Rival Manchester arena operators in licensing row
A dispute has broken out between rival Manchester arena operators Oak View Group (OVG) and ASM Global over a licensing application for the city’s new Co-op Live venue.
The 23,500-cap development, which is a joint venture between OVG and City Football Group, will become the UK’s largest arena when it launches at Etihad Campus, the site of Manchester City FC’s Etihad Stadium in April.
However, the BBC reports that ASM – operator of Manchester’s longstanding AO Arena (cap. 23,000) – has objected to elements of OVG’s licensing bid, citing its desire to “safeguard public safety and the prevention of public nuisance”.
In written submissions to Manchester City Council’s licensing committee, it argues that Co-op Live should close by midnight at the latest, and not be given the ability to open 24/7, 25 times a year, as requested.
Speaking during the hearing at Manchester Town Hall, OVG COO Mark Donnelly alleged that ASM’s objections were “competition based”.
“We are quite disappointed to see [ASM] are trying to put conditions on us when they operate with an unrestricted licence”
“We are quite disappointed to see [ASM] are trying to put conditions on us when they operate with an unrestricted licence,” he said, as per the Manchester Evening News. “As part of ASM’s objections, we feel these are competition based. We feel there’s very little from a licensing point of view. A lot of transport issues were dealt with at planning and that was approved unanimously.”
Previous complaints from the police, trading standards, seven councillors and three residents were withdrawn following revisions by Co-op Live, but objections from 32 residents, two councillors, the council’s public health team, ASM and the Music Venue Trust (MVT) remain.
Donnelly took a swipe at the MVT, alleging the venue charity’s objection was because Co-op Live had “declined” to support its £1 ticket levy initiative to protect grassroots venues.
The MVT’s Niall Forde rejected the claim as “inflammatory” and “entirely false”, saying it objected to the venue’s “ancillary spaces” (which have a combined capacity of 6,000) could take trade off smaller businesses if they were allowed to stay open later.
The hearing continues.
Stand-up comedian Peter Kay was this week revealed as the opening act for Co-op Live. The comic will open the venue with his current record-breaking tour on 23 April. The 30-year-old AO Arena, meanwhile, recently confirmed that its capacity will rise from 21,000 to 23,000 as a result of a £50 million (€59m) reconstruction
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Metropolis Music launches Birmingham summer series
Metropolis Music has announced a new four-day festival series in the heart of Birmingham, UK.
The 4,999-cap Centenary Square Summer Series will debut across the August Bank Holiday weekend, transforming the city’s Centenary Square into a concert venue featuring “world-class” artists.
The outdoor event, which will be powered solely by the national grid and be single use plastic free, is programmed by Live Nation’s Metropolis Music and produced in partnership with Cuffe & Taylor.
“Birmingham and the people of the West Midlands deserve a flagship summer festival series”
“Birmingham and the people of the West Midlands deserve a flagship summer festival series,” says Dan Roberts, series programmer, Metropolis Music. “In that spirit, we are excited to announce the inaugural Centenary Square Summer Series. Thanks to everyone at Birmingham City Council, [music charity] B:Music, friends and residents around the square for supporting this concept. Bookings are complete; we’ve got some amazing artists lined up for you, more news soon.”
Organisers say the series will mirror the format of the Summer Series at London’s Somerset House and The Piece Hall in Halifax, Yorkshire, Artist announcement is scheduled for Friday 1 March.
“The Centenary Square Summer Series will offer Birmingham residents and visitors the opportunity to see high-profile bands and musicians in the heart of the city centre next summer,” adds Cllr Saima Suleman, cabinet member for digital, culture, heritage and tourism. “The city council alongside B:Music and key stakeholders around Centenary Square have supported Metropolis Music to develop this event which we hope will grow to be a key annual event in Birmingham.”
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UK festival Boardmasters granted capacity increase
UK festival Boardmasters is set to increase its capacity to 58,000 this year after its licensing application was partially accepted.
The Cornwall Council approved the Newquay-based festival’s capacity rise by 5,000 to 2026 following an extensive hearing with the licensing committee.
“Thank you to Cornwall Council, the residents who took time to provide their valuable feedback and to all of the relevant parties who have supported us on this journey,” says festival founder Andrew Topham.
But the capacity for the music and surf festival will remain at 58,000 — including staff, performers and non-ticket holders — through 2026 after council members voted to curtail further capacity increases.
The Superstruct-backed event’s initial planning application proposed increases up to 66,000 by 2026, which sparked concerns over traffic congestion and public safety.
“I certainly appreciate the economic impact that this event does bring to the county, but I have to look at safety”
“Is there any point in increasing the numbers until we know that these new plans will work?” asked local councillor Joanna Kenny.
The annual event has perennially expanded, hosting 14,000 attendees in 2014, with Topham telling the committee the team has continuously “invested into the safety and infrastructure of the festival”.
“We want to add more and more layers of security, traffic management and anything that enhances the festival operation but to do that ultimately means more capacity,” Topham says.
In 2022, the five-day event, headlined by George Ezra, Disclosure, and Kings Of Leon, brought in £40 million (€46m) into the local economy.
