Robomagic COO James Massing says the promoter has created a more sustainable touring business model than the typical multi-city outing and is working to not only reduce the amount of transportation involved in moving productions around the world but also the impact of audience travel.
Launched by veteran promoter Rob Hallett in 2015, promoting and artist development venture Robomagic was acquired by US promoter Outback Presents last year. Previously, president of international touring at AEG Live, Hallett has a long history of promoting diverse acts including Duran Duran, the Sex Pistols and Bon Jovi. His work at AEG included promoting Prince’s ground-breaking run of 21-dates at The O2 arena (cap. 20,000) in 2007, and Leonard Cohen’s comeback tour.
While Hallett is the company’s CEO and promoter focused on the content side of the business, Massing runs the day-to-day operations. Among Robomagic’s key projects this year are tours by KISS, Rod Stewart and The Who, alongside comedy runs by acts including Taylor Tomlinson, and show series at spectacular outdoor venues Fulham Palace and the Badminton Estate.
Among the landmark 2023 moments for the promoter is Grammy award-winning singer Burna Boy’s (pictured) London Stadium gig on 3 June, which will see him become the first African artist to headline a UK stadium.
He says, “We signed a joint venture with Outback Presents, which is the largest independent promoter in the US, so we became a global company and we’re in the business of buying global tours. We have the infrastructure and the resource in place to offer an alternative to the Live Nations and AEGs of the world.
“We’ve got a more transparent model that is more equitable for the artists. The traditional earn-out touring model means the artist gets paid their fee by the promoter, and they have to do what that promoter wants them to do to earn back the guarantee, so the artist loses some of their creativity and control.
“We want to do what the artist wants us to do. So take, for example, the Burner Boy show; he’s not necessarily an artist who wants to do 40 or 50 date tours, he wants to play select cities and do big moments, big shows.
“If you look at the touring business, touring the world with a really big production, it’s a challenge to make that sustainable. Our model, of focusing on select cities, doing fewer but bigger shows, absolutely drives into what the artist wants to do and what’s better for the environment.”
In the knowledge that visiting fewer locations on a tour will potentially mean fans are unable to visit the venues involved, Massing says Robomagic has a strategy to drive ancillary revenues that involves working with streaming partners to get “best in class” live streamed experiences into people’s homes. Massing has experience in this field having worked on projects including Dua Lipa’s Studio 2054 livestream that drew 5 million viewers.
“What London Stadium is doing is amazing and was absolutely part us wanting to do a show there.”
When it comes to planning the tours, he says there is a focus on working with local production and promoter partners with the aim of reducing the amount of gear that has to be shifted from market to market: “It’s a model that lots of promoters have adopted because it makes commercial sense, but actually it’s much better for the environment than taking a set around the world.”
Robomagic is also working to make its UK-based shows more sustainable by encouraging attendees to use public transport, car share and/or use electric vehicles. With the latter in mind, the company is installing electric vehicle charging points at Badminton Estate and looking to power as much of the site as possible from the National Grid.
When it comes to selecting venues for tours, Massing says that limited availability means it is not always possible to select a building with market-leading sustainability credentials, but he was delighted Robomagic secured London Stadium to host the Burna Boy show
Located within Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and operated by the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC), the 80,000-capacity London Stadium is set to be covered in solar panels as part of a £4 million project that is expected to pay for itself in reduced energy costs within five years.
“What London Stadium is doing is amazing and was absolutely part us wanting to do a show there,” says Massing.
“We’re sustainability focused, we want to drive that agenda, and fans expect that. We’re about taking action, it has to be front and centre, and we think about it all the time.”