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AO Arena opens new VIP restaurant and bar

Manchester’s AO Arena has officially launched its brand new VIP bar and restaurant, as part of its £50 million redevelopment.

The Mezz sits between the brand-new concourse and the 23,000-capacity arena bowl, enabling guests to move “seamlessly” from their tables to the “best seats in the house” with panoramic views of the stage.

The bar remains open during the show and for a few hours prior, with live DJs providing post-show entertainment. The restaurant features a collaboration between chefs Simon Rogan MBE and Tom Barnes, who will make regular appearances and design seasonal dishes.

Member perks include guaranteed attendance for all shows at AO Arena, direct access to the arena bowl and more

Member perks include guaranteed attendance for all shows at AO Arena, direct access to the arena bowl, early access via dedicated VIP entrance, dedicated parking, all-inclusive food and drink, private cocktail bar, a private dedicated table in the restaurant and personalised service including a cloakroom boasting the latest in venue technology, members app and portal, and dedicated host service.

Membership prices for The Mezz Bar range from £3,500 (10 shows) to £6,250 (25 shows) and £8,500 for 50 shows.

For The Mezz Dining, prices range from £4,000 (10 shows) to £7,500 (25 shows) and £12,500 for 50 shows.

 


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The O2 unveils multi-million-pound VIP members club

The O2 has officially opened its multi-million-pound VIP members club, marking the arena’s biggest investment in premium to date.

The new 300-capacity premium space has been named The NinetyThird by Qatar Airways after the number of residencies held so far at the iconic London venue.

For upwards of £15,000, members of The NinetyThird can enjoy more than 200 events a year at The O2, with “uninterrupted views from every seat”.

VIPs will also have access to the Walkway, a first-of-its-kind retractable viewing platform, 70ft above the arena floor.

The space, set over 1,150 square meters, is home to the arena’s first high-end, 50-seater, on-site restaurant and several premium bar areas which are all exclusive to members.

The design of the club also draws inspiration from the venue’s rich music heritage, with over 50 references to artists, performances, and iconic moments at The O2 arena.

“It really does reimagine what premium hospitality in a UK arena can offer”

“The O2 has become synonymous with hosting some of the most iconic artist residencies over the last 16 years – from Prince and Elton John, to most recently six nights of Madonna,” says Matt Botten, senior director, premium seating at The O2.

“Up to this point, we’ve had an impressive 92 residencies at The O2, and it felt fitting to honour this new premium space as our 93rd, given that the design of the space has been so heavily influenced by our musical heritage.”

The NinetyThird has been launched with naming rights partner Qatar Airways, the national carrier of the State of Qatar, as part of a multi-year deal.

Qatar Airways will have ‘unique branding opportunities’ within the space and across the venue’s OOH and digital networks. Qatar Airways Privilege Club members will also have exclusive access to tickets for events at The O2 within The NinetyThird by Qatar Airways through Privilege Club Collection – a newly launched platform, offering members the opportunity to bid from a selection of curated experiences.

Botten adds: “We’re so excited to be opening the doors to The NinetyThird by Qatar Airways, and to be doing this with a naming rights partner who so perfectly complements the level of premium hospitality that members can expect when visiting the space. The attention to detail within the space is second to none – it really does reimagine what premium hospitality in a UK arena can offer.”

Off the back of a record-breaking year for ticket sales at the world-famous venue – with over 2.5 million tickets sold last year – 2024 is set the be one of The O2’s biggest years yet.

Olivia Rodrigo, The 1975, Michael McIntyre, Liam Gallagher, The Killers, Girls Aloud, and Take That are among this year’s residencies, each playing four nights or more at the venue.

 


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How SUPER is shaping the future of fan experiences

We are in the era of transformational experiences: outside-the-box, once-in-a-lifetime events that go beyond the ordinary. The 2010s catalyzed the explosive growth of VIP programs, with meet and greets and backstage tours now the norm. Fans want to supercharge their concert experience – and the market is ripe for programs that are lucrative, without relying on direct artist involvement or a big budget.

How do we make fans feel like a part of the family, while leaving them with a sense of joy that makes them loyal for life? Answering this question is what drives SUPER – a boutique experiential management agency that conceptualizes and executes top-tier VIP packages with a specialty for touring musical acts and one-of-a-kind festivals.

Prior to founding SUPER, CEO Mike Savas cut his teeth by creating one of the world’s first fully developed VIP programs for Bon Jovi in 2008 for the Lost Highway tour. Fifteen years later, Savas’s company has earned itself a roster of legendary clients – among them Oprah Winfrey, Metallica, Bon Jovi, Queen + Adam Lambert, Genesis, President Barack Obama, Eminem, Katy Perry, Guns N’ Roses, The Who, Phil Collins… and the list keeps growing.

