‘The Live Industry Has Truly Bounced Back’: Q’s With DF Concerts CEO Geoff Ellis

Geoff Ellis, CEO of DF Concerts.

Pollstar put Glasgow into focus in this week’s issue, and spoke with the city’s main players in live entertainment. One of them is Geoff Ellis, CEO of DF Concerts, who’s had a record year 2022.

We wanted to know how he achieved this feat in a pandemic-stricken industry, how he maintained a cool head despite the challenges, and what he expects for the coming year.

Pollstar: Taking into account what this industry has been through, and what it’s currently going through, please describe your state of mind, now that the summer season is over.
Geoff Ellis: The live industry has well and truly bounced back this year and continues to work towards pre-pandemic levels of business, making up for lost time. DF Concerts alone had 33 outdoor/stadium show days across Scotland this year – 11 of which were in Glasgow Green, Bellahouston Park, Ibrox and Hampden – which have generated an estimated £25.9million for the city. I’m particularly proud of how our team and contractors all rallied round to bring this record-breaking summer to life.

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Sigrid carrying a Scottish flag while performing on the main stage of TRNSMT in Glasgow, July 10. (Credit: Rory Barnes)

You had a record-breaking summer. Can you elaborate a bit on the records that were broken in 2022?
It was record-breaking summer because it was the busiest summer that DF Concerts have ever had for live music or that Scotland has ever seen. We had our annual festivals – TRNSMT, Bellahouston Park and Edinburgh Summer Sessions – but introduced three new festivals/events to the offering this year – Connect, Dundee Summer Sessions and The Big Top, all of which branched us out into new sites – the Royal Highland Centre to the west of Edinburgh and Slessor Gardens, Dundee.

As well as the festivals/greenfield shows, we also promoted more stadium shows this year than we have in any other year in the past. We had nine stadium shows across multiple venues, which included Falkirk, Ibrox and Hampden. Hampden had a record total of 8 shows this summer of which we delivered 6 of them. All of this was in addition to the bread and butter of DF Concerts – our day-to-day gigs. Across June-August, we promoted around 140 indoor gigs from 300 capacity rooms to 14,000 capacity arenas.

See: DF Concerts Celebrates ‘Record Summer’ In Scotland

What were the most important factors that enabled DF Concerts to a) survive the past two-and-a-half years and b) return so strong?
For me, the strength, resilience and unity of the full live music industry has been the most important factor when it came to surviving the pandemic and returning so strong. This is so evident when you look at all the initiatives which were created within the industry throughout the past two years, most notably the formation of LIVE but also the EIAG and SCMIT in Scotland, not only from a financial support point of view but also when it came to mental health support and being creative when it came to new technology to bring events into people’s homes via live streams, not that this could ever replace the live experience!

The fans of Glasgow and Scotland are often referred to as the best fans in the world for their enthusiasm and engagement. Can DF Concert’s strong return also be seen as proof of this?
I believe so. The fact we seen a huge demand for people wanting to attend gigs this summer, particularly in Glasgow, and also the demand for artists wanting to come to Scotland, is testament to the culture of Scotland and the experiences that fans, and artists alike missed so much during the forced shut down.

DF Concerts CEO Geoff Ellis: ‘Not Just For The Paycheck’

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Lewis Capaldi on the TRNSMT mainstage this summer. (Picture by Ryan Buchannan)

I’m sure you will have had to deal with supply chain and personnel shortages while realizing your events. How did you navigate that and what and who helped you overcome those challenges?
There is no denying that there has been supply chain issues across the industry which challenged us all but, we’re very fortunate that we have such a strong working relationship with a lot of suppliers and industry professionals who have helped us throughout this year. The security industry, in particular, has seen a decline in the amount of personnel it has available.

We found that the best approach to this was working with numerous suppliers who specialised in certain aspects onsite rather than one company who could cover the full site. This allowed for companies to focus all their attention on one area rather than spreading themselves thin which generally worked well.

Many live professionals have told us about the renewed focus on mental health, which has become incredibly important during stressful times. Is this something you can confirm?
Mental health always has and always will be so important across all industries. The downtime across the pandemic allowed everyone to take note of the importance of their mental health in their day-to-day life and the need to take time out to focus on themselves. Everyone had a different experience over the past two years and there is no ‘one-size fits all’ way of handling it. It’s an extremely personal thing and of utmost importance that employers recognise the need to support their staff in a way that is appropriate to them.

DF Concerts also operates King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, the world-famous 300-capacity club in Glasgow.

How did you make sure you didn’t lose your mind when faced with the countless challenges of the past two-and-a-half years? And does DF Concerts offer any mental health guidance to its team?
As part of Live Nation, we pride ourselves in offering numerous methods of support for our staff and have done for many years now. We have mental health first aid trained staff members, counselling sessions, 24/7 confidential support lines, employee assistance programmes and more which are free of charge and available to all employees. We also provide welfare and wellness areas on site at our festivals for contractors and make the Help Musicians ‘Music Minds Matter’ support information visible in all backstage areas. It’s something that we take very seriously.

A good living quality and environment are obvious health factors. With that in mind what makes Glasgow the best city to work in? You didn’t make it your home of choice for no reason…
Glasgow has such a rich music, culture and arts scene similar to what I grew up around in Manchester which is one of the main factors as to why it felt like home to me from when I first moved to the city 30 years ago. From numerous gigs on offer every night, the vast array of hotels, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, galleries, and museums, it’s relatively small size and proximity to beautiful Scottish countryside too makes it a good place to live and work.

What are your plans for the year-end season, and what can you already share about 2023?
We are now in full swing gig mode until the end of the year. We have around 300 shows of varying genres across Glasgow venues from now until the end of the year which averages 3 DF shows taking place every night. This doesn’t include shows from other promoters and independently run gigs which take place every night which is also a substantial number.

2023 is looking like a lot more of the same – lots of gigs, lots of tickets, and lots of music lovers creating new memories. We have already announced the dates for TRNSMT and Connect Festivals, two stadium shows with Harry Styles, greenfield shows with Muse and Arctic Monkeys with lots more to come including rescheduled Guns n’ Roses and Red Hot Chili Peppers shows.

Speaking of 2023, what will be most important for this business to get back to a healthy way of working?
Addressing rising costs, solving the energy crisis, fans being able to afford to buy tickets and us all operating in a safe, healthy and sustainable manner.

In all your years working in live, has there ever been a challenge that came close to the one posed by covid leading into the inflationary economy we’re dealing with now?
No – at first we thought we had seen it all before with SARS, foot and mouth, bird flu, etc but nothing like what was in store…and that’s a huge understatement!

Thank you for your time, Geoff!

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