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Garth Brooks sells out five nights at Croke Park

US country music superstar Garth Brooks has sold-out five nights at Dublin’s 80,000-capacity Croke Park for 2022.

Staged by Aiken Promotions, the 9-11 and 16-17 September dates in Ireland will come eight years after Brooks’ original 2014 five-night stand at the stadium was controversially scrapped due to planning issues.

Dublin City Council only granted permission for three of the gigs to go ahead given that three concerts had already been held at Croke Park that year, but Brooks insisted on playing “five shows or none at all”.

Two shows were initially announced for next year, with a third show and then two more added due to demand, with around 400,000 tickets snapped up for the events.

The concerts will serve as the finale of Brooks’ stadium tour, which resumes in Arkansas, US, in April next year.

I never dreamed we’d get the chance to try this again

“What was supposed to start it all, now is where it all ends,” says the singer in a statement. “I never dreamed we’d get the chance to try this again. I’m so grateful to all who made this happen.”

However, a residents’ group, representing people who live nearby to Croke Park, tells the BBC that Dublin City Council’s decision to grant permission for the extra gigs is “unacceptable”, claiming it breaches a three-concert limit previously imposed on the venue.

“We voiced our objection long ago and have continued over many years,” says Colm Stephens from Clonliffe and Croke Park Area Residents Association.

“We’ve objected to the breaking of the cap of three concerts that was imposed when planning permission for the stadium was awarded back in the 1990s by the planning board.”

Ed Sheeran is also due to play two nights at the venue from 23-24 April next year.

 


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Touring business on alert after Omicron warning

The global touring business is on high alert following the detection of the new Covid variant Omicron.

While it will take two weeks for definitive data to emerge, an interview with Moderna chief Stephane Bancel in today’s FT – in which he predicted existing vaccines would be “much less effective” at tackling Omicron than earlier strains of the virus – has raised alarm bells across the industry.

“There is no world, I think, where [the effectiveness] is the same level . . . we had with [the] Delta [variant],” said Bancel. “I think it’s going to be a material drop. I just don’t know how much because we need to wait for the data.”

Global stock markets have fallen following Bancel’s warning. Live Nation’s share price, which rocketed to an all-time high of $125.88 earlier this month on the back of the company’s glowing Q3 report, fell to $98.92 on Friday in the wake of Omicron’s discovery in South Africa. At the time of writing, it was down 1.26% for today to $106.77.

Elsewhere, shares in CTS Eventim have declined 1.5% (-6.28% over five days) to €57.64, Eventbrite was down 1.85% (-11.03%) to $14.84 and Madison Square Garden Entertainment dipped 4.8% (-1.51%) to $65.42.

It’s not looking good, but it’s still early to tell

Ozzy Osbourne rescheduled his long-delayed UK and European dates to 2023 earlier this week “due to the unprecedented and ever-changing situation”, but there have been no other reports of postponements.

Speaking to IQ, AEG Presents France head Arnaud Meersseman concedes the fresh developments have caused consternation among the live community and cast plans for at least the first quarter of 2022 into doubt.

“I think it’s not looking good, but it’s still early to tell,” he says. “We’re already seeing a lot of requests of acts in Q1 asking to move their shows – the problem is we have nowhere to move them.”

The UK government has re-introduced measures including wearing masks within shops and on public transport in England, coupled with more stringent border controls.

Michael Kill, boss of the UK’s Night-time Industries Association (NTIA) describes the new variant as “hugely concerning” but says he is “encouraged” by the government’s decision not to mitigate against hospitality and night time economy settings. All adults in England will be offered a booster jab by the end of January.

“Although somewhat tentative about the coming weeks, [we] need to be clear that the sector is still extremely fragile and will not survive further trade inhibiting restrictions or a potential lockdown,” says Kill.

“The current baseline mitigations within businesses across this industry have been extremely effective. Coupled with the vaccination programme we must remain confident that we are in a stronger position to deal with variants than many other countries across the world.”

Thousands of businesses, sole traders and artists are at the mercy of new strains

Down Under, Australian live music and entertainment industry bodies have responded to Omicron by reiterating calls for a government-backed insurance scheme.

“The emergence of this new variant on the heels of Delta and the rapid global response to limit its spread is a salutary reminder that this is not over yet,” says the alliance, which comprises AAM, AFA, ALMBC, AMIN, APRA AMCOS, ARIA, PPCA and Live Performance Australia.

“Thousands of businesses, sole traders and artists are at the mercy of new strains and the ongoing threat of more government lockdowns and reimposition of restrictions.”

Earlier this month, the Victorian government announced plans to launch a 12-month pilot scheme that will insure up to AUS$230 million (€148m) of events.

“For this scheme to truly work, however, the industry urged the prime minister to develop a national scheme that reflects the industry’s national economic and employment footprint,” the statement continues. “We again call on the federal government to step up and coordinate a co-contribution scheme shared with the states and territories.

