Europe’s Arenas: Committed To The Experience

The SSE Hydro
The SSE Hydro
– The SSE Hydro
And the Armadillo to the left
Customer experience is everything in 2019. Younger generations spend their money on adventures they can share via social media rather than on things. Venue operators know this and have acted accordingly.
Debbie McWilliams, head of live entertainment at The SSE Hydro in Glasgow, Scotland – Pollstar’s top European arena in 2018, with 1,102,585 tickets sold – spoke at this year’s Pollstar Live! conference, where she said:
“Fans these days are buying experiences over things. We very much see ourselves as part of the overall experience. 
“The artist delivers the show, but we have to deliver a venue that matches the quality of that show. That’s our commitment. Since opening five years ago, we have invested between 500k and 700k annually into our backstage, front of house and hospitality areas.”
Arnaud Millard, head of programming at AccorHotels Arena Paris, Pollstar’s third place European arena in terms of ticket sales, concurred: “We know that our fans come first and foremost to enjoy their favorite artists live. From our side, and following the latest trends, we work to create a 360 experience from the moment the fans buy their tickets to when they arrive at the venue as well as after the show.”
WiZink Center
– WiZink Center
When the auditorium is packed

Providing a great experience is equally important when dealing with artists and their teams. Besides offering quality facilities, that means being flexible in order to host the massive variety of events – family shows, some of which involve horses, some of which require an ice rink; esports tournaments; performing arts; comedy shows; concerts by up-and-coming artists and superstars alike – that are all part of a modern arena’s event calendar.
Promoters appreciate venues that can reconfigure or drape seats during smaller capacity shows, so that performers don’t feel like they’re playing to half-empty houses. 
“Some arenas say they can drape, but you’re standing there on a windy night, the curtain blows, and you can see all the empty seats, and there’s no atmosphere.  You could have sold 7,000 tickets and look like a failure going out there,” Scottish promoter Mark Mackie of Regular Music recently told Pollstar, adding that the SSE Hydro gets it right. “Even at two-thirds filled, the Hydro can be draped and walled and look fantastic.”
AccorHotels Arena
AccorHotels Arena
– AccorHotels Arena

AccorHotels Arena offers 30 different configurations to host live events ranging between capacities of 7,000 to 20,000. Pollstar’s No. 5,

“We can host any kind of event that the mind is able to imagine,” the venue’s general manager Manuel Saucedo told Pollstar in an interview last year. In his mind, “a venue has to offer services that will allow promoters to reduce costs as well as the time it takes to build up the stage. Productions are very expensive as are artist fees and tickets. 
“For this reason, we try to keep our rent as well as the prices for our services as low as possible, so that we can help promoters reduce their prices a little bit.”
One factor influencing the work of venue operators going forward is the way people consume music. In the age of streaming, artists can break overnight and disappear from the scene equally fast, making it difficult to breed loyalty.
As McWilliams explained at Pollstar Live!, while the longevity isn’t there, there is always something new coming along. “That’s a big change, but it’s also a great opportunity,” she concluded.