A declining number of headliners, a call to boycott the secondary ticketing market and why one top agent says Morrissey is ‘unreliable’, were among the topics of debate at a lively 10th edition of the LIVE UK Summit.
Featuring a host of speakers covering topics from social media, festivals, breaking artistes and venues, the 12 October conference and networking event, held at the Radisson Blu Portman Hotel in London’s West End, attracted by more than 300 delegates.
The Winning Ticket saw panelists Stuart Cain of The Ticket Factory, WeGotTickets (WGT) Dave Newton, Songkick’s Sam Briggs and Eventbrite’s Marino Fresch explore issues affecting the sector, including the restoration levy placed on some tickets by venues.
“It should be built into the cost, otherwise it is just another thing to pay, like buying a ticket from a budget airline,” said Newton.
Briggs told delegates the onus was on venues to inform customers what the levy was put towards.
“We do charge a levy for the Genting [cap. 15,700] and Barclaycard [15,800] and have never had anyone complain,” said Cain, who is also MD of commercial marketing for NEC Group, which owns the Birmingham arenas.
Cain added it was crucial technology became reliable enough to allow more mobile ticket buying.
“It should be easy to buy anywhere, on the bus to work or in the bath,” he said.
While Newton claimed the industry was being ‘held back’ by a reluctance from ticketing companies to use shared barcodes.
Fields of Gold? brought the Association of Independent Festival’s Paul Reed, Count of Ten’s Simon Mawbey and Cornbury Music Festival’s (cap. 20,000) Hugh Philimore together to discuss the changing world of festivals.
“I think the market is definitely saturated, some of the bigger festivals are having a bad time,” said Philimore.
“You have to offer something different and there are still formats out there. The market is exciting, but the difficulty is gambling £1m on the weather. It is not for the faint-hearted.”
The trio agreed festivals had now become an intrinsic element of British life and it was vital to deliver an experience.
Reed highlighted concerns regarding Government’s attempts to introduce business rates to festival sites.
“I see it as a stealth tax on temporary, auxiliary uses of land,” he said. “We are looking to reengage with the treasury and ministers about it.”
A further problem raised was the apparent shortage of festival headliners, although Mawbey disputed this idea.
“You need to be a little bit creative and take risks,” he said. “We had Noel Gallagher this year [at Y Not] and Snoop Dogg last year. You can’t pigeonhole.”
The Social Network concentrated on the increasing digital marketing opportunities available, with streaming, apps, video and ticketing solutions at the industry’s disposal.
Comment came from GigRev’s Kevin Brown, Communion Music Group’s Claire Mas and Music Glue’s Mark Meharry.
Call for enforcement
One of the most anticipated panels saw politicians Lord Tim Clement-Jones, Sharon Hodgson MP, Nigel Adams MP, ATC Management’s Brian Message and FanFair Alliance’s Adam Webb take to the stage for Fair Market Forum.
Industrial-scale and insider ticket touting, as well as the use of Bots to harvest tickets, was the focus of the panel.
“Even though it is a crime it is very rarely people get taken to task for it,” said Hodgson. “This has to change if we really want this cleaned-up to stop this abuse.”
Webb said campaigners were simply asking for the law to be enforced and for transparency, as outlined by the Consumer Rights Act (CRA) and Professor Waterson’s report into secondary ticketing
Speaking from the audience WGT’s Newton revealed secondary ticketing site StubHub was sponsoring the Q Awards and called for artistes and managers to refuse to accept an award, as a message to the company, which is one of the Big Four accused of regularly flouting CRA laws, by not listing seat numbers and other legally-required details.
“We need the public to demand to know this information, and maybe the only way is not to buy from secondary if they miss out on primary sites,” said Hodgson.
Also talking from the audience Ticketmaster’s Sarah Slater revealed the company, which owns two of the Big Four – GetMeIn and Seatwave –was more accountable for its actions than its rivals (Viagogo and StubHub), being based in the UK.