“The Australian live music and entertainment sector has long argued that a government-backed insurance scheme is crucial to allowing the sector to rebuild, maintain employment and rapidly restore its critical economic and cultural contribution to the nation.

“The industry calls on all levels of government to come together and establish a partnership approach with industry, delivering a government-backed insurance scheme and ongoing support.”

 


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International Ticketing Report 2021: Communication

The International Ticketing Report is a one-off annual health check on the global ticketing business, with emphasis on the sector’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The past two years have been turbulent for the business, but with consumer demand for live events now at an all-time peak, the challenges of fulfilling the most packed event schedule in history will test ticketers to the hilt.

Staffing, vouchers schemes and refunds, demand, consumer behaviour, communication, new products & services, secondary ticketing, pandemic lessons and recovery are among the challengers addressed by industry-leading experts in this extended report.

The report, originally published in IQ105, is in lieu of the International Ticketing Yearbook – a standalone global guide to the live entertainment market that will return in 2022.

IQ will publish sections of the International Ticketing Report over the coming weeks but subscribers can read the entire feature in issue 105 of IQ Magazine now.

To read the previous instalment of the report on consumer behaviour click here.


While IQ has been hearing tales of audience drop-off rates for rescheduled shows being as high as 40%, most of the ticketing executives in this report admitted to rates of closer to 15-20% – still a significant no-show number.

Such statistics have prompted questions over whether the communication with fans has been good enough.

Weezevent CEO, Pierre-Henri Deballon, admits, “We attribute [the no-shows] to the fact that many people simply forgot they had bought tickets. There were also all the effects of rescheduling or changes in programming, which made the public less enthusiastic about attending. In addition, personal circumstances may have changed, such as couples who had purchased tickets together splitting up.”

Skiddle’s head of marketing Jamie Scahill believes the numbers of people actually testing positive for Covid, or who are required to self-isolate when they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive, has had a major impact on no-shows.

“As many events were rescheduled to the same time, this led to a higher drop-off rate for festivals as there was an abundance of events for customers to attend.” But Scahill claims that with the summer season now over, drop-off rates appear to be returning to pre-Covid levels of 8-15%.

“We attribute [the no-shows] to the fact that many people simply forgot they had bought tickets”

The Ticket Factory‘s Richard Howle cites different reasons. “The events with cheaper tickets have seen the highest drop-off – however, it is still early days. Once we start getting to the events that have rescheduled three or four times, we may well see a higher drop-off.”

“Good communication with fans is key,” states Howle. “We have continued our ‘Not Long Now’ email programme in the lead up to events and that seems to have been enough of a prompt to remind people that the event they booked two years ago is happening soon.”

At AXS, director of ticketing, Paul Newman, has a similar viewpoint. “The percentage of no-shows tends to be high- er on those events that have rescheduled more than once, and ticket price is a factor – i.e. the percentage of no-shows is greater on lower- vs. higher-priced events,” says Newman.

And while Benjamin Leaver says Event Genius & Festicket are recording 20-30% drop-off rates, there are positive aspects as fans return to see their favourite acts.

“It seems that people are treating themselves as they return to live events,” says CEO Leaver. “At our egPay cashless partnered events we are witnessing around a 20-30% increase in spend per head. This is a trend we are also seeing with ticket and travel package orders for international festivals in 2022 as average order values are at an all-time high.”

 


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December New Music playlist out now

The latest edition of the IQ New Music playlist, featuring a selection of tracks curated by international booking agencies, is now live.

The playlist complements IQ Magazine’s popular New Signings page, which keeps the live industry updated about which new, emerging and re-emerging artists are being signed by agents. Click here to read the latest issue of IQ now.

The December edition of the New Music playlist features tracks hand-picked by agents at CAA, ICM, ITB, Paradigm, UTA, X-Ray, WME and Mother Artists.

Listen to the latest selection using the Spotify playlist below, or click here to catch up on last month’s playlist first.

Separated by agency, the full track list for the December playlist is:

AgencyArtistSong
CAADJ ShadowBuilding Steam with a Grain of Salt
ICMMontell FishFall in Love with You
ITBHoneyglazeCreative Jealousy
ITBLIFEFriends Without Names
ITBNaima Bock30 Degrees
ITBOwennBaby Girl
ITBPeaks!Black Guns/White Drugs
ParadigmDvr, Kenny BeatsLowlife
ParadigmNemahsisPaper Thin
ParadigmOliver MalcolmRolling Stone
ParadigmProspaLove Someone
ParadigmTalkSave Me
UTAMaya DelilahNeed a Word with Cupid
UTAPip BlomI Know I’m Not Easy To Like
UTAThe Kingdom Choir, Jake IsaacTogether Again
UTASerena IsiomaCrying In The Club
X-RayShaSimoneHushpuppi
WMELuke CombsDoin’ This
WMEMasked Wolf, Bebe RexhaIt’s You, Not Me (Sabotage)
WMEAnne-Marie and Niall HoranEverywhere
WMEFuture and SprngBrkMushrooms
WMETygaLift Me Up
Mother ArtistsIdlesCar Crash
Mother ArtistsCorookSims
Mother ArtistsFaouziaPuppet
Mother ArtistsThomas HeadonStrawberry Kisses
Mother ArtistsKills BirdsCough up Cherries

 


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VibeLab co-founder on Saudi Arabia’s music push

One of the speakers at Saudi Arabia’s first music conference, XP, has shared his thoughts on how the region can further grow its creative economy.

