ILMC Sells Out

At least 1,000 people are expected at London’s International Live Music Conference March 11-13, when the annual gathering revamps its format.

The first change delegates will notice is that Carl Leighton-Pope’s Talking Shop, which usually starts the conference with a full-house, is off the agenda.

The recently announced replacement is a new format called “Have I Got Live News For You,” based on the 20-year-old UK TV panel show “Have I Got News For You” that’s renowned for its satirical slant.

The panelists, who are all in the frontline when it comes to being bothered by music journalists or music trade reporters, will be reviewing what they believe to be the key music biz stories from the last 12 months.

The content may not be much different from Leighton-Pope’s Talking Shop, a tongue-in-cheek and irreverent take on the live music industry’s last year, but such panelists as Muse manager Anthony Addis, Live Nation chief ops officer Paul Latham, DEAG chief Peter Schwenkow and The Agency Group boss Neil Warnock appear good choices to make it equally amusing.

The Saturday sessions begin with a 10 a.m. choice between “Emerging Markets,” a production panel that has crowd safety at the top of its agenda and another about the importance of running greener events.

Kilimanjaro Live chief Stuart Galbraith will then chair a ticketing (or secondary ticketing) panel.

In 2008, the last time he chaired the same panel, there were stories of various other panelists making physical threats against Viagogo chief Eric Baker.

Baker wouldn’t comment beyond telling Pollstar that what was said to him pre-panel was 10 times worse than anything the delegates heard during the session.

Secondary ticketing is a hardy perennial that always pops its head up at ILMC, but it’s particularly important this year as it’s probably the last chance to discuss it before the 2012 Olympics sends the ticketing business close to meltdown.

The government is evidently reassured that there will be no reselling of Olympic tickets on sites such as eBay, but they’re probably not the sites the government should be worrying about.

The current Tory government will get the flak when tickets are advertised on secondary or even bogus sites, although it’ll likely point out that the previous Labour government did nothing about the issue when it had the chance.

It did outlaw the reselling of tickets for certain “crown jewel” events, but the Olympics may well be a test of whether such a law can be enforced.

It’s also against the law to resell soccer tickets but on March 8, a few days before the Olympic tickets were due to go on sale, police raided a furniture shop in south London and found English Premier League soccer club membership cards and UEFA Champions League match tickets.

Police across Britain have mounted an anti-scalping operation intended to deter touts who focus on sporting events.

ILMC public relations chief Chris Prosser has said the main focus this year will be “the unpredictability of next year,” although it was easily predictable ILMC would sell out in advance.

Other topics likely to be on the agenda in the bars and corridors of London’s Royal Gardens Hotel are PRS wanting to hike its rates and the so-called live music bill.

Latham has already put forward a cogent argument as to why PRS shouldn’t have a larger piece of the pot.

He says the collection agency, which takes 3 percent of the box office, is “the biggest bounty hunter in the business” because it’s already benefiting as rising ticket prices mean it’s taking a percentage of a bigger pot.

Latham and others including Festival Republic chief Melvin Benn, who’s accused PRS of “money-grabbing,” will no doubt put forward an eloquent case regarding the danger of further inflating ticket prices – or reducing promoters’ margins.

The reality may be that they won’t be able to block PRS from increasing its percentage, and the real battle will be to try to limit the amount.

PRS will base its case on the fact it charges less than most of its European equivalents. It also has the form book on its side as GEMA, the German royalty-collecting agency, has just won new rates that mean promoters will have to pay three times the old bottom rate of 1.87 percent they were paying on smaller shows.

“I don’t think the UK promoters have a chance of protesting a rate rise, it’s just a case of trying to limit the damage,” says Jens Michow, who led the German promoters’ fight to keep GEMA’s rates as low as possible.

A year ago PRS launched an online application where members could submit details of their gigs abroad. Since then its members have registered more than 5,000 events in 60 countries, double what was reported the previous year.

Apparently the gigs ranged from the 12,000-capacity Vector Arena in Auckland, New Zealand, to smaller shows in bars in Kazakhstan.

The news that PRS international revenues have risen nearly 250 percent in the last 10 years may be used to suggest the UK doesn’t reward its writers as well as they’re rewarded in other countries.

This year’s ILMC coincides with the government giving qualified backing to a Live Music Bill, which would permit small pubs to stage gigs without a license.

Baroness Rawlings told the House of Lords the coalition government will back the Private Members’ Bill tabled by Liberal Democrat Lord Clement-Jones, but there are certain caveats.

It will support plans to offer a licensing exemption to pubs running shows with a capacity up to 200, provided there was a close examination of the “technical aspects” of deregulation in case the process has any “unintended adverse consequences.”

There will also have to be an examination of what effect the bill might have on current licensing conditions.

Baroness Rawlings also said the government would prefer the venues to have an 11 p.m. curfew, rather than finish at midnight.
The government has said it wants to cut the red tape for small music venues and is prepared to help the bill become law, provided it’s convinced it won’t have any nasty side effects.

It’s already been suggested that turning the bill into law could involve various government departments, which would include the Department for Work and Pensions and the Home Office looking at health and safety legislation and public order.

Given the conditions, promoters and small venues may have different views on the value of the government support.