Show producers offer venue disinfection
As venues in many markets prepare for a gradual reopening process, a number of show producers and production companies are adapting their business model to help spaces of all sizes maintain stringent hygiene conditions once back in business.
Sanitisation has been identified as a key issue for venues preparing to open their doors, with industry bodies warning that failure by those reopening first to maintain hygiene standards could “set back the entire event industry”.
One of those currently advising in the space is theatre producer and marketing firm Right Angle Entertainment, which has pivoted to develop a healthy venue solutions programme. The company claims its equipment and protocols can be used to disinfect event spaces in just half an hour.
As Right Angle Consulting, its portable machines can be used to disinfect auditoriums, backstage areas and lobbies in a short amount of time. “The live entertainment industry has been hit especially hard by the pandemic. As we plan for the future, we can help these venues and productions provide a safe experience for workers and guests that complies with local, state and federal guidelines,” says Justin Sudds, co-founder of Right Angle Entertainment.
“We can help these venues and productions provide a safe experience for workers and guests that complies with local, state and federal guidelines”
“As each venue has different needs, we are offering a variety of packages to fit any scenario so we can all gather again to experience live entertainment.”
Another company providing sanitary venue solutions is Baltimore-based Revolution Event Design and Production – the brains behind the social distancing cocktail table – which has developed a range of air purifier systems for use in venues. With a range of 2,000 square metres, the purification machines provide continual sanitisation of the air in a given space.
Walk-through sanitiser stations are another option for venues looking to maintain top hygiene standards. Hong Kong convention centre, AsiaWorld-Expo, recently began testing out santising pods, dubbed CleanTech.
The three-in-one device combines air sanitising and purifying technology, anti-bacterial application and negative room pressure to provide effective, non-toxic sanitisation in just 12 seconds. A temperature check is also in place to detect whether the person inside has a fever.
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Dates confirmed for Exit Festival 2020
Exit Festival – potentially one of the only major European festivals to take place as normal this year – has confirmed the dates for its 20th anniversary event this August.
Amid a sea of major festival cancellations, it was announced last week that Exit Festival is going ahead this year, following a recommendation from the Serbian prime minster that the event be postponed, rather than cancelled.
Scheduled for 13 to 16 August, rather than its typical July dates, Exit 2020 will have a reduced capacity – rumoured to be 50% of its maximum 55,000 people per day – and will see some areas of the festival site at the Petrovaradin fortress remaining closed.
Exit organisers confirm that popular areas including the dance arena, main stage and the No Sleep stage will be open as usual.
“We got so many messages of support from other festival promoters, agents and artists who see Exit as a sign of a revival for the whole event industry”
An updated line-up will be revealed in the coming days, with the Exit team saying that “a vast majority of artists” they have spoken to “are eager to perform this summer”.
Acts booked to play Exit this year prior to the coronavirus outbreak included David Guetta, Tyga, James Arthur, Fatboy Slim, Metronomy and Meduza.
Ticket sales will restart on 1 June, with details of refund options also becoming available.
“We got so many messages and emails of support from other festival promoters, agents and artists who see Exit as a sign of a revival for the whole event industry,” says Exit founder Dušan Kovačević.
“Even more important[ly], [this is] a sign for the whole society that the worst is behind us. It’s time to globally exit from this pandemic.”
More information can be found here.
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Kiss, Iron Maiden to headline virtual Download fest
Festival Republic has revealed the line-up for the virtual version of Download Festival, Download TV, with exclusive footage from headliners Kiss, Iron Maiden and System of a Down.
Download Festival was among the first major UK events to cancel it 2020 edition due to the coronavirus outbreak.
In its place, Download TV is airing on the original festival weekend, from 12 to 14 June, available to watch on the festival’s social channels and on YouTube. Fans can subscribe to Download TV on YouTube here.
