‘Stadiums Become Old Quickly’: Exploring The State Of The International Venues Business

Exploring The State Of The International Venues Business
– Exploring The State Of The International Venues Business
From left: James Taylor, Debbie McWilliams, Ron Kaplan, Helen Glengarry

In his opening remarks on day one of Pollstar Live!, Oak View Group CEO and co-founder Tim Leiweke had already said that music has become the greatest anchor tenant for venues. A panel on day two of the conference talked about how to make sure it remained that way.
Paul Korzilius, Bon Jovi Management, Consultant, Oak View Group
Helen Glengarry, Head of Performances, Venues Wellington, NZ
Ron Kaplan, Senior Agent, Paradigm
Debbie McWilliams, Head of Live Entertainment, Scottish Event Campus
James Taylor, Senior Commercial Manager, Wembley Stadium
Wembley Stadium is 12 years old this year, and Taylor explained that “we are quickly finding that stadiums become old quickly.” Which is why the iconic building invested £10 million into its hospitality facilities last year.
“We’re doing well with our concerts this year, but if we want to keep the standard of events that we want, we realized our stadium needed significant investment,” Taylor explained. “We’re investing in a whole load of areas of our stadium, from the roof to the hospitality rooms, the backstage. We’ve also updated our changing rooms.”
Wembley Stadium also “invested heavily” in staff, in order to hire music specialists, which has made promoters and artists happy, according to Taylor.
Even The SSE Hydro may be only five years old, but is constantly investing in improving its customer and artist experience. “Since opening, I’m delighted to say, we have invested anything between 500 and 700k annually,” McWilliams said.
In New Zealand, most venues are owned by the cities. According to Glengarry, there was only one venue partially owned by Live Nation in the whole country, which made it an open field for any venue operators to come in and bring their expertise in running a proper live entertainment temple with them.
The panel also addressed a lack of big headline acts in 2019. McWilliams explained that the careers of many new acts lacked longevity because of peoples’ listening habits. Streaming was breaking artists quickly, which meant that people were moving on to something new equally fast.
Some of these over-night successes are still able to fill arenas, but the short-term nature of these phenomena poses obvious booking challenges .
According to Korzilius, making people feel safe at a venue was paramount. To which Taylor responded that Wembley Stadium had learned a lot from the NFL, which plays two games per year at the venue. The stadium’s ban on all bags is one result of that.  
The SSE Hydro limits the size of bags, but does not ban them outright. Both the Hydro and Wembley Stadium have also started to move the external perimeter away from the buildings, to the effect that people are frisked way ahead of entering the venue and vehicles cannot even come close.
New Zealand stands out in terms of safety. “There’s more security at this conference than we’d have at a gig in New Zealand,” Glengarry explained, adding that the biggest threat to concertgoers in New Zealand was earthquakes.
Eminem‘s only NZ show in 2019 at Westpac Stadium in Wellington, March 2, will pose a real challenge in terms of complying with the artist’s security standards at shows.
Looking into the future, a few trends emerged. In the UK, comedy has been experiencing “a phenomenal amount of growth”, according to McWilliams. And while Brexit was an uncertainty, the industry looked as buoyant as ever.
Technology will be a major factor as well, and the panel ended talking about the potential of hologram tours. Paradigm represents the estates of Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash and Amy Winehouse, and Kaplan said: “It’s developing. The actual hologram is somewhat static. They can’t move left to right, they can’t more side to side. But the technology is going to develop.”