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The experiences of mothers in the industry are hard to stomach

I am a published songwriter, and I am a mother, and like many of my fellow music peers, I was deeply unsettled in discovering that the Women & Equalities Committee Misogyny in Music report recommendations were rejected by the UK government.

Aside from my utter disbelief that recommendations were rejected around the most threatening issues, including sexual harassment, bullying, and sexualisation, I was also completely deflated by the dismissal of the maternity and paternity support and childcare recommendations.

As a co-founder of Mamas In Music, set up in 2019, I am advocating for all mothers across the global music industry. Whether you’re an artist, writer, tour manager, A&R, or a music lawyer, freelance or employed, if you are in music and you identify with being in a mother role, then Mamas In Music is here for you. We provide essential resources that empower mothers to advance their musical careers by creating a shared network, generating opportunities, and offering financial and emotional support initiatives.

Other women told me that to have a baby someday would be “career suicide”

A few weeks after I gave birth to my daughter, it dawned on me just how blurred the lines were for me as a newly signed songwriter alongside the enormity of juggling a brand-new baby. I had just signed my first publishing deal that I’d worked so hard for and remember being terrified at the prospect of delivering the news to the team that I was having a baby. How long would I not be available for? Could I try and take my baby to a writing session? I hadn’t really thought these things through.

The reaction from my publisher was one of general well wishes, and I considered myself incredibly “lucky.” But in truth I was applauding a response that somewhere along the road I had learnt was not the norm. My default was to expect rejection. I was giving gratitude and credit for having not been penalised!

As a young woman in the industry, it was in fact other women who told me that to have a baby someday would be “career suicide” and that I simply had to choose to either be a mother or make a success of a music career. I left having a baby until the very last minute in fear of those learnt beliefs being the truth.

So, what does it really look like to try and maintain a career in music and be a mother, for those self-employed emerging signed or unsigned artists? Those who are trying to fund a tour either with children on board (or leaving them behind)? Those trying to get to a studio, leave a studio to get back to relieve child carers? Pay for childcare? Breastfeed or pump at a festival, a gig, or in a music label’s office?

The endless encounters that mothers in the community have shared with me are still hard to stomach

The endless encounters that mothers in the community have shared with me are still hard to stomach. Those that have been dropped by a label or management after news of a pregnancy, being told they wouldn’t fit the bill, “look quite right on stage” or “be able to do the job with a baby bump in tow.”

I know several high-profile mothers in the industry who have felt the need to hide their pregnancy and birth to protect themselves and their contractual agreements. No paternity or shared parental leave for self-employed fathers or same-sex partnerships is having major consequences, and I know far too many mothers who simply have not been able to justify “staying in music.”

Acting as an international hub for mothers, Mamas In Music’s work includes the UK’s first songwriting camp in London for mothers, Mother’s Write (in partnership with Girl Grind UK and We Are The Unheard) a three-day camp bringing writers and producer mothers together. Other key initiatives include monthly virtual and in-person meet-ups with industry speakers and educators, a chance to connect as a community and share challenges, network, and support. Production albums in partnership with BMG and MPath and a recent spotlight series with APM shining a light on key mother artists.

I love that Mamas In Music advocates for the grassroots of this industry. We are grateful to the visible celebrity mothers who are celebratory of their motherhood status, but we also want to make sure we are working hard for the undiscovered talent that may otherwise go under the radar because of out-dated discriminatory systems. We want them to flourish in an equitable industry, for them and their future offspring.

 


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Sacha Lord exits Parklife, The Warehouse Project

Sacha Lord has left his leading roles at Parklife and The Warehouse Project, two of the biggest events in Manchester, UK.

He today (18 July) confirmed the transfer of his shares to LN Gaiety – which has owned a controlling stake in The Warehouse Project and Parklife since 2016 – to “focus on other endeavours”.

This includes his roles as Greater Manchester’s night-time economy adviser, appointed to him by Mayor Andy Burnham in 2018, and chair of the Night Time Industries Association.

Lord says that his departure from Parklife and The Warehouse Project was agreed in 2021 and that “it was not an easy decision for me to make”.