The virtual event will feature a day time programme of interactive activities, live artist Q&As and lockdown performances, with the evenings bringing footage of live performances from the acts billed to play the event this year, including Korn, Deftones, Babymetal, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, Creeper, the Offspring and the Darkness.
Past Download performances from headliners Kiss and System of a Down will be resurfaced for the event, while Iron Maiden promise “something just for Download TV”.
Festival Republic has revealed the line-up for the virtual version of Download Festival, Download TV, with exclusive footage from headliners Kiss, Iron Maiden and System of a Down
Download fans are encouraged to put tents up in their gardens, wear festival merchandise and send photos and videos in to the festival page to ensure a “celebration of the Download community”.
Fellow Festival Republic event Wireless Festival is also taking place in a virtual form this year, partnering with music-focused virtual reality company MelodyVR to produce Wireless Connect. From 3 to 5 July, pre-recorded live performances will be brought to Wireless fans in 360° virtual reality.
Performances will be recorded from MelodyVR’s studio in Los Angeles and the 10,400-capacity Alexandra Palace in London. The Wireless Connect line-up will be announced in due course.
MelodyVR’s Ben Samuels was among tech leaders to take part in IQ Focus panel The Innovation Session yesterday, discussing the most effective ways to monetise virtual shows. The panel is available to watch back on YouTube or Facebook now.
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‘The future is bright’: Tech leaders talk monetising virtual shows
The heads of some of the industry’s most inventive companies starred in the most recent IQ Focus panel, appropriately called The Innovators, which discussed the flurry of innovation going on behind the scenes during the ongoing halt in concert touring.
Dice’s UK managing director, Amy Oldham, began by speaking on the importance of “identifying the value” in new platforms and innovations. “In the beginning [of the pandemic], there was a lot of noise and a lot of not-very-good-quality shows,” she explained.
“Lewis [Capaldi] is a great example” of what the industry should be working towards, she added. “We did his show exclusively a few weeks ago. He did an acoustic set of the first album, and it actually felt like being on a night out – you had people taking photos of themselves hugging the TV saying it’s the best £5 they ever spent.”
Tommas Arnby of Locomotion Entertainment said his client, Yungblud – whose Yungblud Show Live (described as a “rock-and-roll version of Jimmy Kimmel”) was one of the early highlights of the livestreaming boom – was supposed to be “doing five sold-out Kentish Town Forums” in London this week, and his online presence is “about how to recreate that” live experience.
“In the very beginning these bedroom and kitchen performances played an important role,” but now people expect a more polished experience, said Ben Samuels, MelodyVR’s president and GM in North America. “What we’re doing is investing a lot to ensure these shows look and feel fantastic. […] They should be the best thing to actually being on stage or in the front row of a real show. So production values have been crucial to us.”
“Artists have to feel comfortable and confident about charging for their content”
Sheri Bryant, president of online ‘social VR’ platform Sansar, said a virtual concert should be looked as “additive; it’s not going to replace the live performance”.
Oldham – who revealed that Dice is now selling tickets in at least 113 countries following the launch of its livestreaming platform, Dice TV – agreed that while everyone on the panel is doing a great job keeping fans engaged while touring is on hold, “one thing we haven’t nailed is giving artists confidence that just because they’re doing something on a stream doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be charging.
“All the movie studios are shut, and yet we don’t see them dropping films online and saying, ‘Just pay what you fancy!’ Artists have to feel comfortable and confident about charging for their content.”
Chair Mike Malak, from Paradigm Talent Agency, compared charging for online video content to the transition in the recording business from fans pirating music to (legally) streaming it, noting that “we all grew up watching free YouTube videos”.
Bryant said Sansar wants “everyone to be able to experience” the platform, suggesting offering both a free tier and a “VIP experience” that could include perks for those who’ve paid, such as meet and greets with an artist or special powers inside its virtual world.
“The most important thing for us is to show agents and managers that people had a great time,” said Prajit Gopal, CEO of livestreaming platform Looped. “That’s always been really important – going back to them and showing them,‘Here’s the reaction, and this is why you should be charging for it.’”