Lutz Leichsenring, co-founder of Amsterdam-based consultancy VibeLab, will appear at the inaugural three-day event in Riyadh from 13-15 December, which is aimed at accelerating and amplifying the music business in the Middle East.

A leading authority on protecting night time economy, community and culture, Leichsenring advises the territory to take note of the best practices and tools employed around the globe.

“It is important to understand that the music scene is not going to be built the same way you build a tower,” he says. “There is not an actual blueprint to building a music scene, but I don’t see this as something very hard as it is rooted in the Saudi culture.

“The Saudi people are creative, the Saudi people have craftwork, the Saudi people enjoy music. It is basically rooted in their DNA. The important question is how to rekindle this?

“You need to make sure that people are willing now to a different route from their parents or grandparents, or even from the musicians they listen to that are from another country. You need to make sure that people are willing to build their own identity and own culture. And all of this takes a lot of time – there’s no shortcut.”

Huge transformations are happening in the country and they’re creating the opportunity for what was previously underground to enter the mainstream

Billed as the “most forward-thinking gathering of music leaders in the region”, XP is being organised by MDLBeast in partnership with the Saudi Music Commission and will feature leading cultural representatives and music industry experts from around the world.

Through workshops, panel discussions and roundtables, networking opportunities, and music activations, XP plans to expand opportunities for music industry professionals of all backgrounds including artists, entrepreneurs, creatives and policymakers.

Organisers say the conference is built on four key pillars – talent, policy, scene and impact – that will help to amplify the region’s music industry. The full programme will be released in due course.

Asked how a country like Saudi Arabia goes about building a music scene, Leichsenring says: “Most cities, most countries will have had a scene of some sort. Perhaps it wasn’t visible, perhaps because it wasn’t allowed, but there would been something there and that was certainly the case in Saudi, with a genuine underground vibe.

“Now, these huge transformations are happening in the country and they’re creating the opportunity for what was previously underground to enter the mainstream. That’s being supported by government, so from the top down, but then there’s also the grassroots ‘bottom up’, organic scene which is now able to grow much much more.

“Further, there are now Saudi creatives returning home to be a part of these changes and they’re bringing experience they’ve gained all around the world back to their hometowns. This is amplifying the movement.”

Regional artists TamTam and Jeme have also been announced for the conference.

“I’m inspired by a lot of cities and Los Angeles is top, although it’s not the perfect role model for our region,” says TamTam. “I think the best angle would be to take away what’s best from different music cities, not just look at one city.”

“Creating public venues for artists to showcase their art and work will play a big part in supporting the music ecosystem as a whole,” adds Jeme. “Having more venues will create demand for artists, a huge market for promoters, booking agencies, production companies and so many other possibilities.”

Meanwhile, MDLBeast’s Soundstorm festival, which debuted in 2019, will return to Riyadh between 16-19 December, this time with a fourth day.

Armin van Buuren, deadmau5, The Chainsmokers, Charlotte de Witte, Cirez-D, Martin Garrix, Steve Aoki and Tiësto are among the 150 acts scheduled.

 


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International Ticketing Report 2021: Consumer behaviour

The International Ticketing Report is a one-off annual health check on the global ticketing business, with emphasis on the sector’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The past two years have been turbulent for the business, but with consumer demand for live events now at an all-time peak, the challenges of fulfilling the most packed event schedule in history will test ticketers to the hilt.

Staffing, vouchers schemes and refunds, demand, consumer behaviour, communication, new products & services, secondary ticketing, pandemic lessons and recovery are among the challengers addressed by industry-leading experts in this extended report.

The report, originally published in IQ105, is in lieu of the International Ticketing Yearbook – a standalone global guide to the live entertainment market that will return in 2022.

IQ will publish sections of the International Ticketing Report over the coming weeks but subscribers can read the entire feature in issue 105 of IQ Magazine now.

To read the previous instalment of the report on staffing click here.


In addition to purchasing add-on insurance coverage, fans are often waiting until the 11th hour to buy tickets for certain events – although some recent tours and dates for A-list acts next year have sold out within minutes.

While that dichotomy could give promoters sleepless nights, what is proving more certain is the willingness of the general public to embrace digital ticketing. This has been accelerated by the pandemic, as people recognise the health and hygiene benefits of steering away from physical passes for events.

