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Audience - for the live music industry

Meet the Promotor: Download Festival's Andy Copping chats to VF!

10 May 2004

We caught up with the legendary Clear Channel promotor and interrogated him about his role in this year's imminent Download Festival, and his life in general as a big-time festival and tour promotor!

Virtual Festivals: Let's start with the basics... what do concert and festival promoters actually do?
Andy Copping: We book and pay for bands, as well as organising all the venues, pa/lights, ticket sales etc.

As career paths go, how do you rate it?
It's very high pressure, a massive gamble and not as glamourous as people think. I guess it's better than most jobs though as you are working in an industry that, for most of us, we love.

Did you always want to be doing this?
Yes, although I didn't know what I wanted to do in life right up until my mid-twenties. I loved music and managed to 'worm' my in…so I guess I'm in it now for the long haul.

What's the secret of your success? How does one become a big shot in the crazy world of live music promotion?
You have to work hard, make a lot of sacrifices (particularly in your personal life) and be prepared to gamble on bands that you believe will be successful. You have to get in early and spot the bands right at the start of their careers, so that you can grow with them. I would advise anyone who is interested in getting into this business to be prepared to put yourself out and work for next to nothing in the first instant. I started out by DJing in rock clubs for £5 a night and worked my way up.  

Is the business really as 'cut-throat' and ruthless as it is reputed to be? We've heard some very scary stories, but you seem like a suprisingly nice, amiable chap to us...
Thanks for the compliment, we're arseholes really! Ha-ha! The business is very cut-throat and highly competitive - you just have to have a basic understanding on how the industry works and follow simple rules - like the band always comes first (sometimes against your better judgement in some cases). Be prepared to invest your time, effort and resources regardless of the outcome and try to stay calm at times of high stress! It's amazing how much is just real common sense.

What changes have you seen in the touring and festival promotions industry in your time?
Ticket prices have become, in some cases, ridiculously high but to be honest this is driven by the bands not the promoter. The cost for an artist to go out on the road is massive and they have to try and recoup that. In most cases they tour at a loss but hope they can supplement this by merchandise sales and in the longer term record sales which will hopefully increase as they are in the public eye whilst they are touring. Bands certainly want to put on good shows nowadays and hopefully offer good value for money, so the production and the elaboration of most artists stage shows/sets has come on in leaps and bounds over the last twenty years or more

Looking back at the old films, events like Woodstock, the Isle of Wight Festival, Monterey, Altamont, etc. - even the Hyde Park Events of the sixties and seventies - look really disorganised and chaotic. Is Festival promotion a considerably 'slicker' operation today?
I would say outdoor events have become much 'slicker' and by law, they have to. Health and Safety takes a on a very big part of organising an outdoor event (even normal indoor shows have had to take heed). There are some hard and fast guidelines that all promoters, venues etc have to adhere to nowadays and they are all for the good of the ticket buyer.

Apart from Download Festival, what other events are you involved in now?
I am personally involved in various tours including Him, The Rasmus, NoFX, Auf der Maur, Breed 77, LeAnn Rimes and a real cool American artist called Robert Randolph - so quite a mix. As a company, we look after everyone from Marilyn Manson through to Will Young!

What is the best single live event you have ever promoted?
Without doubt, Download at Donington last year.

And the worst?
I did a 'pop' festival when I was working in Nottingham and it was an absolute disaster both financially and on my health (working with pop bands made me sick!). I'm a rocker at heart, so I guess I should have stuck to what I know best!!

Who is the most expensive artist/band in the world today?
That's a difficult one to answer as it varies so much on a day-to-day, tour by tour basis. However, artists like U2, Rolling Stones, Madonna etc can demand huge fees.

What are the long-term plans for Download Festival?
To become the best festival in the UK and hopefully beyond that and be admired the world over for putting on the best, organised festival with the best bands year in year out. We want Download to be around for the next 30 years or more.

Download Festival is unique in its embracing of cutting edge online communications technologies, such as the Download Dog and the huge interactive community that resides on the Message Boards. To what extent would you credit the application of these innovations, to the festival's initial success?
We certainly made a big point of moving with the times and technologies. Being able to get direct to your customers is paramount and everything moves on very, very quickly. To be in instant contact with your ticket buyers and getting there feedback is the way forward. It enables you to improve your service with the help and recommendations of the people who buy your tickets.

How do you forsee the future of both the general live music and festival industries, and what part will the evolution of communications technologies play in this?
This is an interesting one, who knows where the future lies. I think that there is no better feeling than going to a live gig to see your favourite bands with your mates…that's just awesome, so I can't see that changing at all. Festivals will definitely need to become more customer friendly and offer a lot more than just bands in a field - people want to sample an 'experience' or an 'event' nowadays so more needs to be done. We are looking into many different ways of making our events more attractive (internet cafes/cinema/cash points/computer gaming rooms/mobile phone charging points etc are just some of the things we are looking at for the future)

Check out Page 2 as we get heavy!

- Click here to discuss this on the Festival Forums!
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Thanks to: Andy Copping and the users of the official Download Festival Message Boards!

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