How UK drum & bass star Wilkinson is playing arena shows in a pandemic


May 13, 2021

The BRITs was the first small step towards the return of live music in the UK.

But in New Zealand, big shows are still going ahead thanks to the country’s control over the Covid-19 pandemic. That’s opened up an opportunity for UK drum & bass artist Wilkinson to play in the country where he’s established a loyal following.

According to his management at Insanity Group, Wilkinson sold 20,000 tickets on the first day they went on sale and an extra date was added in Auckland. Tour promoters Endeavour and Live Nation NZ have described it as the biggest on-sale for a dance/electronic act in the country, ahead of Calvin Harris, Fatboy Slim and Disclosure.

It follows strong ticket sales across recent New Zealand shows in Q1 2021 for non-Insanity electronic acts including Netsky, Sub Focus and Andy C.

Wilkinson launches the run of dates at Wellington TSB Arena (May 13), followed by Trusts Arena, Auckland (May 14-15) and further shows next week in Dunedin, Christchurch and Hastings.

Here, Insanity’s senior talent manager Jon Bailey talks about the touring opportunities down under for the drum & bass star…

How has Wilkinson built his live business in recent years in terms of the scale of venues and territories?

“He’s built really nicely over the last few years globally. In the UK, we’ve moved through Brixton Electric, the Forum and the Roundhouse into two Brixton Academy shows, and across the UK he’s sold out all the larger O2 Academy venues now and is a regular festival headliner. Internationally, he’s selling strongly across the EU, US, Australia and in particular New Zealand – which has just gone to a whole new level!”

With limited live opportunities, how did you secure this Australasian touring opportunity for Wilkinson? What are the logistics of a tour down under in Q2?

“It was really tricky but we managed to secure his visa and two-week quarantine place a few months ago, with the help of Live Nation NZ. New Zealand has been his most successful market in recent years, headlining festivals like Rhythm & Vines and Hidden Valley, so we worked hard to make sure we could deliver a comprehensive tour slot for, essentially, the only current active touring market globally. “

Were you surprised by the scale of the ticket sales? What’s behind the success?

“We’ve always known he’s one of the bigger acts down there in New Zealand and we very confident on doing our first NZ hard ticket tour at arena level. But at the same time – we never take anything for granted. So to see the arenas sell out on day one, and extra arena dates go on sale with immediate phenomenal sales, was incredible. Our promoters rang to say it’s the biggest on-sale for an electronic act in the country’s history. So after such a tough year from a live perspective, it was a fantastic morale boost and nice to get back to selling tickets and the adrenalin that comes with that aspect of the business.”

What are the UK touring opportunities for Wilkinson when restrictions lift?

“This summer and autumn is all festivals, predominantly in the UK and we will wait to see if the EU festivals are viable for us with Covid, travel and Brexit factors considered. Come Q4, it’s strong club and indoor festival offers before we embark on his sixth UK national tour with his live show in Q1 2022. His biggest UK headline show to date is Brixton Academy in February 2020. So fingers crossed we can resume normal business and continue to build.”

How have other electronic and dance acts on the roster established themselves as touring acts? How are they set for the return of live in UK?

“Our other clients have all established themselves at different levels. David Rodigan and the Outlook Orchestra have sold out Somerset House and the Royal Albert Hall, and they come back to UK festivals again this summer. Shy FX has always taken a less traditional touring model, which has resulted in a fantastic year-on-year global touring business. He’s a real festival favourite and sells extremely strongly regionally. Friction sold out Village Underground right before lockdown and comes back to hard ticket touring this Q4 as we head into his next album cycle. Garage Classical sold out the Royal Albert Hall and Kew The Music, and now has an underplay at the Roundhouse this October. And some of our younger acts like Tiffany Calver, who sold out Village Underground in January 2020, Alewya and Jvck James are at that exciting early building stage.  

“They are all restless now and itching to be back on the road, doing what they all love most… performing! But in general from a solely drum & bass perspective, the scene feels – bizarrely – stronger than ever. Releases have been fantastic and seeing tickets and engagement across the genre continue to grow just shows what a solid, expanding and exciting space this homegrown British scene is. Long may it continue!”

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Music Week

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