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The Summit 2008

THE TWO themes which most permeated conference sessions at The Summit on 9-10 October were that the live sector needs to make sure that deals – whether between artistes and brands, or festivals and sponsors – add real value and that greed could wreck the industry during the difficult economic times ahead.

AEG Live president international Rob Hallett warned delegates that artiste and/or promoter greed could cause serious damage and that ticket pricing needed to match audiences and their financial circumstances.

In other sessions, The Isle of Wight Festival’s John Giddings said festivals must “keep ticket prices down” in order to survive; and X-Ray Touring’s Jeff Craft said, “People always have choices. If we overprice the product, like record companies did, they will go somewhere else.”

The event opened with The Breaking and Entering session, which focused on emerging talent. Using electronic voting pads, 66 per cent of the audience said they felt record companies were no longer important for an act to be successful.

Fiction Records’ Ellie Giles said she wasn’t shocked at the result, but argued that major labels were still important in building acts’ careers.

BBC 6Music presenter Tom Robinson said, “Many new acts don’t have any clear idea of what ‘make it’ means. It’s really important for them to think through what they want to achieve.”

Barfly Group’s Jon Mcildowie felt brand involvement could help a band break through, but warned, “Managers need to be careful which brands they involve and make sure it’s in context with the artiste’s style and adds value.”

MEDIA muscle

In Eye of the Media, NME Radio’s Matt Priest said if a partnership works, everyone benefits, especially the artiste.

Director of talent and music at MTV Networks UK and Ireland Matt Cook told the session, “Our relationship with the live sector is now at least as important as with the record companies.”

However, Absolute Radio’s music promotions consultant Paul Flower said the relationship between promoters and the media needed updating, “They want us to do something for them, rather than thinking of doing something together. We could get involved earlier.”

The Golden Ticket panel was divided into two halves. In the primary ticketing session, See Tickets MD Nick Blackburn said he welcomed newcomers into a free market but believed that “the bigger companies offer better protection of the public’s money”.

For Ticketmaster MD Chris Edmonds it was heavy investment in new technologies and infrastructure which was continually driving the market forward.

Venue box offices should aim to create relationships with their customers in the same way as artiste does with fans, felt the Ticket Factory’s Peter Monks.

Artiste control

Primary Talent International agent Dave Chumbley believed that the hidden charges in the sector, which has traditionally been controlled by a small number of big players, made it obligatory that artistes should get involved directly with selling their own tickets.

In the secondary ticketing debate, Viagogo’s Eric Baker and Seatwave’s Chris Willis variously reasserted the principle that once purchased a ticket belonged to the buyer and that it was a good thing that an event had sold out even if some of those tickets were going to turn up on secondary market.

Both Edmonds and Chumbley admitted that there were examples where certain artistes expressed an interest in the possibility of selling a limited number of tickets “at market, rather than face value”.

The Critical Mass panel examined whether the live sector cares enough about the fan and how that relationship can be nurtured.

Academy Music Group’s Daryl Robinson said that the only complaints they ever get are about Health and Safety issues and never about the music.

But he agreed with Trinity Street’s Raoul Chaterjee that “ticket sales are slowing, especially for older bands and emergent talent”.

All panellists, including Tough Cookie’s Dave Castell, agreed that regular structured e-mail campaign directed at fans was an integral part of the business. But Adrian Coultas Pitman from Echo Europe questioned whether there weren’t too many people in “the risk supply chain” alienating potential gig-goers by sending out too many messages.

In The Touring Game, agent Scott Thomas of X-Ray Touring reckoned that festivals were now cannibalising each other and were not impacting the touring market.

AEG Live president of international touring, Rob Hallett, explained that his company was investing in young acts but based on deal in which he will develop the band in return for a commitment that they would stay with him as promoter for a set number of years so he could be sure to recoup the early investment.

Surprisingly, there was a call for lower artiste fees. “If bands aren’t more flexible,” said Paul Fitzgerald of CAA, “people will stay home more.”

Hallett agreed, saying, “The only thing that’s going to kill us is greed and the greed of artistes.”

Getting greener

Outside the main room, the secondary sessions started with For the Greener Good.

Live Nation’s Andrew Haworth told the room the live music industry was not doing enough on environmental issues. “We’re only doing enough when people like us cannot come up with further ideas.”

