AMG Taps Union Power

Academy Music Group is expanding its venue business by running two Students’ Union venues, once the lifeblood of acts taking their early steps on the tour circuit.

On May 4 AMG announced it had secured contracts to run student venues in Liverpool and Hatfield, alongside the O2 Academies it already runs in London, Glasgow, Newcastle, Liverpool, Sheffield, Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Oxford and Bournemouth.

The Hatfield venue is The Forum, a 2,000-capacity room in the state-of-the-art £3.8 million development that was opened last summer by the University of Hertfordshire.

Liverpool Guild of Students is one of the city’s largest venues, with a main room capacity of 2,300.

While student unions once formed the backbone of the touring circuit, the live music boom that began at the beginning of the ’90s caused many artists and promoters to look for more shows outside the college venues.

In some student venues, the production values were low. Others had restrictive trading practices that meant non-students couldn’t get in, and curfews were usually earlier than the nearby clubs.

AMG chief exec John Northcote saw the need for professionally run, privately owned venues and accelerated his bid to create a nationwide chain of them. His company now has 13.

“AMG puts considerable investment into every new site, somewhere between £4 million and £6.5 million in major towns and cities, ensuring they’re the ‘must play’ venues,” Northcote explained as the move into student territory was announced.

“Student union venues are now looking to the expertise within AMG that the industry expects from booking gigs and club nights, to promotion, marketing and its technical infrastructure.

“This management deal will create further key venues, operated to a high standard in wider reaching locations with improved facilities that promoters can now utilise on the touring circuit, with the full backing of AMG,” he said.

AMG commercial development manager Carl Bathgate, who began exploring the possibility of working with student venues more than a year ago, doesn’t anticipate it will create any problems that the company’s staff hasn’t previously experienced.

He points out that many key employees at AMG, as with others at Live Nation, AEG, and the major national promoters and London agencies, began their careers running entertainment in student venues.

“Many [AEG] employees cut their teeth and have a wealth of experience in this market, which will serve to bring through and develop the next generation of general managers and student union venue staff,” he explained.

“Many student unions are ideally located but currently under-utilised resources, thus AMG is striving to improve such offerings to its own high standard; providing high quality entertainment for both the student and non-student market,” he said.

AMG, which is part-owned by Live Nation, Irish promoter Denis Desmond, and the promoters behind the UK’s V Festivals, aims to host 120 events across the two university sites in 2010.