DAMN! Why Christchurch missed out on Kendrick Lamar VICKI ANDERSON Last updated 18:05, May 4 2018 MARK METCALFE
Kendrick Lamar has announced he is bringing his DAMN tour to Dunedin and Auckland in July. But not Christchurch.
Damn! We are mostly good kids and heaven knows this is a mad city, but Christchurch will miss out on hosting Kendrick Lamar when he tours New Zealand in July.
The United States rapper and songwriter is a 12-time Grammy Award winner. In 2016 Time named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
A few weeks ago the ‘ B…, Don’t Kill My Vibe ‘ singer was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music for his 2017 album, DAMN . It is the first non-classical, non-jazz album to win the award in its 75-year history. HAMISH McNEILLY/STUFF
Ed Sheeran played three concerts in Dunedin over Easter, attracting thousands to the southern city.
Lamar, or Kdot to his mates, is bringing DAMN to New Zealand in July, performing at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium and Auckland’s Spark Arena.
When tickets went on sale on Monday, they sold out in 24 minutes.
Darren Burden, an Englishman who is the headline act at Vbase, sighs a little when I implore him to tell me why Christchurch missed out yet again. GEORGE HEARD/FAIRFAX NZ
One industry source called Springsteen’s concert in Christchurch a “pity gig”.
“We did bid for Kendrick Lamar to come to Christchurch,” he admits.
“But unfortunately Horncastle Arena is a little too small to work with and we were unable to make that happen.”
It’s got to hurt Burden, who arrived at Vbase after leading the build of Forsyth Barr Stadium for Dunedin Venues. GEORGE HEARD/FAIRFAX NZ
Bruce Springsteen playing at AMI Stadium in Christchurch in 2016.
There’s a long list of other major concerts Christchurch has missed out on. Lifelong concert memories ripped from our raised gig-going hands by Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin. Ad Feedback
In the last few years, Vbase has tried to secure, and missed out on, many stadium events including the following concerts: Roger Waters, Fleetwood Mac, Robbie Williams, AC/DC, Guns ‘n Roses, Ed Sheeran, Pink, Rod Stewart, Stevie Nicks and the Pretenders.
Even Nick Wilkinson, the bass player for the Pretenders who lived in Christchurch for many years, drove to Dunedin for the gig.
Vbase conservatively estimates that the above concerts alone would be worth well over $100 million in terms of economic benefit to the city.
In addition, the city has also not been able to attract sporting events such as All Blacks test matches (and won’t have another opportunity until 2020) and a Premier League exhibition match.
When it enticed the fiery mop-topped poppet of pop Ed Sheeran, Dunedin’s orange-tinted smugness wafted all the way to Christchurch and out to sea, washing up eventually on the front pages of a newspaper in the singer’s hometown Suffolk.
There were many long weeks where you couldn’t turn around without spying that mural of “Sir Ed’, or seeing some delighted Dunedin retailer on the news mentally bathing in glorious visitor dollars.
Ed Sheeran’s three Dunedin concerts over Easter weekend attracted around 68,000 people into the city – population around 120,000 – with an estimated economic impact of $34 million.
One third of the Ed Sheeran tickets were sold in Christchurch – population around 400,000.
The singer’s Australian and New Zealand tour surpassed a mammoth one million ticket sales and broke Dire Straits’ record, something no other artist has broken in the 32 years since their 1986 tour.
ChristchurchNZ chief executive Joanna Norris says Ed Sheeran played in Dunedin not only because the city has a large modern facility but because the city made a competitive bid that Christchurch could not match.
“The All Blacks are playing in Nelson this year for the same reason,” says Norris. “Nelson was able to provide a guaranteed financial return to New Zealand Rugby through a competitive bid. Christchurch could not compete.”
Norris says other missed opportunities include the Life Saving World Championships in 2022 as: “we did not have certainty on the future of the Metro Sports Facility and our ability to host the pool component of this competition”.
