If You Build It, They Will Come

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If You Build It, They Will Come

As two wise men named Wayne and Garth discovered, building a live music venue is the key to success. Newly formed live events company 117 Live have taken that mantra to heart. Firstly, they’ve created a temporary stadium near Outlet Mall that’s hosted Nicky Minaj, Flo Rida and Tyga, and are now working on a permanent super structure that will be the biggest – and by the sounds of it – the best live music venue in the Middle East. We sat down with the company CEO Thomas Ovesen to find out more…

Congratulations on the new venue launch, and well done on the naming rights – how did the Autism Rocks charity connection come about? 
We were talking to a handful of mainly conventional naming rights partners, Blue Chip companies involved with entertainment and venue deals elsewhere when one of our long standing clients enquired about the benefits for a charity organisation of having its name on the door. Once the talks had started things went really fast and aside from a great way to raise awareness of autism and how it affects kids and adults amongst us, we have worked out some unique ways to also contribute towards donations and financing research into the causes and treatments of autism. 

There have been custom built stadiums in Dubai before – notably the Palladium – that haven’t worked. Why was that do you think, and why will this be different? 
The Palladium was/is a great sized venue but the owners have decided not to run it as the theatre it was planned to be – end of story. In addition to our large-scale venue projects there is certainly a room for a 4-6,000 seat or standing indoor venue and also for 1-3,000 seat theatre. But someone has to not only build these but also commit to programming, as without proper programming the venues will make no business!

As an event promoter, what’s the best part of the job for you – meeting the talent, the show starting, the feedback afterwards? 
The job is a project management type of job really where each and every event has its own project format and dedicated team and so I enjoy that process a lot. However the pay off if you like is seeing fans leaving the venue with smiles on their faces. Working with amazing artists and talents from all over the world is interesting and sometimes rewarding too.

We often hear that a lot of artists inflate their fees when they see dubai on the offer sheet, have you seen that in evidence, do people pay too much for talent in Dubai? 
Yes is the short answer – artists expects more money here because at least on occasion this market will offer up premium and top dollar fees. Best way to fight this is to say no and let someone else pay for the gig! When we get ourselves sorted we could easily see a doubling or trebling in international artists performing here annually just by finding a more realistic artist fee level and at the same time get our industry suppliers to charge internationally comparable rates. The current dip in the economy might help that process!

Looking further ahead, you’re building your own complete purpose built venue – when’s that likely to come online? 
The Autism Rocks arena is most definitely a purpose built venue – the real upside here is that we can leave a lot of the infrastructure on site hence the usual costs in fencing, building platforms, pulling cables, setting up generators, staging etc will not apply for any event staged in this venue. The 2017 permanent venue is several steps up though as it includes a pavilion with air conditioned VIP suites, terraced seating areas, club levels night club and restaurant. It should be online before end of 2017!

The artist impressions look great – was there a lot of travelling around the world for gigs as research for the build? 
The initial idea of an amphitheatre-style open air venue with an air-conditioned pavilion is not new but our 25,000 capacity project borrows designs from sports facilities as much as from indoor arenas. The end result will be an entirely unique Dubai facility, with the fan experience at the centre of everything. From the cheapest standing area to a set in one of the 40+ VIP suites, the concert experience will be unique and one no one can currently offer in the Middle East.