Festival Republic planning 10,000-cap. camping pilot
Festival Republic plans to follow up its recent Sefton Park Pilot event in Liverpool with a second test festival, this time with camping, next month.
Sefton Park Pilot, along with Tuesday’s Brit Awards one of two live music events held as part of the UK’s Events Research Programme (ERP), took place on 2 May, welcoming 5,000 fans to Sefton Park in Liverpool for a one-day music festival headlined by Blossoms.
Speaking during IQ’s first Recovery Sessions event yesterday (13 May), Festival Republic MD Melvin Benn revealed that while previous test events in Liverpool, including Sefton Park Pilot and the two club shows held in the preceding days, aimed to show how live entertainment could restart with little or no Covid-19 transmission, the camping festival in June will focus on dealing with an outbreak at the event.
“While the Circus club shows and the Sefton Park Pilot were effectively events that were designed to ensure the enablement of reopening on 21 June,” Benn explained to chair Maria May (CAA), “the camping event, because its three or four days, will actually be about testing the protocol of how to deal with anyone that might have Covid at the event. It’s about testing the protocols around using Covid certification on the NHS [National Health Service] app, and it’s also around testing the protocols of what the SAGE [Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies] scientists here in the UK want, which is at-home testing for all attendees that don’t have the vaccination and that are not immune.”
According to Benn, the festival will take place in the “middle of June” and have a capacity of 10,000 people.
“The camping event will actually be about testing the protocol of how to deal with anyone that might have Covid”
“It’s not like Reading or Lollapalooza Chicago or anything like that, but it’s a decent number, and certainly a number that they can adequately take data from and multiply,” he continued, adding that while “the politicians are a little more reticent”, he is confident “the scientists will persuade them, because [home testing] is the only practical way forward” as long as a large enough proportion of the population are vaccinated. “So, in essence, that’s where we seem to going,” he continued. “Remarkably, the UK government appears to have a coherent plan, and it seems like we’re going in a good direction.”
Benn added that he believes the government are now more concerned about the potential for Covid-19 transmission on public transport than at live events.
“The area that they are significantly most concerned about actually is not so much the venues – they know [the operators] will look after everybody at the venues – it’s public transport. It’s large amounts of people squashed with no circulation on buses coming into Glasgow City Centre, or coming on tubes into Wembley Stadium,” he explained. “I believe that’s the area they are more concerned about, compared to the actual venues themselves, particularly outdoor venues…”
In welcome news for UK festival organisers, the Festival Republic boss also predicted that there should be news on the cancellation insurance front by 14 June, with a government-backed solution potentially in place from mid-July onwards.
IQ subscribers can watch the ‘Industry Heads: Leading the way back’ panel, which also featured AGI’s Marsha Vlasic and ASM Global’s John Sharkey, on demand on the Recovery Sessions mini-site. To subscribe to IQ for just £5.99 a month, click here.
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Optimism grows after successful Brit Awards 2021
After nearly 14 months, non-socially distanced indoor live music returned to the UK last night (11 May) as the likes of Dua Lipa, Coldplay, Elton John, Pink and Rag’n’Bone Man took to the O2 Arena stage for the 2021 Brit Awards.
As previously reported, some 4,000 people – 2,500 of them key workers who had been gifted free tickets – attended the ceremony, with an estimated 1,000 more working as staff, production and crew. As a medically monitored pilot event, held as part of the UK’s Events Research Programme (ERP), Brits attendees were free to mingle and take off their masks once inside the O2 (as they had at previous ERP shows in Liverpool), where scientists were examining risk factors including crowd behaviour, ventilation, surface contact and the effect of having performers in the room.
All guests took a lateral-flow Covid-19 test in the 36 hours leading up to the event, as well as a PCR test on the day. Attendees are also required to take another PCR test five days after the event, with both tests being sent to a laboratory to assess for any coronavirus transmission during the show.
