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The great debates

Features
February 21, 2020

It’s the biggest gathering of international promoters and agents in the world and delegates at the 32nd International Live Music Conference certainly have some serious topics to discuss, not least the ramifications of the Coronavirus across Asia and isues related to a Brexit that is finally happening. Christopher Barrett asks some key figures what they expect from the event

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ounded by agent Martin Hopewell and his team at Primary Talent International 32 years ago to bring agents and promoters together, it may have changed ownership, but the International Live Music Conference (ILMC) remains a vital annual talking shop and meeting place for the global industry.

From multinational corporate bosses to independant promoters in emerging markets and rookie agents, everyone genberally makes valuable connections and even the most veteran of vetrans learns something they didn’t know before, during the three-day event.

Deutsche Entertainment AG (DEAG) executive Detlef Kornett is pleased to see that most of the key issues he is interested in are in the conference schedule.

For him, the most pressing issue is Brexit and what impact it will have, if any, on concert touring in Europe, as DEAG and its subsidiaries promote shows and festivals in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the UK. Its interests also extend across ticketing, venue management and record labels.

Corporate consolidation across Europe is of particular interest to Kornett.

“It is worth thinking about how much Live Nation in the UK and CTS Eventim on the continent are dominating the live music market and what are the effects?”, he says. “That is a very important issue but I haven’t seen it listed as an ILMC panel subject.”

“Both in the UK and in Germany you can see that when there is a dominant force in the marketplace, it changes the economics and it marginalises those that are left out of the conglomerate, and that is not always to the benefit of the market or artistes.

“One has to continue to be critical about it because the market needs diversity, it needs more than one business approach in order to benefit different artistes, different genres and properties.”

Meeting circle

Florida-based stage show production company Feld Entertainment holds one of the most successful touring franchises in the word with Disney On Ice, which has visited nearly 80 countries.

Feld’s vice-president for Europe, Steven Armstrong has been with the company for more than two decades, based at Feld’s European headquarters in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

His responsibilities include marketing, ticketing and operational functions across its live events, which include Marvel Universe Live, Sesame Street Live and Monster Jam and sell around 30 million tickets anually worldwide.

“You can have most of your partner meetings for the year in the one week of ILMC,” he says.

There are also some serious issues, Armstrong acknowledges

“How is the industry dealing with cancelations in China and possibly wider regions as a result of Coronavirus,” he wonders. “And, following Brexit, what to expect and plan for?”

He would also like to discuss whether anything can be done to extend Schengen visas, short-stay permits that enable a person to travel to any member state of the European Union’s Schengen area for up to 90 days.

“Can the industry petition the EU to introduce performer visas that can last more than 90 days, to help tours travel around the whole of Europe rather than just parts of it,” he asks.

Secondary concerns 

As a partner in Argentinean festival operator and promoter Pop Art Music since 2009, Matias Loizaga is involved in concerts with artistes such as Roger Waters, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, and Chainsmokers, as well as events including Sónar Buenos Aires at Tecnópolis (10,000) and free festival Movistar FRI (30,000) in Mendoza.A trained lawyer, he has also promoted shows and festivals Uruguay, Paraguay.

Loizaga’s main focus at ILMC will be promoting the company’s Messi10 by Cirque du Soleil show; which bridges the world of football and circus by celebrating Argentinian football legend Lionel Andrés Messi.

Having attending ILMC on many occasions, Loizaga says he would like to see “more visibility and facilities for those of us who have attended the conference for a number of years.”

He is pleased to see The Greener Touring workshop on the agenda and says his company is very interested in low-impact touring. “We believe this industry, as all others, should fight for a more sustainable world.”

He is also looking forward to the Ticket of the Future panel.

“Secondary ticketing is a serious problem in our market and we believe we could do more by joining forces against it,” he says. “Ticketing technology has the potential to bring this issue to an end.”

Emerging opportunities

Thomas Oversen, formerly a promoter in United Arab Emirates and chief programmer at Dubai’s new Coca-Cola Arena (cap. 17,000), is now entertainment director at Saudi Arabia’s Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA).

Launched in July 2017, DGDA is developing the ruins at Diriyah, which once served as the capital of the first Saudi state.

The development, on the west side of the capital Riyadh, is being transformed to accommodate museums, restaurants, retail outlets, hotels and a 15,000-capacity arena, which is expected to open in two to three years’ time.

“ILMC is one of the few annual gatherings where all the industry parties get together in one place – venues, promoters, agents, managers and even some government bodies and sponsors,” he says.

“I hope this year we can get to have a constructive conversation about the Middle East as a whole and in particular the challenges faced in the UAE and the opportunities in the new Saudi market.”

“How do we professionally deal with the issues some agents and managers feel pertain to taking their artistes there,” he asks. “If it is really just about how big the fee is or are we, as an industry, going to assist the market to emerge and become a serious touring destination?

“It would be great if we could help Saudi fast-track, as it will help the wider region get back on track, and the industry we will then have access to a real powerhouse of a new region.”

Oversen believes that plans for new venues across the region are a huge opportunity.

“The region is bound to see a boom in new venue builds and could lead the green and sustainability movement from the front.”

Safety and sustainability

As sales and marketing director at Poland’s 22,000-capacity Tauron Arena in Kraków, Sara Lamik will be among the panellists during the Venue Summit’s Citizen Venue session.

“I will be discussing how we, as a venue, can participate in the life of the community,” she says. “It is an important subject for us as we are owned by the city and feel responsible not to just be a venue where huge international events take place – e also want to do something for the inhabitants of the city.”