Now, SUPER is recognized as one of the fastest-growing companies in the U.S. according to Inc 5000. The secret, Savas says, is a focus on transformational experiences.

“For a while we were in the experience economy, but we’re evolving into a transformation economy, where people want more than an experience”

“For a while we were in the experience economy, but we’re evolving into a transformation economy, where people want more than an experience — they want to be transformed,” says Mike Savas. “The experience needs to be epic and last well after the show.”

In 2023, SUPER worked with Metallica to bring the “I Disappear” package to life, a membership that allows fans to attend as many Metallica shows as they want on the M72 World Tour. They also offered the Lux Æterna Platform Experience, a viewing platform built into the stage design accommodating eight guests. SUPER identified an opportunity to partner Metallica with sustainable brand YETI, whose sponsorship supplied the tour with exclusive merchandise for each Enhanced Experience ticket holder. In total, the tour has sold over 100,000 packages.

The platform is just one example of how VIP experiences are increasingly being incorporated into stage design – as is the case with VIP opera boxes that were built directly into the stage for the Queen + Adam Lambert Rhapsody Tour, the VIP program for which was managed by SUPER in both the Australian and United States markets. In 2023, SUPER sold over 18,000 VIP packages for Queen + Adam Lambert.

In a world where VIP experiences often become synonymous with exclusivity, SUPER stands out by infusing each fan experience with a touch of magic. As the company continues to shape the VIP touring landscape, their sights are set on always levelling up their offerings, making the seemingly impossible come to life.

 


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Bluesfest introduces $4,000 platinum ticket

Australia’s Byron Bay Bluesfest is introducing a limited number of platinum tickets, ranging from AU$870 (€533) for a single day to $4,000 (€2,452) for five days.

With Bluesfest Platinum, ticketholders get access to the enhanced VIP bar, exclusive Platinum backstage bar with ‘top-shelf alcoholic options’ and exclusive access to the side-of-stage viewing platforms, viewing areas at the front of the stage.

Other benefits include exclusive access to preferred parking spaces, artist a la carte dining, concierge service, and a welcome cocktail.

“We’re thrilled to unveil an exciting new addition to the Bluesfest experience that will dial your festival experience up to 100: Bluesfest Platinum,” festival organisers wrote on their website.

“This premium option is designed for those who want the ultimate in luxury and exclusivity”

“This premium option is designed for those who want the ultimate in luxury and exclusivity, offering a range of unparalleled benefits that promise to make your Bluesfest memories truly unforgettable. Allocations are limited, so grab your tickets quickly to be part of this exclusive experience.”

Bluesfest 2024 will mark the 35th anniversary of the festival, taking place on the Easter weekend (28 March to 1 April) at Byron Events Farm, Tyagarah, NSW, Australia.

Jack Johnson, Tom Jones, Teskey Brothers, Matt Corby, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Portugal. The Man, L.A.B and Ziggy Alberts are among the acts booked to play next year’s instalment.

The festival, which regularly attracts an audience of 100,000 people, has previously played host to artists such as Bob Dylan, BB King, Bonnie Raitt, John Fogerty, Mary J Blige, Santana, Kendrick Lamar and Tom Jones.

 


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Secret Solstice’s $1m ticket returns

Iceland’s Secret Solstice festival has announced the return of its headline-grabbing ‘world’s most expensive ticket’ for 2018, offering six deep-pocketed festivalgoers a package of jet travel, sightseeing, high-end gastronomy, luxury accommodation and private parties with artists for the princely sum of US$1 million.

First introduced in 2016, this year’s $1m package includes:

For guests whose pockets aren’t quite as deep, the festival is also offering two more ‘affordable’ luxury ticket tiers, Package of the Gods ($14,800) and Oðinn ($1865).

Oðinn purchasers enjoy perks including entry to the new Oðinn pop-up lounge, complimentary food and drinks at the festival and side event discounts, while buyers of the Package of the Gods – limited to three – adds helicopter transfers to glaciers and lava tunnels, complimentary access to all side party events, luxury accommodation for two and a private Icelandic dining experience.

Secret Solstice 2018 takes place from 21 to 24 June, in 96 hours of continuous daylight. Performers include Slayer, Stormzy, Bonnie Tyler, Steve Aoki, Parliament-Funkadelic, J Hus, Gucci Mane and Clean Bandit.

 


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LN expands Festival Passport after first-year sellout

Live Nation today announced the return of its Festival Passport, more than doubling the amount of passes available after a successful first year.

In addition to increasing the total number of passes to 2,500, the second outing for the initiative – introduced in 2017 and capped at 1,000 ‘passports’, which allow entry to all festivals for a single payment – the number of eligible festivals has increased to more than 100, while a new VIP Festival Passport, priced at US$5,000, will give 100 buyers VIP entry to events. The price for the GA version has also increased $200, to $999.