“I support any business that wants to expand as long as it’s done at the right time and in a safe way. I certainly appreciate the economic impact that this event does bring to the county, but from my perspective, I cannot focus on that — I have to look at safety,” says Ann Marie Jameson, council health and safety officer.
The 2024 edition is set for 7-11 August 2024, with Stormzy, Sam Fender, and Chase & Status topping the bill. Courteeners, Overmono, Royel Otis, Kate Nash, Holly Humberstone, Wunderhorse, Hedex, and Ewan McVicar add to this year’s lineup.
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Leeds’ first direct arena celebrates 10 years
Twenty-four years. TWENTY-FOUR! That’s how long the good people of Leeds lived without a music arena befitting the city’s status as the UK’s fifth largest and a hotspot of innovation, culture, and creativity. Instead, Leeds’ 750,000-odd residents, and artists, had to traipse down the M1 to Sheffield or cross the Pennines to Manchester to get their arena-sized music fix.
“It’s weird to think back to the early Kaiser Chiefs days in Leeds, and how quickly, as a band, we reached a level where there wasn’t anywhere for us to play in our home city,” says the band’s bassist, Simon Rix.
“Leeds was the largest city in the UK without a large-scale music and entertainment venue,” adds Kevan Williams, Leeds Arena’s head of marketing. “The people here are passionate about music and live events, and it was deeply frustrating they had to travel for miles to see their favourite artists.”
But the lean years finally ended on 24 July 2013, when the first direct arena threw open its doors to the public (fittingly, Bruce Springsteen, a working-class hero from another blue-collar town, provided the entertainment). Ten years on, it’s time to celebrate not just this anniversary and the positive impact the arena has had on the city but to look forward to its next decade and how the arena is gearing up to thrive as an example of what a 21st-century music venue should be.
“There was huge public demand from the people of Leeds to build something in their city”
When the Queens Hall closed for good in 1989, it left a sizable hole in Leeds’ cultural scene. With live music being one of the city’s cultural lifebloods, fans were spoilt for choice when it came to smaller venues such as The Cockpit, The Wardrobe, The Warehouse, and, of course, the world-renowned Brudenell Social Club, but the Queens Hall’s demise left the O2 Academy Leeds (formerly known as Town and Country Club) and its 2,300 capacity as one of the very few venues suitable for bigger, more established acts and events.
Naturally, the clamour for a solution to this became too loud to ignore.
“Prior to the first direct arena opening, music fans from the city would have to travel over an hour to other arenas in the North of England,” says Martin McInulty, the arena’s general manager. “So there was huge public demand from the people of Leeds to build something in their city.”
That demand led to consultations with the council and its inclusion in the Vision for Leeds 2004 – 2020; the project eventually became one of the city’s 12 stated priorities. The Leeds Initiatives then formed a Cultural Facilities task group to consider possible options; they investigated the viability of a Leeds Arena, the refurbishment of existing buildings and venues, and other potential projects such as a concert hall.
At the same time, campaigners, including the York-Shire Evening Post, local artists such as the Kaiser Chiefs, and local businesses and residents, lobbied for a new arena to be built in the city. This resulted in a widescale “Leeds needs an arena” campaign that was publicised nationwide and drew widespread support from the cultural community.
In addition to local demand, various studies outlined the economic, cultural, and social impact of such an arena. It was thought that it could bring in up to 900,000 additional visitors annually, adding up to £25m to the local economy.
Job creation was another benefit – one study predicted over 300 direct, full-time equivalent roles would be required, with further jobs created in the construction sector. And, of course, tourists and out-of-towners weren’t the only thing a new arena would attract – other businesses and organisations would be drawn to Leeds, too. “An attractive venue displays an auspicious future with a dynamic business environment,” stated one study.
“Utilising the early concepts of the amphitheatre, this layout optimises sightlines and the guest experience”
Eventually, and unsurprisingly, the task group recommended that the council proceed with the development of a 12,500-seat arena – and concrete plans were set in motion. With funding in place from Leeds City Council, additional public funding from Yorkshire Forward, and some commercially funded revenue, Claypit Lane, in the Northern Quarter of the city centre, was chosen as the site for the new arena, and the council decided that they themselves would proceed as the developer. Designed by the council’s own team with a budget of £60m in mind, the proposed venue was notable in a number of ways.
All Roads Lead to Leeds
For a start, its central location was seen as a positive; it sits just ten minutes’ walk from Leeds train station, three bus stations are all within walking distance, and there are over 7,500 car parking spaces within a 15-minute walk. The building itself was modelled on a giant insect’s eye, with the external design utilising a honeycomb design based on a Voronoi diagram, and the façade was designed to change colour or pattern depending on the show or mood of the arena at the time.
Innovation wasn’t limited to the outside, either. According to McInulty, the arena was also the UK’s first fan-shaped bowl, a design that allowed the venue to achieve the largest capacity possible given the size of the site.
“This alternative layout means that guests are never any further than 68 metres away from the stage – typically, this can be 95 to 110 metres in traditionally designed arenas – with the nearest seats being only a few metres away and allows every seat to directly face the performance area,” he says. “Utilising the early concepts of the amphitheatre, this layout optimises sightlines and the guest experience.”
