eFestivals speaks to lead booker Andy Smith from Live At Leeds

as the festival celebrates a 10-year anniversary

By Scott Williams | Published: Mon 8th Feb 2016

Saturday 30th April 2016
various venues, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 3AD, England MAP
Daily capacity: 10,000
Last updated: Wed 6th Apr 2016

Live At Leeds is celebrating its 10-year anniversary, and has quickly become an institution in the Leeds calendar taking place in numerous city venues and hosting national names and local talent performing at venues around the city centre in a celebration of new music. eFestivals spoke to lead booker Andy Smith to find out more about the event taking place over the bank holiday on Saturday 30th April 2016.

Have you been involved in Live At Leeds since its inception?

Yes I have 10 years.

For people who haven't been before how would you sum up Live At Leeds?

It's a great day, the while city has a buzz about it. I go from venue to venue checking out the new and upcoming  bands and seeing what the atmosphere is like, and even out on the streets of Leeds you can see everyone milling in and out with their wristbands and their brochures. It's mainly about the atmosphere in the city, it's great.

Leeds is a relatively small city, you can walk from one side to the other in about 20 minutes. Some of the venues are a bit further afield but the majority are all together so you see all the people walking from place to place, and chatting, having a few drinks, and having a good time.

Do you have a hand in any other festivals as well as this one?

The company deals with Slam Dunk festival as well, I don't that book that though, I work on the production side of things. We have someone who specializes in that side of music.

They're both Metropolitan festivals, what do you think that kind of festival has going for it?

Well, they're not weather dependent, they are much more affordable, because of the size of the acts, and the infrastructure is already in place. That's what makes a Metropolitan festival more easy than the infrastructure on an outdoor space.

Over the decade what has been your highlight?

If I could pinpoint only one particular highlight, I guess the overall highlight is how much it's grown in that time. The original concept was spread across four venues and we might have booked 20 bands to do it. Ten years on we're doing nearly 200 bands across 22 stages, that's the highlight for me.

There's been lots of musical highlights over the years. The Cribs at the town hall was great it's good to see them come back to Leeds and do a big show in a special venue. Ed Sheeran played in the Cockpit Bar before he took off, Sam Smith played the Holy Trinity Church a few years back. There's been loads of musical highlights, Royal Blood were one of my favourites. It's hard to think now, there's been so many bands play over the years.

Who do you think will be a highlight on this year's programme?

For me I like to pick out some of the newer stuff. I'm looking forward to seeing Isaac Gracie, who I think is fantastic, and worth checking out. Live At Leeds is all about being a showcase festival of acts that are breaking or going to break in the next year or so, and showcasing them first is our main goal.

Have you been to any other Metropolitan festivals how do they compare?

I've been to The Great Escape, which is probably a little more industry-centric, anything down south obviously is because there's a lot more people who work in the music industry down there. Up North. There's a few others like Liverpool Sound City, and Dot To Dot, they're all different really. It depends upon the city they're held in really and the spaces it has to offer. There's some nice places up here like Leeds Town Hall, and churches, and museums, and different spaces you can put things in that makes it unique. There are a lot of options for festivals these days.

There certainly does  seem to be when I first started going to festivals the only ones that utilised urban spaces tended to be folk festivals that used pubs and clubs in the off season from being outdoors in the summer.

Yes, things have changed a little bit, I think artists definitely see the value of playing metropolitan festivals now.

It certainly allows for an all year around festival calendar.

It does yes, although I think most metropolitan festivals tend to run over Spring to be fair, so you're not totally dependent on the weather but it's nice around spring time, so when people are going from place to place it's not tipping down with rain but generally nicer weather. Maybe in the future we might look at incorporating some outdoor events into it.

I was going to ask, what are your plans for future expansion? A lot of metropolitan festivals do have one or two outdoor stages these days, is it something you'd consider?

It's certainly something we've been looking at yes, and it's probably something we will do over the next couple of years, it's just a case of getting the right acts.

As well as the industry stuff at the Unconference does Live At Leeds include anything away from the music?

This year we are incorporating a digital festival. So, Leeds Digital Festival are partnering up with us and there will be digital events over the course of the week leading up to Live At Leeds and that's for the general public, and we will then link in with a conference that links digital to music which is an obvious thing in this day and age.

What kind of things fall under the 'digital' umbrella?

It is a wide umbrella isn't it. It's not something I work on personally, someone else works on that, but it's things like hackathons, and conferences, Youtube stuff, Spotify and all those kind of things. It's pretty spurious currently because the people running it still haven't confirmed their headliners. We're waiting for that before we proceed.

How did you get into the festival business in the first place?