Last year’s Passports sold out within 24 hours.

Returning for 2018 are Austin City Limits Music Festival (US), Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival (US), Download (UK, Spain, France, Australia), Electric Daisy Carnival (US), Falls Festival (Australia), Firenze Rocks (Italy), Governors Ball Music Festival (US), Lollapalooza (Germany, France, US), Rock Werchter (Belgium), Sasquatch! Music Festival (US) and more, while new events include Sydney City Limits (Australia), Creamfields (China), RedFestDXB (UAE), Impact Festival (Poland), Openair Frauenfeld (Switzerland) and Edinburgh Summer Sessions (UK).

“Festival Passport is Live Nation’s tribute to our incredible festival community”

“Music festivals are all about the experience, and we created Festival Passport as an innovative way to amplify that for music fans across all of our 100+ festivals worldwide,” says Lisa Licht, CMO of Live Nation’s US Concerts division. “Festival Passport is Live Nation’s tribute to our incredible festival community, and we’re excited to continue to build on the programme this year by increasing the number of Festival Passports available and adding a brand new VIP tier.

“Those who purchased the Festival Passport last year have become part of the Live Nation family. Their passion for Live Nation and our festivals is awesome.”

Live Nation will additionally utilise Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan presale platform to ensure all Festival Passports are bought by ‘genuine fans’ rather than touts. Verified Fan registration begins today (9 April) at 8.00 PDT (16.00 GMT) and closes on Thursday 12 April at 20.00 PDT at festivalpassport.tmverifiedfan.com.

For a full list of participating festivals, visit FestivalPassport.com.

 


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What price fandom? The psychology of ticket pricing

You’re an artist with fans, who naturally want to see you perform. But when your tickets go on sale with an option to purchase a premium ticket involving a more personal experience, how do you price that without alienating those fans who can only afford standard tickets?

Genuine fans are, by nature, PASSIONATE. Feeling emotional attachment to an artist is interwoven with their whole life experience. And they deserve artists who consider what the changing landscape of price and value means to them.

Today, live events offer customers many extra layers of experience: VIP lounges, meet and greets, exclusive merchandise, premium seats, etc. Some customers are willing to pay extra for the best locations, and/or for an enhanced experience. Sometimes older and often more affluent, many customers are willing to ‘buy back’ their valuable time and avoid queues. But they want to feel great about it – not like they’ve been mugged.

I recently saw this price/value balancing act play out on social media. An artist who’s been around for four decades announced a 2018 UK tour. I’m in the online fan group, who were quick to post the announcement, days before standard on-sale details were released, when the only prices known were those at the very top end. On offer was the ‘meet and greet’ package containing exclusive merch, guaranteed front-row seating and the chance to meet the act and have a professional picture taken with them. The group members were in uproar; most understood the appeal of the meet and greet package but many scoffed at anyone willing to pay.

What really stoked the collective fires was a lower tier of premium ‘hot seat’ experiences, which consisted of the front-row spots at a higher price, with the same exclusive merch, just without the meet and greet element. Some of the comments included: “I kinda resent the people that are paying over the odds for this rubbish. We could all have had our own meet and greet for nothing”; “are they just wanting to rip off their fans now?”; “I have the funds. I just choose not to be exploited”; “it’s not fair on the fans that can’t afford the premium experience” (to which someone replied: “It’s not fair that I can’t afford a Porsche and have to get around in a Fiat”).

“Many customers are willing to ‘buy back’ their valuable time and avoid queues. But they want to feel great about it, not like they’ve been mugged”

“Not fair” and “rip-off” featured throughout the comments. Serious fans felt they were being insulted and exploited by the pricing. This was 48 hours before standard ticket prices were known. Once standard ticket prices were published, comments included, “That’s pretty reasonable”, and the general theme was that they were glad the act was touring and that good seats at affordable prices would be available.

Interestingly, someone did post a poll on the group asking if members would buy a standard, hot-seat or meet-and-greet tickets. The results of the poll were: 87% standard, 11% meet and greet and just 2% for the hot-seat tier – which, if you have any experience in economics and price level perception, will tell you that the middle (hot seat) tier was probably there to provide a value distinction between top/bottom pricing.

Touring is a business: a commercial enterprise with a degree of risk that not enough tickets will be sold and/or money made to cover big, unavoidable costs. The industry also knows that higher prices for one event can reduce the overall audience for another. Fans who feel that reality in the ticket price may interpret it as greed, and more transparency about the pricing could mean less negative feedback.

