The changing face of live entertainment

Justin Timberlake, Bon Jovi, the Eagles and Usher are some of the big names that have toured with AEG Live

Thomas Ovesen, the man who brought Shakira and Mariah Carey to the UAE as general manager of Mirage Promotions (now Live Nation), plans to do the same in his new job as managing director for AEG Live Middle East. The company has big plans to shake up the UAE's entertainment scene, starting with Tuesday's Bon Jovi concert in Abu Dhabi. Emirates Business caught with Ovesen for a chat.

What are AEG Live's current business interests?

AEG is the second largest international live entertainment company consisting of 48 subsidiaries. In 2007 we staged more than 3,500 events, sold more than 30 million tickets and had a turnover of more than $700 million (Dh2.5 billion).

The company owns prestigious venues, including the O2 Arena in London, LA Live in Los Angeles and the Nokia Theatre in New York.

Which artists do you represent exclusively?

Artists don't make their money from representations but from live performance fees. So, as an organisation, we book both individual shows and worldwide tours.

Only rarely do we engage in artist deals involving anything other than live performances. Recent tours have included dates with the Eagles, Justin Timberlake, Prince and the Spice Girls.

We don't want to carry the liability of what happens to the artists before and after their tours but where we can offer regional concert dates we offer competitive deals.

Will AEG Live be bringing over Arabic artists as well as international acts?

I think the most relevant Arab artists are already touring this region so I don't think we will be "bringing them over". However, we will certainly consider such talents the same way we promote international talents relevant to our market – including Asian artists.

Are we witnessing a change with the UAE's entertainment hub shifting from Dubai to Abu Dhabi?

Bon Jovi is one of the biggest touring rock bands and it hasn't been possible to schedule a Middle East date with them previously. Mubadala and its partners have decided to bring the best international entertainment to the capital and we were tasked with securing a May show with Bon Jovi.

It takes a lot of money and dedication to get such a big band to perform and Abu Dhabi has proven capable of delivering just that.

I'm sure this is just the beginning of many exciting events being staged in the UAE capital.

How important is this region to AEG Live?

Very important. Not only is our business going global, but we also need to provide some artists with a true international touring package.

The Middle East offers a great link between Europe, Asia or Africa and with new venues coming up, it will be able to complement the current relatively short outdoor season with a year-round indoor entertainment season.

What do you estimate will be the Middle East's contribution to AEG Live's global portfolio?

This region will only add to what will eventually be an even greater and busier worldwide organisation. And with more international venues opening under AEG management, our portfolio of events, number of tickets sold, turnover from sponsorship deals and the overall profit will grow rapidly – a unique feat in a market where many operators are struggling to make a profit.

Can concert-goers in the Middle East expect some hot shows this year?


What does the future hold for AEG Live here?

We want to offer great events regionally whilst running a profitable business. My aim is to grow a healthy business while improving the experience for the audience attending our shows.