Art For Art’s Sake featured CAA’s Paul Franklin and Raw Power Management’s Ryan Richards discussing artiste development, while Ricky Bates of The Joiners Live (200) in Southampton, Tom Green of 229 The Venue (620) and Tony Moore of The Bedford (250) delved into what is necessary to keep the grassroots sector thriving in The Showcase.
Masters of the Universe included Coda Agency’s Alex Hardee and ITB’s Steve Zapp, who went on to win the Agent of the Year accolade at the Live Music Business Awards that evening.
“There are no club nights now,” said Hardee. “Kids don’t go to see a band on spec as they already know what they are like from their bedroom.”
Looking ahead Zapp said he believed volatile exchange rates following Britain’s decision to leave the European Union could cause difficulties.
“My advice would be to hedge it – do parts of the tour in euros and patts in dollars,” he said. “You may not make as much if exchange rates go your way, but it’s safer.”
During Guardians of the Galaxy ATC Management’s Ric Salmon, Various Artists Management’s Ellie Giles, Woof Music’s Joey Swarbrick and Liza Buddy of Chaos + Bedlam talked about the importance of achieving funding, landing a sync deal and Facebook advertising to sustain an emerging artiste.
Salmon said, “It is now phenomenally difficult to break an artiste. It can take two to three years to get to the point where an artiste can live off what they make, paying their rent and buying food.”
Among the most popular sessions of the day was The Live Story: John Giddings, which saw the man behind Solo Agency and Isle of Wight (60,000) festival interviewed alongside The Outside Organisation’s Alan Edwards by artistes manager and promoter David Stopps of Friars Aylesbury.
Giddings spoke of his early ambitions to be a musician and later a racing driver and how he was caned receiving ‘six of the best’ for missing a day of school to attend The Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music in 1970.
“Lucky I learnt early on I was incapable of being a musician, but there are some people who haven’t realised it yet,” Giddings said.
He also revealed that it took five years to breakeven after the resurrection of Isle of Wight festival in 2002, following £1m losses in the first two years and how Morrissey let him down.
“I booked him for the festival and two weeks before he said he couldn’t play as he had no drummer,” Giddings recalled. “I offered him Phil Collins and he still wouldn’t do it, so I booked Travis.”
Giddings, whose artiste clients include Madonna, U2, Pharrell Williams, Sting and Maria Carey, added that one of his latest acts, Little Mix, are on the cusp of big things internationally.
“They are selling 3,000-5,000 tickets at venues around the world and they still get on,” he said.
Further panels included Log-on to the Future, discussing whether digital followers translate into real ones and Public Image exploring how venues present themselves.
Running the Show featuring Kilimanjaro Live’s Alan Day, Crosstown Concerts’ Paul Hutton and Academy Music Group’s Ian Richards saw the promoters outline the intricacies of the role.
“It was probably the most vibrant Summit we have had with something to appeal to everyone,” says executive producer Steve Parker. “I thought John Giddings and Alan Edwards recollections of working with David Bowie over 20 or more years fascinating – a true education to the younger delegates, and very entertaining.”
Making It Happen
This year’s LIVE UK Summit, set for Wednesday 12 October, carries the banner Making It Happen, which encapsulates the character of the whole live music industry.
Whether it’s grassroots venues presenting unsigned artistes, a festival the size of a small town or multiple-night concerts at a stadium, all sectors of our industry – from promotion to production – have a motivation not present in many other walks of life.
Very many people in the live music business succeed or fail on their own efforts, and while the downside can be tough, that energy is what finds and develops new talent and takes it worldwide, builds ever more impressive stage sets and improves standards and services at venues.
We celebrate that energy at the Summit and, through discussion and networking, seek to improve and expand the outcomes it generates.
More than 300 delegates from across the live music industry – such as grassroots music promoters, venues operators, festival organisers, agents, artiste managers, services providers, industry organisations and politicians – will gather at this year’s event to discuss issues ranging from branding and artiste development to the challenges facing festivals and venues, ticket abuse and the evolving digital environment.
The Summit is followed in the evening by the Live Music Business Awards, held at the same venue. Check www.livemusicawards.co.uk