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Ben Lovett talks Venue Group’s US ambitions

Mumford & Sons’ Ben Lovett has told IQ about his first move into the US market with the opening of two new venues in Huntsville, Alabama.

Lovett is CEO of Venue Group, which operates London’s Omeara (320-cap), Lafayette (600-cap) and The Social (250-cap). Last year, he announced plans to expand his independent empire with the 8,000-cap Orion Amphitheater in Huntsville, Alabama, scheduled to open in May 2022.

“It probably seems quite an exotic shift from London at first glance, but there was a whole sequence of events that led me to Huntsville,” explains Lovett. “It actually started with the London mayor’s office, funnily enough, and Shain Shapiro from [music market development consultancy] Sound Diplomacy, who did the whole audit about the night-time economy and why we need to keep culture in the centre of our cities, so they don’t end up becoming just a big bunch of flats and offices.

“We met at the launch of Omeara five years ago, then [Shapiro] did a similar study for the city of Huntsville, which is now the biggest city in Alabama. They have lots of great jobs and lots of people live there, but there’s nothing to do, and the conclusion was that they wanted to build a big outdoor amphitheatre.

“They put a request for people to come in to present their vision – it was like an episode of X Factor. And we were like, ‘If you’re going to do this, you’ve got to build something remarkable.’ And they liked the sound of that, so they gave us the contracts and we’ve spent the last three years designing this thing.”

Details of its 13-15 May opening weekend celebration, The First Waltz, were confirmed earlier this week. Acts will include Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Emmylou Harris, John Paul White, St Paul and the Broken Bones, and Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes.

The idea is to build one of the best new venues in the world

The scheme is being managed by Huntsville Venue Group, a partnership between Lovett and industry veterans Ryan Murphy, Mike Luba, Don Sullivan, Jeff Kicklighter and Al Santos.

“The idea is to build one of the best new venues in the world,” declares Lovett, who reveals plans are afoot to complement the project with another ‘Omeara-sized’ venue in the city.

“One of the things that we learned was that you need to build a whole ecosystem,” he says. “There’s no point having just one big venue so bands from out of town come and play a handful of times, you’ve got to nurture local grassroots talent.”

The New York-based Brit suggests there is still much more to come on that front.

“We are going to try and figure out another venue in London before too long, and we’re having some interesting conversations with other cities in America,” he adds. “I’ve spent so much of my adult life touring America and I’m such a big fan of this country; I want to try and see where else we can build great venues here.”

Venue Group has offices in London, New York, Huntsville, Alabama and Austin. And the 35-year-old musician and Communion co-founder, who invested in D2F startup Planet over the summer, suggests the fallout from the cessation of touring during the pandemic has only strengthened his resolve.

“That hasn’t slowed us down,” he insists. “If anything, it’s actually made us more bullish – the reason being that we saw every man and his dog try and figure out a way to bring shows into people’s living rooms, and it just didn’t work. So if 18 months can’t break down the bond of the live music experience between fans and artists, then you better believe I’m going to go all in on this thing.”

Check out iq-mag.net next week for part two of our interview with Lovett.

 


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Bud Light Super Bowl Music Fest line-up revealed

Halsey, Miley Cyrus and Green Day are among the headliners revealed for the Bud Light Super Bowl Music Fest.

The three-night festival will run from 10-12 February 2022 at the 20,000-cap Staples Center (soon to be the Crypto.com Arena) in Los Angeles, kicking off with performances from both Halsey and Machine Gun Kelly on night one.

Night two will feature Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani with Mickey Guyton, while the final night Super Bowl Eve concert line-up is topped by Green Day and Miley Cyrus.

Now in its third year, the event serves as a precursor to the Super Bowl and its coveted Halftime Show, which in 2022 will star Dr Dre, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, Mary J Blige and Snoop Dogg at the 100,000-cap SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California on Sunday, 13 February.

The Bruno Mars and Cardi B concert in 2019 was the highest-grossing event in State Farm Arena’s 20-year history

“Staples Center and LA Live are incredibly excited and honoured to host three amazing nights of music as part of Super Bowl Music Fest,” says Lee Zeidman, president of Staples Center, Microsoft Theater and LA Live. “We look forward to welcoming music and football fans to downtown as part of Super Bowl week in Los Angeles.”

The Bud Light Super Bowl Music Fest has previously featured unique and never-before-paired line-ups with artists including Bruno Mars and Cardi B, Post Malone and Aerosmith, Maroon 5 and Dan + Shay with a surprise performance from Demi Lovato, and a night with Guns N’ Roses and special guest Snoop Dogg.

The 2019 and 2020 festivals were held at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia and the American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida, respectively. The Bruno Mars and Cardi B concert in 2019 was reportedly the highest-grossing event in State Farm Arena’s 20-year history, generating $6.473 million.

 


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Harry Styles show to launch OVG’s New York arena

Harry Styles has been confirmed as the first music artist to perform at Oak View Group’s new UBS Arena at Belmont Park, New York.