Christchurch is also unable to bid for some international cricket as we do not have consent for appropriate lights at Hagley Oval.
When I contact the Dunedin City Council, an Enterprise Dunedin spokesperson says they are so busy hosting events it had delayed their ability to respond to me.
This week Dunedin has iD Fashion Week and next week it hosts TRENZ.
Post-earthquake, Christchurch has hosted successful concerts by Bruce Springsteen and Foo Fighters at our temporary stadium.
One industry source describes these as “pity gigs”.
Burden diplomatically refers to Vbase’s “excellent relationship” with promoters with a connection to Christchurch who work hard to bring as many shows they can to the city, despite the shortage of suitable venues post-earthquake.
Close to 29,000 people packed into AMI Stadium to rock with The Boss last year.
“That is maximum capacity,” says Burden. “It is a temporary facility… it was creaking and groaning a bit.”
Because we lack the relevant infrastructure, bringing such shows to Christchurch is a costly logistical nightmare for promoters. Many simply opt to file Christchurch in the “too-hard” basket and head up the road to Dunedin.
“We are reliant on positive relationships with certain promoters,” says Burden.
“The bigger question is about the impact to Christchurch, still missing out seven years down the track… without key infrastructure it is starting to bite. If we had a stadium with a roof…”
Burden, Norris and others in the know argue that while a stadium and attracting major events might seem like luxuries, the community benefits are enormous, vital to our city’s good health and stretch far beyond the venue itself.
Major events generate immediate, direct and indirect economic benefit for the city, including its businesses and communities.
Events also make cities more interesting places to live. They bring people and communities together, entertain them, and give them a sense of identity and belonging.
ChristchurchNZ says under-investment in this area is “significantly disadvantaging” Christchurch.
“As the capital of the South Island, ChristchurchNZ believes Christchurch should be able to position itself as the major events capital, attracting world-class artists and events and the social and economic benefits they bring,” says Norris.
Continued under-investment will have a significant negative impact on the cities status and ability to attract visitors. This impacts on accommodation, hospitality and retail sectors.
This is particularly true for Christchurch’s central city, which is going through a rapid period of renewal.
Last week Christchurch Regeneration Minister, Dr Megan Woods, announced the Crown and the city council have collaborated to “fast-track work” on the Christchurch stadium to the point where work can begin on a detailed business case.
On 2 May 2017, the Christchurch Stadium Trust was commissioned to develop and present a pre-feasibility study for a new multi-use arena in Christchurch.
This showed concerts and other large-crowd entertainment events will be the multi-purpose arena’s most profitable events and deliver “significant citywide benefits”.
The pre-feasibility study indicated that concert promoters thought Christchurch has a number of natural advantages for hosting concert events including an international airport, which reduces the cost of transportation of concert infrastructure, and a substantial hotel accommodation inventory in the central city.
There was unanimity amongst promoters that a covered venue with a concert capacity of 35,000 – 40,000 would offer a compelling proposition as a New Zealand venue, particularly where a second location outside of Auckland was sought.
“The scale economic benefits to the region will depend on the arena structure and options chosen,” says Trevor Thornton, chair of the Christchurch Stadium Trust Board.
When some hear “stadium”, they automatically think “sports, grunt, sports, sports”, but Barry Maister of the Multi-purpose Arena Trust (MPA Trust) urges us to think a little wider.
It was formed with the objective of accelerating the construction the Multi-Purpose Arena to enable Christchurch return to its position as a centre for major events in the South Island.
Its vision is for a “high-tech, high use, covered, landmark facility which ensures maximum utilisation and an asset to Christchurch”.
A gold-medal winning New Zealand hockey player, Maister, who has been an International Olympic Committee member since 2010, is passionate about making Christchurch an inviting destination and a great place to live.
“The problem we’ve had as a trust is to ensure the concept is finalised,” says Maister. “This can only be done once the feasibility study is done, that is going to take months, until the end of the year. At the moment the Government has three different concepts in front of it. I think there is one that we all agree is going to be the stadium but until that feasibility study is done we don’t know what we are going to get.”
