The O2: not as popular as it used to be
The recent falls in revenue, profits and attendance at Dublin’s O2 venue are a sign of the music business times
Well, that didn’t take long. The big shed on Dublin’s docklands appears to be losing its lustre, if you’re to take latest accounts from the company who operate the venue into account. According to today’s report in the business pages, it was all red ink for the Apollo Leisure Group Ltd, which operates the venue. Revenue slipped 3.7 per cent, pre-tax profits slumped 18 per cent and attendances fell to 83 per cent of capacity compared to the previous year’s 89 per cent of capacity.
Of course, a venue is only as popular as the acts who appear there and the number of acts who can pull off a show at the big-ass venue are few and far between. It’s interesting, though not surprising, to see that the big draws for the gaff last year per the report were a comedian and two heritage acts. There’s just enough new acts coming through who can get to that level. Last week’s show by The xx, for example, was under-sold and it’s only when the big pop-dance acts like Beyonce are in that there is any use for the full-house signs.
This is set to be a problem which won’t go away due to how the music business has pivoted in recent times and how the process of creating sustainable, long-term musical careers has been allowed to fall away. While the venue can probably account for an odd show or two from bona-fide big acts like Kings Of Leon or Coldplay when they’re doing arena tours, chances are that gigonomics will dictate that such acts will do their own standalone shows in a big field to ensure they’re seen by the maximum possible audience.
For the O2, the problem lies in turning the mid-level acts into shed-fillers, which is a problem everyone in the industry realises exists, but is nowhere near solving it. How long will it take in terms of albums and campaigns for such currently rising popular Irish acts like Kodaline or Little Green Cars to fill an O2? With the exception of Two Door Cinema Club and The Coronas, there are few of the other established new Irish acts you’d put money on to fill the place, unless they choose to do an event gig and are prepared to take a loss.
Perhaps, in hindsight, the O2 was just too big an ask for the city. The capital’s gigging infrastructure still has a gap for a mid-sized arena – somewhere bigger than the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, but smaller and more manageable than the O2 – but it’s hard to see who would attempt to put such a venture in motion in the current climate. Better to spend the money on more curtains for the O2 to drape off those banks of unsold seats.