I am a music promoter by trade anyway so I book artists all year around here in Leeds. So. A lot of the bands you see on the line-up, I work with all the time, or have done in the past, or will do in the future. It was just a natural progression really from booking shows to putting together a festival line-up.

How do you find the bands who come to you feel about appearing at the festival. It seems the landscape has changed these days from record sales to live sales, do you find this has led to more acts wanting to appear at the event?

Yes, and no. There's still a lot on the digital front, we live in a digital age where a lot of artist's revenue is now through streaming as opposed to CD sales like it used to be, and the live element helps towards that streaming side I find. We have a lot of bands who approach us wanting to play Live at Leeds, and I find I'm in demand when booking it, which is no bad thing. But, it's more about curating the right things, that you think will be potentially big in the future, and that's kind of how it works.

I presume you get to see live acts every night?

Yes I see an awful lot. We do have a baby on the way in a couple of weeks, so maybe I won't be as much as usual.

Do you see any new musical styles coming through at the moment?

We've seen a lot of singer songwriters recently, they've become very popular. Maybe Ed Sheeran started that trend, and now you have the likes of George Ezra, and James Bay. Every years there's always some singer songwriter that's kind of breaking through.  I kind of hope that guitar music comes back to what it used to be 10 years ago. You don't get as many guitar bands these days, and pop culture is at it's height. That's what I hope to see a bit more and hopefully bands who have played these events like Catfish & The Bottlemen,  The Wytches, and The 1975 are leading the charge in respect of that side of things.

You've still got a fair bit of the bill to announce, have you any surprises this year?

As it's our ten year anniversary, we are working towards incorporating something a little more Leeds into the line-up. We want to look at some good Leeds bands who have played the festival in the past who can come back and perhaps do a stage that is celebrating what's good locally. I can't give too much away.

We've booked 70-80 artist already confirmed but we've still got to add another 60-70 maybe more, and there's still a lot more to come on the booking front.

It's an ongoing process there's obviously bigger slots than others, I have a submission list of 4-500 bands and there's 150 slots to fill. It's about booking the right ones in the right places, and getting the key ones filled, the headliners, and other big names your introducing, and those getting good press at the minute. It works like that, as I say it's an ongoing process. I've got a couple of  bands ready for the next announcement. Sometimes things don't really fit in with the band's plans so bands might have a show in Leeds in February so we didn't announce them in January, but we'll sort it out afterwards.

When you started out 10 years ago I don't suppose you had four-five hundred bands wanting to play the festival?

No, it has definitely grown, 10 years ago I was chasing bands to play, and nowadays bands are chasing me to play, but that's no bad thing, it's a testament to how much we've grown as an event and how much we're valued by artists, and managers, and agents as a way as getting their bands out there. There's always a few bands each year that make it big, you won't have heard of who are lower down the bill. You know your  Jack Buggs, your Ed Sheerans, that no one's ever heard of and then two years later they are huge. That's part and parcel of what we do.

The line-up includes Jess Glynne, Circa Waves, Band Of Skulls, We Are Scientists, RatBoy, Clean Cut Kid, Barns Courtney, Mystery Jets, Ghostpoet, Blossoms, Benjamin Francis Leftwich, Los Campesinos!, Izzy Bizu, Sundara Karma, Blood Red Shoes, Loyle Carner, Formation, Samm Henshaw, The Duke Spirit, Mabel, The Sherlocks, Milk Teeth, Beach Baby, Declan McKenna, White, Vitamin, Cameron Ag, Miamigo, Inheaven, Anteros, Viola Beach, Pumarosa, Blaenavon, Fews, Hidden Charms, Slutface, Kagoule, The Jacques, Cattle & Cane, Meilyr Jones, Autobahn, Rhys Lewis, Holy Esque, Hannah Lou Clark, Beaty Heart, Zuzu, KLOE, William J Healey, George Taylor, George Cosby, Isaac Gracie, Drones Club, Catholic Action, Asylums, Fronteers, Georgie, Carnabells, John Joseph Brill, Cape Cub, Strange Bones, Flawes, Babeheaven, Seramic, James TW, Joseph J. Jones, Fletcher Jackson, Dear Friends, Caro, Where Fires Are, The Indigo Project, Fighting Caravans, Trash, Tusk, and Kleine Schweine.

Live At Leeds have also announced a new digital programme to the event, in partnership with Leeds Digital Festival, taking place in the five days prior to the music (25th – 29th April), and further details on the digital programme will be revealed soon. More names for Live At Leeds to be announced soon, as well as details on the accompanying Digital Programme.

buy tickets now >

The early bird offer has ended. Tickets for Saturday are priced at £30 plus booking fee.

Wristbands allow entry to each of the participating venues, as individual venue capacities permit.

interview by: Scott Williams

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