“I will miss the team, the events, the customers, I’ll even miss the stress and the late nights, but I’ve known for a long time that Parklife 2024 was going to be the last for me,” he said.

“This decision will free up my time to focus on my roles in the nighttime economy and hospitality sectors”

“There could not have been a more perfect moment for me to step away than now – exactly 30 years since my first event at The Hacienda – and I’m so excited for what’s to come. This decision will free up my time to focus on my roles in the nighttime economy and hospitality sectors, and of course, most importantly, the birth of my first child with my beautiful wife Demi later this year.”

Lord is also Founder of the Sacha Lord Foundation, a charitable organisation which seeks to encourage and support young people entering the hospitality sector, and Chair of Wythenshawe FC.

Today’s news comes following an announcement that Arts Council England and Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) are probing a £400,000 Culture Recovery Fund (CRF) grant awarded to a business controlled by Lord called Primary Event Solutions (PES).

Lord said he would “fully cooperate” with the process and was confident that “the outcomes will confirm that Primary Events Solutions Limited has not misled the Arts Council or the public, nor has it misused any public money”. Both authorities are yet to publish any findings from the investigation.

Parklife, Europe’s largest metropolitan festival, was launched in 2010 and has welcomed the likes of Liam Gallagher, the 1975 and 50 Cent. The annual festival, held in Heaton Park, welcomes 80,000 gig-goers each day of the festival and is said to employ over 2,500 people.

The Warehouse Project was co-founded by Lord, Sam Kandel and Rich McGinnis in 2006. It plays host to internationally acclaimed artists including Disclosure, Megan Thee Stallion, Nile Rodgers & Chic, The Prodigy, New Order, The Chemical Brothers and Calvin Harris.

Located at the 10,000-capacity Depot Mayfield in Manchester, it welcomed over 275,000 customers during its 2023 season. Kandel and McGinnis will be staying on at the company.

 


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UK festival Wild Fields salvaged

Wild Fields, a new festival planned by ATC Group and the team behind Norwich-based multi-venue festival Wild Paths, has been salvaged.

Originally, the festival was slated to be a three-day, 10,000-capacity camping event at Raynham Estate in North Norfolk.

However, organisers announced in February that due to “escalating production costs and poor initial sales” they were battling to reconfigure the festival.

Now, Wild Fields has been revived as a two-day city gathering, set to take place at Earlham Park in North Norfolk.

Ezra Collective, SBTRKT, Kae Tempest, Sampa The Great, Squid, Jalen Ngonda, Nubya Garcia, Jeshi, Priya Ragu and Yazmin Lacey are among the acts set to perform at the festival, which is a signatory of Keychange’s 50/50 pledge.

“It was a really tough couple of weeks trying to navigate the cancellation and then pivoting and reformatting the event at a new location”

“It was a really tough couple of weeks trying to navigate the cancellation and then pivoting and reformatting the event at a new location. We had to lean heavily on the support from local institutions, partners and our community,” says director Ben Street,

“Wild Fields now feels like a bit of a unicorn as I think we’re one of the only new festivals of our size (5,000 +) happening this year. I’m just glad we could find a way to deliver the festival and bring the event back to Norwich. We’ve been running festivals and events here for the past six years and with the site being so close to the city-centre we’ve seen a much better response, but it’s still been a real challenge to engage audiences.”

Street will work on the festival with ATC Group chief executive Adam Driscoll, who is also the former co-CEO of MAMA Group and director of Vision Nine.

In addition to live music, Wild Paths will feature climate debates and workshops, industry panels, live street art and regional food offerings.

The “socially conscious” festival will also focus on green initiatives and sustainability, working with travel partners, waste management teams, merch providers and power suppliers.

 


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O2 Silver Clef Awards raises £760k for charity

The 2024 edition of the O2 Silver Clef Awards has so far raised £760,000 and counting for Nordoff and Robbins, the UK’s largest music therapy charity.

The 48th instalment of the event took place last Friday (5 July) at the Grosvenor House Hotel on London’s Park Lane, presented by Scottish radio DJ and television presenter Edith Bowman.