Claire O’Neill of A Greener Festival agreed with Alex Lambie of Climate Change Now that more pressure needed to be put on international touring to make it more environmentally responsible.

In State of the Union, moderator Luke FitzMaurice, entertainments manager at NUS Services, said, “Last year we developed the ULive programme which brought together 18 student unions to co-promote tours. How else do we re-engage and re-position ourselves?”

Kilimanjaro Live promoter Steve Tilley felt the SU circuit needed to be put back into people’s mindset as the place to break new talent.

Chris Cooke director of Unlimited Media reckoned, “For too many on the live side, SUs are really only of any value if they’re in a city where there is nowhere else to play”.

In day two, the We’re with the B(r)and panel heard from head of entertainment at M&C Saatchi, Dave Roberts, who explained that brands find live music so attractive because “the traditional ways we have of connecting with customers is not working as well as it used to”.

Sarah Tinsley, global experiential marketing manager at Bacardi, which recently signed a one-year deal with Groove Armada, said, “It’s about finding a shared audience and ensuring there’s a strong synergy between the brand and the artiste.”

Robert Guterman, MD of Big Fish, which has developed partnerships for V Festival and T in the Park, explained that bands are increasingly looking at what a brand can bring to a deal apart from money, such as technology.

The Going Global session heard from The Agency Group worldwide CEO Neil Warnock, who said they key to breaking an act overseas was an experienced manager.

He said, “We’re finding more and more promoters throughout the world are more interested in the UK’s new young artistes who are interested in booking brand new bands and working with us in artiste development.”

UK Trade and Industry’s Phil Patterson explained that although it only had a small budget, the organisation helped by linking organisations together to aid a band when breaking a new territory.

An accusation that British agents were lazy when booking acts abroad from Denise Marsh of Singapore Indoor Arena met short shrift from Paul Boswell of Free Trade Agency and Warnock, who said they regularly booked acts around the world.

Festival forecast
The saturation of the UK festival market was mulled-over by the Fields of Gold session, in which it was widely predicted that while the major events and boutique festivals would continue to be successful, this summer would see medium-sized events suffer.

Chris Greenwood of 40,000-capacity The Big Chill, felt although a medium-sized festival, his event would survive because it had a diverse range of attractions.

The Isle of Wight Festival’s John Giddings was concerned at the lack of suitable headliners for the amount of festivals.

Kilimanjaro Live MD Stuart Galbraith felt, “Festivals are pulling money out of the touring sector and have been for years,” while Giddings, speaking as an agent, added, “October used to be the best earning time of the year for us, but now it’s the summer.”

Andy Smith of 4,000-capacity Kendal Calling thought “the credit crunch could encourage more fans to take a holiday closer to home and include the festival experience”.

The day’s only secondary session was The Professionals, which saw moderator Martin Goebbels lead a predominantly Q&A format with panellists Penny Mellor of Event Welfare, and tour manager Ian Quinn of Still You Know Best.

The Producers heard from Britannia Row’s Roly Oliver that despite hardening economic conditions, “if you bring in technology which can deliver value for money – even if you charge more – people will still pay”.

Dick Tee said a project he worked on this year had a budget of £1 million, but that he was being asked to deliver the same for £50,000 less. “With rising costs of diesel and so on, it would have cost £50,000 more, so we’re facing the equivalent of a £100,000 budget cut,” he said.

The panel, which also included XL Video’s Des Fallon, Star Events’ Phil Addyman and lighting designer Rob Sinclair agreed with moderator Andy Lenthall that as artistes seek to earn more from live shows they should give more consideration to allowing increasing amounts of that income to “trickle down” to production.

The final session of the conference, Tomorrow’s World, looked to the future of the industry, with moderator Mark Meharry of Music Glue asking panellists for their predictions.

Agent Jeff Craft of X-Ray Touring said that artistes are taking more control and looking to participate in more revenue streams from the live sector than previously.

Trinity Street’s Nick New agreed there would be more direct-to-consumer marketing, while lawyer Tom Frederiske said subscription services seemed likely to be the future of recorded music consumption, and wondered how the live sector could tap into this.

Whatever the future holds, it was clear that, once again, delegates and panellists came away from The Summit fully aware of the key issues.

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