‘If We Make Too Many Rules The Kids Will Find Something Else’: Q’s With DHP Family’s George Akins

George Akins
– George Akins
Founder and managing director of DHP Family

The current demand for live entertainment has every part of the business buzzing with opportunity, and venues are no exception. Whether you’re talking stadiums or clubs, they all cater to people’s need to be entertained in different ways. 
George Akins, founder of DHP Family, explains how, and warns the industry, not to become too corporate. He also revealed that his company will be opening a new site in Birmingham, England, next year.
How would you sum up the state of business at DHP Family in 2019?
Very positive.  We are enjoying our 3rd record year on the bounce with strong performances in both our Venue and Live business.  2019 has started well with venues up and some great shows, notably Massive Attack’s two nights in a purpose-built pop up 15,000 cap venue in Bristol
What are you looking for in a venue, before deciding to invest in and run it?
Mainly location and capacity.  We look for gaps in the market in cities we are interested in and then get a feel whether the location will work.  The space we find has to fit the gap.  We tend to want a separate bar space from the venue now as well.
If you had to sum up your philosophy of running venues in a sentence, what would that be?
Make sure everyone has a fucking great time…..Safely
A glimpse inside Oslo in Hackney, London
– A glimpse inside Oslo in Hackney, London
One of DHPs venues in the English capital

What are the challenges for a venue operator in the UK in 2019? What are the opportunities?
Raising rent and rates, constant regulation changes and increases in PPL.  Licensing authority regimes can be quite different where you are as well. Opportunities are abundant with the growth in people’s need for experiential activities.  Live music can’t be recreated in your living room.
How do you make sure, your venues are future proof?
Staying on trend, constant investment in people and the building
What other forms of live entertainment besides concerts do you host at your venues? Does that hold true for all of the buildings in your portfolio, or are there some that are purely concert venues?
Club is probably the biggest part of our business.  Food is a big part of the offer at Oslo. We do constant work on bar offers to make it a 360-degree experience.  We concentrate heavily on people who don’t necessarily want to go to live music so we can take a bite of different audiences.
Do you plan on diversifying the live entertainment formats that can be hosted at your venues? Could e-sports or shows by YouTubers for instance become a thing? Have they already become a thing?
We have had plenty of YouTubers come and do things at Rock City as well as things like Jackass spinoffs (don’t try this at home), wrestling and UFC stuff, darts,  skate ramps (although not for several years).  Our smaller venues mainly see music, with some comedy and YouTubers.
When speaking to promoters these days, they say that live entertainment has never been in greater demand. Can you confirm that?
Yes, it grows constantly, when I first started out we were 18-plus and didn’t see many shows for people over 40.  Now the age range spans from 14 to 60-odd and beyond sometimes.  Licensing changes have allowed us to run gigs and club on the same night so we can do more shows at the weekend. Regulations and generational changes have made going to gigs like going to the cinema now.  You can be home by 11 p.m.
Can you exemplify that by sharing your ticket sales for 2018, as well as so far in 2019?
We sold in excess of 1.3 million tickets in 2018.  For shows in the first two months of 2019 we had sold approximately 75,000 tickets compared to 30,000 at the same time last year.
Are concert tickets too expensive? Why, why not?
Sometimes they can be, although it’s our opinion that they have been way too cheap for a very long time.  People will pay a lot more for their uber or dinner or a hotel room for the night than they will for the actual concert ticket.  We do believe people are starting to see the value in live entertainment, however at grass roots level we should be careful.  It’s about getting people to check things out so not overpricing them.
What’s next on your agenda, as far as your venues are concerned?
We have a site in Birmingham we are opening next year.  There has been a lot of planning but we think we’ve cracked some of the issues we were up against involving the fabric of the building.
If you look at the live entertainment industry in general, what comes to mind? Like ticket prices, artist fees, over-saturation with festivals etc? Anything that worries you/makes you optimistic? 
We feel the industry is becoming a bit too corporate.  There’s no doubt some of this has benefited our industry but we must be careful not to stifle the creativity that has made it so attractive.  It is Rock and Roll after all!
If we make too many rules the kids will find something else to excite them. People in suits in hedge funds have no idea what makes a teenager tick and hopefully they’ll fuck off to bleed some other industry dry.