The likes of Blur, AC/DC, Chaka Khan, Mark Knopfler, Jessie Ware, Loyle Carner, Texas, The 1975, Ezra Collective, Jacob Collier, Cat Burns and Young Fathers were among the award winners.

Blur were honoured with the flagship O2 Silver Clef Award, AC/DC won the Legend Award, Chaka Khan walked away with the Global Impact Award and Mark Knopfler received the Music Icon Award.

Jessie Ware won Best Female, Loyle Carner took home the Best Male Award, The 1975 were crowned Best Group and Texas received the Outstanding Achievement Award.

In addition, Jacob Collier picked up the Innovation in Music Award, Cat Burns received the Best New Music Award, Ezra Collective won the Contemporary Music Award and Young Fathers received Best Live Act.

Guest award presenters included Mica Paris, Clara Amfo, Jamie Cullum, Chris Evans, Annie Mac, Athian Akec and SJM Concerts’ Simon Moran.

Money raised from the O2 Silver Clef Awards will support Nordoff and Robbins’ trained music therapists in reaching those living with autism, dementia, learning difficulties, brain injuries, life-limiting illnesses, mental health challenges, grief and trauma; helping them to connect and communicate through music.

“Music really does heal”

Earlier this year, CAA’s Emma Banks was appointed chair of Nordoff and Robbins, with AEG Presents’ Lucy Noble supporting her as vice chair.

Banks told IQ: “It felt great on Friday to be in the room for the 02 Silver Clef Awards – we had changed the format a little and I think it landed well. Importantly we ended the day at about £760,000 and should be able to improve a bit by the time we close the books. I loved the passion that our award honourees brought to the event – such great, heartfelt speeches from people who totally understand our important mission and are so willing to help us.”

Gareth Griffiths, director, O2, adds: “We are incredibly proud of the money raised at this year’s O2 Silver Clef Awards. What a day celebrating the outstanding achievements of all the talented artists recognised this year. A special congratulations to blur for receiving the well-deserved O2 Silver Clef Award. Their contributions to the music industry have been nothing short of extraordinary, and we are honoured to be part of this momentous occasion. At O2, we are committed to supporting the music industry and look forward to continuing our partnership with Nordoff and Robbins to support more people through their incredible music therapy efforts across the nation.”

Alex James, Blur, says: “Making music with my brothers in blur has been one of the great gifts of my life. We are absolutely chuffed to receive the O2 Silver Clef Award and help raise awareness for Nordoff and Robbins, a brilliant organisation.”

Brian Johnson, AC/DC, adds: “We’re over the moon to receive the Amazon Music Legend Award. As a band, we’ve been dishing out our own brand of music therapy for the past five decades, so to hear all about how Nordoff and Robbins helps the young and the old with the power of music is something that we understand and salute. Thank you for this honour.”

Chaka Khan, comments: “Music has always been my solace, my strength, my voice, a gift. I’m grateful for this beautiful honour to be part of the Nordoff and Robbins creative community, where the power of music is used to transform, inspire, and bring love to the world. Music really does heal.”

Since 1976, the Silver Clef Awards have raised over £13.5 million for Nordoff and Robbins’ music therapy services and honoured some of the world’s biggest artists.

Stormzy, David Bowie, Ed Sheeran, Roger Waters, Paul McCartney, George Michael, Annie Lennox, Dame Shirley Bassey, Kylie Minogue, The Rolling Stones, Oasis and Coldplay are among previous award winners.

Next year’s edition of the O2 Silver Clef Awards will take place on a Wednesday (2 July 2025) for the first time.

 


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AEG Europe given green light for Edinburgh Park arena

AEG Europe has secured planning permission for a new 8,500-capacity arena in Edinburgh Park, Scotland.

The City of Edinburgh Council announced the decision at midday today after the application was put forward with a recommendation for approval.

Construction on the privately funded arena is proposed to begin in 2025 and will continue over the course of two years, with the aim of delivering the first event in 2027.

AEG Europe, which owns London’s The O2 Arena and Berlin’s Uber Arena, are working with award-winning developers and site owners Parabola on the new arena, which will span 18,500 square metres and attract an estimated 700,000 visitors per year.

