London Stansted airport put on four hours of live music last Saturday, with acts including Jack Maynard and Jammer performing to flyers in the departures lounge
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The two-day livestream conference kicks off today. With over 600+ guests and 65 speakers in attendance, IQ rounds up highlights from the day
By IQ on 02 Sep 2020
The sixth International Festival Forum kicks off 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.
The iFF 2020 conference programme includes a keynote interview with former WME head of music Marc Geiger, in conversation with Goldman Sachs’ Lisa Yang, along with panels, workshops and presentations on ticket prices & artist fees, force majeure and refunds, virtual festivals, the lost year of artist development, corporate upheaval, sustainability, risk, insurance and more.
Companies participating in sessions include Glastonbury Festival, Primavera Sound, CAA, Festival Republic, AEG, Live Nation, Paradigm, Roskilde Festival and WME.
Click here to view the full conference schedule.
Tickets for iFF 2020 are still available and can be bought during the event. To register, or for more information, click here.
Day 1 of IFF concluded with WME’s former head of global music Marc Geiger talking to Goldman Sachs’ Lisa Yang for the conference’s keynote interview.
Geiger – an executive renowned for spotting music business trends – shared predictions about the live industry’s recovery, as well as thoughts on the livestreaming model, the boom in world music, and outside capital’s growing interest in the music industry.
Read more from the interview here.
Some of the industry’s leading figures discussed issues surrounding Ticket Prices, Artist Fees & Deals on the panel led by ILMC managing director Greg Parmley.
Emma Banks, board member and London co-head at CAA, kicked off the panel by commending festival organisers who were forced to cancel their events this summer: “Generally, the live industry did really well under difficult circumstances, considering we’ve never dealt with anything like this before.”
“Frankly, I think it was lucky we were in March, rather the May, when [the industry] would’ve been further down the line,” she added.
This sentiment was echoed by Marty Diamond, head of global music at Paradigm agency, who said: “Everyone has tried to approach this with the best intention. The wealth of creative ideas isn’t stopping. I’m really encouraged by people’s resilience and adaptability.”
Folkert Koopmans, MD of FKP Scorpio, is one such professional who managed to weather the storm and is now looking forward to next year.
Koopmans told delegates how within one week FKP rebooked all bills for next year. “We know if we communicate with people, they stay with us. So we directly contacted all agents and managers and confirmed the same deal and same slot for next year.”
He says 85% of fans stuck with their tickets for next year’s event – “events are hotter than ever”.
While the panel expressed optimism for the year ahead and confidence in fans’ hunger to return to live events, the trio addressed the logistics that face an industry trying to “rise from the flames”.
Diamond highlighted the challenge of booking global tours when there’s likely to be discrepancies between venues’ protocols and capacities.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of adaptabilities required. There are going to be a lot of moving parts to this. We’re going to have to collectively put our heads together and find solutions,” he says.
Koopmans says that for new tours FKP is trying to put in a miscellaneous clause to allow for changes.
“We’ll be adding 10-15% per tour in case things become more expensive or companies aren’t available. Labour is a big issue in Germany – it was before Covid. Most of the sound and lighting companies are bankrupt,” he says.
Tours aside, Banks says that when it comes to festivals, organisers don’t need to overcompensate with booking more acts, they just need to “do what they do well”.
First up for the Soapbox Sessions: Five in 55 was Deer Shed director and AIF member Kate Webster, who delivered a presentation on the socially-distanced, camping weekender Deer Shed Basecamp – based in North Yorkshire, UK.
“The creative aspects, delivering the essence of deer shed and managing expectations of our audience took a lot of thought,” said Webster during AIF presents: Touching Base.
“We asked ourselves: how could we offer our audience a taste of Deer Shed whilst adhering to social distancing rules?” she said.
Webster went on to explain the festival’s concept which involved broadcasting live music through FM, to each family’s pitch in the parkland. She says the site comprised of 320 150-metre square pitches, each with its own portaloo and space to park a car.
“Tickets immediately sold out. People were supportive from the off,” she reported. “Financially, the turnover was only 8 per cent of what we would’ve taken in an average year but it went some way to making up for the losses in 2020.”
Next up, Tim O’Brien – professor at Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics at the University of Manchester (the site of AIF member festival Bluedot) reprised a much-loved talk, AIF presents: Sounds of Space.
O’Brien discussed signals from spacecraft at the dawn of the space age, mixed with the rhythmic beats of pulsars, black holes and the Big Bang.
Vivid Interface’s Geoff Dixon “brought us back down to earth” with Getting Back to Work: The Fan’s Perspective, with exclusive new research on festivalgoers’ confidence about returning to live events over the next 12 months.
Among the key findings of Dixon’s research was that 43% of those surveyed said they thought it was okay to visit outdoor music festival now lockdowns have ended. However, 50% answered “I really want to go to a music festival but will need more information about Covid-19 before deciding”.
ROSTR co-founder and CEO, Mark Williamson delivered the final presentation, The Agency World in Numbers.
Williamson has surveyed 650 companies that do some kind of booking, 1,700 individual agents and over 15,000 unique artists that are represented. He found that of the 10 biggest agencies, the number of artists represented vastly ranges. Paradigm, at number one, represents 2,591 artists – seven times more than Ground Control, at number 10, which represents 397.
He also found that Alt/Rock/Indie was the most common genre of the artists signed to the 100 largest agencies – almost double the number of artists than the next most genre, Dance/Electronic (37% and 16% respectively).
And finally, ROSTR found that of the solo artists signed to the top 100 agencies, an overwhelming 67% are male, while only 33% are female or non-binary.
Refunds, Deposits & Force Majeure kicked off with panellists discussing whether the terms and conditions of Force Majeure clauses have served its purpose.
