Live music thriving despite terrorism attacks: Boss of O2 arena owner AEG explains why UK venues are attracting record crowds

William Turvill
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AEG owns London's O2 arena (Source: AEG)

London’s O2 arena sold 1.3m tickets for music performances last year. Nearly 1m tickets have been sold already in 2017, as fans have packed into the arena to see the likes of Take That, Ed Sheeran and Blink-182. And AEG, the company which counts the O2 among its “crown jewels”, is expecting this figure to rise to more than 1.6m.

Industrywide, the number of people attending live music events across the UK surged 12 per cent last year to 30.9m, according to figures from UK Music, with fans generating £4bn in direct and indirect spending.

Like many other industries, the UK’s live music business is facing a series of challenges in the coming months and years. Despite pressures arising from Brexit, inflation and terrorism, Tom Miserendino, the American boss of AEG Europe, believes the sector will continue to grow.

Manchester attack

May’s terrorism attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester sent shockwaves through the music industry. With 22 people killed, it would have been unsurprising to see many put off live music concerts and staying away from venues such as the O2.

But this is not what AEG, which owns venues across Europe and the world and also hosts sports and comedy events, has experienced.

“We didn’t see any [impact],” Miserendino tells City A.M. “We put a number of shows on sale a short time after Manchester and saw a good sell through. I think people have confidence in us...

We have to offer people a sense of comfort, we have to make sure that they feel that there’s security in place, that when they come to an event at a venue we own or operate that we have the right procedures and protocol in place.

Brexit and inflation

Brexit and inflation in the UK are also likely to be a challenge for the live music industry. But Miserendino is optimistic here also.

“When Brexit happened in June of last year, we were just getting underway with a designer outlet village [at the O2],” he says.

“We’re continuing to progress with that development out there [and plan to complete] in the fall of 2018... We’re a believer in the market here in London, we’re a believer in the UK, and we continue to invest here.”

Miserendino is also confident inflation will not cause fans to cut back on paying to attend music shows. “I think if you offer a good value-for-money proposition – I think we do that because we offer superstars – people are willing to pay reasonable money to attend these events.”

Millennials live music

Resilience and value-for-money go some way to explaining why Miserendino is confident AEG can thrive despite different pressures facing the company.

But what explains the recent surge in live music uptake?

“A big part of it has come from the next generation of music fans,” he says. “I think the millennials want to come and experience music. They don’t want to just see it, they want to live it, they want to share it, they want to socialise during it… We offer that.”

With the availability of Spotify, YouTube and illegal streaming channels, millennials may have earned a reputation for harming the music industry by not paying for songs. However, if their love of live music continues to grow, the generation may emerge as a major positive for the industry.

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