On the back of selling 165,000 tickets for the All Points East festival series, which this year included Broadwick Live’s Field Day, AEG Presents CEO of European Festivals Jim King tells Access about the challenges and learnings involved in staging the shows at East London’s Victoria Park.

How well did the event go from a commercial perspective?

We sold out three nights from the four we ran, selling 165,000 tickets in the process.

While that was a solid financial performance, it pails into insignificance when compared to the financial impact the company and industry has experienced in the last 18 months.

I’m very happy though that a significant financial boost was able to be invested into the supply chain for the benefit of staff, crew, suppliers, traders and artists.

 How well did the event go from an operational perspective?

I think our AEG festival division delivered a great bill that was curated brilliantly every day. Our marketing team produced a great campaign and we had positive buy-in from the artist community to actually promote the shows through their own channels. It demonstrated the positive effect that this collaboration offers when executed to this level.

On site, our operations teams led by Loud Sound, delivered a stunning event that ran very well. We had one issue in that in spite of more entrances and more entry lanes, we did have congestion at the entrance for around 90 minutes on the Saturday but this was more down to the sheer numbers arriving at the same time. We were processing 20,000 people an hour at the peak period, which by any measure shows how robust the process was but gives us an important piece to fix next year where a new third entrance is being installed to alleviate one-off ingress spikes of this scale.

The supply chain has been battered, how much of a challenge did that present you and what areas were the most difficult in terms of supply of services, staff, infrastructure and materials?

We took a decision early that certain parts of the supply chain had to be confirmed. This naturally increased our risk because if the show was unable to take place then, with no insurance, AEG’s loss would have been greater.

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What impact did the Covid mitigation measures have in terms of staff provision and cost – are you satisfied that it is all manageable and affordable going forward?

Increases in costs were inevitable and thus accepted. Living with Covid and mitigating its impact at our events is something that is now the new normal and we have to get on with it.

Our industry is one where we face operating and budget challenges every day. We have to put this into the same category, embrace it, and provide solutions that are upgraded with new efficiencies as we get better at it and more systems and processes develop.

What was your personal highlight for you at the event this year?

The highlight for me was seeing a team of people who had not worked in a live music environment for two years come together to deliver a show of high quality.

Operationally, it’s hard to single any area out. I thought all the suppliers did a great job in how they met challenges in the planning and then dynamically as they presented themselves throughout the weekend. I tend to judge how things have run based on the frequency that I get told about a problem. Thankfully, I was hardly troubled with anything that needed my input.

What was the atmosphere like around the site among the staff, suppliers and production team?

 I think the leadership from AEG’s Festival management team was exemplary in setting the right tone of what this meant to our company and how this needed to be articulated throughout the entire operation. Loud Sound then delivered AEG’s vision throughout the weekend with the minimum of fuss. The fact the outcome was so good demonstrates the understanding, togetherness and work ethic between AEG and our operations teams and suppliers.

The past few weekends have been the busiest with festivals in two years, are you pretty confident there won’t be a significant Covid uplift?

Bank holiday weekend is the largest weekend for the entire leisure and sports industries.

Any uplift in Covid cases, which are inevitable when the total number of people leaving their houses increases, needs to be measured using data not just from the number of people attending Reading/Leeds, All Points East, Lost Village etc but then 2 million fans watching live sport that weekend, also factoring in that the cafes, pubs, restaurants, betting shops, travel systems surrounding major sports venues will be packed shoulder to shoulder from 9am until 9pm, or even later.

Having been to major sports events in the last two weeks, I refuse to accept there being any greater risk at All Points East or similar events of this format. Rather, I would suggest very strongly that the risk of tens of thousands of fans packed into indoor venues before, during and after major sport carries a higher risk than walking around Victoria Park in the open air for the afternoon.

Leaving major music and major sports to one side, the leisure industry as a whole offers less mitigation and higher risk indoor density environments than outdoor music events.

While not wanting to suggest in any way that these other operators should not be operating, its completely unacceptable that music festivals are being held singularly to account.

What’s you view on the Government’s insurance scheme – will you be tapping into that in the year ahead?

 Our position is that it’s not a one size fits all solution and so we may use it for some events but it is unlikely we will use it for them all. I remain optimistic though that this is a positive step for the industry but I hope consultations and some refinements will continue to be developed.

This article was published in the October edition of Access All Areas. Read it here, and/or subscribe for free here