From the Stones to Pavarotti, the ticket always read Harvey Goldsmith

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The Independent Online

"HARVEY GOLDSMITH presents" - words that have become lodged in the memories of music lovers for almost three decades.

"HARVEY GOLDSMITH presents" - words that have become lodged in the memories of music lovers for almost three decades.

Be it the Rolling Stones, Boyzone or even Pavarotti, the chances are that the punter's ticket would have been emblazoned with the name Goldsmith - the promoter synonymous with some of the largest venues and the biggest acts in Britain.

The collapse of Harvey Goldsmith's business has been attributed to a disastrous attempt to the stage a music festival in Devon during the total solar eclipse last month.

But in fact the Total Eclipse festival's failure was merely the latest in a string of ventures that have failed to yield returns for the promoter. The six-day festival in Plymouth - featuring performers such as Orbital, Asian Dub Foundation and Roni Size - attracted only 7,000 visitors rather than an expected crowd of 25,000. Alongside promoters of other events in the county, Mr Goldsmith had threatened to sue Cornwall County Council over his losses.

This is the latest in a series of setbacks for him in recent years. An attempt last year to float his holding company, Allied Entertainments Group, through a reverse takeover and merger with the classical music promoter, Raymond Gubbay, failed.

Mr Goldsmith wanted to move his company on to the world stage, away from simple promotion work to producing shows and becoming the owner of rights in productions with a continuing value.

Music promotion is a risky business, with the promoter taking a gamble each time on how many tickets to a performance will be sold.

Margins are notoriously slim, with the bulk of the ticket price going to pay performers, value-added tax and the owners of venues. In 1996 his company made a profit of £885,000 on a reported turnover of £35m. However, some industry sources played down the impact of the Total Eclipse festival on his prospects. "Don't expect this to be end of him," said a rival promoter last night. "He's an experienced operator who always seems to find a way to bounce back."

If he is anything, he is certainly a resourceful survivor. The young Goldsmith dropped out of a college course in pharmacy in the 1960s to head for San Francisco in search of his fortune.

When he returned to Britain in the early 1970s he brought with him a stock of psychedelic posters and began to carve out a niche as a mover and shaker among the musical giants of the era. There was barely a name with whom he was not associated, from The Who to Eric Clapton, and Tina Turner to Van Morrison.

It was also a lucrative period. After the success of the Blackbushe festival in 1978, featuring Clapton and Bob Dylan, he is reputed to have gone shopping and paid for a Rolls-Royce in cash.

In 1995 Mr Goldsmith's company reported a £7.5m loss after a failed attempt to expand into movies. The film Lawnmower Man II was unsuccessful at the box office and his company is believed to have lost £5m on that venture alone.

Competition in rock promotion from organisations such as Vince Power and the departure of a number of his long- standing staff, including Pete Wilson and Andy Zweck, to set up their own companies, have also taken their toll on the promoter's 25-year-old business.

His move into promoting large-scale operas, including Carmen and Aida, at venues such as Earl's Court in London was seen by some as an admission by Mr Goldsmith - who also recently announced plans to move into the West End to promote dance and music extravaganzas - that he was out of touch with a younger generation's taste in music.

Mr Goldsmith refused to comment yesterday. In the past he has said of Cornwall District Council: "The co-ordinating group decided that World War Three was about to break out and did everything to deter people visiting." He said that in 30 years of promoting he had never come across a body as determined as the co-ordinating group to prevent as many people as possible from visiting. Last night Lee Manning, partner at Buchler Phillips, the firm handling the receivership, said: "With the eclipse event, Harvey dipped his feet into waters he had never been in before and caught a cold."

The estimated cost of the cold - a £750,000 black hole in the company's accounts.

Highs and lows in a risky business

1976 - The Last Waltz; The Band

Goldsmith's foot famously made an appearance in the film of the final gig by The Band, which included Bob Dylan and other stars. Goldsmith was kicking Van Morrison on to the stage because he had stage fright.

1982 - Rolling Stones; Start Me Up Tour.

One of the first proper stadium tours in the UK. The Stones came equipped with a huge stage show and an end-of-concert fireworks display that brought complaints up and down the country.

1986 - Live Aid; Paul McCartney, U2, Queen, David Bowie and many more. A triumph of organisation and Goldsmith's greatest moment. He took on Bob Geldof's request to get more artists on one stage than ever seen and did it in 10 weeks.

1991 - Pavarotti in the Park.

A free concert to kick off Goldsmith's move from straight rock to catering for a new kind of artist and audience. A torrential downpour soaked the crowd, caused umbrella fights and got the Princess of Wales wet.