LIVE UK, a sister publication to AUDIENCE, is the only publication dedicated to the country's contemporary live music business, providing news, features, tour plans and information to the people that drive the industry – promoters, festival organisers, venue operators, artiste managers, booking agents, ticketing companies, media and key professionals in dozens of related sectors.
The UK's Best Venues for Contemporary Live Music as an annual round-up of the most prominent and proactive venues, from pubs to stadiums and open-air sites, that play a part in keeping the UK a world leader in contemporary music. This 84-page publication features interviews with venue operators, profiles key personalities – from pub landlords to stadium bosses, and includes a survey of trends in areas such as ticketing and marketing.
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Audience is the world's leading monthly magazine for the international contemporary live music industry, providing news, features and information to professionals in more than 80 countries worldwide. Circulation includes thousands of promoters, festival organisers, venue operators and key people in dozens of related sectors.
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The Summit 2009


Labels are ‘forcing decisions’, say agents

RECORD LABELS’ increasing involvement in the live sector is one of the major challenges facing the industry, top agents warned at this year’s LIVE UK The Summit, held at London’s Radisson SAS Portman Hotel on 7-8 October.

In the Masters of the Universe panel, ITB co-founder Barry Dickins said labels “are going to be our big competition”.

He said for one client, he was being forced to work with a promoter the label owns even though he would not have chosen that company.

The Agency Group’s Geoff Meall agreed. “I’ve had examples of labels wanting to force an artiste to work with a particular promoter, because the promoter is owned by the label,” he said. “They threaten not to release the act’s record if they don’t do as they’re told.”

Meall and Dickins cited Warner Music as a major example, while AEG Live president of international touring Rob Hallett said “Sony is in my face when I’m putting together tours”,

“With Leonard Cohen, I agreed to give their guy in Austria a go and in settlement, he was so inexperienced, I ended up walking away with 120 per cent of the gross.”

Asked why British agents are so successful internationally, compared with their US cousins, Dickins said, “When I started, the UK market was very small so we looked abroad for more business. Americans think they are the world.”

Solo’s John Giddings agreed, adding, “English agents are more creative and think outside the box.”

On the topic of ticket prices, Hallett said they have “finally caught up with inflation”. Compared to a football match, he said concerts still represent very good value for money.

The conference started with Breaking and Entering, in which MAMA Group’s Jon MacIldowie bemoaned record companies decreasing levels of investment in new acts and that they “hate tour support”.

Kilimanjaro Live‘s Steve Tilley agreed, saying the situation was making it much harder for bands to break.

Paying the price

In Mission Possible, focussing on the show production sector, moderator Dick Tee of EnTEEtainment asked what drove the size of artistes’ productions.

XL Video’s Des Fallon thought it was audiences demanding a certain level of spectacle, but Proper Productions’ Mark Ward wondered whether fans, facing ever-more expensive tickets, actually wanted to fund the growth in mega shows.

Britannia Row’s Bryan Grant thought the race for bigger and better shows would continue “until the public get bored with it and they are the ones who pay us all”.

The panel agreed that the next big developments would be in video, with gear becoming smaller and lighter.

“Hard work” is the key to getting acts from pub level to stadiums said Big Life management’s Tim Parry in Stairway to Heaven.

X-ray Touring’s Steve Strange agreed, adding that organic growth was vital – sometimes even to the extent of holding back a band from their desire to play bigger venues before they’re ready.”

In The Golden Ticket, See Tickets chairman Nick Blackburn told delegates that paperless ticketing would eliminate touting and help reduce booking fees.

In Who’s running the show? Warner Music’s Paul Craig said over 50 per cent of its new signings are on 360-degree deals.

The day’s Montague Suite sessions, Great Expectations and Snakes and Ladders were produced in association with nascent organisation we:LIVE. They heard discussion and debate on issues affecting the grassroots industry, including the Met Police’s Form 696, and a new qualification for promoters (see NXT news).