“Imagine if this happened 20, 30, 40 years ago – it would have been catastrophic”
With talk turning to sponsorship in virtual events, Oldham warned that “sometimes you can oversaturate an artist by doing too many partnerships”. However, Bryant said the music industry has much to learn from the wider entertainment business when it comes to getting its talent out there.
“Look at how the YouTube stars, the Twitch streamers got big: through hard work and with lots of exposure,” she said. “If you’re good and you’re getting out there, you’ll see that growth. I don’t think people should be precious about exposure – you want to be across as many platforms as possible, because you never know when one of them will see a big spike [in traffic].”
The discussion ended on a positive note, with Samuels highlighting how fortunate the live music business is to have all this technology at its disposal at such a difficult time.
“Imagine if this [coronavirus] happened 20, 30, 40 years ago – it would have been catastrophic,” he said. “In a weird way, we’re lucky this happened now, with all these platforms that can continue to bring high-quality content to fans and enable artists to still make a living.”
Arnby agreed: “All these choices, all these ways to connect… The future is very bright.”
Reopening success for reduced-cap. Van Gogh Alive
Zurich’s Maag Halle reopened the touring Van Gogh Alive exhibition earlier this month, with strong consumer demand spelling success for the exhibition, despite operating at 50% of usual capacity.
Under the second phase of Switzerland’s reopening (since 11 May), museums can restart business provided that ten square metres is maintained between each visitor.
Since reopening on 12 May, the Maag Halle has reduced the number of tickets sold per visiting slot by half, to 112, adding a few extra slots in the morning.
Disinfection stations, a one-way system, masks for staff and open doors to limit touchpoints are other measures in place at the Maag Halle to keep visitors safe. A waiting zone has also been established to hold people back if the museum is reaching capacity.
Although consumer confidence was a worry prior to reopening, Darko Soolfrank of promoter Maag Music and Arts AG tells IQ, tickets for all slots have been selling out, even during the week.
The museum is currently seeing footfall of 700 a day on average, around half of what daily intake was prior to the coronavirus outbreak due to capacity limits
The museum is currently seeing footfall of 700 a day on average, around half of what daily intake was prior to the coronavirus outbreak due to capacity limits.
Running with minimal staff, Soolfrank states the exhibition is doable from a commercial point of view and also acts as good motivation for the team.
The reliance on a completely domestic audience – half of the exhibition’s visitors were made up of tourists when it first opened in Zurich in February – has also created new opportunities for the museum to connect with its home market.
Van Gogh Alive is currently installed in museums in Mexico City and Taipei, with another in Pamplona, Spain, preparing to reopen at a third of its usual capacity from 8 June.
The viability of social distancing in venues has proved a hot topic within the events industry recently, with many stating it is impossible to restart business under strict capacity restrictions.
Live music community rallies for Covid-19 relief
High-profile acts from around the world are taking part in a number of upcoming virtual events to raise money and awareness for Covid-19 relief funds, as the live music community continues to pull its weight in the fight against the disease.
Virtual benefit events have been a feature of lockdown from the very beginning, with the Lady Gaga-curated, Global Citizen-organised One World: Together at Home an early pioneer of the space. The mammoth livestreamed benefit event raised almost US$128 million for the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Covid-19 solidarity response fund, setting a new a record for the most money generated by a remote music festival.
Now Global Citizen is teaming up with the European Commission for Global Goal: Unite for our Future, a campaign seeking to raise funds for the development and distribution of Covid-19 testing, treatments and vaccines.
On 27 June, high-profile artists including Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Shakira, Coldplay and J Balvin will join philanthropists and world leaders in an international pledging summit to call on governments to commit to the funding needed to ensure fair access to Covid-19 treatment.
Music industry giants including Live Nation, Scooter Braun and SB Projects, Adam Leber (Maverick), Jay Brown (Roc Nation) and Michele Anthony (Universal Music Group) are involved in producing the event.