“Digital transformation has significantly changed attitudes towards digital tickets – a Rubicon has been crossed,” says Total Ticketing sales director Martin Haigh. “Contactless purchase, fulfilment, transfer, and redemption is very attractive given the pandemic. Digitally connecting tickets to waivers and proof-of-vaccine may soon be mandatory.”

Scahill states, “Much like we’ve seen with promoters, we expect more of an increase in demand towards the use of digital tickets vs physical as consumers become more accustomed to using technology throughout the pandemic. In addition to this, sustainability is somewhat of a hot-button issue in the events and touring industry, so the more we can limit paper usage in the ticketing industry, the better.”

“Contactless purchase, fulfilment, transfer, and redemption is very attractive given the pandemic”

However, pointing out that a digital ticket merely identifies the mobile phone’s IMEI number, rather than the person holding it, Fair Ticket Solutions’ founder & CEO, Alan Gelfand, comments, “Attendees now have to provide some additional physical form of ID for entry, so whether a ticket is on their phone or physical now becomes only a matter of what the attendee deems convenient for them and should have their choice of deciding, not dictated to.”

And that scepticism wins favour with CTS Eventim chief operating officer Alexander Ruoff, who contends that not everyone will embrace the digital switch. “We believe very strongly that many customers will want to continue to receive a physical ticket or receive it in addition,” he tells IQ.

“An electronic ticket in a virtual wallet hardly triggers anticipation of a concert. In contrast, a paper ticket on the fridge or on the pinboard evokes exactly that feeling. A physical ticket also plays a very important role for many fans as a souvenir of a great concert experience.”

Nonetheless, Richard Howle from The Ticket Factory states, “The pandemic has forced the public (whether they like it or not) to embrace mobile technology with the use of tools like the [UK’s] NHS Covid App. It was only a matter of time until digital ticketing arrived, and the pandemic has simply accelerated that process. Some of our first events to go to 100% digital ticketing were non-music events with audiences that traditionally find it harder to adopt these technologies.”

“Within the next two years I expect that 90% of tickets issued will be digital”

He adds, “Within the next two years I expect that 90% of tickets issued will be digital.”

And Benjamin Leaver, CEO, Event Genius & Festicket says his company’s investment into mobile-friendly products sets them up nicely for the manic 2022 events schedule.

“For example, we recently released our new Festicket customer app, which makes it easier for eventgoers to access their tickets offline from their mobile device, speed-up entry, reduce possible overcrowding at entry gates and generally improve audience flow,” he says.

Indeed, Total Ticketing’s Haigh cites a fundamental shift in attitudes when it comes to digital adoption. “We operate in Asia and there is a cultural proclivity towards conservatism, yet we are seeing clients in some of Asia’s most conservative countries embrace and even demand digital ticketing, where just a year or two ago we were being told that ticket buyers would only accept physical tickets,” he reports.

“We believe that digital ticketing opens up a whole new world of engagement and activation opportunities for live-event promoters and sponsors and as such it’s inevitable that transformation towards digital ticketing will accelerate.”

 


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Romania’s Saga festival reveals new venue for 2022

Leading dance music promoters Insomniac and Alda have announced a new location for their Romanian festival, Saga.

Saga’s inaugural edition took place across three days in September at Bucharest’s Romaero SA airfield with acts including Don Diablo, Carl Cox and Tiësto.

The electronic dance event will return to the Romanian capital in June 2022, this time taking place at Bucharest’s National Arena (cap. 55,000) and the surrounding park area.

Afrojack, Marshmello and Timmy Trumpet are set to headline the event, with more artists to be announced on 2 December.

In celebration of Saga’s new home, Alda has planned a special event at the National Arena on 1 December, Romania’s National Day.

Afrojack, Marshmello and Timmy Trumpet are set to headline the event, with more artists to be announced on 2 December

According to the promoter, there will be a “dramatic” fireworks display around the stadium during an exclusive on-location DJ performance supported by Du Mad and Kov.

The event will be broadcast live and, during this time (19:00 and 00:00 EET), those who have registered for ticket information on the Saga Festival website will be able to purchase tickets for next year’s edition at a special price. General ticket sales will then commence on 2 December.

Alda and Insomniac, based in Amsterdam and Los Angeles, respectively, have been partners since October 2018, when majority Live Nation-owned Insomniac acquired a 50% stake in Alda.

Insomniac has produced more than 2,000 events since 1993, including Electric Daisy Carnivals in North America, Japan, China and Mexico, and Nocturnal Wonderland, the US’s longest-running dance music event.

Alda, meanwhile, is behind events including A State of Trance in Utrecht, New Horizons in Germany (a JV with CTS Eventim) and Amsterdam Music Festival, the Netherlands’ largest indoor music festival.

 


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Event Research Programme publishes final reports

The UK government has published its final reports from the Events Research Programme (ERP).

