With a passion for live entertainment and taking action to protect the planet, AEG Live COO John Langford has had a remarkable career that has taken him from broadcasting to promoting concerts in South Africa, before overseeing some of Europe’s leading arena venues. He reflects on how he realised his ambition of getting backstage and into the business.
What was the first event you attended that really made an impression on you?
In 1997, Michael Jackson performed at Cape Town’s Greenpoint Stadium during the HIStory world tour. Unable to afford tickets, I sat outside with a six-pack of beer and watched the volume of traffic heading backstage. I vowed to myself that one day, I would have that opportunity. A decade later, I was employed at Big Concerts, and I finally had that backstage key.
How did you come to join the events industry and what was the initial role?
My ‘first career’ was in radio, where I was GM/programmer of South Africa’s biggest station (5FM). Here I befriended Attie van Wyk, the legendary founder of Big Concerts, who then offered me the role of chief operating officer in 2006. I couldn’t say yes quickly enough, and what followed was eight unforgettable years with Attie, managing the most exciting global tours around.
What led you to leave Africa for the UK?
Moving to the UK was unexpected. Whilst not looking for a change, I heard about the live entertainment director role at Glasgow’s Hydro arena, and I knew that this innovative arena in a top music city would transform the UK’s touring landscape. John Sharkey took a chance by hiring me, for which I am forever grateful.
“I don’t believe that anyone can ignore the state of peril that our planet is facing.”
What is the first high point of your time at AEG and The O2 that springs to mind?
My first memory of The O2 was being late for a budget meeting on my first day! Since then, I have had many memorable days at AEG – from Coachella sunrises to BST Hyde Park sunsets.
You chair the LIVE Green working group, what fires your passion for sustainable venues and events?
I don’t believe that anyone can ignore the state of peril that our planet is facing. The science really is clear – our actions have damaged the planet and we need to take action to reverse the decline. I’m proud to be a part of both AEG and LIVE Green who are taking responsibility and making the necessary steps to lead the industry.
Has there been anyone in the industry that has proved inspirational?
Here’s my Grammy acceptance speech moment… shout out to Attie van Wyk, John Sharkey, Rich Krezwick, Tom Miserendino, Jay Marciano and Phillip Anschutz for believing in me, …and a huge big shout out to the team at AEG – always a constant source of inspiration. They’re fun, driven, cool, and genuinely rock!
If there was one thing about the live events industry you could change instantly, what would it be?
While I love the industry, we need to further increase our efforts towards positive climate action. As influencers with millions of listeners who trust our message, we have the creativity and capability to enhance not only our industry but also inspire others to do the same.
What is your favourite way to unwind?
I love to travel. Much like music, it connects us with new people and cultures, and inspires us to see the world in a different way.
This article was published in the Summer edition of Access All Areas, which is available to read for free HERE.