“The layout, and the building itself, was designed with easy modification and retractable seating to meet the changing requirements of a diverse event schedule”
It also makes for a far more intimate experience than one might expect from a venue with a capacity of 13,871. Divided into a floor-standing area and two raised banks of seats that rise high above the stage, the design also gives spectators the best acoustic experience from any position; interestingly, even the sound mixing desk can be situated in different places. And it’s flexible; the layout, and the building itself, was designed with easy modification and retractable seating to meet the changing requirements of a diverse event schedule, which could be anything from theatre to family events, ice dance shows, and indoor sports.
“Impressive” is an understatement. But such an ambitious build came with a unique set of challenges. For a start, the city centre location and tight space constraints meant construction access was restricted; this was particularly challenging with regard to the transport and delivery of materials, especially the two 500-tonne mobile cranes required.
Furthermore, the combination of such a central location and acoustic performance also presented problems – specifically, how to keep the noise at an acceptable level for those living close by. Planning conditions stipulated that external noise levels had to be 10dB lower than ambient noise levels outside the building, a criterion that didn’t come cheap for a building big enough to swallow a football pitch (a clever solution was eventually found by contractor BAM, together with acoustic consultant Arup).
The sheer size of the roof presented a number of unique issues, too. A single-span design, 70 metres across at the widest point and supported by 14 seven-metre-deep trusses, meant that concreting was a delicate, yet intensive, operation. BAM discovered that the biggest concrete pump in the UK had a reach of just 63 metres, which was not long enough to cover the whole roof (lots of piping was installed just to get the concrete up, a significant undertaking itself). And the wet mix needed for the fibre-reinforced cement couldn’t cope with the roof’s slope; steel mesh was used instead, allowing for the use of a less viscous concrete. All in all, some 2,500 tonnes of it were required to finish the job.
“The arena embodies our Yorkshire roots”
Friends in High Places
In total, though, construction took just a year; ground was broken in May 2012, with the building officially completed the following May and delivered to ASM Global, who have run the venue since day one. The same month, telephone and Internet bank First Direct were announced as the arena’s sponsor, its name officially becoming the first direct arena (stylised as first direct arena) – an association that continues to this day. Such deals are commonplace now but weren’t so much back then. So, what prompted this relationship?
“The arena embodies our Yorkshire roots, and the first direct arena partnership gave us the opportunity to show up in an ‘un-bank’ way, meaning in a place you wouldn’t usually expect to see a bank,” says Sloane Cross, First Direct’s head of marketing. “At the time, our marketing was based around the idea of being an ‘unexpected’ bank, so it was a really good fit. The partnership also allowed us to be part of something that our customers are really passionate about – live music and entertainment – and solidified our heritage as a proud Yorkshire-based bank.”
The bank has its branding all over the arena itself and is visible across various other platforms, including digital and print advertising, the arena’s website, and social media channels; all aspects that Cross feels are important. “As a digital bank, the first direct arena is our only physical asset, and it means we have a visible presence in the centre of Leeds, the home of First Direct. It allows us to increase our brand awareness and for a much wider audience to know who we are.”
Such sentiments are echoed by Lauren Tones, the arena’s head of sponsorship and branding. “It’s appealing for online brands to use a live entertainment venue as their only physical touch-point for customer engagement,” she says. “It becomes a space where they can bring their brand and values to life, as well as reward loyal existing customers and acquire new ones. Plus, it’s beneficial for both the venue and the naming rights partner to have a strong workforce based locally.”
“We can ensure that there’s sufficient opportunity for our existing partners to fully activate and engage with our visitors”
As such, First Direct can offer perks for employees at the venue and use it as an exciting option outside the office to engage with clients and prospects. They also reward their own customers. “We engage them with offers and promotions and regularly offer tickets through prize draws,” adds Cross. “And our customers who attend any event at the arena can claim a VIP lanyard that gets them free chips, water, and ice cream.”
Of course, First Direct aren’t the arena’s only commercial partner, but they do set the standard of what’s required in terms of commitment and values. “Each of our partners enhances the experience of visiting a live entertainment venue,” says Tones. “Whether it’s First Direct offering free chips and ice cream to customers, Sky offering a free premium pre-show experience in their Sky VIP lounge, or [telecoms provider] Three giving fans the chance to gain early access to tickets, they each do something to elevate the fan experience.”
“That’s why our approach is to prioritise quality over quantity when it comes to sponsorship,” she adds. “Every time, we ask: ‘How much value is this partnership going to bring to the customer experience?’ If we avoid a cluttered landscape, we can ensure that there’s sufficient opportunity for our existing partners to fully activate and engage with our visitors without having to compete with many other brands for attention.”
The very first performance was, as mentioned above, Bruce Springsteen, on the 24 July 2013 – a very special show indeed. “That event was amazing!” says Kerryn Duckworth, head of operations. “Meeting those first fans who came to the arena gave me goosebumps and is a memory that will stay with me.” But the official grand opening came later, on 4 September of that year, with an equally special guest – Sir Elton John, playing to a packed house.
