Oak View Group to merge with Spectra
Oak View Group (OVG) has announced plans to merge with Spectra, a Philadelphia-based venue management firm with arenas, stadia, theatres and convention centres across North America.
Founded in 2015 by industry veterans Tim Leiweke and Irving Azoff, OVG specialises in property development and financing, sponsorship and partnerships and venue operation and security, while Spectra provides management, consultancy and hospitality services to its partner venues. The merger of the pair, terms of which were not disclosed, creates a “full-service” company with complementary specialities, according to Leiweke, the former AEG CEO who now serves in the same role at OVG.
“This merger brings together two dynamic leaders in the live events industry with complementary capabilities that will deliver a broad array of services to our clients,” says Leiweke. “OVG’s core competencies in arena development and corporate sponsorships, coupled with Spectra’s leadership in food and beverage services, will create a full-service live events company that will deliver a compelling and highly competitive set of offerings that meet our clients’ evolving needs.
“I look forward to collaborating with the talented team at Spectra and bringing together our two organisations to create something truly unique.”
“This merger brings together two dynamic leaders in the live events industry with complementary capabilities”
Dave Scott, CEO of Spectra, adds: “This is an exciting development for Spectra and an important step in our journey to provide unparallelled services to our clients along with exciting growth opportunities for our team members as part of a larger, more diverse organisation. This merger accelerates our existing strategy and will lead to significant opportunities to cross-sell food, beverage and sponsorship services across our combined client base.
“I look forward to working with Tim, Irving and the OVG team to enhance the future of live events for our valued clients.”
Following completion of the merger, which is expected in the fourth quarter of this 2021 (subject to regulatory approvals and other conditions), OVG will remain headquartered in Los Angeles and Spectra in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Spectra offers venue management, food services and hospitality, and partnerships services for 330 clients in the US and Canada, including stadia, arenas, convention centres, performing arts centres, fairgrounds and casinos, as well as Singapore Sports Hub in south-east Asia. OVG, which has six arenas under construction, including Co-op Live in Manchester, UK, recently inked a global ticketing deal with Ticketmaster.
South Africa’s largest indoor venue closes
The 20,000-capacity Ticketpro Dome, South Africa’s largest indoor venue, is closing to events and will become a giant used car dealership after owner Sasol Pension Fund sold the building to WeBuyCars.
RX Venue Management, which operated the Johannesburg venue for 20 years, said the venue was unable to operate during the country’s Covid-19 lockdowns, adding that its permanent loss will hit the live industry at a critical time.
Carol Weaving, MD of RX Africa, said: “This is extremely disappointing and heartbreaking for our industry. The Ticketpro Dome has been home to many international concerts and events in South Africa, and this will undoubtedly leave a huge void.
“The constant changes and severity of the Covid-19 restrictions have wreaked havoc amongst our stakeholders and across the supply chain. This has meant we were unable to change the outcome of Sasol Pension Fund’s decision to sell the venue due to a force majeure. We want to thank all our customers, suppliers, and partners for their support over the past 20 years.”
“This is extremely disappointing and heartbreaking for our industry.”
Artists that performed at the Dome include Katy Perry, Pink, Lauren Hill, Lionel Richie, Celine Dion, Pharrell Williams, and Michael Bublé.
In a statement on Facebook, leading South African promoter Big Concerts said: “We are saddened by the news that the Dome will be closing their doors. Since 1998, we have promoted 186 shows at the Dome. To all our friends at the Ticketpro Dome, it’s been a pleasure working with you all, we will miss you terribly!”
The WeBuyCars showroom is expected to have room for 1,500 vehicles, making it one of the largest car showrooms in the world. Handover is expected on 7 September.
Vertical Theatre: Tourable socially distanced venue launches
The Vertical Theatre Group, a new company backed by leading production and theatre professionals, has unveiled the Vertical Theatre, a tourable, freestanding 2,400-capacity entertainment venue with built-in social distancing.
The modular Vertical Theatre is designed to be future-proof, say its creators, with the capability to separate audiences into Covid-secure household bubbles while restrictions are in place, but no requirement for social distancing when Covid-19 is a thing of the past.
The UK-based company’s founders are production director (and inaugural IQ Gaffer) Jake Berry; theatre producer Katy Lipson; Stufish Entertainment Architects’ Ric Lipson and Paul Preston; events and documentary producer Holly Gilliam; and Digital Theatre founder Robert Delamere. The six say in a joint statement that they are “very excited to be able to bring this innovative new venue offering to the live entertainment world at this pivotal moment for the future of the arts”.
