ILMC 25: A Good Time

The theme for this year’s International Live Music Conference was rapid time travel, whizzing back over its 25-year history and lurching forward into the future.

It was probably great fun for people who are at an age when their molecules can stand the displacement.

On Saturday morning, one of the press pack who was doing his first ILMC was finding time travel can be a hazardous experience.

He’d gone into the bar the previous evening and was suddenly catapulted forward to 8 o’clock the following morning. He said it took a little time for him to realise what had happened because he was still in the bar.

The 25th ILMC was, above all, a downbeat industry being upbeat about attending what’s probably its greatest social occasion.

At the moment, the business has what seems like more than its fair share of problems but over the March 7-10 weekend it didn’t show.

The only worry was that the bar was so packed there was a danger the secondary drink sellers might move in.

They’d market their service as a valuable consumer choice for those who’d rather pay double for their drinks than struggle through the melee to get them. Meanwhile, those who’d rather queue and pay only the advertised price would be told that the bar has run dry.

It was surprising that secondary ticketing – the industry’s biggest sore point – didn’t make the agenda.

Since the Operation Podium police report recommended legislating against the secondary market, the touts issue has become a re-heated potato. But leaving it off the schedule might have been the right call. It would have been more than a little ungracious if the 1,000 or so delegates who’d been invited to such a landmark celebration started fighting among themselves.

Australian promoter Michael Chugg, Live Nation Spain's Pino Sagliocco and European Concert Agency's Marcel Avram.

The subject cropped up a time or two, but only in passing, before whichever panel shifted back to its own agenda.

It started in the first session when Aussie promoter Michael Chugg said he was relieved the secondary market hadn’t reached his territory.

Beam him forward five years and let’s hope he doesn’t find Viagogo has set up next door to his offices.

Throughout the weekend there was a series of panels based on “Dragons’ Den,” a BBC TV programme that’s a sort of an entrepreneurial masterclass. At various times it featured the likes of Thomas Johansson, Leon Ramakers, Carl Leighton-Pope and Harvey Goldsmith.

Although these people are what could be described as arena-level conference speakers, the size of the den must have made them think they’d been hurled back to their days of telephone box and toilet tours.

It was fair to bill them as “must see” sessions, but the venue – unlike a TARDIS – was no bigger than it appeared from the outside.  The people left milling around in the corridor couldn’t hear what was being said. Apparently the penny dropped before the final slot (Goldsmith’s) was upgraded to a bigger room.

Although the tone of the panels indicated this would be anything but a confrontational ILMC, it’s fair to say it didn’t suffer from it.

It certainly had its humorous moments. Live Nation festival fixer John Probyn, who spent much of last summer up to his butt in Hyde Park mud, chaired a panel on the outdoor market. “Past, Present And Future Tents,” it was called.

It included two festival organisers who’ve probably never needed to learn what bark chip costs per cubic metre. The weather at their festivals was so hot they brought in snow machines so the fans could cool themselves.

The cost of covering the Hyde Park festival site with bark chip was £1.5 million. Giving up and canceling the shows would have cost £39 million.

While Danny Hassenstein from Paleo-Nyon told how hot it got in Switzerland, Probyn glanced skyward as if hoping something would swoop down and carry him off to any place where they weren’t talking about snow machines.

Martin Goebbels from Robertson Taylor gave a cogent explanation of why the salutary lesson from summer 2012 was the importance of knowing what a festival’s insurance does and doesn’t cover.

The ILMC organisers can look back and be happy that their 25th bash was a success, certainly in the sense that around 1,000 music biz execs appear to have had a good time.

It also showed going back and forth to the past and future can create bizarre – or even surreal – situations. The karaoke that closed Saturday night had a music business lawyer (Ben Challice) singing “Losing My Religion.” What could this mean?

Anyone who’d gone to bed the same day as they’d woken up in would have missed it. That’s time travel for you.

An hour earlier the bar had been buzzing with a story that The Rolling Stones will be playing Hyde Park this summer.

Or was it that we were all going back to see the Hyde Park show the band did in 1969, the one when Mick Jagger quoted Shelley in tribute to Brian Jones and then set all those butterflies free?

Is it possible that going back in time can actually change history? This time maybe the Hyde Park residents will complain about the damage done to their cabbage patches.

The truth of the Stones story should be known by the end of last month.

The Arthur Award for best festival went to Rock Werchter in Belgium. But that could happen in any year.

Folkert Koopmans, head of Germany’s FKP Scorpio, won best promoter.

ILMC was at London’s Royal Garden Hotel over several time zones including March 7-10.