– Greg Parmley.
Head of the International Live Music Conference ILMC.
Greg Parmley, the CEO of UK’s live entertainment trade body LIVE and head of the International Live Music Conference ILMC, hasn’t had much opportunity to pause and take a breath over these past two years. He’s not complaining, it’s just a fact. COVID, Brexit, war in Europe – it just doesn’t seem to end. Until Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, there had been reasons to feel positive about the return of live in Europe, but the spirit of optimism that took hold of the continent has been quenched by these hostile actions.
Parlmey said, as the industry comes out of “its darkest period in history,” there’s lots to be positive about: “If you look at the amount of festivals, new festivals and established festivals becoming bigger, we’re in for a bumper summer. If everybody can have a decent summer, it sets everything up for 2023 and beyond in terms of recovery.”
– ILMC 34’s theme is “Brave New World”
The conference team issued a statement in solidarity and support of the people of Ukraine.
Many professionals were forced to leave the business and find new jobs over the past two years. There will be an adjustment period, during which supply chain and staffing issues will have to be worked out. ILMC’s sessions have been designed to facilitate those conversations in the different sectors of the business.
The first conference day is dedicated to the production sector. Around 400 of the world’s top production managers, sound and lighting engineers, venue personnel, suppliers and promoters’ representatives will put their heads together at the 15th ILMC Production Meeting (IPM), April 26.
Between then and April 29, ILMC’s sessions will tackle everything related to building back the business post-COVID in a sustainable way. Highlights include an exploration of the post-pandemic business with Phil Bowdery (Live Nation) and Maria May (CAA); a conversation on the challenges of reopening venues and encouraging fans back, with Marie Lindqvist (ASM Global) and Olivier Toth (Rockhal/EAA); and an examination of cross-European borders one year on from Brexit chaired by James Wright (UTA). All sessions will remain available digitally for delegate for one month after the conference.
“We were struggling to fit in a lot of the talking points and key issues, it’s so broad ranging: supply chain, crowd management, recruiting and re-skilling. And then you’ve got the current conflict in Russia and Ukraine, and its impact on European touring. If you take all of those topics together, there’s never been an ILMC with so much important stuff to talk about, to get people together, exchange information, find solutions, and define a path forwards for the collective industry,” Parmley explained.
ILMC – ILMC 33 was able to go ahead normally in March 2020.
Europe went into lockdown only a few days later.
And while the conference agenda has never seemed more important, he is most looking forward to “getting people back in the same room with each other. It’ll be two years since the last conference, which took place about a week before most of Europe went into lockdown. It feels like it’s been a lot longer than two years since people last saw each other face to face. We all now appreciate what it’s like to be stuck in a room on Zoom calls for six months at a time. Those moments, where people meet in person, are even more precious than they have been.”
The downtime forced many people to rethink their priorities. Conversations on how to maintain a healthy work-life balance gained momentum, the topic of mental health is now considered part and parcel of the wider topic of sustainability. Some people are noticing that those conversations have taken the back seat again in all the euphoria about the live industry’s great return.
UK charity Music Support is therefore stepping in to host a discussion at ILMC that’ll bring back awareness of the importance of mental health first aid, whether you are working in an office or onsite at a production. The session with Music Support’s Hannah Brinley and Pollstar Impact International honoree and tour manager Suzi Green (The Back Lounge)
will provide an overview of the charity’s Mental Health First Aid course.
– Due to the new dates, ILMC is able to return to its longstanding home:
The Royal Garden Hotel.
The last day of ILMC, Friday, April 29, will tackle green issues, the other big part of sustainability. Most of the day is curated by the Green Events & Innovations conference (GEI), which used to be a stand-alone event in the past. Parmley explained why his team integrated it into the main program: “Coming out of the pandemic, the way the business actually operates is foremost in people’s minds. We wanted to allow all ILMC delegates to be able to attend all of the GEI sessions. We as an organization completely updated our own sustainability policy and try to be fairly progressive with that.”
Tech sessions will tackle NFTs, the Metaverse, and other new concepts that could enable artists to unlock new revenue streams generate additional revenue. “Beyond that, it’s all of those key topics, from ticketing and agencies to venues and promoters,” said Parmley. There’s the topic of Brexit, too. “The thing with Brexit is, the pandemic has masked a lot of that problem, because there’s been so so little pan-European touring. There remain significant challenges around the UK’s relationship with Europe, and moving forward, there’s a lot of work happening, certainly in the UK, on a bilateral basis across Europe to try and solve some of these challenges. But we’re not there yet. The key thing in that discussion, for me, is not moaning about the fact that it’s happened, but looking at exactly where we are, what’s been done, and what’s still to work on – a checklist as to where we are right now that will hopefully help people plan European tours beyond ILMC.”
One of the big questions these past two years have brought up is whether the live industry is united enough to effectively drive political change. And while LIVE, which united 13 UK music industry associations under one umbrella, has certainly made a powerful impact in the two years of its existence, ILMC 34 will explore the question, of whether live industry needs a joined up international voice that reaches across Europe.
“If you look at the record industry, there’s a lot of pan-European and international associations that have that voice in Brussels. We’re an international business made of bands touring across borders. The value of these networks is greater than ever coming out of the pandemic. A lot of people have really seen what can be achieved through being organized in this way. One of the key questions I want to be posed during ILMC is, how do we become even more organized to make sure that we’ve got a louder voice with the policymakers, and not just on a national basis.”
– Emma Banks.
Hosting last year’s Arthur Awards in an empty Royal Albert Hall.
ILMC usually attracts around 1,200 professionals. The war in Ukraine might prevent European delegates from attending ILMC 34, it was too early to tell at press time. The date change to April means that ILMC will return to its long-time home, the Royal Garden Hotel at London’s Hyde Park, after having announced a move to the nearby Royal Lancaster Hotel for the 2022 edition. And while the new location would have offered more space for networking, private meetings and events, the familiar vibe of the Royal Garden Hotel will add a nice touch to this year’s industry reunion.
“I’m really looking forward to being back in the Royal Garden Hotel,” said Parmley, “we know that the conference is going to work really well there. And especially as it’s the big in-person return, it’s going to be nice to be in very familiar surroundings that people are comfortable in.”
CAA’s Emma Banks will reprise her role as host of the Arthur Awards, which take place April 28 at the Sheraton Grand Park Lane, following a five-star, four-course feast prepared by award-winning chefs. After hosting the ceremony in a empty Royal Albert Hall last year, Banks will finally have a real crowd in front of her again. Parmley said, “there’s a few surprises on the night planned already, we’re almost sold out, it will be good fun.”