Vertical Theatre Group’s ambition is to have multiple venues around the world, saying the Vertical Theatre is suitable for tours, festivals, comedy, theatre and circus, as well as televised events, with its inbuilt streaming functionality.
“We were excited to see what a new type of cross-arts collaboration could produce”
Inside the Vertical Theatre, eventgoers are seated on balconies which accomodate groups of 4–12 people (ie social bubbles), all with a good view of the stage. Optional open sides, meanwhile, allow for natural airflow, while a roof protects the audience.
Capacity is between 1,200 and 2,400 people, depending on social-distancing rules.
Vertical Theatre Group, which is is already in conversation with potential partners, says it is “optimistic” the project will be ready to launch in 2021.
Stufish partner Ric Lipson comments: “Creativity defines all the artists and partners we work with. At Stufish, we were excited to see what a new type of cross-arts collaboration could produce, as we build a new vision for the future of live entertainment: the Vertical Theatre.”
Sunderland’s new Fire Station appoints venue director
Tamsin Austin, head of contemporary music at Sage Gateshead (1,650-cap.) has been named venue director of the Fire Station, an £11m music and culture venue under construction in Sunderland, north-east England.
Austin has been with Sage for 17 years, booking more than 4,000 concerts, including Nick Cave, James Brown, Pet Shop Boys, Laurie Anderson, Sting, Roisin Murphy, MIA, Randy Newman and Solomon Burke, in that time. She is also the founder of SummerTyne, a popular 3,000-capacity Americana festival held in Gateshead since 2006.
“I am delighted to have been invited to lead the team at the Fire Station at such an exciting time for culture in Sunderland,” comments Austin. “I have watched the cultural landscape unfold in Sunderland over the past few years and there is a huge amount of energy, will and purpose there.
“It is an ambitious city with deep musical roots and a rich family of musicians, cultural leaders, entrepreneurs and audiences who are hugely invested in the new venue, which will become a new home and community hub for live music and arts in the heart of the city.”
“The Fire Station will become a new home and community hub for live music and arts in the heart of the city”
The Fire Station is part of a wider development of the same name which is transforming an Edwardian fire station in Sunderland’s High Street West into an “artistic and cultural hub”. The complex also includes the Engine Room, a bar and bistro; a drama studio; a dance studio; and an exhibition space. Last month, it was announced the venue had been granted £1.38m from the UK government’s Culture Recovery Fund.
The main auditorium seats 460, with a standing capacity of 800; an outdoor performance space, meanwhile, will allow for socially distanced events. The venue will be run by Sunderland Culture.
Rebecca Ball, Sunderland Culture’s creative director, says: “Tamsin has unrivalled experience and networks in music. We’re thrilled she’s joining us.
“The Fire Station will be a major cultural asset for everyone in the city, and in Tamsin we have the right person to exploit its flexibility and ensure we have programmes to do the venue justice. This appointment, and the opening of the Fire Station, is another milestone in establishing the city as a major centre for arts and culture.”
The Fire Station is scheduled to open in autumn 2021.
UK venue consultancy Ghostwriter adds Motion Bristol
Richard Maides and Carl Bathgate’s Ghostwriter Consultancy & Events has added Motion in Bristol to its UK venue portfolio, announcing a five-year agreement to oversee and operate all live music events at the venue.
The 1,350-capacity warehouse venue, recently named the second-best club in the UK by DJ Mag, is the latest venue partnership for Ghostwriter, which also recently announced long-term partnerships with Eventim Olympia Liverpool (1,930-cap.) and Arena Racing Company, which runs a number of the UK’s best-known racecourses.
Ghostwriter was founded by former Academy Music Group and VMS Live directors Maides and Bathgate in 2019 and offers services including venue management, concert promotion/production, venue marketing, ticketing, health and safety compliance and event management.
Upcoming Ghostwriter-promoted or programmed events include Kaiser Chiefs at Ffos Las Racecourse in south Wales, Bath Racecourse and Doncaster Racecourse in May and June 2021, Jess Glynne at Newcastle, Lingfield Park, Doncaster and Windsor Racecourses in July and August, and Peter Hook and the Light at O2 Academy Leeds (2,300-cap.) in early 2022.
