'Putting the ticket price up isn't the answer': Kilimanjaro Live on challenges for promoters in 2023


June 27, 2023

Kilimanjaro Live triumphed in the Live Promoter category at the Music Week Awards 2023.

The company promotes UK stars including Ed Sheeran, Lewis Capaldi, Stereophonics, Cat Burns, Sam Fender, Craig David, Kae Tempest, Don Broco, Nick Mason, Bastille and Sea Girls, as well as events such as Kew The Music, Live At Chelsea and Belladrum Tartan Heart festival.

The trophy was collected on the night by CEO Stuart Galbraith, director/promoter Steve Tilley and promoter Peter Thomsen. Achievements recognised by the judges included moving a million tickets for the Ed Sheeran stadium tour in 2022 (co-promoted with FKP Scorpio).

“Last year was very strong,” said Galbraith. “We had come out of the pandemic, there were lots of rescheduled shows from 2020, 2021, I guess we’re now settling back to normal in 2023 where reality is coming home. This year will be a lot harder than last year, but it’s great to be back.”

Stuart Galbraith and Steve Tilley spoke to Music Week about the issues for the sector, particularly the economic situation including inflation and a cost of living crisis.

“There are some challenges at the moment with being able to deliver value for money,” said Galbraith. “Because not only are we [dealing with] customers who are short of money, but we’ve got massive touring cost increases and the obvious solution to that is to put the ticket price up. But putting the ticket price up isn’t the answer, so there are some very delicate conversations and budget work that goes on to get it just right.”

While a busy summer schedule of shows might be a sign of health in the sector, there’s also the potential for market saturation.

“The challenges for the promoter are just the sheer number of shows and the sheer amount of choice that the public have got,” said Tilley. “The outdoor space is really competitive, and then of course there’s festivals versus indoor touring. Artists want to do both but we have to try and protect the ticket and not over-play. That’s a challenge because artists want to earn money and play live.”

The challenges are just the sheer number of shows and the amount of choice that the public have got

Steve Tilley

Tilley recently oversaw the Sam Fender homecoming shows at St James’ Park, which sold 100,000 tickets.

“It’s particularly poignant for Steve because he’s a Newcastle United supporter as well,” said Galbraith. “In the last few years. he’s managed to take Ed Sheeran there and now Sam Fender, so that’s brilliant.”

Kilimanjaro has also been one of the promoters working on Lewis Capaldi’s tour at a time of booming business for the Scottish singer-songwriter. His second album, Broken By Desire To Be Heavenly Sent (EMI), has the biggest weekly opening of the year to date.

“We did a fantastic indoor show [Exeter Westpoint Arena] with Lewis Capaldi,” said Galbraith.

“Exeter is not a core market, but there were 7,000-plus tickets gone in seconds,” added Tilley. “When you sell that many tickets in not even a b market, it’s a c market, it shows he’s ubiquitous in a good way because the songs are massive and they connect with everyone. So I think next year will be a very big year for him.”

After the blockbuster business for Ed Sheeran last year, 2023 saw the superstar play just a few underplay shows  at The O2, AO Arena Manchester and OVO Hydro, Glasgow.

“We also added the Hammersmith [Eventim] Apollo, where he did the new album in full,” said Tilley. “That was a tiny show for him, which was amazing. It was fantastic to have him back this year.”

Kew The Music returns next month (July 11-16) featuring Bastille, The Vamps, Jack Savoretti, and more. Kilimanjaro is also busy planning dates for 2024 and beyond.

“We’ve got a lot of things that we’re working on next year,” said Galbraith. “We’re just looking forward to getting through the summer and back indoors for the autumn.”

Click here for all the winners at the Music Week Awards 2023.

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Music Week

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