Stuart Clumpas, Chairman of Live Nation NZ: ‘We’re on a wee bit of a roll’

Written by Lars Brandle on 10th May, 2018
Stuart Clumpas, Chairman of Live Nation NZ: ‘We’re on a wee bit of a roll’

The old stereotype that music industry executives are all flying high perhaps doesn’t fit so well in 2018. Stuart Clumpas is an exception.

The Scottish-born, Auckland-based live music veteran is right up there indulging his other passion right now, aviation. He’s on a whistlestop tour of the U.S., with his hands at the control wheel of a Cessna and his teenage son at his side. On return to his adopted homeland, Clumpas’ hands will be at the wheel of another type of modern machine, Live Nation.

The 40-year live entertainment professional leads a string of new senior leadership roles, with Clumpas appointed chairman of Live Nation New Zealand. Also, Rick Latham (formerly operations manager) and Steve Wheadon (formerly production manager) named head of operations and head of production, respectively. And promoter Mark Kneebone becomes head of promotions, overseeing strategic event, talent development and marketing.

live nation new zealand staff
Stuart Clumpas, Rick Latham, Mark Kneebone, Steve Wheadon

The New Zealand music business, noted Clumpas in a statement announcing his new role, has “grown in leaps and bounds over the past two decades, and this new role gives me the opportunity to make sure that Live Nation is at the forefront of ensuring that growth continues in the future.”

Live Nation’s activities in the Land Of The Long White Cloud includes venues (Spark Arena, which Clumpas managed and part-owned until 2015), festivals (Rhythm & Vines), and with its executive team in place, the company says it’s in a position to “continue to grow its footprint in the region.”

Spark Arena nz
Spark Arena, Auckland

Clumpas, the co-founder of the U.K.’s T in the Park and V festivals, admits his first passion will always be music. “I still love the music. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be doing this. I’m actually living the dream.”

TIO caught up with the high flyer after he touched down in New Orleans for a glimpse at the journey ahead.

Congrats on the new job. What’s your brief?

There’s no job description. It really is a case of trying to grow a NZ entity as something that stands for itself. It’s like, ‘Here’s the toolbox. Go do it.’ Generally, it’s a country on the up. I’d like to be able to turn around and have people say, ‘this isn’t an extension of Tasmania, New Zealand is part of a world tour’ and an artist ask Live Nation, ‘where’s my New Zealand date?’ It’s a challenge. But I’m looking forward to it.”

NZ really is in the international imagination right now. Lorde has a lot to do with that. What’s been holding the country back?

I’ve been here 16 years, I’ve got my Kiwi passport. The longer I’ve been in NZ, I understand things better than I did, and the dynamic of the neighbourhood. Australia got its international legs in the middle to late ‘80s with INXS and Mental as Anything and others.

Stuart clumpas live nation nz
Stuart Clumpas

NZ was still a sleepy little England. I think back to when I promoted Crowded House gigs in Scotland and Neil Finn said to me ‘I’m moving back to Auckland because I can feel a vibe starting.’

That’s when I made my first couple of visits and I could feel it too. NZ got its legs in 2000s, the same legs Aus had in the 80s. We’ve finally caught up. Ella (Lorde) is one of the first (big stars from New Zealand) and there are hopefully more. It feels like NZ has that magic that Aus had when it really broke in the ‘80s.

Watch Lorde’s clip for ‘Perfect Places’ below:

Did you ever imagine yourself working with Live Nation?

A lot of my friends, particularly in the U.K., are working with Live Nation. Denis Desmond, my partner in the past, was down in NZ a few weeks ago. His daughter moved to NZ two years ago.

Denis bought a share in my company and my share of T In the Park and V Festival and now he’s Chairman of Live Nation U.K. and Ireland. It was quite funny sitting at the table and going ‘look at us. Who would have thought of this 20 years ago when we were doing T in the Park and V Fest that I’d be sitting here with you, and your daughter living around the corner from us.’ It’s really funny how it works out.

NZ also has a lot of experienced players returning. And its infrastructure is growing. When Ed Sheeran visited the country recently (for Frontier Touring Company), he visited Auckland and Dunedin, though Christchurch didn’t make the cut. Multiple cities are opening up for international tours.

ed sheeran live
Ed Sheeran live in Sydney. Credit: Ashley Mar

We’re on a wee bit of a roll. I read an interview with Michael Chugg about the Aus-NZ market some years ago. When they came over in the summer, NZ didn’t have a big venue, so (the promoters) put up a big tent. And they didn’t have a PA so sent one over.

That was about 15 years ago. We’ve now got a 12,000-seat arena that gets the top acts that everywhere else has around the world. We have three PAs that touring bands use. When Bruce Springsteen recently toured (for Frontier Touring), the only thing he brought that wasn’t from NZ was his backdrop. That would not have happened 15 years ago. We’ve come so far.

So where do you see the Live Nation’s NZ company in five years from now.

Live Nation has a unique advantage in NZ. NZ needs a strong international partner. Irrespective of how much I love it here, it’s a small country, it’s logistically challenged at the edge of the planet. Because it has other companies that are small it doesn’t faze Live Nation that it’s only a country of 5 million.

Denmark is only a little bigger. There’s only so much you can do when you’re a nation on the edge. Being able to tap into Live Nation’s global resources really gives us a partner and an elbow when you need it.

In 5 years’ time, I’d like to think what we’ve done is retained a lot of the uniqueness of personal touch that we have but also use that muscle to be able to grow the territory, bring more people to New Zealand, make more people aware of New Zealand without us being these little guys waving flags at Los Angeles or London, going ‘hello can you come to NZ please.’

I’d like to think we’d still have that punch that we have, and stay unique. It will. NZ is people based, we have great people here. But we’ll use our association with people in L.A. and London and elsewhere to put ourselves a little more on the world map.

The article was originally published on The Industry Observer