The ERP ran for four months and encompassed 31 pilots, including music events such as Sefton Park Pilot music festival in Liverpool, the BRIT Awards, Latitude, Tramlines and Download, as well as the Euro 2020 football tournament and Silverstone Grand Prix. Events were grouped according to type: indoor seated, mainly outdoor seated, mainly outdoor semi-seated and mainly outdoor unseated.

The report noted that improvements to air quality – either by improving ventilation or reducing crowding – can be made to mitigate the risk of airborne transmission.

“It was found that high crowding can be maintained without significant negative impact on air quality, in settings such as open-sided marquees or sheltered outdoor seating which have very high levels of natural ventilation,” it says. “Improvements can be made in indoor settings; opening windows, doors or adding fans strategically can increase air quality. However, reducing overcrowding was found to be more immediately impactful on air quality.”

It concluded that “outdoor unstructured ERP events, specifically festivals”, posed the highest increased transmission risk from events examined as part of the scheme, with a 1.7 fold increased risk of Covid-19 transmission among attendees. Potential reasons include “behaviour whilst at the event, overall event size and duration or mode of travel to and from the event”.

Commenting on the findings, Paul Reed, CEO of the UK’s Association of Independent Festivals, says: “Since emerging from restrictions earlier this year, festival organisers across the UK who were able to stage an event implemented a range of measures to mitigate the transmission of Covid-19, with over 70% implementing full certification according to our data. This went far beyond what was mandated by government at the time.

“Our members will continue to go above and beyond and we continue to liaise with government and wider industry on recommended best practices. The safety of audiences will, as ever, be of paramount concern as they plan for the 2022 season.”

We have gathered large amounts of data that can be used by the scientific community worldwide

Across all events, 87% of people with a positive Covid-19 test result during the study period were unvaccinated, 8% reported having a single dose and 5% reported two doses.

Professor Dame Theresa Marteau, chair of ERP science board, says: “We have gathered large amounts of data that can be used by the scientific community worldwide, event organisers and government for the best understanding to date of the risk of transmitting coronavirus at live events and how we can best keep this risk low.”

“The Events Research Programme broke new ground on the size and scale of scientific research undertaken at live events and has undoubtedly contributed to the early reopening of our crucial business, sporting and cultural events sectors,” adds Nigel Huddleston, minister for sport, tourism, heritage and civil society.

“The programme has provided an important template for event organisers the world over to continue to be able to plan their events safely and that’s great credit to the scientists behind this world-leading study.”

Elsewhere, results of the clinical trial organised by French live music association Prodiss and Paris hospital AP-HP under the banner ‘Ambition Live Again’, have been published in UK-based medical journal, The Lancet.

The findings from the 29 May test concert at the Accor Arena (20,300-cap.) in Paris with DJ Etienne de Crécy and the band Indochine showed that attending a concert was not associated with an increased risk of transmission when certain hygiene and testing protocols are followed.

 


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Jim King on BST ’22: “There is no bigger artist than Adele”

Jim King, CEO of European Festivals at AEG Presents, says the 2022 edition of British Summer Time (BST) Hyde Park is “set up to be the biggest we have ever seen”.

The London-based festival is to take place across two weeks from 24 June to 10 July next year, with concerts from Elton John (24 June), Eagles (26 June), Duran Duran (10 July), Pearl Jam (8–9 July) and Adele (1–2 July).

The BST double-header is Adele’s first confirmed concerts since her scheduled four-night run at Wembley Stadium in 2017 was cut short due to damaged vocal cords.

King tells IQ that securing the British star’s place on the bill was a “huge coup” and that the November release of her long-awaited album, 30, worked in the promoter’s favour.

“There is no artist bigger than Adele and the demand for tickets shows her unique appeal,” says King. “I had been speaking to her agent [WME’s Lucy Dickins] about the possibility for a long time but like most things, you need the timing to click, and I think 2022 just worked well for them with the new album.”

“There is no artist bigger than Adele and the demand for tickets shows her unique appeal”

Responding to some fans’ criticism that the £90 ticket price for Adele’s BST shows is too high, King says the appraisals are “grossly unfair to the artist”.

“The vast majority of tickets to see Adele had a face value under £85. Major sports are more expensive, and they play every week, every year.

“The press focus will naturally gravitate towards a very small number of higher-priced hospitality tickets which, again, when you consider the whole package of food and beverage, the show was still priced lower than many major concerts and sporting events,” he contends.

Unsurprisingly, tickets for both of the 33-year-old star’s BST dates were snapped up in minutes but King says there has been “strong sales across all [BST] shows”.

Elton John’s headline show, which opens the festival and is part of his swansong Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour, also sold out.

“[Adele’s BST shows] are still priced lower than many major concerts and sporting events”

Returning for the first time in two years due to the coronavirus pandemic, King says AEG is excited to reveal a “new look” (and a new sponsor – American Express) for the eighth outing of the festival.

