Venue Summit: Industry relationships
Chair: Lucy Noble, Royal Albert Hall (UK)
Jane Beese, The Roundhouse (UK)
André Lieberberg, Live Nation (DE)
Paul Ryan, United Talent Agency (UK)
Doug Smith, Ticketmaster (UK)
The third Venue Summit session touched on several topics relating to the changing role of venues in the wider live music ecosystem, including self-promoting, ticketing and brand partnerships.
Noble asked all three venue operators on the panel whether they promote their own shows – and, if so, how much friction it causes with promoters. She said part of her role at the Royal Albert Hall is to develop its own and co-productions, which currently make up around 14% of the venue’s total programming. These shows – although still a relatively small part of its business, so “no one should panic yet!” – are good for the venue as “we can control the brand more, have an input on artistic quality, and link in our education and outreach programme,” she continued, “and, being honest, we do quite well financially out of them as well.”
The Roundhouse’s Jane Beese said the north London venue welcomes more than 100 shows a year from external promoters, so “balance is important: balance between promoters coming in, corporate events and our own programming, which also includes circus, spoken-word and performing-arts events.”
“Promoters are a huge chunk of our business,” she continued, “so it’s not in our interest to be pissing them off.”
UTA agent Paul Ryan said he “see[s] it from both sides.” “The word ‘balance’ was used – I think that’s a good term,” he explained. “As an agent working across multiple territories, we’ve got to look at what’s good for the artist. Venues like the Royal Albert Hall and Roundhouse are a bit different, but if it’s a standard rock ’n’ roll venue […] there’s got to be a good reason why you’d want to go into a venue directly instead of dealing with a national promoter.”
Noble asked Kilimanjaro CEO Stuart Galbraith if he’d be angry if the Royal Albert Hall bid against him for a one-night show. “Yes!” he replied, to laughs. While “there are a lot of reasons why venues should self-promote in certain circumstances,” Galbraith said going promoter-free only works if the show is a “slam-dunk sell-out. If you’ve got a show that stops at 60% there’s nowhere else to go,” he commented. “That’s where we [the promoter] would make a difference.”
The reason he’d be angry if Kili and a venue both bid on the same show, he added, is because “you’d only bid on shows you think are going to sell out,” leaving the promoter to handle the riskier prospects.
Emporium Presents talent buyer Jason Zink said he’s had venues that have “stolen shows from us – and that’s the last time we’ll work with that venue.”
Onto ticketing, and discussion turned to the merits and drawbacks of venues operating their own box offices. Ticketmaster’s Doug Smith said it’s up to venues whether they want to ticket their own shows, but by doing so they miss out on Ticketmaster’s “good technology line [and] huge market reach.” “We want to assist you in selling out your venue,” he commented.
Zink said venues have be to sure that if they do go the self-ticketing route, they have the infrastructure in place to deal with demand. “We had a case last year – an arena show – where the website went down for an hour after on-sale,” he said. “That’s not acceptable – if people can’t buy tickets when they want to.”
Beese said the Roundhouse holds on to 70% of ticket inventory, with the remaining 30% going to the promoter. That’s not enough, said Galbraith: “Many venues now are saying you need to give us 60–70%, and then the only tickets that aren’t selling are the venue’s allocation. I have to pay to take them out of the box office, which is wrong. […] Venues are stopping us being able to effectively promote.”
“The proportion held back is sometimes an issue,” agreed Ryan. “As an agent, all I really care about is having those tickets spread as widely as possible.”
On the subject of sponsorship, AEG Ogden’s Tim Horton underlined the importance of brand partners offering something more to fans than simply a name above the door. He highlighted brand “activations” by naming partner Qudos Bank at the eponymous 21,000-cap. arena in Sydney, as a good example: the bank supplies photobooths and roving photographers to take pictures of concertgoers, allowing fans to take home a memento of the show and share it on social media. Those who share photos online are also entered into a competition to win upgraded seats for future gigs.
While Beese said the Roundhouse is “fiercely proud” of its independent, unbranded credentials, Zink said as a promoter he is a “big fan” of branded venues and their potential for putting Emporium shows “in front of more eyeballs.”