The venue is running a series of initiatives to encourage locals to be minimise their environmental footprint, including a daily educational programme for infants, regular training sessions encouraging the use of sustainable means of transport such as roller blades and bikes, and an environmental conference for school children scheduled for October.

“The conference will educate children as to what the city is doing environmentally, and what they can do to be more sustainable,” she says.

Other aspects of the ILMC agenda Lamik and colleague Karolina Korusiewicz will be attending include Venue Summit’s Safety & Security session.

“It is important for us to see what the trends are in the industry, and a great opportunity to see what other people are doing and get inspired,” she says.

Remaining relevant 

Few agents have attended ILMC on all 32 occasions, but among those Platinum Members is ITB co-founder Barry Dickins, one of the industry’s respected elder statesmen.

In the 1960s Dickins could be found booking acts such as Jimi Hendrix into the Upper Cut club in Forest Gate, East London, and organising the Maximum R&B nights at Soho’s  Marquee (cap. 400) club, featuring The Who. These days his clients include Neil Young, Bob Dylan and Paul Simon.

“There are so many international conferences around now, such as Eurosonic Noorderslag (Netherlands) and The Great Escape [Brighton, UK], and that has to drain ILMC a little. But all these events offer different things and ILMC remains a key event, especially when it comes to networking.

“In a world of digital communication, it is more important than ever to meet people face-to-face and really find out what they are all about.

“There are some important topics scheduled to be discussed, but my concern is that some of them are debted every year and nothing has changed. 

“One of the things I want to discuss at ILMC is secondary ticketing. That is a big concern to me. The sports industry has introduced far greater restrictions than the music industry, so there is a lot more we can do.”

Finding benchmarks 

Another delegate who wants to learn how venues and the industry can become more sustainable is Jenny Blomqvist, head of event sales and booking at Stockholm Live in Sweden, which operates five key venues – Friends Arena (75,000), Ericsson Globe (16,000), Tele2 Arena (40,000), Hovet (9,000) and Annexet (3,400).

“I’m interested to discuss how artistes, venues and productions, individually and together, can work for the better of the environment. I’m, interested in whether there any good examples or benchmarks we all can use within this industry,” she says.

“As always, ILMC is also great forum for meeting international colleagues and keeping in touch with promoters for future collaborations.”

The right move 

Running the largest promoter network across Latin America, Move Concerts’ CEO Phil Rodriguez, who is headquartered in Miami, US, hails his three sold-out Ed Sheeran shows, including two at the Allianz Parque (55,000) stadium in São Paulo – as the highlights of the year.

Forthcoming tours for the company, which has offices in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, Mexico and Peru, include Michael Bublé, Bruce Dickinson and Kiss.

“Thank God secondary ticketing is not a major issue yet for us, probably because consumer protection laws are quite strict. Flexible pricing is illegal in most of our territories and touting is a felony in Uruguay. Result: zero touts in Uruguay,” he says.

He thinks the Greener Touring workshop is a great idea: “It seems to me it is common sense that we should all try to be as responsible as possible when executing our events, and reducing our waste and carbon footprint should be on that list.”

“ILMC is the best event that I know of in our business for meeting up with all your international colleagues and network, in one stop,” he says.

Eyes on the future 

Working for the Czech Republic’s 20,000-capacity O2 Arena and new sister venue the O2 Universum (5,000), both in Prague, Stanislava Doubravova head of sales and events for operator Bestsport, is especially interested in the Venue Summit: Safety & Security and New Technology panels.

“ILMC is a great international platform, through which we can learn what is new in the live music business, what changes we can expect in the future and how best we can prepare for it,” she says.

She also plans to attend the Greener Touring session.

“I hope that this discussion will see reasonable suggestions made as to how people can behave responsibly,” she says. “Changes are necessary but I think it is mainly a matter of legislation, regulations and other interventions in the economy.

“On the other hand, artistes can raise the issue and help increase the pressure on legislators and regulators by influencing public opinion.”

Southern hemisphere perspective   

Working in South Africa can mean a promoter is somewhat isolated from the rest of the world so Glen 21’s Glen Netshipise, ILMC is a chance to mingle with like-minded professionals from across the globe.

The Johannesburg-based company works on events such as urban music event the BET Experience Africa show and Nickelodeon children’s character-filled Nick Fest, both taking place at the city’s  Ticketpro Dome (19,000). Upcoming Glen 21 concerts feature Boyz II Men and Scorpion Kings.

“There is a lot of political upset and economic challenges in South Africa at the moment, which makes it difficult for us, particularly with the exchange rates not being stable,” he says. “It makes it hard to plan for the future.”

The opportunity to network and discuss the challenges facing both himself and his peers in other territories is one of the key reasons for his attending ILMC.

Secondary and counterfeit ticketing is also a major problem in South Africa, according to Netshipise.

“For the big selling shows there are people that are coming with tickets that have been stolen and copied many times. Digital ticketing and ticketing apps have not yet been introduced here, but would help a lot,” he says.

“Also, environmental issues are not highlighted enough in South Africa and as an industry we can definitely do more, including replacing plastic cups with paper, and using events to get the message across about the lifestyle.”

On the subject of climate change, DEAG’s Detlef Kornett agrees that the live music industry has an important role to play in helping to combat it.

“It is an important issue, but touring without travel does not work. However live music is a great platform, an emotionally-charged experience during which everyone is very opened up – it is a one of a kind opportunity to encourage change.

“It is very important to start something, think about change and lead on change, but the sphere within which we can make change across transport and show production is relatively small compared to the change we can help trigger among fans of live music, which could be enormous.”

The invitation-only event takes place from 3-6 March at the

Royal Garden Hotel in London. www.ilmc.com

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