“We are delighted to have been granted planning consent for a cutting-edge new venue for Edinburgh”

AEG Europe Guest Experience and Sustainability experts have also been involved in the planning process in a bid to make Edinburgh Park the UK’s most sustainable arena.

“We are delighted to have been granted planning consent for a cutting-edge new venue for Edinburgh,” says Alex Hill, president and CEO of AEG Europe. “Having worked closely with City of Edinburgh Council, we strongly believe the arena will deliver huge benefits to the city throughout every stage of the building’s life cycle – from development to completion, for years to come when we’re bringing the world’s best artists to the Scottish stage.”

Alistair Wood, executive vice president, real estate and development, AEG Europe, adds: “We thank the City of Edinburgh Council for their forward-thinking and proactive approach and for their shared vision of a new best-in-class arena for Edinburgh. We now turn our attention to expanding on these plans through the appointment of an external contractor, as well as seeking naming rights partners and finalising funding partners.”

Edinburgh’s current largest indoor venue is the 3,000-cap O2 Academy Edinburgh.

 


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LGBTIQ+ List 2024: Ary Maudit, Strongroom

The LGBTIQ+ List 2024 – IQ Magazine’s fourth annual celebration of queer professionals who make an immense impact in the international live music business – has been revealed.

The ever-popular list is the centrepiece of IQ’s fourth Pride edition, sponsored by Ticketmaster, which is now available to read online and in print for subscribers.

To get to know this year’s queer pioneers a little better, we interviewed each of them on the development of the industry, the challenges that are keeping them up at night and more.

Throughout the next month, IQ will publish a new interview each day, starting with Ary Maudit (they/them), a multi-instrumentalist and sound engineer at Strongroom Studio/Saffron Records in the UK.


Ary Maudit is a non-binary multi-instrumentalist and sound engineer who crafted their ears both in live and studio environments. Their mission is to empower trans, non-binary, women and gender-diverse artists inspired by the motivation of making the music industry a more inclusive place.

Starting in venues, and warehouses across east and south London – including the O2 Kentish Town Forum, E1 and Printworks – Ary landed at Strongroom Studio in 2021, accumulating credits on records from Sault, Yungblud, Tom Chaplin, Declan McKenna, Erland Cooper and more. At the same time, they toured as a FOH for Picture Parlour, Art School Girlfriend, and PECQ. When not in the studio, Ary is a sound mentor for Saffron and an active motorcycle rider, supporting Sapphic Ryders LMCC.

Tell us about the professional feat you’re most proud of in 2024 so far.
The year has just started and I feel like my best feat is yet to come. I definitely enjoyed kicking off the year on the road with Picture Parlour across UK and Europe. Great fun, I love them and I know they will go far. I am so grateful I get to be involved in the process.

What’s your most pressing challenge in the industry at the moment?
The music industry has many pressing challenges right now, mostly linked to the lack of funds and the overflowing of privilege. It is hard to identify the most pressing one as it might vary from profession to profession. Definitely, artists would benefit from less pressure in content creation and more value in their music, and music industry partitioners in more visibility and better pay.

“I found so many people who empowered me towards my career but struggled with affirming my professionality beyond my identity”

What would you like people to know about your experience as a trans person in the sound community (both live and recorded)?
That there are good people out there and good spaces. My personal experience so far has been a mixture of ups and downs. I found so many people who empowered me towards my career but also struggled with affirming my professionality beyond my identity. Especially touring, which involves very short turnaround times, rarely offers the opportunity of having ‘the conversation’ and it ends up being a parade of misgendering. To all the people approaching the industry at this very moment, I’d like to say to never stop speaking up for themselves and believing in their skills, even if sometimes they are not the person that everyone is expecting to be in charge behind the desk.

Why do you offer mentorship and reduced-priced/free sessions to LGBTQI+, BIPOC and minority people?
To make education more accessible to an unprivileged demographic, and re-qualify tech and educational spaces. I believe ‘what you can see, you can be’. At the beginning of my career, I struggled to find a mentor from my same background/gender identity/sexuality. Having someone like you who can not only teach technical concepts but help you navigate the industry understanding the nuances related to your identity, makes a big difference. So I’m not just interested in fostering diversity in sound, I would also like to offer others what I lacked.