Styles’ show at the 19,000-cap venue, which will be the finale of the his 2021 Love On Tour, will take place on Sunday, 28 November. The concert will spearhead the building’s opening month celebrations, with numerous other events planned throughout November.

Home to the National Hockey League’s New York Islanders, the US$1.1 billion multi-purpose arena will host more than 150 major events annually, with other acts lined up to appear over the coming months including Eric Church, Genesis, Imagine Dragons, Tool, Journey, John Mayer and New Kids on the Block.

UBS Arena intends on being carbon neutral for operations before 2024, which will make it the first arena to do so on the eastern US seaboard.

UBS Arena is poised to become a global landmark entertainment and sports destination

The redevelopment project, which Oak View Group (OVG) is working on in collaboration with the New York Islanders and Sterling Project Development, is expected to create 10,000 construction jobs and 3,000 permanent jobs, generating approximately $25bn in economic activity over the term of the lease.

“UBS Arena is poised to become a global landmark entertainment and sports destination, leading us to partner with one of the world’s premier brands, UBS,” Tim Leiweke, CEO of OVG and leader of the arena project, said earlier this year.

UBS Arena will celebrate its opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony on 19 November, ahead of its official opening with the New York Islanders’ home opener against the Calgary Flames the following day.

Ground was broken on the project on in September 2019 and halted in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Work started back up two months later on 27 May.

Styles has made an investment in OVG’s Co-op Live development in his hometown of Manchester, UK. The development will become the UK’s first all-electric arena when it opens in 2023.

 


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Eight dead after crowd surge at Travis Scott fest

At least eight people have died and hundreds injured after a crowd surge at Travis Scott’s Astroworld Festival in Houston, Texas.

More than 300 patients were treated by medics following the incident on the opening night of the 50,000-capacity two-day event at NRG Park, promoted by Live Nation.

Tonight’s (6 November) planned second night has been cancelled.

Houston fire chief Sam Pena told reporters: “This is a tragic night. We know that we had at least eight confirmed fatalities tonight and we had scores of individuals that were injured here in this event.

“The crowd began to compress towards the front of the stage and that caused some panic and it started causing some injuries. People began to fall out, become unconscious and it created additional panic.

“The mass casualty incident was triggered at around 9.38pm this evening. After that time, we transported 17 patients to the hospitals. Eleven of those that were transported were in cardiac arrest. We won’t know the cause of death of the eight that are confirmed until the medical examiner has completed his investigation.”

Nobody has all the answers tonight

Pena praised the work of the emergency services and Live Nation “in trying to secure what was really a chaotic event”.

The Houston Chronicle reports that Scott, who founded the festival, stopped multiple times during his 75-minute headline slot as he spotted fans in distress and asked security to help them out of the crowd. It added that some fans had stormed the entrance gates at the start of the event at 2pm.

“Nobody has all the answers tonight,” said Houston police chief Troy Finner. “We did have problems on the front, kids for whatever reason started rushing and it got out of control a little bit but we got it under control… I don’t think this incident is related to what happened that caused the deaths.”

With a line-up curated by Scott himself, the festival has previously hosted the likes of Post Malone, Rosalia, Pharrell Williams, Da Baby, Lil Wayne, Young Thug, Playboi Carti and Megan Thee Stallion.

Astroworld expanded to two days for its third edition in 2021 following the success of its first two events. According to Live Nation, in November 2019, the festival became the largest single-day artist-curated music festival in the country, as well as the largest music festival in Houston.

 


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Live Nation unveils NFT ticket stubs

Live Nation is collaborating with artists to launch digital collectable NFT ticket stubs.

Trumpeted as an “industry-first”, Live Stubs will mirror the unique section, row, and seat of each ticket purchased and will be included with tickets on select Live Nation shows in North America, beginning with the upcoming Swedish House Mafia: Paradise Again tour.

Fans will be able to view, share, gift, trade, and resell their Live Stubs on Livenation.com, opening up new avenues for artists to engage with ticket-holders before, during and after live events. The NFTs are designed to be collector items and will not replace the digital tickets needed to physically enter the show.

Live Stubs bring back the nostalgia of collecting ticket stubs while also giving artists a new tool to deepen that relationship with their fans

“Our Live Stubs product brings back the nostalgia of collecting ticket stubs while also giving artists a new tool to deepen that relationship with their fans and we can’t wait to see what the creativity of this community dreams up as it grows,” says Michael Rapino, Live Nation president and CEO. “Special thanks to Swedish House Mafia for kicking it off for their upcoming tour.”

Minted on an eco-friendly blockchain, Live Stubs will automatically be given for free to fans who purchase a primary ticket to Live Nation-promoted shows as well as in venues powered by Ticketmaster.

Fans can share links to view their Live Stubs on social media, with more features and offerings to be announced closer to the concerts. Artists will also be able to work with the Live Nation team to integrate special experiences and rewards.

 


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