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(LIVE UK, 17 November 2010)

Upbeat Consensus; adapt and evolve

EMERGING ARTISTES are more open to working with brands, as they cope with the economic downturn and declining financial support from record companies, was the consensus in the Base Cap Breakout session that opened LIVE UK The Summit, held at London’s Radisson Blu Portman Hotel on 6-7 October.

Panellists agreed that sponsorship and the involvement of brands in tours and at venues was playing a ever-greater role driving in the live scene.

“Attitudes have changed over the last five years,” said Duncan Ellis of Scruffy Bird Management. “As the pot’s gotten smaller, branding and sponsorship have become a necessity.”

Promoter Ian Richards of Academy Events, in-house promoter at Academy Music Group, where all venues are branded by 02, agreed.

“Last year people were going out and probably not buying food or clothes, but this year people decided eating was more important than seeing a rock gig. Bands will have to work that little bit harder to get people to their show,” he told delegates.

Text Box: Electronic Delegate Vote:  Do brands have a positive role to play in live music?    Yes:  88%  No:  12%All agreed that hitting the road is the best way to break act, it takes an investment no longer provided by record label.

“Labels want to see much more activity around a band before signing them, so brand interest helps” said ITB agent Lucy Dickins.

While agents may be encouraging bands to approach branding with a positive attitude, it can still be a dangerous game said Scruffy Bird’s Ellis.

“Partnering with someone too early on can be damaging with no way back. The marriage needs to be right and done when the band has established their own message and vision.”

In the Branding Integrity panel, sponsorship broker Chris McCormick of Size12Shoes said, “If the artiste is willing to do it and it’s not harming their integrity then why not work with brands.”

AEG Europe’s Paul Samuels, who concluded O2’s multi-million-pound deal to rename the Millennium Done as The O2 when he worked for the telecoms giant,  agreed.

“As your costs go up, do you pass that on to the customer or do you have brands? There doesn’t have to be logos on the stage but there has to be a balance,” he said.

Rights and Rates

The extended PRS for Music consultation period to assess whether the existing three per cent performance royalty rate is reasonable, was welcomed by panellists in the Rights to Royalty session, although some delegates expressed a fear the PRS review was a tactic to raise the rate.

“There is good reason to review these percentages,” said CEC Management’s Peter Felstead. “As our rates are considerably lower than the other markets, but perhaps we should be careful about how much we’re squeezing promoters.”

Festival producer Jim King of Loud Sound added that festivals such as T in the Park can no longer be examples of the industry, stressing an increase in rates will adversely affect budgets, and therefore smaller, emerging talent – not essential headliners.

Dave Stone of multiple venue owner Tokyo Industries agreed, adding, “Unless we encourage the evolution of artistes, we’re going to be left without major acts somewhere down the line.”

Text Box: Electronic Delegate Vote:  Do you believe the current PRS rate (3%) is fair and reasonable?    Yes:  55%   No:  45%However, PRS’s Debbie Mulloy said that whether to give festivals and smaller venues a rate reduction was an important part of the consultation.

The discussion continued in the festival-focussed Fields of Gold, with Kilimanjaro Live’s Stuart Galbraith acknowledging that festivals were harder hit in 2009 than this year and still represented great value for the money.

But Solo’s John Giddings warned that the pending VAT increase coupled with a potential PRS rate rise could be damaging.

“I think PRS should pay me for helping to triple ticket prices over the past few years three, because they’ve had three times more revenue from us,” he said Giddings. “I find it [the idea of a review] very offensive.”

Meeting Demands

Keeping up with the production demands of tours like U2’s and Lady Gaga’s was also a topic of concern.

“We’re having to invest heavily all the time to keep up with the changing technology,” said Britannia Row’s Bryan Grant in Lights Camera, Action. “If a band’s really good, they need to rely a little less on production.”