“Often companies are more interested in ticking the inclusivity box rather than actively listening and making structural changes”

How do you see the live music business developing in the next few years?
On a general level, I feel it’s a tough time due to Brexit and the overall recession the UK is going through. Touring is getting harder and harder due to prices and artists are forced to make cuts in every corner to only break even most of the time. I can definitely see a total reshaping of old ways of doing things to give space to a more free and independent, DIY market. Hopefully, that will mean more opportunities to see queer artists at the top, which consequently will mean more inclusive crews.

Name one thing the industry could do to be a more equitable place.
Take effective action. Many people are advocating for change and inclusion in different areas of the music industry, from live to studio. Although, often companies are more interested in ticking the inclusivity box rather than actively listening and making structural changes. The industry, all together, should actively work to make structural changes – from hiring processes to inclusion policies. It is a painful one as it requires dismantling old dynamics that have been in place for decades. Re-educating people who have been working in the industry for many years alongside pushing minorities to the higher grounds would ease this process. It is becoming more common nowadays to see women/non binary/trans and gender-diverse industry professionals at entry-level positions but there is some work to do in the higher grounds.

“I rarely go out nowadays as I am very busy with work, but Unfold is the only party I haven’t given up yet”

Shout out to your biggest ally in the live music industry.
Jake Murray, director of Strongroom Studios. He did and does to this day whatever is in his power to make inclusivity and equality part of his ethos. It is vital to have people like him in the industry who give equal opportunities to all.

What’s your favourite queer space?
Fold, without a shadow of a doubt. For those who don’t know, it is a community-driven nightclub and art space in Canning Town, London. It’s predominantly attended by queer people and they bring the best current electronic music/techno DJs and performers. They run an event called Unfold every first and third Sunday of every month which is uber trans/queer. I rarely go out nowadays as I am very busy with work, but Unfold is the only party I haven’t given up yet.

 


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Bruce Springsteen postpones European shows

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band have cancelled four dates on their European stadium outing due to “vocal issues”.

The Boss was scheduled to perform at Orange Vélodrome in Marseille on Saturday (25 May), but the gig was postponed at the last minute because of the vocal issues, citing “doctor’s direction”.

“Further examination and consulting has led doctors to determine that Bruce should not perform for the next ten days,” Springsteen’s official social media accounts said in a statement Sunday.

“Bruce is recuperating comfortably, and he and the E Street Band look forward to resuming their European stadium tour”

In addition to the Marseille gig, the impacted concerts include a 28 May show in Prague and a pair of dates, 1 and 3 June, at Milan’s San Siro Stadium.

Following the Milan concerts, Springsteen and the E Street Band had a prescheduled week-long break between shows, which will hopefully provide enough time for the singer to recuperate until the tour resumes on 12 June in Madrid.

“New dates for these shows will be announced shortly,” the statement continued. “Those wishing a refund will be able to obtain it at their original point of purchase. Bruce is recuperating comfortably, and he and the E Street Band look forward to resuming their hugely successful European stadium tour on June 12 in Madrid at the magnificent Civitas Metropolitan.”

Springsteen’s 20-plus date European stadium run with The E Street Band kicked off in the UK at Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales on 5 May, and will finish at London’s Wembley Stadium on 25 & 27 July. It will also take in France, Czechia, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway.

 


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Three major festivals hampered by severe weather

Gazebo Festival, Sueños Music Festival and Slam Dunk Festival were impacted by severe weather over the weekend.

Rapper Jack Harlow launched his inaugural Gazebo festival at the weekend (25-26 May), in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.

However, the second day of the event was called off after parts of the city were put on tornado watch until late afternoon on Sunday (26 May).

The National Weather Service also warned of wind that could reach up to 75 mph and scattered hail up to two inches in size.

