will now be encouraged to start events in other cities knowing that our ability to attract strong artistic talent to Glasgow is compromised by hundreds of thousands of pounds per event,” states Ellis. “I now have to decide whether to lead or follow in that respect.”
As long as they put this tax in place, Glasgow’s going to suffer and it will be to the benefit of other cities,” adds Ellis, mentioning that cities such as Stirling and Dundee “are very keen for us to make use of their assets and the rental prices they’re offering us are far less than Glasgow.”
A spokesperson from the Glasgow City Council comments: “The public has told us how much they value our green spaces and how they would like to see a more direct connection between the events we host and income being invested back into our parks.
“The environmental levy is about striking an appropriate balance between supporting our green spaces and using parks to host large events,” adds the spokesperson.
According to the Trnsmt promoter, event organisers already pay “substantial environmental maintenance sums” for the use of greenfield spaces.
Trnsmt returns to Glasgow Green this year from 12 to 14 July. The three-day festival will see performances from Stormzy, Catfish and the Bottlemen, George Ezra, Snow Patrol and Jess Glynne.