“It is exciting. We will finally have the chance to reveal the new creative presentation of the event with an updated Great Oak Stage and a new look and feel to the creative areas around the site,” he says.

BST last took place in 2019 with headliners Celine Dion, Florence and the Machine and Robbie Williams, and a recorded attendance of 65,000 at each concert.

The festival launched in 2013 and, over the years, has seen performances from acts including the Rolling Stones, Bon Jovi, Celine Dion, Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie, the Cure, Black Sabbath and Barbra Streisand.

 


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Recruitment & restaffing in focus

As live entertainment operators around the world predict that 2022 could be a record-breaking year, the scramble is on to get depleted staff numbers back to full strength. Gordon Masson reports.

A recent report in the UK suggested that 90,000 jobs had been lost in the cultural sector because of the Covid-19 pandemic, suggesting that millions of people globally have experienced an impact on their livelihoods and many may have already taken the decision to work in a different sector.

That dilemma is just one of the challenges that human resources executives and recruiters are facing ahead of a year that many live entertainment experts are predicting will be the biggest ever for concerts, festivals, and other shows.

“Just before Covid we had about 110 employees; now we’re at somewhere between 85 and 90, but we want to be at 120 by the end of this year,” reveals TicketSwap corporate recruiter Ruben Pluimers.

Heather Papst, who is director of people, North America, for TAIT, tells IQ, “In terms of our employee population, at the end of September our headcounts were at 85% of our end-of- year target, so we are on track to meet the goals that we set out in terms of recovery, readiness, and mobilisation.

“We have recalled and rehired just about everybody from the group that was furloughed. We’ve also rehired people who actually left us and had to take another job in the interim, and then we have 100-plus brand-new hires to the organisation.”

Papst adds, “In the US, it’s a tight labour market. Our unemployment rate keeps dropping, which is obviously a good thing overall, but it means that there is more fierce competition for talent.”

Detlef Kornett, a member of the executive board of Deutsche Entertainment AG (DEAG), which has operations in Germany, Austria, Denmark, Switzerland, the UK and Ireland, notes that each country has its own challenges and it may well be that business will not be up and running everywhere until Q2 or even Q3 of next year.

“Restaffing is, of course, different country to country, but with continental Europe we have been able to keep staff during the crisis because there have been much better support mechanisms on the part of the governments – more favourable furlough schemes and other systems – so the staff are all fully on board, even if they are not all working at this time,” says Kornett.

“So we still have people on furlough, but in terms of overall numbers we’ve actually got more people than pre-Covid because certain sectors, such as arts and exhibitions, have grown and needed to employ more people.

“When we look at the UK, we’re a little bit below staff numbers compared to pre-Covid, but that also has to do with changes in our makeup – we lost a theatre to renovation in the West End for Thriller, so the personnel that dealt with that production are gone. But overall, we’ve man- aged to keep the UK group together as much as possible, and they are all back at work. Our ticketing people at Gigantic were back before the promoters, for obvious reasons, but everyone is very busy now.

“With Ireland, it feels like we launched the company the day before Covid, so we’ve been struggling with that and our office set up there is still in crisis mode, and while people are floating in and out, the more formal business structures are a bit delayed.”

Recruitment Methods
As the live entertainment business faces the task of filling thousands of employee roles, those involved in recruitment are pursuing different avenues to find candidates for those vacancies.

“In terms of recruitment, things have changed,” says Pluimers. “We’re doing some Face- book and Instagram campaigns now and what is different now is that we also have some local vacancies – in the UK and in Spain – whereas be- fore Covid everyone was in our Amsterdam HQ. Those local hires also entail a different approach: I don’t think we had used the IQ Jobs Board before Covid, for example, but for these local hires we need much more promotion, because al- though TicketSwap is very well known here in the Netherlands, in other countries we do not have that presence yet and therefore we need more visibility to tell people about the vacancies.”

It’s an indictment on our industry that a roadie can switch to being a delivery driver, make the same money and actually feel better about it

In line with everyone else in the business, HR executives have been using Zoom to streamline the interview process, while the video conferencing technology is also being utilised for training purposes.

Kirstie Loveridge, AEG’s SVP human resources, says that technology is proving invaluable.

“Absolutely everyone is back in the office now, but we’re still doing some of our training virtually because we realised that people were time poor even before Covid, and with the build up for 2022 being so busy, time constraints are even tougher, so it makes sense to keep our training programmes virtual at the moment. We’ve also found that we get better take-up that way,” she says.

Looking at TAIT’s long-term personnel strategy, Papst says, “At the end of the day, we are a manufacturer, so continuing to find a solid pipeline of skilled and entry-level manufacturing candidates is vital. By and large we’re not relocating those people, so continuing to find those skilled individuals to bring into our fabrication and manufacturing is something we are always focused on, because locally that is a very tight labour market.”