Gennaro Castaldo, director of communications for Brits organiser BPI, tells IQ there was a “huge amount of interest” in the event, “not just from the UK, but from the global community”, reflecting its significance as the first major indoor concert of the Covid-19 era. “We’ve had a record amount of TV requests this year, from Japan, America, Canada, Europe… Obviously everyone’s intrigued as to how we as a country are coming out of lockdown, and how these Event Research Programme pilots are working. So there wasn’t just the UK audience, but there was a wider global interest, too, I think.”
“Heralding the return of live music, it was a special moment for everyone working in the industry”
Both Castaldo and BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor are full of praise for the O2 team, as well as stage designers Es Devlin and Yinka Ilori, whose technicoloured set, built by Diagon, provided a spectacular backdrop to both the prize-giving ceremony and the night’s live performances.
“Our hope is that the Brits 2021 with Mastercard showed the music industry at its best,” says Taylor. “It united global superstars with the breakthrough talent that is the future of British music, reflecting on a year when music has shown its power to help us navigate difficult times. The creativity of the performances lit up staging by Yinka Ilori and Es Devlin which, with its explosion of colour, was like a wake-up from the monochrome reality many of us have lived for the last 12 months.”
“It was great to be back working with the Brits and to once again collaborate with the brilliant Es Devlin,” says Diagon’s Liam Ownsworth. “It was a huge privilege to bring Es Delvin’s vision to life for the biggest night in UK music. Heralding the return of live music events, it was a special moment for everyone working within the creative industry, who have been especially hit hard by the pandemic.”
Castaldo also commends the government for managing the end of the third lockdown in a “very step-by-step, gradual way” with the ERP initiative. “Our fervent wish is that [the results from the events] will come out positive, and we’ll be able to speed up the process of opening up our venues and festivals and nightclubs,” he continues, noting that – although insurance remains a sticking point – many venues still have availability for shows this summer. “With a bit of luck, there could be a real surge of interest if the government were to come out sooner, rather than later, and say, ‘We’re satisfied that with these precautions in place, you can reopen safely’.”
“What was happening on stage felt particularly significant,” adds Taylor, highlighting wins for female artists such as Dua Lipa, Taylor Swift, Little Mix, Haim, Arlo Parks and Billie Eilish. “‘Women artists won in eightof the 11 award categories, illustrating how the music industry has transformed to better reflect all the talent in our society. There was an inclusive feel to the show, including the additional Brits trophies that winning artists could give to their own heroes, and the fact that the majority of the audience were key workers who have done so much to help the country get through the last year. I would like to thank the music labels who contributed to cover the costs of making that happen.
“Talking to guests, it seemed they were truly excited to be out enjoying live music once again, and it was particularly special to be part of the first live audience for music at the O2 Arena in a year. Finally, the Brits being part of the ERP meant that we were gathering scientific data which should help ease the path to government reopening live music as quickly as possible, which is so important to fans and to our artists.”
“It’s probably the most significant Brit Awards in our four-decade history”
All Brit Awards 2021 performances, which also included the Weeknd, Griff, Headie One and Olivia Rodrigo, are available to watch back on the Brits YouTube channel.
“As much as it was painful process at times” for the Brits team, who pulled together the show in under six weeks, seeing the result made it more than worth it, concludes Castaldo, who says having multiple performances with a live audience sends an important message that the ERP can act as a “stepping stone towards the return of live music at scale”. “And that’s the key word: scale,” he adds, “because obviously you can have events and have a few people distanced here and there, but that’s no good to any promoter. You’ve got to be able to put bums on seats and know that you can fill the room to capacity, so that’s why these pilots are so hugely important.
“It’s also the most diverse awards we’ve ever had, with eight of the 11 categories won by women, which is a historic moment, too. So I think for those reasons, it’s probably the most significant Brit Awards that we’ve had in our four-decade history.”
A full list of 2021 award winners is available from the Brits website.
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Livestreamed shows here to stay, finds academic study
New research into livestreamed concerts, funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council, has found artists are overwhelmingly positive about the power of reaching new audiences through virtual shows, even post-pandemic.
The research, led by Middlesex University and King’s College London, also offers insight into fan experiences of and expectations for livestreamed events and detailed advice on the technical and legal aspects of livestreaming.
