The SSE Hydro’s Debbie McWilliams has predicted that arenas will diversify their content to stay ahead after the Glasgow venue returned to No.2 in Pollstar's arena rankings.
The 13,000-capacity venue trailed only London's The O2 in Q1 2017, selling 389,695 tickets in the period compared with The O2's 574,233. Five other UK arenas made the global Top 20 - Manchester Arena (No.3), Leeds' First Direct Arena (No.6), Genting Arena, Birmingham (No.8), Sheffield Arena (No.13) and Barclaycard Arena, Birmingham (No.20).
"The impact of 2016 was strong with Adele and Justin Bieber leading the way on the international stage," said McWilliams (pictured), head of live entertainment, sales and ticketing at the Scottish Event Campus (formerly SECC). "2017 is maintaining this strength with performances from Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars and Neil Diamond. Also, with Celine Dion returning to Glasgow for the first time in over 20 years, we have many highlights confirmed this year.
"The first quarter of 2017 was very strong and as a result we returned to our position of No.2 with Pollstar, based on ticket sales"
The Hydro has enjoyed success hosting the Scottish leg of the Country 2 Country festival and various sporting events, in addition to its music calendar. It finished eighth in Pollstar's 2016 arena rankings, with 751,487 tickets sold. Music shows account for 63% of the venue's live entertainment business.
“We are seeing significant growth in country music popularity and ticket sales," added McWilliams. "An example of this is demonstrated in the Country 2 Country festival. Historically, we hosted this event in our 3,000-capacity SEC Armadillo venue over a weekend. This event has now moved into The SSE Hydro, with the potential to play to a much larger audience.
“There is also growth in sporting events. Andy Murray Live was very successful in 2016 and is returning this year. UFC is also making a return to our venue in 2017.”
McWilliams said fans’ expectations of arena concerts have changed in recent years.
"The focus for fans has shifted solely from attending the event, to incorporate a fuller journey pre and post event," she said. "Technology plays a key role in this for the venue. Whether it be providing event information e.g. running times, travel expectations or building event hype, the fans want to engage as much as they can. We embrace this by providing Wi-Fi throughout the venue to allow fans to share their experience live on various social media platforms.
"By providing opportunities for fans via Snapchat filters, on site experiential activation and upgrade options, we aim to contribute to the fans’ expectations, allowing their experience to have life."
Looking ahead, she added: "We are seeing new patterns emerging in the focus of the artists' touring schedules. At this time of year, the priority is very much focused on festival performances. The result of this often changes the traditional announcement period for concerts, pushing them further along the calendar."
McWilliams was interviewed for Music Week's 2017 Arenas Report, which can be accessed by subscribers here.