Exclusive experiences, including a virtual happy hour with Adam Lambert and virtual concerts from Chloe X Halle and Fher Olvera, lead singer of Mexican rock band Maná, also form part of the campaign.
Global Citizen is teaming up with the European Commission for Global Goal: Unite for our Future
Independent LA-based electronic music companies Brownies & Lemonade and Proximity yesterday (28 May) announced the second edition of their Digital Mirage festival, set to take place from 5 to 7 June.
The first outing of the event, which saw performances from Alsion Wonderland, Tokimonsta and Sofi Tukker, raised over $300,000 for the Sweet Musicians Relief Fund. Digital Mirage 2 will feature acts including A Trak, Baauer, Boys Noize and Hot Chip, with all proceeds going to Plus1’s fund for Covid-19 relief.
Fans can register for the event here.
Eschewing the virtual world for the real thing, French DJ David Guetta is set to make his second rooftop performance in New York on Saturday, following on from a similarly distanced performance in Miami last month. The Miami show raised $750,000 for Feeding South Florida, Feeding America, World Health Organisation and Fondation Hôpitaux de Paris.
The New York concert will raise money for the Mayor’s fund to advance New York city, as well as the international organisations that benefited from Guetta’s first show.
Elsewhere in the US, acts including Pearl Jam, Macklemore and Dave Matthews are participating in the virtual All in WA event on 10 June to raise money for Covid-19 relief efforts across Washington state. The concert, which will air on the local NBC affiliates, can be streamed on Amazon’s Twitch channel, and will be available on Amazon Prime after it airs.
Bridging the Gulf: Arab Gulf states come of age
And it was all going so well!
Going into Christmas, you might have said the live entertainment business in the Arab states of the Persian Gulf states was on a decisive path to maturity, at least in certain prominent markets. Dubai finally had its permanent Coca-Cola Arena and was hauling in the crowds and the talent, including Maroon 5, Westlife, the 1975 and John Legend.
Abu Dhabi, meanwhile, had nailed down a name for its own 18,000-cap. indoor venue – Etihad Arena, part of the 12 billion AED (€3bn) Yas Bay development project – and an expectation of a 2020 opening.
Even Kuwait, fairly quiet lately on the touring front, was preparing to cut the ribbon on a 5,000-cap mixed-use arena: the Sheikh Jaber Al-Abdullah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah International Tennis Complex in Surrah, managed by Live Nation and opened in February.
And, of course, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the pedigree dark horse of the region, was fast emerging as by far the most promising market of them all, with concerts, festivals, Formula E racing, international tennis, equestrian competitions and boxing. To varying degrees, these events have met with international controversy due to Saudi’s well-known diplomatic issues.
But they have also been powered by large amounts of cash, rabid local demand and the grand ambitions of ‘MbS’ – controversial crown prince Mohammed bin Salman – and his Vision 2030 plan to reduce Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil, diversify its economy and develop its public sector.
“Dubai is a country that depends on tourism and entertainment, so they will be very keen to reopen as soon as possible”
Then came Covid-19, which still rages worldwide at press time, and the region was forced to hit pause on its entertainment aspirations. Like almost everywhere else, concert halls closed, shows were postponed, and the industry went into enforced hibernation. When it will rouse itself again is anyone’s guess.
“As with the rest of the world, all events [in Saudi Arabia] are cancelled until further notice,” said Vassiliy Anatoli, managing director of regional ticketing hub Platinumlist, speaking to IQ in late March. “The public is not allowed to go outside the house from 3pm until 8am and the death toll is rising. People are worried.”
The UAE states had imposed similar measures and were already daring to dream of a light at the end of the tunnel. “Large organisers are hopeful to restart their operation in July, but again, that depends on how the situation pans out in the coming [months],” said Anatoli.