Since then, the venue has gone from strength to strength and has more than proven its worth to the city of Leeds on both an economic and cultural level. “Strong demand from the public is evident
in the number of tickets we sell annually – over 600,000,” says McInulty. “However, the majority of our customers live within a 25-mile radius.”
“The nature of the venue’s shape lends itself to being more user friendly – it feels right for both artist and the fan”
The building was named Best New Venue in the World in 2014 by the Stadium Business Awards, and the list of those who’ve graced its stage is impressive: Leonard Cohen, Prince, Kylie Minogue, Fleetwood Mac, Ed Sheeran, Chris Rock, Whoopi Goldberg, and Cirque du Soleil, are just a few of the A-list stars to have performed there. Proving its flexibility and diversity, it’s also played host to Strictly Come Dancing, the Harlem Globetrotters, Disney on Ice, the MOBO Awards, the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award, and even the 2014 Tour de France Grande Départ Team Presentation.
Indeed, sport has become an important part of what makes the venue so cherished. “Some of my favourite memories have been hosting our very own World Champion boxer, Josh Warrington, the Leeds Warrior,” says Kevan Williams. “The venue wasn’t designed specifically for sport, but the atmosphere that’s generated during the walkouts sends shivers down my spine and will live long in my memory.”
But it is, of course, music where the first direct arena has really made its mark. “The room is flexible and allows for multiple configurations, which is really helpful when looking at different types of artists,” says Andy Smith of Futuresound. “I’ve promoted artists like Lewis Capaldi, Dermot Kennedy, Ben Howard, and Bon Iver, where the super theatre-type layout really suits the artist and their audience, but we’ve also promoted acts like Catfish and the Bottlemen, Fall Out Boy, and Sam Fender, who work equally as well. Plus, the sound clarity for Bon Iver was like nothing I’ve ever heard before – even in the hard-to-reach places in that room.”
Steve Homer of AEG Presents agrees. “The nature of the venue’s shape lends itself to being more user friendly – from 3,000 people upwards, it feels right for both artist and the fan,” he says. He also adds that its flexibility means it’s a fantastic place for both bigger and smaller acts, so adding it to itineraries becomes much easier.”
“Once you get past the spine of the country and look to add other arenas to a tour, Leeds is currently the next one on the list, which is a great statement for the venue. But it’s also great to use in its smallest format and convince artists it will still be an intimate experience, which is definitely one of its appeals – it’s easy to grow shows.”
“We’re committed to staying at the forefront of food and beverage in this space”
Having emerged from the pandemic with the core team intact and with a greater appetite than ever before – from both fans and artists – for world-class events and shows, the arena and ASM Global team are firmly fixed on the future. First up this year was the renewal of the naming rights deal.
“At ASM Global, we value our long-term relationships,” says Tones. “Our priority was to explore renewal with First Direct before considering alternative options – we’ve had a strong ten years with First Direct, and their team feels part of our own. So we are keen to explore more ways to make a visit to this arena more memorable with First Direct.”
“Also expanding was the food and beverage offering. They refurbished all their bars to give them a much more contemporary feel and have invested heavily in cutting-edge technology to prepare amazing quality food. “In the last year, we’ve opened The Mixer, two Gallery areas, Sky VIPs lounge rollout, and a completely new food offering in our 11 retail bars,” says Marcus Sheehan, head of food and beverage.
“And we’re committed to staying at the forefront of food and beverage in this space. Coming up soon is a really exciting range of projects, including cocktails and a new range of hot snacks and many other initiatives, such as working with local food businesses in our retail areas to continue to bring authentic food and drink offers that also help support our local grassroots food suppliers and producers.”
It’s a similar story with premium experiences. With a variety of them on offer at the venue – and a huge range of show-by-show premium packages – they opened both The Mixer and The Gallery in 2022; “Both delivered on time and on budget,” says Lisa Turton, head of premium experience, with pride. “We’re always on the lookout for the next space that can be transformed into a new premium area, and I think technological developments will improve and change the way premium is sold and fulfilled over the next ten years.”
“There is no ‘us and them’ scenario – everyone in the venue is one team, and that has contributed to its great success over the last decade”
Technology is a common touchpoint with the team of future developments. The introduction of 5G throughout the venue is opening up the potential for greater development, particularly around increasing the speed of service on the arena concourse (it’s now the first fully enabled 5G venue in the UK, thanks to a partnership with Boldyn Networks), while a brand-new Wi-Fi solution was recently installed. And there’s also the introduction of new digital screens across the concourses and two large digital screens to be installed externally above the front doors. “This will allow us to give our partners more brand presence and to add targeted OOH media packages to our offering,” says Tones.
And of course, no modern venue would function without the hard work of its security staff and stewards. “I love working at the first direct arena, as do the Leeds staff base – the team are great and have been over the last ten years,” notes Showsec’s Thomas Bailey.
“I’m fortunate to have been associated with the venue for all those years, and the hard work and dedication of the team has never faltered in all that time. There is no ‘us and them’ scenario – everyone in the venue is one team, and that has contributed to its great success over the last decade.”
