With everyone across the major live events industry immersed in preparations for the summer season, Access gauges the views of key events professionals on the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead.

Whether it is Glastonbury (cap. 210,000), Taylor Swift’s US stadium run or Peter Kay’s 110-date arena tour, there are no shortage of examples of incredible demand remaining for top-draw live entertainment shows despite inflation and interest rates making life difficult for consumers.

Having reported record summer results and $6.2 billion (£5.5bn) in third quarter 2022 revenue, up 63% on the equivalent pre-pandemic period in 2019, Live Nation Entertainment (LNE) CEO Michael Rapino is among those who has expressed informed optimism about 2023.

While the big names are making the headlines with sold out runs of dates, Rapino has insisted demand remains strong for shows across the board: “A concert ticket is still a really affordable ticket. The majority of the tickets sold are $50 [£41] to $75 [£61]. So, although we have a great premium business we are seeing demand strong on all levels, whether it’s a $19 [£15] ticket or premium at the stadiums and arenas.”

“In 2023 and 2024 it’s going to be a matter of holding your nerve. I think we’re in for a rough ride.” – Sacha Lord, Parklife co-founder

Glastonbury is not the only UK festival to have already sold out well in advance, among the others is the stalwart independent Green Man (25,000), while many others are seeing strong demand. Night time economy advisor for Greater Manchester Sacha Lord (pictured), who co-founded the 80,000-capacity Parklife festival and club night brand The Warehouse Project, says the former is almost sold out this year and the latter has seen “tremendous” ticket sales.

“Brexit hasn’t done any favours in terms of getting infrastructure in from Europe and costs are rocketing across the board with suppliers, but we are certainly selling tickets. It’s been a very strong year,” he says.

Both Lord’s festival and nightclub businesses were acquired by LNE in 2016, and while he says the huge conglomerates have an important role to play in maintaining a buoyant festival market, he is concerned that grassroots festival will have a tough time this year.

“The big organisations are brilliant at what they do, whether it is Live Nation with Parklife and Creamfields, or Superstruct Entertainment with festivals such as Kendal Calling, but it is the smaller boutique festivals, the ones at a grassroots level, that are possibly more important because you have to have that supply chain for new talent to come through.

“Without those smaller events chomping at your heels, the industry becomes quite stagnated. I don’t think we’re going to see many bursts of new festival openings in 2023 and 2024 but then I think come 2025 and 26 things will ease and I am confident we will see another explosion in new events again.

“In 2023 and 2024 it’s going to be a matter of holding your nerve. I think we’re in for a rough ride.”

Independent approach

Clare Goodchild, a director at live event production agency Organise Chaos, works with independent festivals throughout the UK including We Out Here (10,000), Detonate (15,000) and Standon Calling (17,000).

She has witnessed the independent sector being hit hard by cost increases and slower ticket sales, with both showing no signs of abatement: “A lot of independent shows, like the ones we work with, are operating on really small margins and it is becoming harder and harder to make budgets add up. We are working with suppliers where we can, but they are also being hit with the price of fuel, staffing and energy.

Despite the pressures, Goodchild says she is optimistic about the 2023 season, which will see the company worth with a number of new event clients.

Independent, 20-capacity, festival Black Deer (pictured) took place in 2022 having been postponed on three occasions during the pandemic. The event’s co-founder Gill Tee says the backlog of artist commitments meant marketing the same artists who had already been promoted over the previous years, but all the hard work and perseverance was worth it: “The joy we felt to finally open our gates, after such an horrendous time, with the amazing backing of our loyal suppliers, our teams, and our investors, was off the scale.”

She agrees with Lord, that the next couple of years are not going to be plain sailing: “The biggest challenge is financial, it’s going to be very hard to balance the books. The answer, in order to keep afloat, is to rethink the festival content, make changes that are necessary for the survival of the festival, and tread water for the next couple of years, as long as you can get help financially to do so.”

One of the most difficult balancing acts will be increasing ticket prices to reflect inflationary pressures while still making them affordable and realistic for consumers.

Says Lord, “The first thing you cut when your income is hit are the luxuries, when you go to a festival or other event it is a luxury, so it’s going to be a tougher sell this year, that combined with there being absolutely no let up on supply chain cost rocketing.”

Frustration has been aired by suppliers that some festival operators set a ticket price and go on sale before talking to them about whether their prices will need to be raised in the year ahead. On the other side of the fence, production company heads have called on suppliers to cease demanding 100% payments in advance, to provide more transparent costings and to stop leaving operators in the lurch by pulling out of projects at the last minute.

Says Tee, “I am aware that the supply chain is a problem, but if you work hard as organisers to treat your suppliers well and find a compromise, they will move heaven and earth to help you get over the line.

“It’s all about respect and loyalty. Suppliers do not want to see operators go out of business, as that is not in their best interests, but we have to be realistic and cannot expect them to finance the festival by not making any profit within their own business.”

Tee, whose wealth of experience in the festival business includes her having been behind the launch of the first 100,000-capacity Party In The Park at London’s Hyde Park, and later working with Vince Power to launch The Hop Farm festival. She is among those who are calling for a documentary or media campaign that clearly demonstrates to consumers the immense hard work, expertise and expense that goes in to making major events such as festivals a success.

“The perception sometimes is that we call up some artists and get stages delivered and hey presto we have a festival,” she says. “[The public doesn’t] realise what blood, sweat, tears and money goes into the process. They have documentaries on all the catastrophes, with Woodstock and Fyre Festival, but what about all the amazing ones?”

