AEG Presents CEO of European Festivals Jim King says the live business will need to “up its game” in 2022 to meet fans’ raised expectations. Though heartened by the success of the festivals that managed to go ahead in late summer ’21 following the Covid washout of the previous summer,…
AEG’s European festivals CEO Jim King has spoken to IQ about the firm’s efforts to cultivate a “strong hub” for touring artists through its collection of late summer festivals.
The company’s All Points East (APE), Rock en Seine and Forwards Festival are all coming up in the next few weeks, while it has also aligned with Spanish independent promoter Last Tour on the latter’s Cala Mijas and MEO Kalorama festivals in Spain and Portugal, respectively.
First held in 2018, APE returns this Friday in London’s Victoria’s Park with the first of two weekends, featuring Stormzy (18 August) and a Field Day event headlined by Aphex Twin and Bonobo (19 August). It will then welcome headliners The Strokes, Jungle, Dermot Kennedy and Haim from 25-28 August.
“We’ve got a strong All Points East again this year,” says King. “It’s an event we’re still building and a relationship that we’re still building with the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and the community there.
“We’re really pleased with the way their programme is going. They’re really well curated lineups, which our team put together very passionately. So that’s great and it’s allowed us to consolidate our European position at the end of the summer.”
“The artists moving between those four shows has created a really strong hub”
AEG switched APE from its previous May slot to coincide with Rock en Seine at the end of August. The 20th anniversary French festival, which was acquired by AEG in 2017 in partnership with media investment group LNEI, takes place in Domaine National de Saint-Cloud, Paris on 23 and 25-27 August, topped by Billie Eilish, Florence + the Machine, Placebo, The Chemical Brothers and The Strokes.
“Rock en Seine had its best year ever [last year] since it started and I think we’ll go beyond that again this year with sold-out shows every day,” says King. “I love that show. It’s such a great site. We’ve talked about London being super-important culturally, but magical things happen when you’re in Paris and I always find it really exciting. You go there in an elevated state of emotion, if you like, and then you’re more receptive to being entertained.”
Meanwhile, AEG’s relationship with Last Tour on Cala Mijas and MEO Kalorama festivals, set for 31 August-2 September, will see Florence + the Machine headline both events, with The Strokes also performing at the former.
“The artists moving between those four shows has created a really strong hub,” says King. “We’re calling it ‘The Camino’, which allows these artists to move between as many or as few of those shows as they want. It just creates a very strong end of August, beginning of September run for artists coming into Europe or those who are based here.”
In addition, AEG teams with events company Team Love on 30,000-cap Forwards in Bristol, UK. The metropolitan festival, which debuted in 2022, returns to Clifton Downs for its second year from 1-2 September, headlined by Erykah Badu and Aphex Twin.
“It’s a very demanding industry at the moment. If you’re not on your game as a promoter, you’re going to be challenged”
“Forwards forms part of that run of shows as well,” notes King. “We had a great show last year – we broke even in year one, which is beyond our expectations for any new festival, and we’re building on that for year two. So that’s been a really good start. We set up our European festival division a few years ago now, and the building of that is still taking place, but the benefits of it are thankfully already with us, and we think it puts us in a really strong position for the next five years.”
Around 550,000 tickets were sold for AEG’s flagship BST Hyde Park Festival earlier this summer, topping the previous best of 530,000 set last year. The London concert series was headlined by Guns N’ Roses, Take That, Blackpink, Billy Joel and Lana Del Rey – plus two nights each from Pink and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. And King says he is not surprised by the number of successful shows to have gone ahead in the UK this summer.
“Certain parts of the industry, one could argue are outperforming expectations, but that’s not to say that we weren’t confident they will be successful,” he adds. “If you look at events out there, you can see the quality ones in terms of the way they’re presented and operated, and the value point for them and the lineups which they have.
“I’m not surprised at all that they’re being successful. I’m also not surprised at all that the ones that aren’t presenting that level of quality aren’t as successful either because it’s a very demanding industry at the moment. And if you are not on your game as a promoter or as an artist, then you’re going to be challenged. But if you are, the chances are you’re going to be rewarded for it.”
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