With merchandising, “we’ve just started this journey, and we have lots of exciting projects and investments coming up in the near future,” says Phil Jones, commercial director for national merchandise, the venue’s merchandise partner. “Ensuring there’s an adequate supply across all stands is paramount, and, where possible, for busy shows, we try to ensure presales are done via merchandise units outside the venue. But in the future, merchandise sales will take on more digital means via pre-ordering and post-event delivery, self-service kiosks, and any tech to help speed up and continually improve the customer journey.”
“Leeds fairly quickly became one of the must-play venues on an arena tour, driven by the local population taking the venue to its heart”
Sustainability, now such an important topic, is front of mind, too. “We are working on our sustainability projects and ASM Acts initiatives, such as working towards achieving Greener Arena status and switching to LED lighting, monitoring energy usage, and trying to minimise food and general waste,” says Duckworth.
But ultimately, it all comes down to music and putting the fan experience front and centre. “It’s important to get a wide variety of shows into the venue – the arena should cater for as many people as possible and have a balance and good mix across the year,” says James Harrison, programming director of ASM Global.
“We’ll need to be mindful of other arenas coming online in the UK in the next few years, with competition for tour dates being stronger than ever, but with such a strong market, a top-class team, and an amazing venue that keeps investing in itself, there’s no reason why the first direct arena can’t continue to go from strength to strength.
Because, as he puts it, “Leeds fairly quickly became one of the must-play venues on an arena tour, and as much as its facilities and layout help, that’s driven by the local population taking the venue to its heart – the local population has been really engaged from day one.”
Local artists, too, for whom the first direct arena didn’t just fill a need – it’s a source of pride, inspiration, and, well, a home. “I love an away day as much as anyone, but having an arena in our home city means we get a homecoming gig on every tour,” says Kaiser Chiefs’ Rix. “We’ve already had a lot of great times in the venue, and I always look forward to the next time. It’s also great to know that huge global superstars like Drake and Mariah Carey get the full Leeds experience, as well as obviously bringing people and money to the city. I picture them all staying at The Queens [hotel] and nipping to the market to get some food at lunchtime.”
Standon Calling postponed to 2025
Organisers of the UK’s Standon Calling have cancelled this year’s festival, citing the “very challenging climate”.
The 18th edition of the award-winning Hertfordshire event was due to take place from 25-28 July, but has now been postponed to 24-27 July 2025.
In a message to ticket-holders, director Alex Trenchard says rising costs have made it “practically impossible” to deliver a “fully-formed” event this summer without putting the future of the independent festival at risk.
“Over the last few months of hard work planning our return this summer, it has become clear that the costs of running the event, already considerably higher over the last two years, have significantly increased again, making it practically impossible for us to deliver the fully-formed Standon Calling,” says Trenchard.
“The painful truth is that ploughing on in this very challenging climate could risk the future of the festival. We believe that the only sensible decision is to take a fallow year for the very first time in our history (other than during the height of Covid-19) and use this time to make the 18th Standon Calling one for the ages.”
A number of acts and caterers have complained they are still owed thousands of pounds from last year’s festival
The announcement comes just days after a number of acts and caterers complained they are still owed thousands of pounds from last year’s festival. Trenchard apologised for the “delay to a small number of payments” and said the team was “in the process of fulfilling these and contacting any remaining performers and suppliers”.
The 10,000-cap festival’s 2023 lineup included the likes of Years & Years, Self Esteem, Bloc Party, The Human League, Rick Astley, Melanie C and KT Tunstall.
Trenchard is appealing for people who have already booked tickets for 2024 to rollover their bookings to next year.
“As a way of saying thank you to everyone who chooses to rollover their full booking (which includes at least one Adult Weekend Ticket), we’ll add an additional Adult Weekend Ticket to the order so you can bring an extra friend on us,” he says. “You can also request a refund if you’d prefer.
Numerous other UK festivals have announced some form of cancellation already this year, including NASS Festival, Leopollooza, Long Division, Bluedot, Barn On The Farm and Nozstock The Hidden Valley, which will make its 2024 edition its last.
“”Festivals are being squeezed by the rise in supply chain costs, and the effects of closures and debt incurred during Covid”
“Sadly, the situation is not unique to us,” notes Trenchard. “So many festival teams work hard all year round to deliver unforgettable weekends of memories in the face of unprecedented financial challenges. Over the last few weeks, several other independent festivals have been postponed for similar reasons.”
In response to the postponement, Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) CEO John Rostron reiterated the need for government assistant. The trade body launched a new campaign last week, calling for a VAT reduction on festival tickets.
“Standon Calling is now the ninth UK festival to announce its closure or postponement in 2024, further demonstrating the crisis that our sector is facing and the need for urgent government intervention,” says Rostron. “Festivals are being squeezed by the rise in supply chain costs, and the effects of closures and debt incurred during Covid, meaning they are in a unique, perilous position that threatens the future of almost all but the very biggest operators in the UK.
