Festival Guide 2012: Hard Rock Calling - 'I had a few sleepless nights'

Toby Leighton-Pope, 35, is vice president of music for Live Nation. He's been promoting Hard Rock Calling since it began seven years ago


How does being London-based set your event apart?

People can go to the festival for the day then be back home by midnight, so it's all about the bands. The location appeals to major acts, which means we get great names. On the down side, I always get last-minute calls from celebrities who want to come along.

Your success is almost 100% per cent about getting the right headliners...

Yes. Iconic artists at an iconic venue, is the idea. We've been really lucky, having the likes of Paul McCartney, Pearl Jam and Neil Young. This year Springsteen is back, and that's about the best live show around. And having Paul Simon doing Graceland, on the 25th anniversary of the record will be musical history – probably our last chance to see it done live.

How tricky is it negotiating?

It's a long process, and you have late nights thinking: "who am I going to get for the Saturday?" I spoke to maybe 15 bands about 2012. Some didn't want to work this year, for others, the timing was wrong. I was talking to Paul Simon in September, but he needed to get his ducks in a row! Eventually, it works out.

It must be satisfying seeing the shows after all that wrangling...

Absolutely. Great things happen because we're in London. Paul McCartney shows up to encore with Neil Young. Springsteen starts his set with "London Calling" You think: "wow, that's pretty cool."

So you're not too busy panicking...

I don't relax until the headliner is onstage. But I enjoy my job, it's a privilege. And these artists are pros, they turn up on time. Touch wood, it'll stay like that. NM