Industry figures and associates are paying tribute to Steve Forster, founder and MD of venue services company VMS Live, who died on 19 April, aged 55, following a serious car accident two weeks earlier.
Forster is renowned as a venue services specialist who was probably directly involved in the opening of more major club and concert venues than anyone else in the country.
He started his career as entertainment organiser at Newcastle Polytechnic (now Northumbria University), setting up his own promoting business before becoming operations manager at London’s Wembley Arena (then cap. 10,000).
In 1999 he became operations director at The Mackenzie Group (MKG), which renamed as Academy Music Group (AMG) in 2005, taking on influential promoter shareholders SJM Concerts, Metropolis Music and MCD Productions.
At AMG, he was responsible for sourcing, refurbishing and opening Academy-branded venues in Birmingham (3,000), Newcastle (2,000), Bristol (1,600), Liverpool (1,200), and Islington, north London (800).
Forster left AMG in 2007, spending just over three years with rival venue operator MAMA Group, while simultaneously setting up VMS to provide management services to venue owners, leaving MAMA in 2011 to concentrate on VMS.
Renaming the operation VMS Live, he won contracts to operate venues such as the four (450 to 2,500) owned by Manchester Academy (no connection with AMG), Liverpool’s Eventim Olympia (2,000) and the University of East Anglia’s LCR (1,550).
“Steve made things simple, he told you what he expected and left you alone to get on with it,” says VMS operations director Richard Maides, who also worked with Forster at AMG. “He had the vision, drive and desire to turn so many venues into successful businesses.”
SJM Concerts MD Simon Moran adds, “I worked with him closely on the early expansion of AMG, where he was pivotal in driving the business forward. He was doing great with VMS, and will be a big loss to the live landscape in the UK.”
Forster is survived by his wife Kate and children Rosie and Ned.