Vice President, Venue Programming
AEG Europe / The O2
Celebrations are important, and The O2 knows how to throw a party, be it for last year’s 15th anniversary or the 10-year milestone in 2017, for which Emma Bownes programmed an exclusive series of shows with Ed Sheeran, Jamiroquai, Foo Fighters, Celine Dion and Alt-J. It “was something to be proud of,” the vice president of venue programming at AEG Europe says.
Aside from the company’s flagship London building, the stable of venues Bownes programs also includes Barclays Arena in Hamburg, Mercedes Benz Arena in Berlin and Verti Music Hall in Berlin.“I’m really excited about both the number of shows that we’ll be hosting between now and Christmas, and the diversity across the quarter 4 calendar,” Bownes said. “From six shows with Madonna, to Muse, Rema, J Hus, Mayday, Luke Combs and Trevor Noah, there’s a real focus on trying to reflect the diverse genres of music and comedy that our audience in London and the UK are enjoying.” While larger venues are mostly enjoying concert success post-COVID, Bownes notes concern within the small and grassroots venues, whose health lead to a more robust ecosystem that feeds into the arenas and stadiums.
“Since 2007, London has lost 35% of its grassroots music venues,” she said. Bownes was previously was an in-house promoter at Ocean Music Venue in Hackney, a 2,100-cap. space that is now closed. “I experienced first hand how hard it was to program shows into an independent venue, and how hard it was to make the venue financially viable. If we don’t find a way to support the smaller venues the impact of that will translate into a reduction in new talent moving up the venue ecosystem in five to 10 years time.”
A more positive trend within the industry, however, continues to be sustainability in operations. “One highlight that really stands out is announcing our first carbon-removed arena events across four shows with The 1975 in February 2024,” she said.
“Alongside sustainable event specialists A Greener Future, these shows will use a range of carbon removal methods to physically extract the carbon generated by these shows from the atmosphere and durably store this out of harm’s way. Hopefully these shows will be the first step on the path to helping the live events industry to reach genuine net-zero. Another big stand out moment will be reaching our 3,000th show in December this year.”