From Rock Orchestra by Candlelight to Festival Of The Dead: A Look At Mega Events

FOTD 2022 crowd
The crowd at Mega’s Festival of the Dead.

Nathan Reed got the bug early, starting a school rock show when he was in secondary school. He went on to book shows for his own metal band in and around the English county of Somerset, and eventually organized a festival, which led him to take events more seriously and move to London. That was 10 years ago, and Pollstar reached out to Reed to find out what has happened since then.

Mega Events specializes in creating and identifying event opportunities. The company doesn’t promote the traditional artist tours, but tours with event concepts, which may book major artists on their lineups, of course.

On such concept by Mega, which also contributed the bulk of its 214,000 tickets sold in 2021, is The Big Freshers Icebreaker, a touring event during the UK’s freshers week, the welcome period for new students starting out at UK universities. Mega built a reputation around organizing these parties. “Freshers week was traditionally done by the universities themselves. All my friends went to university, I didn’t, so I thought it’d be a good idea to start some independent freshers events. I realized quite quickly then there was a huge demand for that, so I thought of doing it in more cities. I went from one city to three to eight and then to about 40 over the course of maybe four or five years, and that formed the basis on which we created a lot of our other event concepts.”

Some of Mega Events’ brands are tied to specific dates in the calendar, like the Festival of the Dead, a mix of carnival, circus & clubbing, Spring Break Amsterdam, or Camp Octoberfest, which organizes visits to the famous Munich event. Others, like Dazed or Foreverland, celebrate underground and club culture.

Scene from a Rock Orchestra by Candlelight show.

Another fast-growing brand is the Rock Orchestra, described by Mega as “live candlelight performances of the biggest rock and metal tracks over the last 40 years.” Now attracting between 60,000 and 70,000 people annually, it serves as a great example of how Mega decides which events to include in its growing portfolio. “What we’re looking for is something that we can scale right away across the country, something that ideally has international demand as well,” Reed explained, “we want 50 or 60 shows just in the UK, and we want it to be viable enough that we can take it to Europe and America. After we create the concept, we work on the distribution to see how far we can push each individual brand.”

Coming up with new events is “a weird science,” according to Reed, who said “we’re completely data driven in our decision making. We are looking for events that are in the top 1% of things that we’ve ever tested, to make sure we only work on projects that are highly sellable. In order to find that, we will dream up lots of different ideas. To get through the first hurdle, they have to strike a real, impulsive emotional chord with us. The Rock Orchestra by candlelight was an idea like that. It just struck a real chord with everybody on an emotional, instinctive level.”

Reed doesn’t know of many other companies that are looking for event opportunities in the way Mega was. “We’re trying to create ideas that people want to buy into, something that didn’t exist before we dreamed it up. That’s how we can take an idea and instantly roll it out to 70 cities, because you don’t need to have known anything about it before you first saw that ad. But when you see that ad, you’re willing to commit your money to it. I think that’s what differentiates us from the majority of promoters,” he explained.

Nathan Reed MD MEGA Events 3
Nathan Reed, managing director of Mega Events.

Another difference is the event’s delivery, which happens completely in-house. Said Reed, “We conceptualise the events ourselves. We qualify them using data. Because we qualify them using data, we know that we can promote and sell them out ourselves. We promote in-house, but then we also execute the events ourselves. We go and we book all of our own venues. We do have freelance tour managers and people like that, but we don’t lean on different companies in different countries. We’re quite self sufficient.”

The success of Rock Orchestra inspired a new event concept with the London Film Music Orchestra, performing some of the greatest scores and soundtracks by Hans Zimmer and John Williams under a moon-lit sky installation in venues across the UK. Reed projects that these events will sell 75,000 next year. Another interesting event concept that’s just been tested is a music-driven silent disco in interesting spaces like cathedrals and museums, which has been “surprisingly strong,” according to Reed, who added, “The other thing that we’re working on right now is large-scale music-driven yoga, which, again, is in the testing phase but looks very promising. I’m excited about it.”

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