“We firmly believe [Motion] will present a strong, viable option for touring artists when visiting Bristol”
“I’m delighted to be able to share some much needed positive news for 2020,” says Motion director Martin Page. “Having worked closely over the summer on funding projects we are proud to announce our new partnership with Ghostwriter. Together we are excited to embark upon a fresh new chapter of live music at Motion and [1,600-cap. sister venue] Marble Factory.
“We will be working closely with the Ghostwriter team across a number of exciting projects both in the venues and across Bristol. This is fantastic news for team Motion, Ghostwriter and the city of Bristol.”
“Motion is an award-winning independent venue renowned for electronic music. We are very much looking forward to working with Martin and his team to better position the venue to attract a wider variety of events,” adds Bathgate. “We will be focusing on improving the technical offering for live events and redeveloping the backstage area in order to enhance the experience of touring artists.
“Motion and Marble Factory are already great spaces to watch a gig from a customer’s perspective, and with the newly improved facilities we firmly believe they will present a strong, viable option for touring artists when visiting Bristol.”
47% decrease in new artists touring Europe
The number of new artists touring Europe has fallen by nearly 50% in 2019–20, according to a new report that illustrates the impact of ongoing venue closures on emerging acts.
Research by Liveurope, an EU-backed association of 16 music venues, shows a 47% decrease in new acts touring in Europe compared to 2018–19. According to the organisation, which is calling for more aid at a European level, “the circulation of European artists, in particular emerging ones, can only return to pre-crisis levels if ambitious and targeted EU support is deployed.”
“After months of closure, our venues are faced with substantial economic losses and extended temporary lay-offs,” says Liveurope coordinator Elise Phamgia.“In this context, the safety net that our platform provides to them will be all the more crucial to help them continue bringing the diversity of European music to their audiences.
“After months of closure, our venues are faced with substantial economic losses”
“Scaling up the [funding] envelopes allocated to initiatives like ours would allow us to continue our mission, and support a greater number of music venues across the continent in their efforts to strengthen the European dimension of their line-ups.”
Liveurope members include Brussels arena Ancienne Belgique, Luxembourg’s Rockhal, Melkweg in Amsterdam and London’s Village Underground.
A recent report by the European Commission recommends an increase in the amount of funding for initiatives such as Liveurope in the upcoming EU budget.
New socially distanced outdoor venue opens in HK
The Grounds, Hong Kong’s first socially distanced outdoor entertainment venue, has opened at AIA Vitality Park in the city’s Central district.
Located below the Hong Kong Observation Wheel on the Central Waterfront, The Grounds at AIA Vitality Park is the first venue in Hong Kong purpose built for the pandemic. It can seat up to 400 people in 100 private ‘pods’, each equipped with two to four deck chairs, with eventgoers able to order food and drink to their seats by scanning a QR code.
Each pod is sanitised, and visitors will have to comply with a range of anti-Covid-19 measures, including temperature checks, pre-registration and health declarations, and the wearing of face masks.
“The Grounds is designed to allow guests to play, socialise and be entertained responsibly”
Entertainment at The Grounds, which opened on 6 November, includes live music, film screenings, game shows, stand-up comedy and health and wellbeing events, says The Grounds MD Simon Wilson.
“We want to give Hong Kong something new to look forward to, while at the same time creating an opportunity for the local entertainment and hospitality industries to engage with audiences in an innovative, comfortable and safe environment,” he comments.
New events and tickets for events at The Grounds are released at midday local time every Wednesday.
“As we navigate this new global normal, The Grounds is designed to allow guests to play, socialise and be entertained responsibly,” adds Wilson.
This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.
London’s The Social joins Ben Lovett’s Venue Group
London venue The Social will reopen in 2021 after partnering with Venue Group, the Ben Lovett-led operator of Omeara and Lafayette.
The two-storey, 250-capacity venue, located on Little Portland Street in London’s West End, will operate under the Venue Group umbrella as part of a partnership that provides The Social with “stability and security” and assurance for its customers, according to the company.
The Social opened in 1999 and has hosted acts including the Chemical Brothers, Four Tet, Michael Kiwanuka, Florence and the Machine, Adele, Beck and Aphex Twin. It raised more than £145,000 in a crowdfunding campaign last year to stop its enforced sale.