Who’s to say which fans are more genuine than others? It’s a nonsense status – you’re either a fan or you’re not. But the added word ‘genuine’ comes from an emotional place, a subjective place where only you can judge what’s true. I understand genuine passion – all of the team at Bigdog Live do. It’s what makes our tails wag, and it’s how we know who those fans are, what they want and where best to position that artist, act or event to ensure they get to make the best choices and have the best experiences.

No matter how many comments I read (and almost replied to), I always knew that for that artist, that event, I’d choose the meet and greet package. I can’t queue for two hours for an autograph, but I do want the opportunity to meet the lead singer and say thank you for the years of enjoyment. I know I’m lucky to be able to pay for that choice.

I can’t afford a Porsche, but I can sit in one for a few hours and pretend.

 


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Experiencing festival luxury

The morning sun illuminates the stretched canvas of your expansive Bedouin tent as you throw back your Siberian goose-down duvet, swing your legs over the edge of your 1,600 pocket-sprung mattress, and retrieve your morning paper from the lush dewy grass. This you’ll read over a cooked breakfast after emerging from a hot shower stocked with luxury scrubs and cleansers.

It is little wonder that people who were never festivalgoers have become such in recent years. The experience, for those prepared to pay for it, is a far cry from the festival experience that often springs to mind.

Many studies have noted the shift in consumer spending over the last decade (led in no small part by millennials), with discretionary household spending decreasing and the demand for live experiences (travel, events, recreation and eating out) steeply and steadily rising. The growth in boutique camping areas and VIP enclosures is, in part, a response to the appetite of the consumer to make live music more of an experience and has, in part, also fuelled it. The idiom build it and they will come holds some water here.

It is little wonder that people who were never festival-goers have become such in recent years. The experience, for those prepared to pay for it, is a far cry from the festival experience that often springs to mind

For alongside the rise in middle-income consumers dedicating more hard currency to personal consumption spending, and less on homes, cars and goods, comes the older, more affluent consumers, going to festivals for the first time or returning after an absence – with their children and, dare I say, grandchildren – because the experience is so vastly improved.

Retailers too are recognising that consumers value live experiences more than the possessions they stock, with many providing customers with a range of events like pilates, flower arranging, perfume mixing and pop-up restaurants to get them through the door, build brand affinity and increase spending on tangible goods.

For many years, VIP activity and live music were uneasy bedfellows. Like water and oil in a pot, they were held together but kept apart, largely due to the festival organiser’s desire to shield the general festival-goer from areas that were considered distasteful, corporate and elitist. Those myths have been dispelled by consumers’ use of social media. Using platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat to tell people what they’re doing. More than ever before consumers are aware of what they’re missing out on and this continues to fuel the demand.So don’t be shy. Shout about it but, above all, make it an experience.

 


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Fyre Festival reveals line-up (and $400k tickets)

Fyre Festival, a new event by Ja Rule’s Fyre Media booking agency, has unveiled the line-up it hopes can lure deep-pocketed music fans and celebrity spotters away from Coachella this spring.

The festival, which will take place on 28–30 April and 5–7 May – the weekend after Coachella wraps up – in the Exumas, Bahamas, will be headlined by Pusha T, Desiigner, Major Lazer, Blink-182 and a Disclosure DJ set, with Migos, Kaytranada, Skepta and Lil Yachty also on the bill.

Fyre, however, says the “unparellelled soundtrack” is “only a piece of the two-weekend experience. Attendees will take a departure from the familiar for the adventure of a lifetime, immersing themselves in art, first-class cuisine and new levels of luxury.”

“The Exumas will also offer the ultimate destination for boaters, divers, snorkellers and kayakers looking to explore its beautiful turquoise waters and idyllic beaches,” the announcement continues. “It’s been said that from space, astronauts deem the Exumas as having the clearest and nicest waters in the world. Guests will be invited to take advantage of the beauty of the islands, with onsite programming including sunrise yoga, meditation, massages, fitness bootcamps, art installations, and much more.

Fyre Festival is reportedly already in financial trouble, having missed a number of deadlines for payments to artists

“Local excursions will include yachting, jet skiing, snorkelling the deepest blue hole in the world, seeing the swimming pigs, exploring the caves and catamaran parties.”

All $1,500 GA passes are sold out, with remaining tickets starting at US$2,500 for those with their own yachts, increasing to $399,995 – $49,999 each – for ‘artists estate’ and ‘artists palace’ packages, which include flights, artists’ pass tickets, accommodation and “exclusive VIP experiences”.

While the Bahamas’ ministry of tourism expects Fyre to deliver the islands a “significant economic boost”The Wall Street Journal suggests the festival, which has already shifted an estimated 12,000 tickets, is already in financial trouble, having missed a number of deadlines for payments to artists.

IQ Magazine explored the growth of luxury/VIP experiences at music festivals in issue 66.

 


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