“Dubai is a country that depends on tourism and entertainment, so I’m sure they will be very keen to reopen as soon as possible,” he added. “[Dubai’s] Expo 2020 has already been moved to ’21. As for the rest of the organisers, they have moved all events to November and December. Rugby Sevens is confirmed for December, but again, it depends on government regulation.”
Each of the various Gulf markets has its own economic logic: generous state funding combined with remarkably strong ticket sales in Saudi; a similar balance in Abu Dhabi, albeit on a far less turbo-charged scale; and a grittier commercial market in Dubai, closely controlled, but not underwritten, by the state. Clearly, all will suffer damage, even if some can absorb it better than others.
Continue reading this feature in the digital edition of IQ 89, or subscribe to the magazine here
Industry orgs advise governments on live’s reopening
As many countries around the world begin to emerge slowly from lockdown, industry organisations are being counted on to instruct governments on how best to facilitate the reopening of the live events sector.
Live industry organisations played a key role in lobbying governments at the start of the coronavirus crisis, making clear what financial aid and support measures were needed to ensure the safeguarding of the business.
Now, many governments are turning to associations and asking for advice on how to get the industry back up and running.
In Canada, the government has asked the Canadian Live Music Association (CLMA) for advice on how to distribute the CA$20 million (€13.2m) it has earmarked for the sector.
CLMA’s Saving Canadian Live Music document suggests what should form the focus of support measures in the immediate, short, medium and long term.
The association identifies “retaining staff” and “preventing the loss of venues” as the most pressing issues currently facing the industry, with more general financial aid needed in the short term to mitigate the “devastating impact” of complete revenue losses.
CMLA indicates that support will be essential in the medium and long term to cover diminished revenues caused by increased costs upon reopening, a lack of consumer confidence and widespread economic fallout.
Many governments around the world are turning to associations and asking for advice on how to get the industry back up and running
To implement this support, the CMLA suggests the government identify funds that could be redirected to protect the live sector for a sustained period of time, as well as developing a dedicated Canadian live music fund to ensure protection for the future.
In France, music industry trade union, the Syndicat des Musiques Actuelles (SMA), has developed proposals for a recovery plan in favour of the French music sector.
The SMA’s proposals include financial support for independent festivals and promoters, regulation on refunds – allowing organisers to offer the option of making a donation or keeping tickets for next year, as well as cash refunds –, clear information on when borders will reopen and the continuation of tax deferrals and other aid measures.
The association also stresses the need for a “major financial stimulus package” for the contemporary music sector.
“As the President has pointed out, cultural sectors such as tourism and events will undoubtedly be the most affected by this crisis,” reads the SMA document. “So we expect massive financial support to be dedicated there.”
The SMA is currently working on a further report detailing the economic impact of Covid-19 on its members, in order to quantify the losses and find the appropriate support measures.
“Cultural sectors such as tourism and events will undoubtedly be the most affected by this crisis, so we expect massive financial support to be dedicated there”
Another industry association to put forward reopening recommendations to the government is the UK’s Events Industry Forum (EIF), which comprises 26 trade and representative organisations from across the outdoor events sector.
In its Making Outdoor Event Gatherings Happen Again guide, EIF identifies events that could go ahead with the suitable risk assessment, hygiene facilities, personal protective equipment (PPE) and access and egress systems, such as public spectacles and displays, including “music in the park-type events”, exhibition-style outdoor events.
Festivals and major outdoor concerts, however, are “unlikely” to restart while social distancing continues, says the EIF, noting that capacity reductions are not feasible for the majority of events.
For these events, in particular, a clear timeline for relaxing lockdown restrictions and guidance on any ongoing measures are essential.
“For organisers to begin investing in events for 2021, they need to have assurances now that it will be feasible to operate by then,” warns the EIF.
The EIF is currently working on an additional protocol document detailing what measures must be implemented by those hoping to restart events.
A UK events and entertainment working group is meeting today (28 May) to develop guidance for the reopening of the sector and advise government on how best the industry can get back to business.