“Well. We have to cancel day two of Gazebo,” Harlow wrote on social media. “We are currently on a tornado watch. I know things cleared up a little bit, but the bad weather has damaged the site and there’s more storms and dangerous winds on the way. This means everyone on Day 2, including myself, won’t be performing anymore. I’m trying to focus on the positive because all I felt was happiness yesterday. I’m grateful for our flawless first day and for the way this city came together. Thank you so much. I’m sorry.”

SZA, Vince Staples and James Blake were among that artists that performed at Gazebo festival on its opening day.

Harlow was supposed to headline the festival’s second day, which was also due to feature performances from the likes of PinkPantheress, Amaraee and Omar Apollo.

Sunday ticket holders will receive a full refund, while weekend pass ticket holders will be refunded 50%. All refunds will be issued within 30 days, according to a statement from Gazebo festival.

In the neighbouring state of Illinois, Sueños Music Festival was also having problems with inclement weather on its second day.

The Latin music festival was scheduled to take place across two days in Grant Park, Chicago. However, the opening of day two was postponed until 4 pm due to severe weather, prompting organisers to reshuffle the lineup.

“While the event is going ahead, we cannot guarantee access customers the experience that we had hoped”

At 7:45 pm, just before Peso Pluma’s headline set, attendees were asked to evacuate the site due to incoming storms.

The festival’s opening day featured performances by Xavi, Ivan Cornejo, Young Miko, Bizarrap and Rauw Alejandro. This year, Sueños’s third, was sold out for the first time with 65,000 attendees each day.

Also yesterday, UK festival Slam Dunk released an emergency weather update ahead of its Leeds leg, after heavy rainfall at the Temple Newsam site.

The rock, pop-punk and emo festival wrote before 10 am: “Having assessed the ground conditions for Slam Dunk North, we are sorry to inform you that due to the weather, the ground is in bad condition.

“While the event is going ahead, we cannot guarantee access customers the experience that we had hoped. While facilities including platforms and ambulant areas are still available and customers can still attend, we advise that those with mobility issues avoid the site.”

The festival also confirmed that refunds would be available for accessibility customers.

The Leeds leg at Temple Newsam went ahead with feature performances from the likes of You Me At Six, All-American Rejects and I Prevail. The southern leg took place at Hatfield Park the day prior.

The three festivals join a long list of events that have either been cut short or cancelled due to severe weather.

In the US, adverse weather coverage has “increased significantly” in the last five years, according to Jeff Torda from Higginbotham. Backing this point, a recent Billboard article claimed premiums in North America had tripled in recent years.

The latest edition of ILMC also saw industry leaders discussing ways to cope with the impact of weather on festivals and open-air live music events.

 


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More than 40 UK festivals cancelled for 2024

More than 40 UK festivals have been postponed, cancelled or shut down in 2024, according to a new report from the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF).

Bradford’s Challenge Festival is the latest casualty, with the free event axed just days before it was scheduled due to “unrealistic demands” being placed on the organisers.

In the past five years alone, 172 festivals in the UK have disappeared, according to AIF, the UK’s leading not-for-profit festival trade association.

Of those, 96 events were lost due to Covid-19, 36 were lost throughout 2023, and 40 have been lost since the start of the year.

El Dorado, Pennfest, Connect Music Festival110 Above FestivalNASS Festival, Leopollooza, Long Division, BluedotBarn On The Farm and Splendour are among this year’s losses, with the majority of organisers blaming a significant increase in operational costs.

AIF has warned that without intervention, the country will see over 100 festivals disappear in 2024 due to unpredictable rising costs.

“The speed of festival casualties in 2024 shows no sign of slowing”

In response to the crisis, the trade association has launched a campaign called Five Percent For Festivals that aims to inform festivalgoers about the problems that organisers have faced over the last five years, encouraging them to contact their MPs to lobby for a VAT reduction on tickets.

It states that temporary support from the UK Government – lowering VAT from 20 per cent to five per cent on ticket sales for the next three years – is all that’s needed to give festival promoters the space they need to rebuild.

“The speed of festival casualties in 2024 shows no sign of slowing,” says AIF CEO John Rostron said. “We are witnessing the steady erosion of one of the UK’s most successful and culturally significant industries not because of a lack of demand from the public but because of unpredictable, unsustainable supply chain costs and market fluctuations.”

