Ben Lovett has spoken to Music Week about the expansion of TVG Hospitality in the UK and US.
As well as being a member of Mumford & Sons, Lovett is the CEO and founder of The Venue Group (TVG), which launched in 2016 with Omeara near London Bridge in Southwark.
TVG’s presence in the capital has since grown with the opening, in 2020, of Lafayette in King’s Cross and a funding partnership with The Social in London’s West End.
Following their reopening after the pandemic, Lovett said the response has been “amazing”.
“We’ve been blown away by how full the venues – and the calendars – have been,” he said. “With The Social, Omeara and Lafayette, you struggle to find a day that we haven’t got a show in London.”
The company recruited Jayne Davis as chief operating officer last year as it entered the US market. Her appointment enables Lovett to focus on Mumford & Sons, who have booked multiple festival appearances in 2023 including a headlining slot at Victorious Festival in Portsmouth.
“There’s now someone who’s sitting across the whole business, she’s brilliant,” said Lovett. “She’s really running the show day-to-day already and making a huge difference.”
The operator last year closed $50m in funding to build its team and portfolio in the US and UK.
In 2022, TVG launched in the US with the 8,000-capacity Orion in Huntsville, Alabama, followed by the recent acquisition of Saturn, a 500-capacity venue in Birmingham, Alabama.
“Saturn has a very similar DNA to The Social in being a much-loved indie venue,” said Ben Lovett.
With the TVG team up to around 750, there are multiple venues planned across the US, including the Lumberyard in Huntsville in 2023. TVG’s revival of The Backyard in Austin, Texas, which will be 4,000-capacity, is set to open in 2024.
“We’re building in LA, we’re building in Detroit, which has obviously got an amazing musical heritage,” said Lovett. “We are in Austin, which is seen by many as the capital of music for the US. There’s a lot of opportunities.”
TVG plans to have 12 venues across the UK and US by 2026. The musician and executive revealed that he has further ambitions in London.
“There’s this great venue in New York called Radio City Music Hall, which is 6,000-capacity,” he said. “What do we have in London at 6-7,000? There’s no play other than a cut-down Wembley Arena or cut-down Ally Pally.
“So there’s an opportunity in London, especially at that scale. Those larger-format venues are what we’re now doing a lot of in the US.”
As a venue owner, you measure your success pegged to the artists who grew out of your spaces
At the lower-capacity end of the touring circuit, Lafayette London has become firmly established. It also stages club nights and offers a range of food options within the Goods Way space.
The 600-capacity venue launched with an Apple Music show by Dave in February 2020, shortly before the live shutdown due to Covid.
“It’s a very interesting capacity,” said Lovett.
“We’ve seen artists coming through doing intimate underplays. On the emerging [artist] side as well, it’s been brilliant, because a lot of people have used it as a step on the ladder as they’re growing in their career.”
As well as hosting established names such as Loyle Carner, Beck and Pretenders, Lafayette has staged gigs by newer acts including Rina Sawayama, Gracey, Beabadoobee, Lovejoy, Gabriels and Maisie Peters.
“As a venue owner, you measure your success pegged to the artists who grew out of your spaces,” said Lovett. “Our overarching goal with TVG is to build the best venues in the world, and I think we’ve done a really good job of getting going with that in London.”
As well as new venues, TVG provides financial support on a partnership basis to The Social, which marks its 25th anniversary next year.
“It’s been amazing to be able to come in and provide operational and curatorial value to one of those great cornerstones of small indie venues in London,” said Lovett. “I felt that we need to help protect our venues when we can.”
While TVG continues its expansion, Lovett has now established a team that enables him to fully commit to Mumford & Sons.
“I oscillate from my capacity in the leadership of [TVG] to being a collaborator in a band,” said Lovett. “And the band is coming back with quite a lot of momentum right now.
“Having the grounded challenge of running a business has actually helped me continue to appreciate how lucky I am to be able to just write a song, or stand on stage, with my friends.
“I feel like there’s a lot of excitement around Mumford & Sons coming back with shows and new music. So with TVG’s speed of growth, I’m trying to put as much infrastructure in place.”
Following Mumford & Sons’ 2016 War Child show at Omeara, the band are keen to play a gig at Lafayette for this campaign.
“The guys are unbelievably encouraging and supportive,” said Lovett. “Ted [Dwane, bassist] is actually a part of the shareholder group.
“They understand that there’s a philosophy and a mission to it as well, which is around protecting the independence of venues. So they’re fully in the corner.”