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ARA conference: “Arenas are the workhorses of the biz”

The Arena Resilience Alliance's virtual conference heard industry pros discuss the importance of arenas in the industry's return to live

By IQ on 09 Dec 2020

John Langford, chair of LIVE Green

John Langford, president of EAA

Industry pros from music, sport and the EU yesterday came together for a virtual conference organised by Arena Resilience Alliance (ARA), a newly formed purpose group created by the European Arenas Association (EAA), in association with IQ.

The conference, titled A Game of Two Halves, opened a dialogue about the need for a pan-European strategy for the return of live music and sports events indoors.

The live music session invited speakers MEP, Monica Semedo; Herman Schueremans, CEO, Live Nation, Belgium; Olivier Toth, CEO, Rockhal, Luxembourg and Jason Danter, production manager/director for artists including Madonna, Lady Gaga and Iron Maiden.

The panel’s central focus was the role of arenas in the industry’s ecosystem, which heard speakers explain why it is important to keep the venues open.

Danter says that from a touring point of view, arena shows are what bands often strive to achieve at the peak of their careers.

“There’s a huge difference in the number of arena bands versus the number of stadium bands. Not every band can sell the number of tickets to play stadiums but many will play arenas,” he says.

“If arenas are not a spoke in the wheel, they’re the hub… a very important part of the touring world”

He goes on to emphasise the importance of arenas as a major employer in the music industry, as well as a substantial revenue source.

“Arenas have a huge amount of shows with a huge capacity of people coming through it. The shows demand a level of production and a budget which means we get to employ more people, and we get to give contracts to more companies. Essentially, arenas workhorse of the touring world. If arenas are not a spoke in the wheel, they’re the hub… a very important part of the touring world,” he concludes.

Rockhal CEO, Toth, ran with the analogy, adding that if arenas close for good, it’ll have a knock-on effect for the industry: “The different stakeholders in our industry are the spokes to that hub, helping it operate as a full wheel. If you take out that hub, obviously the spokes are not of any good use. It’s not about getting arenas back to business tomorrow or next week but it’s about starting to plan because we need six months–nine months to get started again.”

Speaking about the impact of Covid-19 on the live music industry, Live Nation Belgium CEO Schueremans, says: “We were in shock. A cultural industry that didn’t exist 45–50 years ago, that started from nothing and created a lot of jobs and VAT was going to be destroyed. As a live industry, we were not internationally well organised, even though we organise tours all over the world.”

“We need harmonised and co-ordinated Covid measures within the EU in order to have clarification”

MEP Semedo followed that point, emphasising the importance of pan-European co-ordination with the restart of European and international touring.

“We need harmonised and co-ordinated Covid measures within the EU in order to have clarification on whether artists and people can cross borders and whether they need to quarantine or not. There needs to be a one-stop-shop with conditions for artists, arenas and events, reducing the bureaucratic burden. It’s important that all actors in this cultural and creative industry work together,” she said, wrapping up the session.

Closing the event, Gordon Masson, editor of IQ Magazine, hosted a discussion with ARA co-founders: Olivier Toth, CEO, Rockhal in Luxembourg; Robert Fitzpatrick, CEO, The Odyssey Trust; the owners of The SSE Arena, Belfast; and Adrian Doyle, Board Member, EAA.

The event also featured addresses from a range of speakers including John Langford, EAA president; Tamas Szucs, director for culture and creativity at the European Commission and a keynote speech by Sam Tanson, minister of culture, Luxembourg.

Commenting after the event, Langford said: “Arenas play a crucial role in communities right across Europe. This event has opened important dialogue around why we need unified conditions that will allow music, culture and sports to return to arenas and enable arenas to reopen. We would like to thank our speakers for their valued contribution and for all of our industry colleagues for joining us. With continued discussion and collaboration, we will create a framework that will help us to rebuild these important industries.”


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