October 31, 2012 12:55

Live Nation boss on losing Hyde Park gigs tender: 'It was our Madison Square Garden'

Promoter speaks out about losing bid for flagship open-air venue

Live Nation boss on losing Hyde Park gigs tender: 'It was our Madison Square Garden'

Photo: Richard Johnson/NME

Promoters Live Nation have spoken to NME about losing the tender to stage large-scale concerts at Hyde Park from 2013 to 2017, saying that governing body The Royal Parks were expecting too much money.

"They're public servants, so they're not allowed to say [that it was money], but it doesn’t take a genius to work out what they wanted," says John Probyn, Chief Operating Officer of Live Nation, holders of the Hyde Park tender for the past 15 years. "No promoter could go in and decently run a gig for more than we offered. I'm not prepared to go on as a loss maker. Maybe someone is going in and do something like Latitude: that may be more aesthetically pleasing to the park but [the promoter is] not going to make money out of that. The only way you’re going to do it is putting on big headline acts, selling a lot of tickets at quite a high ticket level."

"People always see the promoters as the greedy guys who take the money. Trust me, at Hyde Park we didn’t," says Probyn, declining to provide precise figures. "It was our flagship venue. Hyde Park was our Madison Square Garden. The venue, the name… everybody wants to play there. Everyone did want to play there; the problem with that now is that they don’t want to play there, because of the adverse publicity it’s got."

Probyn addressed concerns raised following a problematic summer season at the venue, including the cutting short of Bruce Springsteen's performance with Paul McCartney and the complaints about low volume at Blur's August gig due to sound regulations imposed in the interest of local residents.

Since the Blur gig, Probyn says Live Nation has worked a way of reorganising the site so that the loudness of a concert could be raised. "When NME started talking about it, it was like, 'Guys, we’ve got to address this because it’s not going to go away…' So we changed the configuration to the site so not only could we reduce the [noise] pollution, we could actually turn the volume up inside the arena. Another of the big problems is, if you have more than 30,000 people in the park, you have to close Park Lane. We came up with a solution that meant that you wouldn’t have to close it every night."

The main problem with noise, says Probyn, is that levels at Hyde Park are measured every five minutes, as opposed to every 15 minutes at most other venues. "That means we get problems when the crowd applauds – it creates spikes in the sound levels."

Since losing the bid, Live Nation are now looking for different venues for key events. "There’s a little project that’s been bubbling away for a while and I’m really excited about it. It’s within London, but it's completely different to Hyde park," says Probyn. The company had already planned to move Wireless festival to a different location in 2013. " The reason for that was the genre of music for Wireless – if you look at this year, Drake, Nikki Minaj, Rihanna – the genre of music was not exactly what the park wants," says Probyn. "That’s in terms of repetitive bass and clientele. So we already decided, 'OK, if it’s not wanted, we’ll take it somewhere else.'"

It has not been revealed which promoters will pick up the tender from next year. A spokesperson for the Royal Parks issued the following statement: "The tender process for the contract to manage concerts in Hyde Park from 2013 to 2017 is ongoing and until it is complete it would not be appropriate to for The Royal Parks to discuss any details related to it."

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