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Tales from Covid: Stuart Galbraith, Kilimanjaro Live

The Kili CEO talks doing business in the age of coronavirus, including the need for a longer refund window – and why associations are more important now than ever

By IQ on 17 Apr 2020

Stuart Galbraith

Stuart Galbraith

Ahead of the next issue of the magazine – which features concert business leaders offering their predictions for the industry’s post-coronavirus recovery – IQ is running a series of Q&As online looking at how our panel of experts are weathering the current crisis, as well as their forecasts for the months ahead.

Following the second Tales from Covid with Live Nation’s chairman of international music and the Nordics, Thomas Johansson, IQ catches up with Kilimanjaro Live founder and CEO Stuart Galbraith for a wide-ranging chat on vouchers, recessions, Zoom, and the importance of industry cooperation…


IQ: What’s the greatest professional lesson you’ve learned from the pandemic so far?
SG: That there’s no such thing now as normality or precedent. We’ve been having conversations that cut across any normal relationship – whether it’s with a manager, an agent, an ad agency, venues – and asked to do things way outside of what the contracts say. And we’re also asking, because needs must.

What has been very pleasant is that, with one or two exceptions, everyone’s been mucking in…

You’re also a member of the Concert Promoters Association…
Yes, and it’s certainly made me realise the huge importance of associations and representative bodies. Government don’t want to talk to individual commercial organisations, but they will talk to the CPA, AIF, UK Music, etc. ­– and there’s been huge cooperation between [the associations] as well. Because it affects everybody.

This situation is going to affect us all for months, and potentially years. I think there will be common ground into 2021, at least.

“A refund window extension … would literally enable dozens of small and mid-size events to survive”

What else has changed for you during lockdown?
Well, for a start, we’ve all discovered Zoom, which I’d never heard of a month ago. So that’s good for us with staff meetings – not only the core staff who have been kept on, but also those who are furloughed.

When do you think the recovery might start, or is too early to say?
Realistically, we’re going to lose everything we have through June­­–August. Then, I think, there’ll be smaller events taking place in September, and major events from late October to early November. And because the [spring/summer] sales window has completely gone, I think you’re going to see a lot of shows that postpone until next year.

What changes might we see long term across the industry?
Our industry was in boom off the back of a strong global economy, which is now heading for recession, or even a depression. People will have much less money, and they’re going to be focused on spending that on food and mortgages rather than concert tickets.

So we’re going to have be very careful on the risks we can take in the near future.

“We’re going to have be very careful on the risks we can take in the near future”

Anything else?
I also think you’re going to see many iterations of voucher schemes rather than issuing refunds. [In the UK], we’ve been working with government to change the consumer regulations to try extend the refund window up to a year.

We are now having conversations with them for guidance on whether we can issue vouchers, like in many other countries in Europe. A refund window extension or voucher scheme would literally enable dozens of small and mid-size events to survive, because it will give them the ability to delay that cashflow pinch point and continue operating throughout this crisis.

How do you feel about the UK government response to the situation?
Although it was fairly chaotic to start with, the line of communication that we, as a sector, have had into government has been very good. UK Music have been brilliant in leading that ­– [acting CEO] Tom Kiehl has done a great job – and so have people like Julian Bird at Solt [Society of London Theatre].

In that first week of chaos we literally had four calls with either cabinet ministers or secretaries of state, and they listened and have taken action. They’ve helped us with the loans, business rates relief, the furlough scheme ­– now we just need support with a refund window extension.


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