Marketing profile: Sir Harvey Goldsmith

LONDON - For a knight of the realm, Ignition European chairman Harvey Goldsmith is surprisingly easy company. Although the 61-year-old promoter doesn't mince his words, once he has latched onto an issue close to his heart, he grows enthusiastic and animated.

Marketing profile: Sir Harvey Goldsmith

Goldsmith's CV since he started out in 1966 spans some of music's greatest moments. It is 23 years since he organised Live Aid with Bob Geldof, but

poverty in Africa still stirs up a well of emotion. 'The issues in Africa are very complex because we in the West are trying to impose our ways of life on a group of people who have their own way of life,' he says. 'We do everything but listen to what the people want and how they want to be helped. Most of the charities are big businesses and don't want to go away and don't want to solve the issues.'

In 2005, Goldsmith was not keen to organise Live8, but did so after the artists 'demanded it'. Despite his role in such groundbreaking global events, he ranks last December's Led Zeppelin reformation among his greatest achievements. 'It received amazing global press. I've never seen so much attention,' he recalls.

While the concert, a tribute to the late Atlantic records founder Ahmet Ertegun, did attract immense interest, it also brought to prominence a side effect less palatable to Goldsmith. Seats were fetching more than £7000 apiece on secondary ticketing websites such as Seatwave. 'The issue is very simple,' says a clearly infuriated Goldsmith. 'A ticket is a currency, timed and dated for a unique experience. It's not a commodity.'

He argues that a simple system of exchange should exist, with a small handling charge, for fans who genuinely cannot attend an event to pass on their ticket and recoup their outlay. 'I keep asking: why did it take five seconds to outlaw secondary ticketing for the Olympics?' As enraged as he is, Goldsmith is keen to learn the views of music-lovers via his blog, which he uses as a sounding board for matters affecting the industry.

Goldsmith gives the impression of being focused on the future rather than past regrets. But when pushed, he is still perplexed as to why basketball failed to take off in the UK in the 90s, despite his best efforts and what seemed a receptive environment. 'There was no reason it should not have worked; it's a street game, easy to play. It had its window.'

Today, Goldsmith channels much of his abundant energy into global experiential and marketing agency Ignition, of which he is European chairman. Having joined in 2005, he is busy working on high-profile Formula One events and activation of music sponsorships.

Goldsmith is critical of many of the latter tie-ups. 'Sports sponsorship has become more of a science whereas music is still quite badly handled. Real success is in repeatability,' he argues. 'Sport has learned that sponsorships work when they are spread over time, but most music sponsorships are for the duration of a tour and some look like they are a quirk of the chairman.'

To achieve an effective sponsorship campaign, Goldsmith believes pre- and post-event marketing are as important as the event itself and that the campaign must be consistent with the rest of the brand's activity. 'Sponsorships often fall foul of the overall marketing strategy. It really needs to be in-line,' he says.

He also thinks music sponsorship can offer clients a great opportunity to reach and influence consumers, but warns: 'You can't be too overt or they won't be interested. Having your name attached doesn't give you anything. To have a

resident audience that you can touch is nirvana. How you achieve that is where the strategy and planning comes in.'

Goldsmith's next project is chairing Britain's first permanent music hall of fame, to be called the British Music

Experience. 'It will be very exciting, employ a lot of people and be an interactive fan experience,' he enthuses. 'It will have a huge educational value and give visitors an understanding of how the current scene has come together'.

Although too humble to admit it, Goldsmith himself would be a more than worthy inclusion in the Hall of Fame when it opens in February 2009.

Sir Harvey Goldsmith MBE, CV
  • 1976 Founds Harvey Goldsmith Entertainments
  • 1985 Organises Live Aid
  • 1988 Organises first Smash Hits Poll Winners Party
  • 1994 Begins promoting Cirque du Soleil
  • 2001 Hired by Safeway to present Pavarotti, Charlotte Church,
  • Vanessa Mae and Russell Watson in concert at Hyde Park
  • 2004 Appointed worldwide producer of Pavarotti's Farewell Tour
  • 2005 Involved in organisation of Live8
  • 2005-present European chairman, Ignition
  • 2006 Produces Nokia New Year's Eve global party
  • 2007 Involved in production of Live Earth
  • 2007 Brings Led Zeppelin together for reunion concert at The O2