In addition to informing high school pupils about TAIT’s work, Papst reveals that the company has revitalised its employee incentive programme to help with recruitment, “because we know that the talent we already have also know the best talent that isn’t here yet,” she says. The company, she tells IQ, is implementing local community outreach to reignite connections with non-profit organisations and skilled trade institutions, while a virtual job fair is also upcoming.

Loveridge tells a similar tale. “In terms of our recruitment strategy, we’re doing everything that we did pre-Covid, but we did launch some partnerships with diverse job boards, which have been bearing fruit, while staff referrals have also been strong,” she says.

“Where we’re finding it hard is the hourly paid events staff. It’s maybe a bit arrogant to say that we’ve never struggled before, but it’s really tough. So we’re looking at all the ways we can approach that challenge: social [media] attracts quite a lot for us in terms of that space, for instance. We’re trying everything and hoping that, come the key time, we can keep getting the numbers.

That dilemma is a major concern for Sacha Lord, who is night-time economy adviser for Greater Manchester. “We had Parklife recently and for that event we need about 900-1,000 people in security,” says Lord. “Previously, I’ve just taken it for granted and gone out to three security providers: one firm does the outside; another firm does the bars; and the third firm does the entry systems. But we had to beg, borrow and steal this year, from the whole of the UK, sourcing 20 people from here, 30 from there, etc.

“Luckily, our event was in September, so we could understand findings from other festivals that had taken place before us. As a result, we made the decision to over-staff by 35% to make sure we hit those numbers, which thankfully worked out for us. We were very fortunate because I know that quite a few festivals were understaffed – not through their [own] fault but purely because security providers dropped numbers at the very last minute.”

It’s a situation that Kornett believes will impact everyone internationally, as live events resume in earnest, noting that hourly paid staff for security and front-of-house roles have been hardest hit. “We have letters from our partners that state that they are more than happy to take on jobs, but they cannot guarantee that they will have enough staff,” he explains.

“The logistics industry has grown through the roof and lots of people from those hourly paid jobs went over there and now won’t even think about coming back as they realise they can be home at six o’clock.”

Nonetheless, Kornett is confident that DEAG and its peers will prevail. “We’re optimistic that these things will shake out over time,” he says. “Months ahead of time it may look bleak, but by the time the events come around it might be different, because everything around live events and music has a fascination, while UPS parcels lose their appeal after a short period. So, we may have lost a lot of people to logistics, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t come back once we’re fully up and running and everyone can see the excitement again. I’m confident that will happen and that we can also find other ways to integrate staff and recruit people from other areas.”

Competition
While Kornett sees the logistics sector as a competitor for hourly paid staff, the challenges facing recruiters are more wide ranging, given that nearly all industries, worldwide, have been forced to make redundancies or furlough staff during the pandemic.

“Here in Amsterdam we have a lot of fintech companies and they can definitely pay more money to new hires, so they are among our biggest competitors in the jobs market in the Netherlands,” says TicketSwap’s Pluimers. “In the UK, we see a lot of competition from some of the bigger music-related companies like Ticketmaster and AXS. And because the UK market has been reopened for a couple of months now, it’s also a bit tougher to fill roles. But on the other side, we are a start-up, in UK terms, so we’re looking for entrepreneurial people who are willing to go on this journey with us, rather than someone who is maybe looking for a safer, corporate job.”

I don’t think we had used the IQ jobs board before Covid… but for these local hires we need much more promotion

With her European lead on personnel for AEG, Loveridge reports, “Any vacancy in a CRM/digital/data space is a real challenge. Also, project management roles are proving interesting because they are industry wide.”

She continues, “We thought we’d struggle with finance and IT positions, but that hasn’t been the case with all of them, to be truthful. But we do have some really specific network infrastructure engineers where there weren’t many of them pre-Covid, let alone post-Covid, so that has been tricky.”

Speaking from his base in Manchester, Lord tells IQ that he believes the road to recovery could be a long one. “We’ve got a real job on our hands to persuade people to come back into this industry,” states Lord. “Speaking with my Greater Manchester hat on, we have found a pot of money to help develop skills within this industry, which I am hoping will pave the way for people to return. But it’s not just events, it’s restaurants, it’s bars, it’s hotels… across the board the night-time economy is really struggling.
“We’re a long way from recovery at the moment. I think it’s going to take us at least three years to get back to where we should be.”

Of course, the competition for candidates is also pushing up payroll costs, which in turn could also lead to ticket price hikes. But Kornett is not convinced that employees – especially hourly paid people – will benefit. “Staff costs are certainly going to increase,” he warns, “but the structure of our industry doesn’t necessarily mean that people will be paid better. It’s an indictment on our industry that a roadie can switch to being a delivery driver, make the same money, and actually feel better about it.”

Current Priorities
Across the Atlantic, TAIT and its peers are some months ahead of their European counterparts, meaning that the priorities for Papst are also a bit further down the recovery timeline.

