'It's been sensational': Take That's manager Chris Dempsey on the trio's triumphant live return

'It's been sensational': Take That's manager Chris Dempsey on the trio's triumphant live return

Take That's manager Chris Dempsey has opened up about the group's stellar business at home and abroad in a new interview with Music Week.

The British pop legends, who moved within Universal from Polydor to EMI, scored the biggest weekly sales of 2023 for a domestic act in the UK with their ninth studio album, This Life. The chart-topping LP has moved 150,186 units to date, according to the Official Charts Company. 

In addition, the trio – Gary Barlow, Howard Donald and Mark Owen – have sold more than 700,000 tickets for their 41-date This Life On Tour UK and Ireland trek – their first outing in five years – which kicked off at Sheffield's Utilita Arena on April 13. Take That are the biggest-selling domestic artist in terms of tour ticket sales this year. 

"We've done some amazing business in Europe, too, and we won't be far off selling a million tickets in 12 months," Dempsey told Music Week. "It is just sensational really."

Other new partners include UTA, who are working with the band on global touring opportunities, alongside existing relationships with longtime promoter SJM Concerts and Dempsey at YMU.

Plus, the group will curate and star in Take That: The Greatest Weekend - a four-day festival in Malta also featuring acts such as Sugababes, Ella Henderson, Gok Wan, Sam Ryder, Daniel Bedingfield and Heather Small – from October 17-20. 

Here, Chris Dempsey comments further on This Life's success, the band's evolution, and what the future may hold... 

How is Take That's This Life On Tour going so far? 

“It's been brilliant. Obviously, there's a massive lead up to the opening night of a tour, with many weeks of rehearsals and planning. From the inception of an album project, they're always thinking about the live show from the beginning. It's so integral to to them as artists and as a band. I remember all the conversations when we first heard Windows, which is the first song that came together and felt like it was the direction for the This Life album, and immediately they were talking about the live show and ways in which to present it. And to then get the response we did from the audience and from press as well – the reviews have been stellar so far – was incredibly satisfying.”

Looking at some of the UK tour stops, are "regional" dates becoming a bigger part of the equation live?

"[Cities like] Norwich, Bristol, Plymouth, Milton Keynes  areas of the country that don't necessarily have arenas  are maybe sometimes a little underserved when the bigger acts are touring the UK, so we always like to get there. Also, it changes up the show a little bit  it's a different experience for some of the fans who like to go to multiple shows and it's a different challenge for the band. It tweaks it up a little bit on the production as well; you haven't got a roof to fly stuff off, so you've got to think a bit differently how you put the show together."

What level of demand are you witnessing? 

"The band's audience is incredibly loyal. We never take anything for granted though. And they've actually sold more tickets on this tour than they did in 2019, which was a big greatest hits moment. That's testament to the band, to the record, to the fanbase and the engagement and love they have for their fans that we've been able to grow that. We all work hard from a management team perspective, the promoter, the agents, because you can't just rest on your laurels and think that your ticket sales are going to be as good as they were last time.

"We've seen real growth internationally as well and that was a real focus. We sat with the band just over a year ago and talked about what success would look like out of this project, beyond the creative direction, and they said  they wanted to go to some new markets, or markets we've not been to in a long while. There are a few shows we've still got to announce but they are going to end up playing about 80 shows this year, which is probably more than they have ever done as a band, even in the '90s. We're going to go out to see some some new places and it's exciting that we've got a whole year of touring ahead of us. We're doing their own festival in Malta in October and that's a bit of a first. They're going to play the Everything Changes album in full, which is not something they've done before."

We've seen real growth internationally as well and that was a real focus

Chris Dempsey

So what led you to Malta?

"They've got a good set up there. We looked at a few locations in Europe actually. We wanted to get outside of the UK, go somewhere sunny and do something a bit different. For those fans who've been with a band for a long time, it's something different. We know they like to travel: some will come to Australia and they'll be in Europe as well, so we want to try and give them a different experience and hopefully we'll pull that off in Malta. It's the first time we've ever done it, so it's a bit of a learning experience to a degree. But the other great thing about the Take That fanbase is that they'll let you know what works and what doesn't, and it's great feedback." 

This Life had the biggest weekly sales for a domestic release in 2023, how pleased have you been with its performance?

"Oh, it's amazing, the biggest domestic album [weekly sale] of 2023 and then the tour is the biggest selling UK artist tour of '24, which is testament to them as artists and the fanbase. I think it's a great record, and one of the things that sets them apart is that they are incredible songwriters who deliver time and time again. That's shown in the success of that record. I'm not sure enough people know that it was the biggest album of last year [in terms of weekly sales for a domestic act], but it was by a long chalk."

Touring aside, how do you plan to keep up that momentum? What is still to be done with the campaign?

"We've got some more music coming. The new single [You And Me] came out last week and is doing incredibly well. Radio 2 have been brilliant supporters – it was Record Of The Week and A-list there, which has been fantastic – and we're seeing it resonate online. The streams are really strong, so that feels like a great start. That's going to come together into a deluxe album in the summer, so we've got some more music to release from that over the coming weeks while we're on tour. And then, towards the end of this year, there might be something new, again, single-wise. The boys are always writing and always working."

Are you seeing significant gains on the streaming front?

"We had a real moment in Southeast Asia with a catalogue track, Patience. With any kind of new studio record, we're always keen to work catalogue alongside it. We've worked with both Sony, who have the '90s catalogue, and Universal, who have everything from 2006 onwards. You're working hard being creative with TikTok and Reels, and working alongside all the DSPs and even physical retail with that catalogue and trying to see if you can have a bit of luck with a moment on TikTok – and we got that with Patience in Southeast Asia. That really started flying from December and January until Universal turned the tap off and it slowed down a bit. But catalogue's really important and that's helped with growing internationally as we go to tour."

What keeps the group motivated at this point in their career?

"When we got No.1 with the album, one of the first things they said to me is, 'Brilliant, that means we can do it again.' They're just so incredibly excited that there is a desire for their music and they get to make another album and maybe go on tour again. There are a few things we're looking at – Vegas often gets talked about – there's a lot of interest from some promoters in Vegas. Let's see, we'd love to go and do that one day."

Finally, this year marks a decade since the group became a trio, how smooth was that transition? 

"Fairly seamless, I think. The three of them are very tight; they are close creatively and personally. They know each other so well and three is not a bad number for getting decisions made [laughs]. Maybe that helps in a way? I don't know. But they always say that Take That can be three, it can be four, it can be five. And who knows, in the future, maybe one or two members might want to come back at some point? We'll wait and see!"

Interview by James Hanley

Read our November 2023 Music Week cover feature with Take That.

PHOTOS: Callum Mills/RHM Productions, Dave Hogan/Hogan Media/Shutterstock 

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