Tough At The Summit

Organisers of Live UK’s The Summit conference were relieved to report that a surprisingly high number of late registrations took the number of paying delegates past last year’s figure.

The day after the gathering at London’s Radisson SAS Portman Hotel Oct. 7-8, Live UK publisher and editor Steve Parker told Pollstar he hadn’t seen the final numbers but knew they more than the 250 paying delegates who attended in 2008.

“It was very difficult because few people in business are having a good time at the moment, but many who had promised they were coming – but so far hadn’t bought a ticket – were as good as their word and registered in the last few days running up to the event,” he said.

“It was really slow with about a month to go,” he said, echoing the comments made by Martin Hopewell when this year’s ILMC benefited from a surge of late registrations.

Hopewell and Parker have been able to grow their numbers, however slightly. France’s MIDEM reported delegate numbers were 12 percent down and Germany’s Popkomm had to be “postponed” until 2010 due to lack of interest.

The real problem facing Germany and various other territories wanting to develop a conference might be the sheer number that have sprung up in the last few years.

Whether they’re in Oslo, Copenhagen, Tallinn, Tel Aviv, Joensuu, or even Vienna – which is expected to start one in 2010 – all these conferences try to attract international music business panelists, delegates and journalists.

Only Eurosonic-Noorderslag in The Netherlands Jan. 14-16, Europe’s biggest live music industry gathering and the likely target of at least 2,500 delegates, seems immune to a cold economic climate.

Instead of a conference panel on whether there are too many summer festivals, maybe it’s time for a discussion on whether there are too many conferences.

The Live UK Summit arguably deserved to attract more delegates, as the headliners included John Giddings (Solo), Rob Hallett (AEG Live), Geoff Meall (The Agency Group) and Barry Dickins (ITB) discussing how U.K. agents are “Masters Of The Universe.”
Even a few of the top U.S. agents, including Chris Dalston (CAA), Tony Goldring (William Morris Endeavor Entertainment), and Laurence Leader (ICM), are Brits.

Dickins drew attention to the fact that the UK is a small island territory, meaning agents had to develop other markets.

Hallett, particularly citing his earlier days with Duran Duran, admitted London agents also enjoyed seeking out shows in cities they thought might be cool places to visit.

Presumably, U.S. agents could spend more time developing their acts in a much larger home market, and therefore spent less time creating business bonds with promoters from cool territories.

Apart from saying the panels looked busier than the previous year and that acoustic acts playing in the bar until 8 p.m. encouraged delegates to stay a little later and “network,” Parker also singled out the contribution made by his political panelists.

At a time when politicians incurring any sort of expenses might be perceived to be sending out the wrong message, The Summit attracted Tory MP and former shadow secretary for culture, media and sport John Whittingdale and Liberal-Democrat peer Lord Redesdale.

Rather than just use the event as a useful photo opportunity, as some of the more cynical delegates may have expected, Parker said both showed they’d made a thorough study of the discussion subjects – the Licensing Act and Form 696.

The “potentially racist” sections have now been removed from the Form 696 questionnaire, which may have made it easier for Whittingdale to balance the argument against it by giving a cogent explanation of how the information on it has actually proven useful to police.

In 2003 the Labour government said the licensing act’s aim was to make it simpler and more affordable for smaller venues to stage live entertainment, but there’s a growing swell of evidence to suggest it’s become harder and more expensive.

U.K. Music chief Fergal Sharkey was also due to address the licensing act and Form 696 at The University Of Westminster’s MusicTank forum Oct. 13.

At press time, Manchester’s In The City (Oct. 18-20) hadn’t published its full panel schedule. The subjects may come up again.