Koko CEO Olly Bengough on the return of the iconic venue and live music's hybrid future

Koko CEO Olly Bengough on the return of the iconic venue and live music's hybrid future

Koko CEO and founder Olly Bengough has told Music Week that the revitalised venue will be able to support new artists more than ever across multiple platforms.

The iconic venue in London’s Camden will relaunch in May after £70 million of investment, including a new four-storey extension. 

As well as four different performance venues for artists and DJ areas in the expanded 50,000 square foot complex, Koko has been transformed with high-spec broadcasting, recording and livestreaming capabilities.

“I’m looking 50 years ahead,” said Bengough, speaking in the latest edition of Music Week. “It's a big investment, but I enjoy doing innovative projects and it’s exciting in terms of creating a new global benchmark for live music and entertainment.” 

For the music industry, Koko offers both concert performances and the option to record and livestream in partnership with the Koko Studio. The recording facility enables acts to co-produce, stream and distribute content. 

“A music fan could enjoy four shows with one artist over a two or three-day period,” explained Bengough. “At the same time, artists can create behind-the-scenes content and offer limited edition livestreams, merchandise or NFTs. We want to help emerging artists or really big headline acts create incredible artistic moments.”

The venue is also launching a radio station, which will aim to help to break new and emerging artists.

.           Sketch of Ellen's Jazz Club in the transformed Koko

The new venture is being launched in partnership with Sister, the global content company behind productions such as Chernobyl. It will provide further opportunities for Koko Studio to help artists and brands develop new content and formats.

Koko’s founder welcomed the opportunity for hybrid in-person and virtual events. The venue team worked with consultancy Munro Acoustics and specialists from the BBC.

“The whole building is a broadcast studio,” he said. “If an artist does want to stream and monetise globally because they can't travel, why not help everyone succeed?”

“If I were an artist or a fan, I would head straight to Koko,” said Lyor Cohen, Youtube’s global head of music. “They have cracked the code”

We're one of the few truly independent venues of our size left in London

Olly Bengough

The return of Koko follows three years of construction and restoration amid a series of challenges, including a fire, serious water damage and, of course, the pandemic.

“We're just excited that we're launching in spring and that we've got through it,” said Bengough.

Lianne La Havas is among the former performers at the venue to have toured the transformed site. She will play a residency at the venue in May.

“Artists can see that they will be able to play different shows, and create different types of content for each room,” said Bengough. “If an artist wants to come in and do a five-day residency, livestream globally and create limited edition merch, experiences and content, Koko can help them facilitate that.”

Industry reaction from agents, promoters, labels and artists has been overwhelmingly positive.

Koko will offer a multi-tiered experience including a new shop featuring artist merch collaborations, a tap bar hosting intimate live performances and the new Fly Tower Venue and gallery, where acts can perform in the round. 

.                  Sketch of Koko's The Fly Tower

A new membership offering will provide access to a roof terrace and conservatory, dome cocktail bar, penthouse and recording studio, piano room, library and vinyl rooms.

Since launching in 2005, the 1,400-capacity main theatre has hosted huge acts including Coldplay, Prince, Kanye West, as well as rising stars who went on to chart-topping success such as Stormzy, Dua Lipa and Tom Walker.

Olly Bengough said the spirit of the independent venue will live on.

“We'll still be championing emerging artists,” he said. “We're actually going to do more for new artists than we've ever done before. We'll be able to work with unsigned talent, help them creatively, put them on in one of our venues, maybe put them on the radio, stream one of their shows and give them a platform.”

Sketch of Koko's roof terrace

He also underlined the role of the creative team at the venue, including music bookers Nick Lewis and Andy Peyton, head of electronic. Club night bookings will now be made in-house.

Koko has lined up gigs in the months ahead from acts including Tems, Yola and Kim Gordon. It will also support emerging artists.

Bengough is confident that the multi-tiered Koko offering can future-proof the venue.

“It's about us having a really strong offering that allows us to make money and be sustainable,” he said. “We're one of the few truly independent venues of our size left in London, so you need a smart business model to stand independent and keep going. 

Subscribers can read an extended version of the interview with reaction from WME, UTA and head of music Nick Lewis here.


SKETCHES: Pirajean Lees

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