“We launched the 5% For Festivals campaign at our Festival Congress this month, urging the Government to reduce VAT on festival ticket sales from 20% to 5% – an evidence-based, simple, sensible remedy that would ease the financial burden on promoters enough for them to return to health. We need this action now, and encourage the public to visit fivepercentforfestivals.com, write to their MPs and support events so their favourite festivals don’t make 2024 their last.”
UK festival apologises for delayed payments
The promoter of the UK’s Standon Calling has apologised after a number of acts and caterers complained they are still owed thousands of pounds from last year’s event.
The long-running independent festival most recently took place in Hertfordshire in July 2023, featuring acts such as Years & Years, Self Esteem, Bloc Party, The Human League, Rick Astley, Melanie C and KT Tunstall.
But some performers, who wished to remain anonymous, told the BBC they were owed amounts ranging from £150 (€176) to £12,000 (€14,000), while a food vendor claimed they were owed £13,000. Quizmasters and comedians have also come forward to say they have yet to be paid for their services.
Standon Calling director Alex Trenchard insists the matter is being dealt with.
“We apologise for the delay to a small number of payments from our 2023 festival,” says Trenchard. “We are in the process of fulfilling these and contacting any remaining performers and suppliers.
“We constantly review all aspects of the event so we can be sure to deliver the top-class experience our loyal audience deserves.”
“The time has come to try to find a balance between being big in some areas… and small and intimate in others but in a way that is affordable”
A compulsory strike-off notice for Standon Calling Limited was posted on Companies House on 5 September last year, but was discontinued four days later.
The BBC reports that Trenchard discussed the 10,000-cap festival’s rising costs in a public Facebook group, and raised the prospect of reducing the size of future editions.
“The time has come to try to find a balance between being big in some areas (main stage) and small and intimate in others but in a way that is affordable,” he posted. “It may [mean] some sacrifices and scaling back but we have to protect the future viability of the festival.”
Tickets are on sale now for Standon Calling 2024, priced £189. The lineup for the event, which is scheduled for 25-28 July, is yet to be announced.
Last week, UK trade body the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) launched a new campaign for a VAT reduction on festival tickets.
The 5% For Festivals campaign seeks to inform festival-goers about the problems that music festival promoters have faced over the last five years, and encourages them to contact their MPs to lobby for a VAT reduction on tickets.
Misogyny in music industry ‘endemic’, says report
A damning new report from MPs has demanded urgent action to tackle “endemic” misogyny and discrimination in the UK music industry.
The Women and Equalities Committee’s (WEC) Misogyny in Music report concludes the business is a “boys’ club” where sexual harassment and abuse is common, and the non-reporting of such incidents is high. It adds that victims who do speak out either struggle to be believed or may find their career ends as a consequence.
“Sexual harassment and abuse in the music industry remains widespread,” reads the report. “Aggressors act with impunity while victims who report actions against them very often face further harm by doing so. It is disappointing but not surprising, that non-reporting is high.
“Organisations should not assume a low incidence of reported cases means they do not have perpetrators of harassment and sexual abuse within their employment. They should instead reflect on why anonymous surveys in the industry return high figures of misconduct, yet their internal surveys do not.”
In addition, the report, which followed an inquiry into misogyny in the music industry, found that women encounter limitations in opportunity, a lack of support and persistent unequal pay, while female artists are routinely undervalued and undermined. These issues are intensified for women facing intersectional barriers, particularly racial discrimination.
“Women’s creative and career potential should not have limits placed upon it by ‘endemic’ misogyny which has persisted for far too long within the music industry”
“Women’s creative and career potential should not have limits placed upon it by ‘endemic’ misogyny which has persisted for far too long within the music industry,” says WEC chair Caroline Nokes MP. “Our report rightly focuses on improving protections and reporting mechanisms, and on necessary structural and legislative reforms.
“However, a shift in the behaviour of men – and it is almost always men – at the heart of the music industry is the transformative change needed for talented women to quite literally have their voices heard and be both recognised and rewarded on equal terms.”
The findings suggest that sexual harassment and abuse is more prevalent in particular environments, such as live music venues.
“Musicians and staff commonly mix with audience members and other workers in late-night venues, and informal settings such as festivals and tour buses, often with the presence of alcohol and drugs,” it notes. “We heard that sexual harassment is ‘rife in these environments’, that ‘musicians are at risk from audience members, paying or non-paying guests, and their principals’ and that the “anonymity in these spaces and lack of intervention by venue security leads to a toleration of such behaviours and increased risk to female musicians’.
“Many live music venues lack facilities and structural support for women working in the industry”
“Many live music venues lack facilities and structural support for women working in the industry. Respondents to the Musicians’ Union survey reported being treated as “one of the lads”, “expected to share rooms with colleagues, male and female whilst on tour” and in some cases were asked to share beds. Often venues lack multiple changing facilities and women are expected to change in front of their male colleagues, in the toilets or in their car which is ‘uncomfortable and unprofessional’ and ‘raises safety concerns’.”
The cross-party committee of MPs has made a series of recommendations, including that public funding and licensing of music venues should be made conditional “on those premises taking steps to tackle gender bias, sexual harassment and abuse”.