“In asking for a temporary reduction in VAT related to ticket sales, we have provided the government with a considered, targeted and sensible solution, which would save this important sector. We need action now.”

Challenges are being felt by festivals of all sizes across Europe, with FKP Scorpio’s Stephan Thanscheidt recently telling IQ that it “has become very challenging to promote festivals in a way that keeps pushing things forward and is economically viable.”

Read the full 2024 festival preview, which also features Christof Huber (Gadget, Yourope) and Jim King (AEG Presents), here.

 


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Runway Artists: ‘Popular culture isn’t shaped by ageing white men’

Runway Artists founder Matt Hanner has told IQ about the agency’s strategy to invest in the next generation of agents.

Hanner (formerly of ATC Live, Coda) launched the London-based independent booking agency in the spring of 2020, against the backdrop of a global pandemic.

Notably, the agency’s first hires included emerging executives Amg Greig and Dotun Bolaji (now at Primary Talent), with Greig set to move from a freelance role to a full-time position in June.

Indeed, Hanner says recruiting and training young and diverse agents is baked into the firm’s game plan.

“I want to build a talented team that represents the artists we work with and society as a whole,” he tells IQ.

“Younger, digital native agents will definitely have the upper hand when it comes to identifying and nurturing new artists”

“Popular culture is not shaped by aging white men and as something of an underdog in the agency landscape I want to give Runway a fighting chance when we’re up against the competition – if artists can look across the table and see a company that reflects and understands them then hopefully they’ll give us a shot.”

In fact, Hanner believes that having young agents on the team is an advantage when it comes to scouting talent.

“Someone in their early 20s has only ever consumed music in an ecosystem in which DSPs are a major player; the associated shift in consumption habits has massively altered how people approach genre and that feeds into talent development and discovery,” he explains.

“Personally when looking at new artists I feel I can’t stray too far from my ‘lane’ as I don’t know the tastemakers outside certain genres but streaming has moved the goalposts completely and younger, digital native agents will definitely have the upper hand when it comes to identifying and nurturing new artists.”

The younger generation of Runway recently expanded with Louise McGovern (an agent who has previously worked for Midnight Mango and DHP) and intern Emer Marcus, who joined Heather MosselsonSteve Backman, Zac Peters, Craig Wylie, Georgia Chrysanthopoulos and Karen Murray.

“The shift in age and gender balance of the company should bring a new dynamic”

But Runway’s commitment to diversity isn’t just reflected in its team. Having partnered with gender-equality initiative Keychange, the agency has pledged to maintain a minimum of 50% female-led or majority-female artists across the agency’s roster.

“Additionally, we are looking to address the racial imbalance across the artists we represent,” reads a mission statement on the agency’s website.

McGovern – who represents KEG, Alien Chicks, Spyres, Toby Sebastian, Jaws The Shark, Cable Street Collective, Dutch Criminal Record, Jade Helliwell and Kima Otung – says Runway’s DEI strategy is partly what attracted her to the company.

“They invest a lot into grassroots artists and venues and have a people-first approach, and equality, diversity and inclusion are important concepts to me, so I was thrilled to see them sign up to the Keychange pact,” she says. “In terms of their roster, they have a diverse range of artists, and I could see my roster and my future roster fitting in well there.”

Meanwhile, Marcus has been interning at Runway for nine months now and says her experience at the agency has been “crucial” in an industry that can be “daunting for young people to enter”.

“Talent and aptitude for the role are more important than experience, so assuming we’re getting that bit right once the doors are open we want to see people running through them,” says Hanner.

As an independent agency, Hanner believes Runway can give less experienced executives broader exposure to agency work and progress them quicker into an agent role.

“I think, in general, agencies have been hiring as young and cheap as they can for years with very different motivations,” he says. “You could argue it would be more financially prudent and less work to bring in experienced staff and those with a proven roster but one of the advantages to being an independent company is that we can be idealistic and take a gamble because we believe it’s the right thing to do.

“The shift in age and gender balance of the company should bring a new dynamic and I am hoping we empower our newly expanded team to drive Runway forward in an exciting direction,” Hanner says.

 


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