Please let us know what your association is doing to aid live’s reopening, by emailing [email protected].
This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.
Ultra Music Festival sued over no-refund policy
Ultra Enterprises, the company behind Miami’s Ultra Music Festival (UMF) and Ultra music events globally, has been hit with a lawsuit over its alleged refusal to offer cash refunds to those with tickets for the cancelled UMF 2020.
The 2020 festival, scheduled for 20–22 March in Miami, Florida, was called off in early March, becoming one of the first casualties of the Covid-19 pandemic that went on to claim almost the entire festival summer.
The proposed class action, filed in the US district court for southern Florida, accuses Ultra of conversion and unjust enrichment. Plaintiffs Samuel Hernandez and Richard Montoure claim the company’s insistence that they must hold onto their tickets and transfer them to UMF 2021 or ’22 is based on “impermissible ticket contract terms”, according to Law360; Ultra’s terms and conditions say it reserves the right to issue a full or partial refund, or no cash refund at all.
This, argue Hernandez and Montoure’s lawyers, means UMF – by reserving the right to keep money paid for tickets regardless of whether it puts on the show – is “essentially (and impermissibly) rendering its obligations under the [T&Cs] illusory, and the agreement itself an unenforceable unilateral option contract.”
“We do not believe Ultra Music Festival has the right to shift the burden of this extraordinary crisis onto its customers”
Hernandez sought refunds on four of six tickets he bought, for a total of US$3,000, while Montoure wanted a refund of two three-day passes he purchased for about $1,000.
“We understand that the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted every part of the global economy but we do not believe that gives the Ultra Music Festival the right to shift the burden of this extraordinary crisis onto its customers, who, in some cases, paid hundreds of dollars to attend this festival,” Joe Sauder of Sauder Schelkopf – which is also suing South by Southwest on behalf of out-of-pocket ticketholders – tells Rolling Stone, “and now the Covid-19 pandemic has or will preclude them from ever using any credit.
“We look forward to seeking to recover cash refunds for our clients and the class members.”
In addition to Ultra and South by Southwest, several ticketing companies are also facing legal action over their refusal to offer cash refunds for cancelled shows, with SeatGeek and StubHub the target of one and two legal actions, respectively.
Live performance returns to iconic venues
As Amsterdam’s Ziggo Dome prepares to reopen for 30 fans at a time next weekend, two iconic venues in the UK and Australia are also declining to be silenced by the Covid-19 crisis.
London’s Royal Albert Hall and Sydney Opera House are among those to experiment with different ways of bringing live music to fans during the coronavirus crisis.
The 5,272-capacity Royal Albert Hall hosts the BBC Proms each summer, an eight-week series of daily concerts starting from mid-July. Undeterred by the crisis, the Proms will go ahead this year as a combination of archive footage, virtual performances and live shows, broadcast live on radio, television and online.
Proms director David Pickard says he is “very hopeful” for live events to form part of the programming at the end of August, with the presence of an audience not being ruled out.
London’s Royal Albert Hall and Sydney Opera House are among those to experiment with different ways of bringing live music to fans during the coronavirus crisis
The UK government has stated that cultural events can be held without an audience from as early as next week (1 June). However, no information has been given as to when fans may be allowed to return.
The Royal Albert Hall has already broadcast from behind closed doors, hosting opera singer Katherine Jenkins for a special performance to mark the anniversary of Victory in Europe Day.
Another iconic music venue to see live shows return is the 5,738-capacity Sydney Opera House, which broadcast two live shows from behind closed doors last weekend (23 to 24 May). Sydney band Low Life and hip-hop act Winston Surfshirt made their debut at the Opera House as part of the venue’s digital season From Our House to Yours.
Upcoming behind-closed-doors shows at the venue include electro soul duo Bow and Arrow (30 May) and Muggera Dance Party, featuring TV personalities Daz and Jax Compton (31 May), both in celebration of Australia’s First Nations.
Photo: Solvarsity/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0) (cropped)