‘Our Business Depends On Selling Tickets’: Q’s With Broadwick Live’s Bradley Thompson

Six years ago, a group of festival owners, producers and brand professionals joined forces under one umbrella and founded Broadwick Live: Gareth Cooper, Jon Drape, Alexander Bennett and Bradley Thompson.

Lost Village Festival 2017
– Lost Village Festival 2017
Part of Broadwick Live’s festival portfolio

The company, which got invested in by Global in 2016, owns Hideout, Field Day, Y Not, Truck,

It also runs Printworks, a 4,000-plus capacity venue in East London, which just received a new live music space for 3,000 guests. Pollstar met Thompson at Broadwick Live’s HQ in Camden, London.

There’s three parts to Broadwick Live: music, culture and travel. “We like to differentiate ourselves from others in the market. Music obviously defines everything we do, but culture is really important to us, too, things like food, arts, talks, that kind of engagement with people. Creating an experience is really something we want to fulfill at every live event we do.”

Thirdly, there’s the travel aspect, which Broadwick identified as a gap in the market years ago, when the economy of experience was just getting started and people began traveling to festivals and events. It’s how Snowbombing started in 2000: as a festival-and-ski-holiday combo package. Today, Broadwick takes over all available accommodation in the entire town of Mayrhofen, Austria, where the event takes place. Booking, flights, transfers are all processed through the company’s festival website.

– Snowbombing
The tranquil appearance is deceiving. There are raves, concerts and partys happening all over the mountain and the valley

Thompson sees greater amounts of punters paying for glamping at Broadwick’s festivals each year, which he takes as confirmation of his company’s dedication to creating experiences. For instance, 25 percent of all guests at Lost Village are in boutique camping, as are 40 percent of guests at Festival No. 6, if one includes hotels.

The experience is enhanced by a gourmet food offering. At Festival No. 6, for example, there’s Michelin starred banquet held for 500 festivalgoers every day. Some of the UK’s well-reviewed restaurant brands, including Hawksmoor and Dishoom, collaborate with Lost Village.

Broadwick Live started moving into the brand world as well, doing sponsorships with the likes of Adidas, Bacardi, Virgin Trains, Volvo and ACE Hotels, among others. The hotel partnership in particular, opens up new synergies for the city and close-to-city festivals.

Brands like Broadwick’s connection to the music industry allows for high-profile endorsements. The one-off Bacardi Triangle Festival in 2014, for instance, was headlined by Kendrick Lamar, Ellie Goulding and Calvin Harris.

Bradley Thompson
– Bradley Thompson
Co-founder and MD of Broadwick Live

What separates Broadwick from other brand agencies, according to Thompson, is its authenticity, which he thinks stems from the fact that the company’s main responsibility is the punter. “We’re in the business of selling tickets. Our business depends on it. If we don’t sell, say, 4,000 tickets for Printworks, the business doesn’t work. So we’re a bit more savvy and on the ground in terms of trends and what people like.

“What is more, being promoters and festival organizers, we’re quite good at getting value for money out of people. Just through years of working in this industry you had to beg, borrow and steal in order to get shit done. You’re used to using the pot of money you have to the most efficient way,” said Thompson.

He also spoke about Printworks, a historic printing press, which got transformed and opened as a 4,000-capacity electronic music temple in Nov. 2016. An adjacent 3,000-capacity live music hall was added earlier this year.

When Broadwick took over the venue in 2016, it was expected to be a temporary project. The building stands on land that is currently redeveloped as part of London’s so-called Canada Water Masterplan, which involves a new shopping center, leisure park, work and entertainment spaces, restaurants and more.

Seeing how successful it has been operating since opening, however, Southwark Council, the responsible authority, and developers British Land, will most likely include the space into their plans. 

“We’ve got a very tight relationship with British Land, who own the whole site, so while at the moment it is temporary, we’re working with them on their Masterplan. Whatever happens in the future, I’m pretty confident that Printworks will continue in a similar guise to what it is now, or if not, a developed and slightly different looking one.

“From all our discussions with British Land, the heritage of that building is very important to them and all of Canada Water.”

What is more, the venue brings an audience to Canada Water besides live and electronic music, comedy and art, Printworks also hosts corporate events. “They understand it’s a beating heart that’s going to foster anything else they want to do in that area,” said Thompson.

The new live music hall at Printworks hosted three concerts so far by Django Django, Tokio Myers and Pendulum, all three selling out. According to Thompson, “There is probably a bit of a lack of venues at that [3,000] capacity in London. Hopefully we can make it work, it certainly looks like it’s going from strength to strength.”

Printworks London
– Printworks London
Electronic music temple and live concert venue

Printworks wasn’t a one-off. Without being able to disclose any details, Thompson revealed that Broadwick is going to open another music venue in West London, scheduled for Easter next year. It is going to incorporate the same mix of electronic and live music, interspersed with corporate activity.

This model allows Broadwick Live “to sweat the venue a little bit harder. Also, by doing it that way, it allows us some freedom [in programming].” Printworks has hosted an eclectic mix of acts, including the London Sinfonietta, a collaboration of the Royal Ballet and the National Ballet of Canada, and comedy shows.

On the live side, the venue is open to working with all promoters while promoting most electronic shows in-house. Broadwick’s experience in festivals means, “We treat the individual gigs in, say, Printworks, much more as an event than a venue. You build up to it, people can come down early, there are various different food traders, a giant outdoor area.”

The UK’s venue crisis, which has been in the news continuously for the past years, didn’t discourage Thompson and his team. “I think if you do something good, especially in an incredible site like Printworks, artists want to play and people want to visit. We’ve always been quite focused on the setting, whether it’s putting Kasabian on top of a glacier at Snowbombing or hosting a festival like No.6 at an Italian-inspired coastal town in Wales. It elevates the overall experience. For us, Printworks was so unique, different and interesting that we always thought it would be a success.

“People want to experience things, there’s a need for it, they want the social kudos that come with it. The live environment is only going to go from strength to strength, as long as people keep on doing interesting events.”