Access All Areas April 2019 - Page 34

APRIL | COVER FEATURE speaking at conferences urging that we invest more in music and nurture new acts. We’re in the pop phase now, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not lasting. We need some kindness from angels that don’t expect too much too early, so that the next generation has great songs and presents themselves brilliantly. With 90% of material today, you won’t remember the name of the act or the tune. It rarely has a longer shelf life than two years, with obvious exceptions. However, 2017-2018 were record years for live, contrary to what people expected. People want to go out more, so we need to sustain and establish talent. Festivals currently can’t find headliners, and it’s a nightmare. Those that are around are pillaging and it doesn’t allow businesses to take risks. What can promoters and the music industry in general do to improve things? As a promoter you have to go with what your head tells you. There are no rules, but if you want to be with the top acts it’s often about ‘how little do you want to earn?’, and its counter productive. There’s bands that drop off quickly, which is devastating when we’re planning really far ahead. In 18 months all sorts can happen, they can go bust, split up, get sick, fall out of fashion, so we have to hope they sell out fast enough to cover that risk. As a producer you’re always at risk. A big problem today is the business push to do one extra show. To do three arena shows instead of one. Promoters are scared they’ll lose an act so they go along with it. I grew up thinking demand should always strip supply, but you’d then get pushed. It’s hard to put your foot down and say: “I don’t think that will work”. The last thing an artist wants is a show that’s not sold out. But they don’t understand what’s behind it, the bidding wars are insane. We should 34 be a demand business. That doesn’t mean doing one Hammersmith Apollo show when you could be doing ten O2s, but it is a balance. Promoters gave up ownership of ticket distribution, the ticket brokers are now in control and they have no skin in the game. It doesn’t matter to them if act A or B sells. When one act is not selling, they put efforts into ones that are. The distribution system is also still really bad. People get shifted to websites that cost ten times more. We need to get to a fair system even if it can’t fill demand, and we should push government to not be a commodity to be bought and sold. Let’s not over-exploit artists. They pushed Rhianna into doing big stadium shows, but they were a disaster. If they’d held back, the next year she no doubt could have done “I believe my role in life is to entertain people, so I’m as happy promoting Smash Hits as I am Pavarotti.” two such shows. Every time Queen came to London they played Wembley Arena, then Wembley Stadium, but people were getting bored of seeing the same show in the same venue. So I said: “We need to do something else, let’s do a stripped back tour in smaller venues”. So they went off in a huddle and came back and said: “Let’s do it”. We played 12 ballrooms in London, including The Lyceum, and five shows at Hammersmith. All we had was six spotlights and some equipment. It was stripped back and the band had an absolute blast. The next time we came back, we played Knebworth twice and sold it out. Sadly that was near to the end for Freddie. Customers need a bit of variety and artists need to think through their careers. The fan wants to see you in your best light. With all the technology at festivals, the sound is still lacking. In general, is the industry a better managed, more professional scene nowadays? Fyre Festival aside, of course. Fyre Festival was a con from to start with, and proves my point about instant success and celebrity factor. It had nothing to do with music. When I heard about it, I had a weird feeling, and what happened didn’t surprise me. What did surprise me was how people in the industry stuck by it, and agreed to take the money – not good for the business. As an exercise it’s a stroke of genius, but everyone suffered really badly. But the industry is much more professional in general. Weeley Festival (1971) was a classic example of how not to do a festival – it was the most bizarre event, held on the East Coast, but people didn’t know back then. The recent Fortnite event was another cheap rip off, like the cheap winter shows which disappoint children, and end up with them being stuck in a field. Unfortunately, the public are gullible, but overall most event organisers are run very efficiently and well. What kinds of technology and IT innovations would benefit the industry? There’s been a huge number of experiments on data management, on watching people flows, with RFID systems to manage bars, etc, but it’s still a big pain to understand how patterns of people work. Regarding ticketing: there is no reason why a ticket can’t simply be just on your phone. Sim cards are secure and individual. The industry has to decide how honest it wants to be - the public are our customers and if we keep taking the piss and overcharging them, they’ll kick back.