“The bulk of our hiring, by design, peaked in July and August, and while we have some hiring left to do, the challenges we’ve turned the corner on were either bringing all those people back, or bringing all those new people into our system,” she says. “We now have to make sure that everyone has onboarded well and successfully, that they are having the right conversations with their manager, and that they understand the scope of their responsibilities. So it’s really a kind of shift of focus to engagement.”

I’ve never seen calendars like it – there are arenas that will open Monday through to Sunday across the UK

She elaborates. “It’s about ensuring that those who are now here – even those that left us, whether for a brief time or a longer period of time – are coming back to an organisation that’s on the other side of a pandemic. In the back- ground, of course, we’re still dealing with the pandemic and ensuring that we have the right resources and the correct level of conversation with our employees about overall wellbeing to include mental health wellness, which is a topic that I’m glad to see has risen to the surface of a lot of conversations. So we need to make sure we have the right resources either within the company or by reaching out to outside vendors to ensure that employees know that they are heard and supported with everything that they are dealing with.”

That mental health theme has been one of the strongest to emerge throughout the live entertainment industry during the past 20 months, and making sure employees receive the appropriate levels of care has become a major part of the HR remit.

“We made such a stance and supported people through the last 20 months that it would be really remiss of us to just take that off the table now,” states Loveridge, “so we are continually investing in therapy sessions, coaching sessions and all sorts.

“We’re recruiting our first mental health first aider. We’d started down that process before Covid hit, but now we’re getting back on track to do some training for that crowd that want to volunteer and be mental health first aiders.”

Loveridge adds, “You cannot underestimate people’s resilience – it’s been a long hard 20 months, now followed by people being really, really busy and looking at a calendar in 2022 when they will potentially be even busier. We need to be there to support them.”

That’s a mantra that’s repeated in Pennsylvania, where Papst reveals, “Where we’re focussed now is employee safety, wellbeing, and overall health, and then making sure that people feel engaged and that they are building the right relationships, whether they are back after a year or whether they have never been here before, and this is their first job out of college. How do we focus on helping the organisation build that rapport? It’s really about laying the foundation between now and the end of the year so that we are as ready as we can be going into 2022.”

Kornett also believes a further recruitment drive will be needed as the volume of business increases. “We will undoubtedly have to add new staff to cope, but it’s all a matter of when business in 2022 will start, depending on each territory – will it be Q1 or Q2 or as long as Q3? That will determine whether we will need additional staff or not.”

And he observes, “We’re going to have new people ruling the world and they will be riggers. They are like gold dust. Everybody needs them and wants them and all at the same time. So, we foresee some real pinch points coming toward us on that front.”

For Lord, there are still some major hurdles to overcome as the night-time economy recovers.

“Next year, there are so many new tours taking place. But combine that with all of the tours that have been postponed and pushed back… I’ve never seen calendars like it – there are arenas that will be open Monday through to Sunday across the UK,” he says.

And Lord is one of a growing number of voices that is calling on government to delay its planned VAT rise, otherwise he fears the industry – and those who work in it – will just lunge from one crisis into another.

The UK government slashed VAT on tickets to 5% during the pandemic. That was recently increased to 12.5%, but ministers have revealed plans to go back to the full 20% in March 2022.

“The VAT hike that we’re going to see over such a short period of time I think will be another hammer blow to the industry,” says Lord. “When you are looking at a lack of staff, a lack of produce, and then this price hike, when we already know that things like fuel prices are soaring and other prices are being hit by inflation, it’s just a really, really bad idea.

“Considering all the debt that people have taken on, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask for a VAT freeze at 12.5% until at least the end of March 2024. Otherwise, that 15% hike in the space of six months will be a lot for many businesses to handle.”

Hiring Tips
Having recruited nearly 300 people across Europe in recent months, Loveridge is keen to share some of the knowledge gained to help others in territories that are yet to kickstart their rehiring process.

She advocates using interview panels, utilising experts from a range of disciplines rather than relying on heads of a single department or division.

Looking ahead toward a packed 2022 schedule, she notes that operators are going to need their show partners to be up to full speed if they are going to stand any chance of coping with the hectic events calendar. “There’s definitely a concern around other companies and their staffing – suppliers, security, etc – but I think that until we actually see it and experience it, we won’t know,” she says. But at that hourly paid event- staff level, I think people will probably continue to staff over and above what they actually need, as a precaution.”

She concludes, “There’s an age-old adage: ‘If you always do what you’ve always done, you’re always going to get what you’ve always got.’ But we’re now all in a time when you cannot do that. I’m really pleased with the work that we did pre-Covid for the diverse recruitment charter that we put in place, and actually getting people to work and recruit differently, because we will never have these numbers of job vacancies again. So, whether it’s been through diverse advertising, using different job boards, or even how people have been interviewed, it’s been a great exercise.”

 


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