Fan focussed

On day two, the way the industry treats fans was considered during Critical Mass, Virtual Festivals editor Dan Fahey said the website’s fan survey showed people felt that festivals were good quality and value-for-money. “However, their biggest gripe is the price of food and drink,” he added.

In We’re with the B(r)and, Big Fish Events Robert Guterman explained that brands feel it’s easier to sponsor an event than an artiste and Fiona Lovatt of Gaymers cider agreed. “We can’t go near some of the excesses associated with the music industry, because we’re an alcohol brand,” she said.

KLP’s Natasha Kizzie said the market was so crowded with brands that it’s vital to be involved in an event which stands out.

During the Media Muscle session, Classic Rock and Metal Hammer publisher Chris Ingham told delegates, “It’s very important to have a live partnership on niche brands such as ours, because it brings the communities together.”

Michelle Linaker of Bauer Media added, “Live is about getting close to the listener or reader. We want to do more live shows with Kerrang! Radio, because the listeners love it.”

Research from Virtual Festivals unveiled during Playing the Field showed the most important factors people consider when choosing a festival is being there with like-minded people, secondly the organisation and thirdly the headliners.

DF Concerts Geoff Ellis, which produces T in the Park, reported that sponsorship suffered this year and warned, “we’ll still be feeling the effects net year,” while Kilimanjaro Live’s Stuart Galbraith, whose portfolio includes the Sonisphere festival, highlighted another problem.

“We had 6,000 tents left at one event and we had to bury 190 tons of them.” He said.

Beautiful Days promoter Dave Farrow revealed that, despite struggling with tough noise restrictions imposed by the local council, “I’ve taken readings and there’s more noise coming off the road than there is from the festival”.

Crime-busters

Police festival liaison officer Chris White told delegates attending the Criminal In Tent panel that organised criminal gangs targeting festivals were involved in ticketing, wristbands, general theft and Class A drugs.

Iridium Consultancy’s Reg Walker added that fraudulent ticket operators “have gained access to security paper for ticket printing and the components for making wristbands.”

Showsec’s Mark Logan praised the use Section 27, which the police can serve on undesirables identified by security firms, banning them from the area for 48 hours.

Walker agreed, adding, “We used it at Download and virtually eradicated touring outside the site and crime was down 38 per cent.”

Anti-crime initiatives at Bestival were also successful, said Jim King of Loud Sound, “Worked with police on one operation, we got a gang of six people arrested for multiple theft.”

Securing the future

The panel generally agreed that the Licensing Act had a significantly detrimental effect on grassroots live music, with Liberal Democrat Lord Redesdale saying the government seemed to think there was “something dangerous about live music and it needed to licensed at every level.”

Campaigner Hamish Birchall said he felt “the country has gone backwards from where we were.”

Asked by moderator Doug D’Arcy what the live industry could expect from an new incoming government, Conservative MP John Whittingdale admitted that “amending the Licensing Act would be some way down the list”, bearing in the bigger issues the country faced.

Whittingdale and Redesdale agreed that the best chance of getting small venues exempted from needing a licence was Redesdale’s Private Member’s Bill, with Whittingdale urging the music industry to unite with the pub trade to create a powerful lobby.

In The Montague Suite, The Professionals heard Martin Goebbels of Apex Insurance lead discussion legal, accounting and insurance issues, The State of the Union consider the resurgence of the university circuit, while issues facing artiste managers were debated during Who Dares Wins.

In the closing panel, Tomorrow’s World, a fairly heated discussion about where the industry was headed, with moderator Alison Wenham of independent labels’ body AIM disputing the assertion by Mark Meharry of Music Glue that everything would be online or digital before too long.

MAMA Group live division MD Steve Forster agreed with Wenham that technology wasn’t an answer in itself and creative talent was still key, stressing that “the live experience cannot be replaced”.

While it’s no surprise that certainty about the future was in short supply, the effects of the recession weren’t far from delegates’ minds. Caution, looking after the fan and providing value-for-money seemed wise advice.


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