One Fiinix Live's Jon Ollier on challenges for the sector, breaking acts and Ed Sheeran's tour plans

One Fiinix Live's Jon Ollier on challenges for the sector, breaking acts and Ed Sheeran's tour plans

Founder and CEO Jon Ollier took a risk by launching One Fiinix Live during the pandemic, but it has paid off for the agency, its team and clients.

Ollier, who is Ed Sheeran’s agent, is the subject of the Music Week Interview in our latest edition of the magazine.

Ollier was formerly at Helter Skelter Agency and Free Trade Agency, and he booked what was once the highest-grossing tour in history – Ed Sheeran’s ÷ run – during nearly six years at CAA.

With the launch of his own agency in November 2020, Ollier hired his former CAA colleague Emma Davis, also adding agent Jess Kinn to its fledgling staff. Now, its 20-strong team boasts a range of talent including US-based veteran John Pantle and fellow American Bex Wedlake, while its offering also incorporates artist management and digital marketing via its One Fiinix North arm.

Ollier’s own roster includes Ed Sheeran, Hauser and 2Cellos, while the wider client base stretches from new talent such as Blue Lab Beats, Ellie Dixon and Moonchild Sanelly, to the likes of Run-DMC, Halestorm and Black Stone Cherry. John Pantle also brought in virtual Japanese pop act Hatsune Miku and her superstar compatriot Ado, who keeps her identity a secret.

Here, Jon Ollier discusses Ed Sheeran’s touring plans, breaking artists and challenges for the live sector…

What is the live plan for Ed Sheeran in the coming years? 

“Ed just wants to keep going. He’s loving where he’s at with this new show and this new production, and he just loves touring. This tour is one of the most ambitious productions I’ve ever seen. We designed it, built it, worked out how to move it around the world and put that first leg of the tour together during the pandemic, which is a hell of an achievement. It doesn’t have the zeitgeist effect that the last one did, in terms of really breaking all of those boundaries on the music at the same time, as that was the perfect storm and I don’t think you can recreate that. But what we have done is go back and ask ourselves how we can improve on it. I certainly think all of the logistics we’re now delivering are an evolution of that whole project. For now, he just wants to keep going and keep breaking records.”

Is the wider sector playing its part in breaking acts in the way it once did, or are acts just not cutting through in a significant way any more?

“We are breaking artists. The difference is that we have to go a song at a time now with streaming, because that’s how the labels are making money. So while they’re breaking songs, it’s incumbent upon us to then break artists. You have two types of artists who break: the overnight, out-of-the-box, lightning-strike success, and then the others where it just takes time. The surprise package on our roster over the last couple of years is Calum Scott. A lot of what has happened for him has been the result of the fact he has kept going and stayed in the game. In 2025, he’s going to step into some form of arena. Culturally, we’ve had to embed him and help that fanbase understand what it means to be a Calum Scott fan, and that has taken time.”

In terms of causes for concern in the sector, what is the primary issue in your opinion?

“The biggest thing for us at the moment is the cost of touring. Inflation is so high, and the second that the energy prices increased, all of the infrastructure costs were put up, so venue rent, production costs, wages, etc. We’re having to wait an incredibly long time for ticket prices to go up to the level that reflects all of that. We’re seeing a lot of artists under pressure, particularly at the bottom end, trying to make this work. I think it all comes down to how we’re funding the bottom end of the business. Labels aren’t door supporting any more in the same way, so you have this economy at the bottom end of the market being propped up by other people’s money that’s no longer there, added to the fact that it now costs three to four times what it did.”

There’s a lot of noise around saving grassroots venues, but do enough people in the industry actually care?

“It’s like global warming, isn’t it? We all care about it, but it happens at such a slow rate that it’s difficult for people to feel the urgency that they need to feel about it. Everything needs to be a viable business, so if the business isn’t viable and isn’t being subsidised by some other body, then we have to think about whether it’s a viable business. The flipside of that is, if for generations it has been unofficially subsidised by things like label tour support, do we need to find a way to keep subsidising that part of the economy? It needs to be balanced, because the shift online has made it so that touring does look different and people aren’t going to shows in a lot of the small venues in the backwaters of Britain any more. So we have to be careful. We can’t do it at any cost, it has to be sensible, but I do think something needs to be done.”

Is there any truth to the suggestion that, while arena shows are thriving at the moment, smaller venues are under threat as a result?

“I think there is absolute truth in that. The arena business has really taken off in the last 10-15 years. It’s become part of what we do, not just in this country, but globally. It’s a big ask to get someone to throw their togs on, get on a train and check out a band. Where the disposable income is among kids and families and parents, they suit an arena environment much better. We often talk about artists who are going to sell better once we get past Brixton and Hammersmith and into Wembley Arena. That fanbase wants the infrastructure, they want to go somewhere to eat, they want a seat, they want parking, the whole experience.”

How do you see the prospects for the live business more generally? Are we looking at a bright future?

“I think the whole shift with record labels and independent artists is a really interesting one. For years we’ve all been talking about labels not really being able to break artists from scratch, and we’ve seen a hell of a lot of great things happen for artists who have come through the label services system and being ‘independent’. Over the last couple of years, labels have started owning that, saying, ‘We want you to go and develop these artists at these independent set-ups’ and behaving as a big marketing house should behave, coming in much later. I think that creates fertile ground for artists like Raye, for example, who broke through this year. That’s a really exciting space to be in.”

Finally, your former CAA colleague Emma Banks won the Strat at last year’s Music Week Awards. Do you ever consider your own career in terms of leaving a legacy behind?

“Ultimately, I would love for the company to follow in the footsteps of some of the things that Emma has achieved and [win] some of those awards. But legacy is a funny thing for me. I don’t know how it translates into personal accolades, but I’d love for our company to help people achieve their dreams, whether that’s with clients or professionals.” 

Subscribers can read the full interview here. And read our new report on the UK festival market.

PHOTOS: Aaron Crowley


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