“This should include the training of venue staff by accredited organisations that work in the sector,” it continues. “The government should review international examples, such as the measures introduced in France, Ireland and Barcelona, and introduce similar policies in the UK. The government should consider making funding available to smaller venues to enable them to meet this condition.
“The music industry needs to improve its facilitation of mixed groups. As a minimum, venues that host live music should provide adequate, separate dressing room facilities for women and gender nonconforming musicians.
“Accreditation for security staff to work at live music venues should include training on dealing with discrimination, sexual harassment and abuse”
“Security Industry Authority accreditation for security staff to work at live music venues should include training on dealing with discrimination, sexual harassment and abuse. That training should be survivor-led and provided by accredited organisations dedicated to improving safety for women.”
Moreover, the committee is calling on ministers to take legislative steps to amend the Equality Act to ensure freelance workers have the same protections from discrimination as employees and bring into force section 14 to improve protections for people facing intersectional inequality.
It also recommends the government should legislate to impose a duty on employers to protect workers from sexual harassment by third parties – a proposal the government initially supported and then rejected last year – and says it should urgently bring forward legislative proposals to prohibit the use of non-disclosure and other forms of confidentiality agreements in cases involving sexual abuse, sexual harassment or sexual misconduct, bullying or harassment, and discrimination.
The WEC report adds that the establishment of a single, recognisable body – the Creative Industries Independent Standards Authority (CIISA) – will help to shine a light on unacceptable behaviour in the music industry and may reduce the risk of further harm. However, it advises that it is “not a panacea for all of the problems in the industry” and “time will tell whether it has the powers required to drive the changes needed”.
“LIVE’s members will challenge misogynistic behaviour and build on existing measures in place that support the report’s recommendations”
In response to the report, Jon Collins, CEO of trade body LIVE, tells IQ: “The live music sector recognises the urgent need to tackle misogyny and discrimination in the music industry, making it an inclusive workforce for everyone.
”LIVE fully supports the report’s recommendation to establish the Creative Industries Independent Standards Authority (CIISA) to set industry-wide standards on acceptable behaviour to reduce the risk of further harm and will continue to support in its development.
“LIVE’s members will challenge misogynistic behaviour and build on existing measures in place that support the report’s recommendations. We will continue to work with government to eradicate misogyny, harassment and abuse to ensure the UK’s live music sector is a safe space for all.”
Climate Aid stadium concerts planned for UK & US
Two benefit gigs to fight climate change are reportedly being planned for the UK and US in early 2025.
The inaugural events will take place at stadiums in London and Los Angeles – 40 years on from the iconic Live Aid concerts. Proceeds will go towards a new Climate Aid charity “to fund large-scale investments to significantly reduce emissions and move to a low-carbon global economy”.
Artists reported to have signed up to perform include Robbie Williams and Rita Ora, with other acts approached including Bruce Springsteen, Ed Sheeran, The Weeknd, Billie Eilish, Justin Bieber, U2, Katy Perry, Sia and Imagine Dragons.
“Two concerts, in London and LA, are scheduled to take place in January next year and will unite the world to raise vital funds for climate change”
“Two concerts, in London and LA, are scheduled to take place in January next year and will unite the world to raise vital funds for climate change,” a source tells the Mirror. “It will mark 40 years since Live Aid raised over £100 million for famine relief in Ethiopia and has the biggest names in the industry driving it forward. Music fans won’t have seen a concert of this scale since. The plan is for it to happen every two years.”
According to the report, the UK show is being produced by ITV creative director Lee Connolly, with Island Records and former BBC Radio broadcast director Paul Robinson also said to be involved.
The 1985 Live Aid concerts, organised by Bob Geldof, Midge Ure and Harvey Goldsmith, saw acts including Queen, David Bowie, U2, the Who, Paul McCartney, Madonna, Black Sabbath and Bob Dylan perform to around 160,000 fans in London and Philadelphia on 13 July 1985.
The concerts were watched by a further two billion people on television worldwide and raised more than $127 million for victims of the Ethiopian famine.
A subsequent string of benefit shows, Live 8, were held in the G8 states and South Africa in July 2005, featuring acts such as U2 and Paul McCartney, Elton John, Jay-Z, Pink Floyd, Madonna, Kanye West, Coldplay, Robbie Williams and Stevie Wonder.
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AO Arena celebrates completion of £50m renovation
Manchester’s AO Arena has completed its £50 million (€59m) redevelopment and announced an extension of its naming rights partnership.
The ASM Global-operated UK venue, which opened in 1995, has been supported by electrical retailer AO since 2020 on an initial five-year deal, which will now extend until at least 2030.
“We are delighted to have extended our partnership with AO, a partner who shares our sincere commitment to improving our local communities,” says Jen Mitchell, GM of AO Arena. “Together, we look forward to continuing our work shaping the thriving creative and cultural scene in Manchester.”
To celebrate its redevelopment, the 21,000-cap venue held a topping out ceremony attended by Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, who described it as “the beating heart of Manchester”, and chart-topping Manchester rock band Blossoms.