The concept of a covered stadium is the preferred option for many, he believes.
“When you have a covered stadium it makes it easy to have infrastructure. If that is the case it opens it up not just for major concert events but exhibitions, trade shows, BMX, equestrian… but until the feasibility study is finalised we are just speculating.”
Maister, who with the IOC has seen stadia around the world, got involved three years ago.
“The trust was started soon after the earthquakes. Our job has been to get the damn concept approved.”
He describes the trust members as “agitators”.
“We have been trying to get the component parties together. When Megan Woods said they’d like to see if we can combine metro with the sports stadium the trust, at our expense, got plans drawn up to show it could be done. All of the time we have reacted to Government and council,” says Maister.
“It’s a fantastic piece of land. Our original proposal was more ambitious, we had proposed commercial buildings around the stadium – a hotel on site, hospitality strip, underground carparking. There was talk of a museum which approached us, an ice-skating rink. The stadium must be a go-to place in Christchurch, not just for a few days a year. A stadium that is properly designed can be a major attraction.”
Maister says the trust has been proactive and “got things moving”.
“We’ve got there now, but it’s been hard. The hospitality sector is strongly behind us, we need events in Christchurch.”
Right now, as Burden says, we don’t have suitable venues, but we are also missing funds to bid for upcoming events.
“Wellington, Dunedin and so on, when they are bidding for these shows they have what is known as event attraction funds,” explains Burden. “They can use these to offset promoter’s costs and do deals to make their city more attractive. Unfortunately the Christchurch perspective is we don’t have such a fund so we can’t tap into that.”
By way of comparison, in 2016/17, according to Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency (WREDA), Wellington invested $4.2m attracting events. In 2015/16, Auckland funding was $9.6m while Queenstown lakes commits $843,000 annually. Even Hamilton has a sponsorship fund of $384,000.
Meanwhile, in Australia, Melbourne has an annual budget of AU$60m and Victoria state AU$20m regional events fund.
In its April 13 submission to the Christchurch City Council draft long term plan 2018-2028, ChristchurchNZ requested an additional $1.4m of funding for 2018/19. Of this request, $750,000 is a seed fund for Vbase to attract major events.
ChristchurchNZ argues their request is “modest” and the minimum amount required to have an impact.
One line in its submission leaps out: “Attracting and bidding for major events is an arms race, Christchurch is not armed.”
Other cities are aggressive in bidding for events on behalf of their communities and are “appropriately resourced” to bid successfully.
“A $750,000 seed fund to allow ChristchurchNZ and Vbase to bid for major events and be competitive with other cities already engaged in active bidding,” says Norris. “We are growing our capability to attract sponsorship funding to help close this gap – but the seed fund will get us out of the starting blocks.”
Mary Richardson, citizens and community manager at the city council, says ChristchurchNZ “currently has funding to attract and commission events”.
“It has submitted a bid to the council to increase this funding. The council will consider this bid as part of the long term plan deliberations.”
The annual Christchurch visitor economy is $300m smaller than it would have been without the earthquakes, driven mainly by a large drop in international visitation.
Christchurch won’t regain its pre-earthquake role and market share “as of right”, says Norris.
“Events form part of the solution to ensure Christchurch has a compelling offer,” she says. “Christchurch will have some incredible infrastructure for future generations and a range of events will be fundamental to the success of the Multi-Purpose Arena, Convention Centre and other new facilities such as Metro Sports and Nga Puna Wai once they are completed.”
Major event and business event bidding is often done up to three years in advance of the event, longer in some instances. For example, Christchurch recently won a bid to host an international biochemistry conference, to be held in 2021.
The bid for the April 2018 Christchurch Casino Golden Oldies Sports Celebration was signed in 2014.
“The biggest issue for promoters is having access to venues and dates available that meet their needs. Regions that have a fund and can offset a promoter’s marketing or venue costs are attractive locations,” says Burden.