Respect due

There could hardly have been a clearer demonstration of the capability of the UK’s world-leading events industry than Operation London Bridge; the series of ceremonies and processions following HM Queen Elizabeth II death on 8 September.

Among the organisations involved were Arcadis, the Greater London Authority (GLA), event production agency LS Events, and numerous supply chain partners including the SES Group, WM Events, Media Structures, Star Live, EAS, The Flag Consultancy, PTL, PB Global and Sunbelt.


LS Events worked with the GLA as the central event management agency tasked with delivering the overarching event management plan of the Queen’s state funeral. “It was an honour and privilege we will simply never forget,” says senior project manager Jess Noakes.

Other major landmarks for the company last year included working with AEG Presents to extend BST Hyde Park from two weekends to three, and increasing the capacity at All Points East by 5,000 to 50,000. It also welcomed new events into the portfolio including the Made In Korea festival, which was billed as “the biggest Europe outdoor K-pop festival ever”. This year will see LS Events extend its focus on sporting events, having recently grown its work with the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship into two new countries.

With the impact of inflation and continued price increases across he supply chain being inescapable in 2023, Noakes says LS Events is looking to innovate in areas where it is able to mitigate issues such as fuel price increases by introducing new, sustainable, business practices: “We have trialled the use of electric vehicles on site across our events and continue to review our use of power on site, striving to use on-demand to avoid waste wherever possible. We will continue to work closely with A Greener Festival to seek out solutions to the issues we face as an industry, sharing best practice across our network of suppliers and stakeholders during these challenging times.”

“Value for money, when people come on site, is going to be really important.” – Mark Casey, European Tour head of tournament business

Sporting achievement

It is not just the live music sector that saw huge successes in 2022. Among the many landmark sports events to prove triumphant last year were Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, the Women’s Euros ­– which saw a record crowd of 87,192 attend the final – and The Open, which attracted a record attendance of 292,000 at The R&A.

Mark Casey, who was appointed European Tour head of tournament business in April last year, is riding a wave of huge demand for its golf events internationally.

“We’ve had record crowds; we’ve sold out more days than ever before. The challenges have obviously been around people being not used to running events after two years of the pandemic, and the industry having lost suppliers and talented people, but as a business 2022 was our best year yet,” he says.

In September, the Ryder Cup will be staged in Italy for the first time. Despite the economic headwinds, Casey says the reception from the public has been hugely positive: “Tickets are well and truly oversubscribed, and corporate packages are almost sold out. Our bigger events are certainly getting bigger and more popular. There is no doubt as we come into 2023 budgets will be tighter – we need to be very focused on it and be aware that price and value for money, when people come on site, is going to be really important.”

Casey says the Ryder Cup budget projects were all signed off well before inflation reached anything like the levels seen in 2022, which has meant working very closely with suppliers to make sure the event goes ahead in the manner expected and required.

“There’s no doubt our costs have increased significantly with suppliers. We’re fortunate that we’ve got a lot of suppliers we work with on a long-term basis, and we can have good, open and honest, conversations with them. The last thing we want is our suppliers to struggle because that impacts the quality of the events we can deliver. So, we’ve managed to sit down with a lot of our suppliers and work with them.

“We’ve got some really big events coming up in 2023, with Ryder Cup, our Genesis Scottish open and BMW PGA Championship Wentworth. We’ve certainly seen increases in costs but it’s about working with the suppliers, being more efficient and trying to do things in the most cost-effective way we can. We have had to increase our budgets, but the revenues are really, really strong so as well as the additional costs there is additional income coming in.”

People power

In order to truly build back better in the wake of the pandemic and address the ubiquitous industry staffing issues created by the exodus of experienced personnel during the two-year downtime, Organise Chaos’ Goodchild (pictured) suggests the live events industry focuses on four key things in order to attract and retain staff; education and training, creating structured career paths, improving diversity and inclusion, and well-being.

“We are surrounded by some wonderful people, a lot of whom are ready to take the next steps in their career,” she says. “Sponsoring the NOWIE Level-Up mentoring programme has shown my organisation first-hand that there are people out there who are stuck in a particular level of their career and are struggling to take the next steps. As an industry, we need to commit to educating and training the people we already have so they can take those next steps up and we don’t lose them to other industries.

“We need to examine not only how we can invest in our teams, but also what this looks like as an entire sector because currently there is a lot of disparity between how we assess who is ‘qualified’ to undertake jobs.”

She also suggests that in order to better retain workers, budding event professionals should be presented with structured pathways to a sustainable working life: “How do they get promoted to their next role? What training do they need to get there? How does this look when they become a mother or want a career break? How does this look when they are a freelancer with no work? I worry that we don’t offer this kind of visible path to people, and without it we look like an uncertain career choice.”

The experienced production specialist also believes there is much work needed to drive greater diversity and inclusion across the industry, and there needs to be a change of culture in terms of what is expected of people when working on projects.

“We need to be working to quash the idea that we can all work extra-long days, for weeks on end in challenging and stressful environments without having the breaks, support, and welfare that we need,” she says. “Every day I feel we are getting better at this, but even last year I was still hearing horror stories of people working 20-hour days because shows were not resourced properly or people don’t have the right support channels to be able to raise their issues. If we can’t stamp this out, then we risk losing even more talented people to other sectors.”