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Marc Geiger: Covid-19 will give way to the Roaring (20)20s

Geiger predicted a new golden age for live music on the first day of the Interactive Festival Forum

By IQ on 02 Sep 2020

Marc Geiger, Lisa Yang, iFF 2020

Marc Geiger has predicted a boom time for live entertainment after the threat of Covid-19 recedes, saying the current “claustrophobia economy” will give way to a second ‘Roaring Twenties’ marked by high consumer confidence and economic growth.

WME’s former global head of music, who was speaking during today’s iFF Keynote, compared the current coronavirus pandemic to the Spanish flu, which gripped the world from 1918–20, killing an estimated 50m people. Years of “everyone being cooped up at home”, he said, “created a joyous time called the Roaring Twenties, and I think 2022” – his estimate for when the current pandemic will subside – “will give way to a second Roaring Twenties, 100 years later.”

The prediction by Geiger – an executive renowned for spotting music business trends – will be welcomed by live music industry professionals, nearly 600 of which are attending the virtual Interactive Festival Forum on 2 and 3 September. The keynote interview, conducted by Goldman Sachs’ Lisa Yang, ended the first day of iFF conference programming on an optimistic note, and also touched on the incredible growth of music streaming and Yang’s predictions for the concert sector’s post-coronavirus recovery.

Yang said that she believes that global industry has lost around 75% of its value this year, but will recover to around 65% of its pre-Covid level in 2021. The recovery will likely be complete in 2022, she added.

In the mid-term, Yang continued, the outlook is uncertain. “It’s going to be tough,” she said. “There are so many external factors that no one can control. But from a structural perspective, I think the industry is going to come back – it’s not a question of if, but when.”

“Everyone who’s suffering right now: if you can hold on, the bumper crop will be significant”

Speaking to iFF delegates, Geiger compared the festival business to a field of crops (“I always analogise,” he said) and factors such as rising ticket prices and supposedly samey line-ups as taking nutrients out of that field. By 2022 – after two disrupted festival seasons – “everyone will be screaming to get out” of their houses, he explained, so those who are able to survive until then will reap a “bumper crop” in the renewed soil.

He urged those who can to put in place funding to ensure they are able to capitalise when social distancing is a thing of a past. “Everyone who’s suffering right now, if you can hold on – whether it’s through financing, debt, equity – the bumper crop will be significant,” he urged. “Figure out how to bridge your way until the industry comes back.”

“The market is going to come back at a very, very vast clip,” Geiger added, “and […] when it comes back rate of return will be huge.

“We’re going to see more blow-outs and sell-outs, and huge consumer interest. It’ll be one of few times in history the customer will buy a beer or a hot dog, and they’ll feel good about standing in line! And that beer will never have tasted so good.”

“Tell your audience you are NOT coming back until it’s safe and they can have the ultimate festival experience”

Geiger ran out of time for audience questions, but kindly answered some after the session…

IQ: You talked about “When it comes back, it will come back huge” and there being a “bumper crop”. What would be your advice for both festival organisers and agents on riding out the next 12 months and preparing for the Roaring 20s?
Produce a virtual festival in 2021. Tell your audience you are NOT coming back until it’s safe and they can have the ultimate (festival name) experience. Get a sideshow strategy together if you don’t already have one. Go talk to sponsors and get serious about your at-home audience. Raise your ticket prices!!!!

With the deals getting bigger, is there a role for independent promoters and agents, and those smaller independent festivals in the roaring 20s?
HELL YES!!! Bigger than ever! The big promoters have to focus on BIG shows with real profits….They won’t touch the small stuff or be able to after the cutbacks/ layoffs etc… Biggest opportunity EVER.

You talked about “trillion-dollar time” deals, while the concert business is 95-98% down depending on results. With the deals getting astronomically bigger, and growth of streaming accelerating, is the live sector going to become a smaller pawn on a bigger board?
Could happen but Live Nation, AEG and CTS Eventim will insure some pure play aspect of the business. Lot’s of indies will never sell out to bad corporate interests but let’s see.

You mentioned a relatively low number of big players in the live space, but there being room for more. Who could you see entering it over the next 2 years?
One never knows….Could come from anywhere.

Where are the best opportunities in music right now?
Wow, they are everywhere as the music business is getting bigger….that’s too big of a question and answer for me but the deeper you look and think, the more opportunity there is…

“Tell your audience you are not coming back until it’s safe and they can have the ultimate festival experience”

Tickets for iFF 2020 are still available, and all sessions will be accessible to watch back online for seven days after the event ends. To buy yours, visit the iFF website.


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