A spokesperson for DunedinNZ says the Dunedin City Council funds Dunedin Venues Management Limited $400,000 as an event attraction fund, which contributes to being able to attract major events to Forsyth Barr Stadium.
“The Event Attraction Fund (EAF) between the DCC and DVML was signed on February 28, 2014. The primary purpose of the EAF is to drive additional economic spend within the Dunedin Region by assisting DVML to secure additional content and events for the city.”
The events this fund contributes to attracting must be of significance and:
a) Achieve a minimum of $5m visitor spend per each major event (>10,000 pax) for Dunedin City;
b) Achieve minimum 80 per cent satisfaction rating through surveys of all major events (>10,000 pax);
c) 60 per cent of attendees of all major events (>10,000 pax) to come from outside of Dunedin City.
David Perks, General Manager Venues, Marketing and Destination Development of WREDA says the cultural capital feels our stadium pain.
“We are also looking at arenas here in Wellington. We are like Christchurch, looking at what elements that works in Dunedin, here and Australia,” he says.
“How do you make an indoor stadium that the All Blacks can play at and get a good crowd, how do you deal with it when you’ve got a concert that’s too big for Horncastle but not big enough for a stadium? Artists want to use venues they can fill. How do you make a stadium scalable, that’s what we are looking at. I need to get return on investment right and please the residents but it also needs to wash its face… there’s no golden recipe unfortunately.”
Competitiveness between regions for events depends on facility size and the type of event.
“We all have positive and negative attributes to our destinations. It’s a complicated thing. A big part of that is the size of our facilities. Ed Sheeran, for example, who loves Wellington, couldn’t play the 6000 capacity TSB Arena in Wellington because it wouldn’t make business sense to him,” says Perks.
“We do really well in getting events in the rock/pop space, between 4000-6000 people. Helping that is the fact we have a big student population and we host bands that population want to listen to. We had Killers, we have Imagine Dragons coming here, we have Royal Blood playing here this week, all are using the TSB Arena and none are playing the stadium in Dunedin because it’s way too big for them.”
He says Wellington’s event attraction funds are “mostly used” for events which are not “commercially viable”.
“It might be something we know our residents would want to see, so, n Wellington, normally we would negotiate the rates of venue hire, it’s more of a commercial negotiation than a cash payment,” says Perks.
“Cuba Dupa, that is one event we have seeded to grow and that has grown to well over 100,000 people. Wellington on A Plate we created in partnership with our hospitality industry to bring people to our city over winter. We all do those things to maintain jobs and economics and make our places great places to live.”
Perks says he had hoped to bid to get Kendrick Lamar to Wellington, too, but realised they were looking for a bigger venue than Wellington could offer.
A big U2 fan, he’s travelled the world but hasn’t managed to lure them to Wellington yet.
“One day it might happen. We are certainly getting more acts now compared to what we had 10 or 15 years ago. Spark Arena has put New Zealand on the touring map and I think that has been good for all of us, not just Auckland.”
Auckland promoter Manolo Echave says that with a new Christchurch stadium it’s not a matter of “build it and they will come”.
“I believe the old adage of ‘build it and they will come’ doesn’t really apply any longer. Cities like Dunedin and Wellington attract the shows because they negotiate incentive deals for the shows – helping the promoter with marketing and transport costs to secure the gig,” says Echave.
“An outdoor option in Christchurch will be of benefit if the Council is prepared to accept these sort of deals will in the end be the way forward to secure more events. Of course Christchurch is way behind on how things have developed – especially with Dunedin. They also have negatives to consider like the last time they went out and attracted an event – The Flower Show – which in the end didn’t pan out.”
Does the South Island have room for two stadiums?
Once it is built, would Christchurch and Dunedin co-operate or compete for shows?
“Our focus will be to actively chase business to the benefit of Christchurch and Canterbury residents,” says Norris. “Where applicable we would consider working collaboratively to secure artists and sporting events to benefit the wider South Island and New Zealand as a whole.”