“Ever since The Social announced that it was at risk of closure in 2019, I have been actively engaged in trying to figure out a way to prevent that from happening. We have been working together on a solution that retains the entire independence and ownership for the founders while teaming up together to ensure the long-term viability of the venue,” says Venue Group CEO and Mumford & Sons member Lovett, who spoke about his passion for grassroots venues at ILMC’s Futures Forum eearlier this year.
“Alongside Omeara and Lafayette, I hope that we are developing a path for artists of all shapes and sizes to develop and grow with their fans”
“I believe that The Social is one of the most important destinations in London, especially as a music venue, and alongside Omeara and Lafayette I hope that we are developing a path for artists of all shapes and sizes to develop and grow with their fans in one of the world’s most significant music cities.”
Robin Turner of The Social adds: “After the 2019 Crowdfunder, we knew we were realistically only halfway towards saving The Social. Though we were able to stay open for our 20th anniversary, we’d lost our long-time operating partners and needed to find new ones to help us move forward.
“When we met Ben, Greg [Lovett] and the Venue Group, we immediately knew they were kindred spirits: people who recognised the transformative power of a good night out, and were dedicated to offering audiences and bands the best gig experience possible.
“We’re extremely excited about The Social taking its next steps forward with them. Here’s to the next 20 years.”
New Portuguese association Circuito launches
A new association of independent music venues, Circuito, has launched in Portugal.
Circuito, which has 27 members across the country, will function as a “national network for the enhancement, protection and development” of grassroots music venues, aiming to secure further support while the majority are shuttered by coronavirus restrictions.
A recent Circuito campaign, #AovivoOuMorto (#LiveOrDead), aimed to raise awareness of the difficulties the sector is facing and spur the Portuguese government into taking concrete action to protect music venues.
Hundreds of people took to the streets in four Portuguese cities (Lisbon, Oporto, Viseu and Évora) on Saturday (17 October) in support of #AovivoOuMorto, queueing outside closed venues to raise awareness of their plight.
According to Espalha-Factos, the lines in Lisbon and Oporto were each more than a kilometre long.
“The coronavirus crisis accelerated the need for a representative association” in Portugal
Umbrella association Live DMA welcomes the creation of the new body. “The coronavirus crisis undoubtedly accelerated the need for a representative association which advocates for the great cultural, social and economic value of the independent live music scene, which needs to be supported,” it says in a statement.
The Portuguese live music industry is asking for greater financial help from the government, which, in common with its European neighbours, is allowing concerts only with social distancing and a very limited capacity.
Daniel Pires, of the 100-cap. Maus Hábitos in Oporto, says a recent increase in Portugal’s culture budget by nearly 8%, to €563.9 million, is “not enough” to safeguard music venues. “There must be a correction,” he adds.
Other industry associations in Portugal include promoters’ association APEFE, festival body Aporfest and the new Audiovisual Union.
World’s first mobile stadium takes shape
Ras Abu Aboud Stadium, a 40,000-seat temporary venue billed as the world’s first ‘demountable’ stadium, is under construction in Doha, Qatar.
Constructed on an artificial promontory in the district of the same name, Ras Abu Aboud Stadium is being built to a modular design, and partly out of old shipping containers from Doha Port. It is one of eight new venues under construction ahead of the Fifa World Cup football competition in 2022.
The first moveable stadium in World Cup history, Ras Abu Aboud Stadium “will be entirely dismantled and repurposed post-2022, setting a new standard in tournament sustainability and legacy,” according to Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC), which is overseeing the Qatar 2022 world cup.
In a tweet sent on Friday (16 October), the SC said the new venue is “slowly taking shape”:
Ras Abu Aboud is slowly taking shape!
Constructed using shipping containers and other modular building blocks, this innovative 40,000-seat venue will be entirely dismantled and repurposed #Qatar2022, setting a new standard in sustainability.https://t.co/m6lhcF4zWE pic.twitter.com/K2VXngc2K0
— SC News (@roadto2022news) October 16, 2020
After the tournament, says the SC, the “modular seats and even the roof will be disassembled and reused”.
What they’ll be reused for, however, is still under discussion: the Qatari authorities note its modular design “could provide the building blocks for another 40,000-seat stadium in a different location, or for several different types of sporting or non-sporting venues”.
The Qatar 2022 Fifa World Cup takes place from 21 November to 18 December, with 32 national teams taking part.