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iFF day 2: LIVE highlights from the Interactive Festival Forum

Session-by-session rolling coverage of second day of the 2020 International Festival Forum

By IQ on 03 Sep 2020

The Artist Development: The Lost Year panel kicked off at 10am

The Artist Development: The Lost Year panel kicked off at 10am

The second and final day of the sixth International Festival Forum takes place today, welcoming over 500 of the world’s leading festival organisers and booking agents for a special one-off virtual edition of the annual networking event.

The renamed Interactive Festival Forum (iFF) also features 65 guest speakers and performances from 30 emerging artists during six hours of agency livestreams. Day two of iFF includes sessions on artist development, insurance, the independent sector, corporate relationships and more, following yesterday’s event, which concluded with a fascinating keynote by Marc Geiger.

Click here to view the full conference schedule.

Tickets for iFF 2020, which include seven days’ worth of access to watch sessions back after the event, are still available and can be bought during the event, and . To register, or for more information, click here.

Cocktails on Zoom! Courtesy of our friends at Wide Days. Click here to join and be in with a chance to win an IFF 2021 ticket.


The day’s programming wrapped up with the light-hearted This is Why We Do It panel, which welcomed Superbloom MD Fruzsina Szép, Glastonbury booker Martin Elbourne, Paradigm’s Alex Hardee, film mega-agent Duncan Heath and chair Anna Sjolund (LN Sweden) to trade funny moments, bizarre situations and tall touring tales.

Delegates in attendance heard about Hardee’s run-in with a septic tank, Elbourne dining with sealions, Szép being a hedgehog midwife and the reason why Heath only lasted six months at the original William Morris Agency…

“A lot of independents are in a very good position to ride this out”

Shifting Landscapes: Covid’s effect on corporate relationships explored whether the current spirit of industry cooperation and bonhomie will last into the post-pandemic world.

AEG Presents France’s Arnaud Meersseman isn’t so sure:  “At the start of this I think everyone thought that the industry is going to be completely different, but I feel that we’re already started to get back into normal practices. It feels like we’re back to, ‘You need to push the guarantee, you need to up the ticket price…’”

Alex Bruford of ATC Live said, regardless of the outcome, the relationships that are built on trust will survive the coronavirus. With those people, he said “if you get on the phone to them, 99 times out of 100 you can reach an amicable solution.”

“Most people have been very very reasonable,” added Meersseman. “Your relationships pre-exist and you keep on building them. I haven’t felt any pressure or disrespect or anything else like that.”

“The camaraderie has been great, the discussions among ourselves have been great,” added Theresho Selesho of South Africa’s Matchbox Live, “but we need to [do more than that: We need to] band together, and set up actual legal entities that can represent our voices and engage with the government.”

With discussion moving on to wider changes in the business, UTA agent Sophie Roberts spoke about new challengers coming to market, such as FKP Scorpio UK and Ireland’s Singular Artists, and their potential to “challenge the monopoly” of the existing major players.

More agencies, meanwhile, is “good news”, added Bruford, providing “more routes to market for the talent.” “More competition keeps us at the top of our game,” continued Roberts.

In France, said Meersseman, another development is promoters reinventing themselves as managers, mirror similar changes in the film industry.

“A lot of independents are in a very good position to ride this out,” said Bruford, given they don’t have “massive offices and high overheads”. Selesho agreed, adding that in South Africa many companies are partnering up to do bigger shows jointly. “That’s going to be a big trend,” he said.

Running an independent festival or agency is difficult at the best of times, let alone during a pandemic – so Survival Stories: The Independents checked in with some mainstays of the independent sector to find out how they are weathering the Covid-19 storm.

One of the major lessons of the crisis is the need for independent firms to join a representative body, said Progressive Artists’ Rob Gibbs, with the Mighty Hoopla’s Jamie Tagg agreeing on the festival side, saying it had recently joined the Association of Independent Festivals to get a “direct link” to those making decisions that affect the industry.