There are other factors to consider, too.
Vbase has a ticketing contract with Ticketek and Christchurch is one of the few main centres in New Zealand where United States touring behemoth Live Nation doesn’t have a stranglehold on the market.
The touring giant owns Auckland venue, Spark Arena, and is the tour promoter for the heavy hitting shows by stars like Adele. It clips the tickets too, through its ownership of Ticketmaster and Ticketmaster Resale.
On April 24, it was announced that Live Nation had bought New Zealand’s biggest New Year’s Eve festival, Rhythm and Vines.
Some in the industry go so far as to describe Live Nation as attempting a “corporate takeover” of New Zealand’s entertainment industry.
In Wellington, for example, there was an outcry last year when WREDA quietly signed a six-year contract giving full control of ticket sales from June 1, 2017 at its TSB Bank Arena, Shed 6, the Michael Fowler Centre, the St James Theatre and the Opera House venues to Ticketmaster, in place of Ticketek.
Comedian Michael McIntyre recently bypassed Wellington when announcing his 2019 tour, citing a lack of suitable venues.
Echave says the New Zealand Promoters Association complained to the Commerce Commission over its concerns about the ticket resale industry.
“They key obviously is the ticketer having an exclusive ticketing contract direct with the venues which enables them to withhold full information on ticket selling to the promoter,” explains Echave.
“Our drive is to break the exclusive contract giving ticket buyer a choice of ticketer and providing competition in the marketplace. There are some interesting cases making it to court overseas.”
He says both Ticketek and Ticketmaster use the availability of artists as benefits on offer to an exclusive ticketing contract with venues.
“At least Ticketek refuses to enter the resale market,” says Echave. “The Live Nation model, however, is far more comprehensive looking for full 360 degree control of event and venue. It’s very difficult to curtail with the sort of financial backing they have.”
Could Live Nation buy into Christchurch too?
“We understand Vbase has a very positive relationship with Live Nation most recently demonstrated by the Rag and Bone Man and Incubus concerts in the last two months,” says Norris. “When the contract is up for renewal we would expect Vbase to go to the market and we would hope to see both Ticketek and Ticketmaster, which is owned by Live Nation, would be amongst those submitting proposals.”
Burden says the contract with Ticketek expires at the end of 2019.
“We have an agreement with Ticketek that we’re very happy with,” says Burden. “When that expires we would look to the market, of course.”
Burden believes we will continue to miss out on these major shows for at least four years.
“Even if the council and crown decide on what the multi-purpose arena or stadium will be right now and start building it tomorrow it will be a minimum of four years… we’ll be missing out for the next four years.”
Dunedin has been extolling their “Dunedin sound” for decades, although anyone with any semblance of decency knows Flying Nun started in Christchurch.
All you really need to know about Dunedin is that The Beatles visited there in 1964 and didn’t get a mural.
Ed Sheeran gracing Dunedin sparked a flurry of bad puns: ”All good things come to an Ed”; “Major Ed-it proposed for Dunedin avenue” (which turned out to be an April Fool’s joke); Dunedin “painting the town Ed”. When he ate a burger, Dunedin boasted: “Iconic Otago burger ‘best in world’ – Sheeran”.
Residents hung orange lanterns in the street, had orange items only in dEDicated supermarket aisles and sold, among other things, t-shirts of orange-hairED sheep in flannel shirts playing guitars.
Which begs the question, what will these people do to Kendrick Lamar? Paper the streets with his Pulitzer Prize winning lyrics? Tape giant butterflies to things and talk about how MAR-vellous Dunedin is?
You haven’t heard the ED of this Dunedin.
Meanwhile, come to Christchurch. Sit in Cathedral Square, look at the earthquake-ravaged Christ Church Cathedral. Drink and bathe in our chlorinated water.
DAMN! Why Christchurch missed out on Kendrick Lamar VICKI ANDERSON Last updated 18:05, May 4 2018 MARK METCALFE