Stuart Galbraith’s Kilimanjaro Live has had a remarkable summer, selling around 1.5 million tickets for huge outdoor live shows by acts including Ed Sheeran and Stereophonics, concert series including Kew The Music and Live At Chelsea, and its Scottish festival Belladrum Tartan Heart. However, Galbraith tells Access that the Deutsche Entertainment AG (DEAG)-owned promoter has not been immune from the challenging market conditions and that its considerable investment in infrastructure has paid dividends. He calls on all elements of the live events industry to work more collaboratively together with the aim of being more cost efficient and reducing its environmental impact. 

You have a had a remarkably busy year with festivals and major outdoor summer shows, how challenging has that been considering the many strains on the supply chain?

Whether it be stage crew, riggers, security; the only thing you can do this summer is work on the basis that you’re going to have a percentage of staff that does not turn up, so you have to over order to try and estimate what that shortfall is going to be. We have been ordering around 125% of what the requirement is, that’s the only way you can ensure that you’re going to have no labour supply chain issues.

We’ve had circumstances where we had up to 30% of people not show, and that can have huge implications because if you don’t have enough security to meet your licence requirements then potentially your event is in jeopardy. Equally, if you can’t load the gear in as fast as you need to, or indeed load it out as fast as you need to, your next event is also in jeopardy.

As a group, last year and this year, we invested in infrastructure to ensure that we’re not open to materials or equipment supply chain issues. Having said that we have had some close calls this year, and if we hadn’t taken the steps we’ve taken this year we would have lost one of our events. Because we own our own gear we were able to supplement and deliver what we needed to ensure we opened the event on time.

“We need to work together to find new ways of touring that are more cost efficient and environmentally efficient.”

What infrastructure do you own as a company?

Staging, PA, lights, video screens, toilets, fences, bars, dressing rooms and backstage infrastructure.

Will there be more investment in your own infrastructure, and do you see that becoming a trend across the industry?

As a company, we’ve now invested sufficiently, we’re comfortable with what we own but equally I’m hoping that the whole marketplace will settle down before we come outdoors again next summer.

You’ve had a lot of big successful shows this year, and it’s been an incredibly busy season in general, do you think the market can sustain it?

The market is saturated – there is about two-and-a-half years of business out there this summer, however I don’t think anyone is making two-and-a-half years of profit because while some things are incredibly strong, and we’ve certainly had our fair share of huge success this summer, there are things out there that are 30% off where we really want them to be. While we’re having a very successful year we’re having to work very, very, hard for it.

How much of an impact are rising costs having?

Costs have gone through the roof. There are some projects that while they have hit their sales targets, they are not hitting their bottom-line targets because we’ve got tickets we sold in August 2019 and now we have 2022 costs. It isn’t just inflation, it’s huge supply chain increases, it’s huge staffing cost increases; so we have got many projects that have done really, really, well but are not delivering what we would expect to see on the bottom line.

“There is about two-and-a-half years of business out there this summer, however I don’t think anyone is making two-and-a-half years of profit.”

Is there an antidote to the toxic brew of high artist fees, rising costs across the board and reduced consumer spending power?

I don’t think the solution is to put ticket prices up because I don’t think the market will support that. There needs to be some very careful teamwork between promoters, venues, agents, managers and tour managers where we look to try and increase the ticket price where we can but equally there’s no point putting the ticket price up significantly if the volume of sales is going to be hit to a massively adverse effect. The only area where I think there’s going to be compromise is the scale of what is going to be toured. If the touring costs are as high as they are looking set to be, then we need to work together to find new ways of touring that are more cost efficient and environmentally efficient – such as using venue PAs instead of touring a PA, or touring two trucks instead of three trucks because that’s the model that can now be supported.

Despite the challenges it has been a strong year so far for Kilimanjaro, what are you focusing on now?

When we came out of pandemic we had 850 performances on sale which is more than Kili Live has ever had before. During the first six months of the year, we were clearing arena tours and theatre tours out that we had postponed multiple times, artists like Craig David, Hans Zimmer, Sam Fender, Nick Mason, Jeff Beck, UB40. It is brilliant to have got all of those delivered, at last, for the customers that paid for them in some cases two years ago. We’ve got relatively little now that is rescheduled, and almost everything we’re now working on is new product, which is a huge relief.

As we head into the Autumn we’ve got some really strong tours and we are happy with how everything is looking. Although music is saturated, there’s less saturation in the spoken word marketplace and certainly all the tours that we’ve got with Fane Productions are doing well above our estimations. We’ve now got our Irish operation with Singular Artists, and that’s starting to show signs of growth now the Irish market is starting to recover. We have three Christmas lights trails, we started the first one in 2020, in 2021 we ran three; one at Nottinghamshire’s Wollaton Hall, Kenwood House in London and Trentham in Stoke. We’re repeating all of those this year.