Tagg said while coronavirus has been “an awful time for all”, one positive is that there has been “goodwill across the board. No one’s really been a dick about deposits or things like that.”

“I was in the industry a long time ago when promoters didn’t like agents, and agents didn’t like promoters, but now people share, and that’s so encouraging,” confirmed chair Gill Tee (Black Deer Festival).

Both Tee and Bella Concerts founder Isabelle Pfeifer spoke of their optimism that festivals will return bigger and better than ever when the Covid-19 threat has passed, with Pfiefer joking: “I’ve been in the music industry since I left school – I don’t know what else I could do!”

MetalDays booker Nika Brunet spoke of the importance of the “positivity and words of encouragement” from both fans and the industry to keeping the sector going during the current crisis. “We see how eager people are to get back, and that keeps us going,” she said.

The day’s first workshop, Insurance & Covid-19, did what it said on the tin, inviting MIB’s Steven Howell, Tysers’ Tim Thornhill and Sound Channel UK’s Karina Ann Gaertner to reflect on the 2020 festival season and shine a light on what promoters might expect from their insurance policies from 2021 onwards.

Howell spoke about the lack of consistency on pay-outs this summer, explaining: “The reason for that is simple: The underwriters can’t afford to pay the claims. One said to me that they paid out every claim it would cost a billion pounds and bankrupt the insurer.”

Thornhill explained that the impact on insurance policies worldwide is now estimated at US$2bn, with the speakers warning that premiums are going to go up post-Covid for those insurers who still offer cancellation cover.

However, Howell was upbeat about 2021, saying it should become easier to secure public liability insurance for events taking place next year. “We’re only 3–4 months into pandemic and we’re running events successfully now,” he said, “so I’m extremely confident that the social distancing requirements and any other pandemic protocols will be less and less, and it will be easier to obtain cover.”

“You’re not being left behind here: you’re all in the same boat”

The second session saw Primavera Sound booker Fra Soler, Primary Talent partner Matt Bates, Fullsteam founder Rauha Kyyrö and X-ray agent Beckie Sugden join Big Bear Management’s Bernadette Barrett for Artist Development: The Lost Year, which looked at the impact on artists of the industry shutdown in March.

With both festivals represented booking many international headliners – Soler said Primavera is 60–70% non-domestic acts – panellists also spoke on the difficulties presented by potential restrictions on global travel into next year. “It will be difficult for artists to build their careers like they were planning to,” said Kyyrö, with Soler adding that the “local scene is the only thing you can develop right now.”

Bates said it’s the medium-sized artists, for whom “touring is their living”, who are being hit hardest by the pause on concerts.

However, there are new opportunities, said Sugden, who added that she’s signed many artists during the pandemic, including a TikTok star. “I don’t know if that’s something I would have done if not for lockdown,” she explained.

“From a management perspective, a lot of this comes down to the artist,” added Barrett, referencing Sugden’s signing. “As agents, promoter, managers, we can’t do anything without them being creative in the first place.”

Soler said it’s important to urge artists to be “creative and try and put out as much stuff as possible”, though Bates warned that livestreaming can be expensive, when taking into account costs for crew and rehearsal times.

One thing to remember, though, is that the pandemic has affected everyone equally – and everyone will be able to benefit when concerts restart – said Bates. “I keep trying to hammer home to my artists that you’re not being left behind here: you’re all in the same boat.”

Day two of iFF 2020 kicked off a workshop, Sustainability Beyond 2020, hosted by A Greener Festival’s Claire O’Neill and Go Group’s Holger Jan Schmidt, which looked at how the business can restart in a greener way than pre-pandemic.

In a packed early morning session (around 150 people tuned in, including delegates from LA, where the local time was 1–2am), the veteran eco-campaigners tackled issues including the environmental impact of the internet, why drive-in concerts are problematic and the ongoing need to minimise the use of plastics, while highlighting notable socially distanced events, including the recent Electricity festival in Germany.

The session poll showed that festival professionals consider green issues to be important, even amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis; 85% of those who voted said it’s a “necessity” that people engage in international campaigns for climate activism.


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