Ben Challis, general counsel at Glastonbury Festival says, upon the reflection, he doesn’t think it has.
“There is no standard definition of force majeure. It’s a construct of contract lawyers, not politicians. So it’s not a matter of interpretation, it’s a matter of what’s included.”
UTA agent James Wright says confusion around contracts has done nothing to instil confidence in his clientele.
“When there’s ambiguity over the paperwork and the interpretation of the clauses – certainly when you’re talking about decreasing revenue and the like – that’s where it gets very challenging for an artist to feel safe, and insure against it from either side.”
While Peter Elliott, agent at Primary Talent International, says insurers have generally been quite good during the pandemic but looking to the future, some things need to change.
“They’ve covered us for this summer, but not next year. We’re still in the middle of it. We need to have Covid things within force majeure.”
Tamás Kádár, CEO at Sziget Festival says he’s not had any issues with deposits but says next year that’ll depend more on trust.
“There’s is a lot of learnings from the past couple of months. In the beginning, everyone was in the same boat. Now we’ve come to the next phase, when everyone starts to prepare for the next agreements and the lawyers come in to play, it should be a rational approach.”
Challis continued that sentiment, saying: “We need to figure out a way to solve these issues together. Acknowledging that everyone has costs and larger companies can absorb more.”
Virtual Events: Lost Horizon & Wireless Connect/Download TV heard Emily Scoggins, head of marketing and PR at Festival Republic, share the success of Download TV, this year’s virtual version of the festival.
“We’re really proud of the event we’ve achieved. We’re now focused on using our newly bolstered YouTube audience and speaking to our new audience on Twitch,” says Scoggins.
Scoggins then passed the baton to colleague Lucy Carter, digital content producer at Festival Republic, who took delegates through the organisation of Wireless Connect.
The virtual reality edition of Wireless Festival was available for one weekend only in 360° immersive virtual reality on smartphones and VR headsets via the MelodyVR app.
“The audience loved the experience,” says Carter. “There was a constant stream of chatter in the YouTube chat and artists were also interacting – all while the festival was streamed. It had a real live energy to it,” she says.
Chris Tofu MBE and Rob Collins from Lost Horizon Festival, then discussed creating a temporary venue, monetizing the virtual event, and connecting with a bigger audience for their virtual edition.
“Virtual reality is as far as you can go in terms of live streaming and connecting with your audience. The result of us doing Lost Horizons virtually was 4 million individual views and the links are still being watched now,” said Tofu.
CAA agent Maria May led The Big Rebuild: Festivals bounce back panel, where speakers debated the lack of confidence in the return of live events next year.
Jim King, CEO of European festivals at AEG Presents, says he thinks the UK has a “huge confidence issue” that won’t subside until the industry has united and created a fool-proof plan.
“We, as an industry, need to show that we have mitigated risk on every level. Then we need to deliver that plan in a unified tone, with a level of confidence that translates to artists and fans. Until then, we’re just pushing the same piece of paper around the table. I don’t think we’re ready yet but we will be by next summer,” he says.
Russell Warby, partner and agent at WME, says he’s already experienced the spirit of cooperation King is hoping for.
“Promoters and agents are talking more than they ever have done about practical things, not just fees. We do stick behind the promoters. They’re going to be on the frontline. We represent the artists but we’re led by what’s happening in front of us,” he says.
However, Herman Schueremans, CEO at Live Nation Belgium/ Rock Werchter, agreed with King, saying: “It’s about trying to create the right moment at the right time.”
In regards to Belgium’s live industry, Schueremans believes the key to confidence lies in lobbying the audience.
“The suggestion is that – as all the concert goers are very loyal – let’s contact them and say if you want to go to festivals next year, you will have to get tested on the day of the event,” he says, adding that 15 and 30-minute Covid tests will be available in the coming months.
Schueremans is optimistic about the global industry’s return to live and its ability to solve problems: “We are not amateurs. We are a strong and constructive business.”
This stoicism was echoed by Roberta Medina from Rock in Rio who added: “Society is mature enough to find solutions fast.”
Workshop: New Threat, New Risks opens the conference with chair Pascal Viot, from Paléo Festival Nyon, declaring that from a health and safety viewpoint “we are all in a very confused position”.
“We are having to consider next year’s festivals on strategic, political and operational levels,” Viot told delegates.
Coralie Berael, director at Forest National Arena, agreed but added that public opinion is also a critical factor for next year’s return to live.
“We are getting through at a political level now but it’s also important that the public opinion evolves regarding what we do too. At the end of the day, we can talk politics and strategy but in this crisis, there is an individual engagement and responsibility that is different from dealing with the standard risks. It’s up to everybody to adhere to new measures,” she says.
Beral’s point prompted a discussion about whether it should be a festival’s responsibility to provide masks and temperature checks.
Nick Morgan, We Are The Fair, responded with: “We can only make suggestions. We shouldn’t have to inherit the costs. If people feel vulnerable or at risk, they shouldn’t attend festivals.”
Morten Therkildsen, head of security, health and safety at Roskilde festival agreed, saying festivals shouldn’t have to bear the burden when there are so many other hurdles to clear.
“We need to make the finance work, book the artist, ensure travelling is possible, get the right staff and secure the money to sell tickets. Also, the brand needs to come first. Do we want to run Roskilde with social distancing? No, we don’t want to follow Newcastle’s Virgin Money Unity Arena model,” he says.
However, all panellists agree that the opinion of health experts needs to play a bigger part in order to avoid mixed messages to the public.
Henrik Bondo Nielsen, head of safety and service at Roskilde festival, says: “We must find some experts who can ensure the health aspect can be properly taken into consideration. We need to make a strong chain with health experts and combine with our knowledge about having many people together, and try and create an alternative to making restrictions. Our industry needs to work together and to join forces.”
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