Funding for other issues such as security at events was brought up in Securing the Perimeter. Although overall organised crime and counterfeit tickets had been successfully targeted this year, Iridium 500’s Reg Walker warned that, “the slashing of promoter and police budgets could adversely affect the fight against crime, if we’re not careful.”

The future of ticketing may also see changes as discussed in Point of Sale. While panellists agreed mobile ticketing is inevitable, technology will not be able to deliver it on a large scale for several years.

Text Box: Electronic Delegate Vote:  How many went to a festival this summer?     Did:  67%   Did not:  29%     How many paid to go to a festival this summer?    Did:  21%   Did not:  79%“Mobile ticketing is great in theory, but in practice it’s horrific,” said Matt McNeil of eTickets. “It’s a long way off for the mass market.”

Panels discussing the changing role of record labels as record sales continue to decline.

When the panellists were given three case studies with acts trying to further their careers in Stairways to Heaven, it was agreed labels can longer be relied on.

The Agency Group’s Neil Warnock said, “The reality is there has been very little help from labels for a number of years. Labels are marketing companies and you’re only using them for their distribution skills.”

Muse’s manager Anthony Addis agreed, saying the main problem was record companies not looking towards longevity.

The negative impact of Licensing Act 2003 was the key topic in The Political Gig. Live music campaigner Hamish Birchall said, “Statistics show only a small minority of licensed facilities actually have permission to present live music – it’s worse than we thought.”Panelists including MPs John Whittingdale and Don Foster broadly supported change, such as exemption for venues of under 200 capacity.

Evolving Media

In the Media Muscle panel, Tim Pearson of IPC Media’s NME and Uncut explained “we aim to exist wherever our readers dwell”, while Bauer Media’s Stuart Williams added the days of just being a magazine are long gone.”

“To market NME we have to be doing activity in the marketplace, which is the live scene,” said Pearson. “You’ve got to reach your consumers on every level 24 hours a day.”

Reaching fans at all times was emphasised in the Mass Movement – the key being quality content.

Mark Meharry of Music Guide stressed, “Youth is spending money on music, but through different channels – now it’s digital, merchandise and live.”

Text Box: Electronic Delegate Vote:  Is the traditional method of extensive gigging is still the best way to build an act?    Yes:  54%   No:  7%    Maybe:  39%Delegate Curious Generation’s Charles Baybutt asked the panel about the importance of social networking, leading the discussion to the online role of pull-marketing tactics.

Another company venturing further into the live industry through various outlets is HMV, with CEO Simon Fox giving The Summit’s Keynote Presentation. Fox and HMV/MAMA’s MD of content and talent Gary Warren, outlined the company’s move into the live sector, through festivals, in-house ticketing and venue acquisition. 

“This is a business that needs to evolve,” Fox told the delegates. Pointing out that the company was established 90 years ago, he said, “HMV wants to be around for the next 90 years and in order to do that, being a major player in live is very important.”

Universal Skills

In Masters of the Universe, some of the UK’s leading international agents reminisced on their training and how to preparte the next generation.

“To be an agent is a visceral thing – training is about being supported by people that have experience,” said CAA’s Emma Banks. “Young agents are the same as young artistes – if you don’t take them on, you don’t’ have an industry moving forward.”

Primary Talent International’s Dave Chumbley admitted that when he entered the business “it was dog-eat-dog” battle between rival agents and you were virtually on your own.

“There’s got to be training these days, because you’re dealing with vast amounts of money and you can be responsible for 100 people on tour,” he said.

Panellists were also asked whether the increasing ‘firework’ effect, where an artiste explodes on the scene and is gone within a flash, was a worrying development, to which ITB’s Steve Zapp replied that agents cannot dictate a specific career path for their clients, and sometimes had to go with the flow.

Banks summarised the majority opinion; that while the live industry is constantly evolving, the future is positive.

“When you’ve got great people who are passionate about music, and great ideas, there’s an exiting time ahead for us all. As with the record companies, agents and promoters are evolving too.

“The existing music business has to change, so we’ve either got to lead, or sit back and watch others take it forward.” 

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