“When the AO Arena opened again after Covid, we were the first band to play a gig here,” said Blossoms, who placed their hands in cement on the concourse, leaving their handprints in perpetuity in the fabric of the venue. “We’re excited to celebrate the official topping out of the re-developments and look forward to seeing what the future AO Arena has to offer.”
“We believe our customers deserve the best, and we’re always exploring new ways to do just that, reimagining what live entertainment experiences look like”
The arena’s revamp includes a complete back of house update, including a new artist green room, as well as upgraded artist dressing rooms and crew facilities. In addition, the event day guest experience has been overhauled, with new entrances and state of the art technology mean that getting in and out of the arena will be “the quickest in any venue in Europe”.
A brand new lower concourse bar area has a capacity of 6,000, designed to support the increased standing floor capacity within the arena bowl, while there are also new bars in the main concourse, plus a new bar and restaurant, The Mezz, which is set to open in March.
It follows ASM joining forces with award-winning chef Simon Rogan MBE and UMBEL Restaurant Group alongside chef Tom Barnes, on a “first of its kind” new and exclusive culinary partnership.
“We are truly so excited to be launching this innovative concept and partnership with UMBEL,” said Chris Bray, president of ASM Global Europe. “There’s nothing like this in UK arenas right now, so we’re incredibly proud to be setting the standard in F&B innovation, alongside some of the UK’s most exciting fine dining experts.
“We believe our customers deserve the best, and we’re always exploring new ways to do just that, reimagining what live entertainment experiences look like, including the food and beverage that’s available.
“As the AO Arena looks to a milestone year, opening The Mezz in March, this new partnership with Simon, Tom and UMBEL Restaurant Group will no doubt take it to the next level.”
“Competition is good, it raises our game and it’s great for all of the fans who are coming through the doors as well”
Other upgrades include improved acoustics and sound, and “industry-leading” heating and ventilation systems, along with enhanced security with the addition of a new state-of-the-art control room.
Welcoming over one million people to the venue each year, AO Arena has hosted concerts by the likes of Prince, Elton John, New Order, The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Billie Eilish, Oasis, Dua Lipa and Courteeners over the past three decades. Upcoming acts include The 1975, Niall Horan, Ne-Yo, Depeche Mode, D-Block Europe, Rick Astley, Jason Derulo, James Arthur, Girls Aloud, Nickelback and The World of Hans Zimmer.
AO Arena is set to face competition in the city from Oak View Group’s new east Manchester development Co-op Live, which is scheduled to open this April.
Speaking to the Manchester Evening News, Bray said: “I think we’re really well prepared, we’re a powerhouse. It’s the music capital of the world and there’s enough content to be delivered in two arenas here.
“I’ve been around the city here for two years since moving into this role and seen nothing but growth in this city in that time and it’s an amazing, vibrant place. Competition is good, it raises our game and it’s great for all of the fans who are coming through the doors as well, so we’re both really well placed for that.”
The Eagles announce European farewell shows
The American group – Don Henley, Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit, with Vince Gill and Deacon Frey – will perform three nights at the 23,500-cap Co-op Live – on 31 May and 1 & 4 June.
Their European swansong will then extend to Arnhem’s 41,000-cap GelreDome in the Netherlands on 13 June, with the band joined on all dates by special guests Steely Dan. Co-op Live, which will become the UK’s largest indoor arena when it opens in April, will be the only UK stop on the tour.
“We’ve always said that our mission is to bring the world’s biggest artists to Manchester, and we’re delighted Co-op Live is hosting the only UK shows of Eagles’ farewell tour,” says Co-op Live executive director and GM, Gary Roden. “Hosting these shows epitomises the ambition that the arena is built on, and we can’t wait to be part of plenty more historic events like this one.”
The group, who are represented by manager Irving Azoff, revealed their plans to bring the curtain down on their 52-year career with one final tour last summer, beginning last September at New York’s Madison Square Garden. The tour is expected to continue into 2025, as “the band will perform as many shows in each market as their audience demands”.
“The difficulties of booking venues for multiple nights may require us to return to certain cities, depending on demand”
“The Eagles have had a miraculous 52-year odyssey, performing for people all over the globe; keeping the music alive in the face of tragic losses, upheavals and setbacks of many kinds,” read a statement from the band. “Credit and thanks go to our longtime management team, our dedicated road crew, and our exceptional backup musicians for providing skilled and steadfast support, throughout these many years. We know how fortunate we are, and we are truly grateful.
“Our long run has lasted far longer than any of us ever dreamed. But, everything has its time, and the time has come for us to close the circle. We want to give all our fans a chance to see us on this final round. So, scheduling information will be released as dates are set.”
The Long Goodbye Tour resumes with the first of two nights at the Moody Center in Austin, Texas on 2 February.
“The difficulties of booking venues for multiple nights may require us to return to certain cities, depending on demand. But, we hope to see as many of you as we can, before we finish up,” added the group. “Most importantly, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for embracing this band and its music. At the end of the day, you are the reason we have been able to carry on for over five decades. This is our swansong, but the music goes on and on.”
Over the band’s more than 50 years of touring, the Eagles have performed more than 1,000 concerts around the world, accounting for more than 15 million tickets.