The findings of the research project, which surveyed nearly 1,500 musicians and fans in the UK, include:
- 90% of musicians and 92% of fans agree livestreaming will in future be a successful tool to reach audiences unable or unwilling to go to physical venues. Over two thirds of those surveyed agreed livestreaming will remain an important part of the landscape after the pandemic
- 72% of live music fans and 74% of musicians agree that livestreamed performances should be paid for. In addition, 62% of fans say the cost of paywalls for livestreamed shows aren’t a barrier. 78% of fans would be prepared to pay for a livestreamed show by an artist who is offering some other livestreamed content for free
- 95% of fans say emotional engagement from the artist during livestreamed concerts is important to them. 82% agreed that performers acknowledging individuals’ presence in the audience during a live stream made them feel connected
For their research, investigators also interviewed four concert promoters and an industry charity, and invited 200 music venues to send out the survey. Project partners included the Musicians’ Union, the Incorporated Society of Musicians, Music Venue Trust and promoter Serious.
The findings, however, conflict with a recent survey by trade body LIVE which found just 25% of fans will continue to engage with live streams after the pandemic period.
Over two thirds of those surveyed agreed livestreaming will remain an important part of the landscape after the pandemic
The project’s principal investigator, Middlesex University senior lecturer in music business and arts management Julia Haferkorn, says: “There were numerous comments from attenders unable to visit physical venues, even in non-pandemic times, expressing their appreciation of the availability of livestreamed concerts. Attenders also expressed an appreciation for being able to watch concerts by artists from other countries.”
“The most interesting insight from our research is the important role that livestreaming plays in giving music fans who suffer from social anxiety or other health-related issues access to live music performance,” adds study co-author Brian Kavanagh, lecturer in digital innovation at King’s College London.
Another co-author, pianist and Middlesex University lecturer in popular music Sam Leak, comments: “Our research has highlighted how important it is for audience members to be able to communicate with, and feel connected to, each other and the musicians performing. As a performer, this finding is interesting to me not only because it impacts my livestreaming practice, but also because it could well enhance the experience of my audiences in physical venues.”
The full report, which was published this morning (12 May), is available from www.livestreamingmusic.uk.
This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.
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UK festival pilot builds hope for reopening
A successful outcome from yesterday’s 5,000-person Sefton Park Pilot in Liverpool will provide a lifeline to the entire UK live music business by proving that festivals can go ahead safely with no social distancing this summer, organiser Melvin Benn has said.
Featuring music from Zuzu, the Lathums and Blossoms, the one-day music festival took place on 2 May as part of the British government’s Events Research Programme (ERP), following two 3,000-person club nights, dubbed The First Dance, held at Liverpool’s Bramley-Moore Dock on 30 April and 1 May. Like all ERP events, there was no requirement to socially distance or wear a face covering at the three pilots, though all ticketholders required a negative Covid-19 test to gain entry.
Festival Republic MD Benn described the model as a “prototype” to reopen the industry after more than a year without any significant live music events. “Will we always need it? I hope not,” he told IQ, “but we’ve learnt a lot and we’re ready to pass it onto the industry.”
For the Sefton Park event, attendees and guests underwent a supervised lateral-flow test (LFT) at a local tennis centre up to 32 hours before the event. Each test was registered directly with the National Health Service (NHS), and results communicated via text and email within 30 minutes, with a negative test result activating each ticket. An additional testing site was positioned directly outside Sefton Park.
Testing for staff, guests and press was overseen by Caroline Giddings and Solo Agency, one of a number of live music businesses to offer its support to the event, which was pulled together in the space of three weeks. (That’s not quite a record, said Benn – the One Love Manchester show with Ariana Grande was organised in even less time – but it was “pretty quick!”.)
“It’s important for the industry … that events like this happen”
In addition to Festival Republic, “there are people working on it from SJM, from DF, from Cream, from Isle of Wight Festival – it’s a bit of an industry effort,” explained DF Concerts’ Geoff Ellis. “It’s important for the industry and for fans that events like this happen to help us get there.”
For Ellis, who described Sefton Park Pilot as a “monumental occasion”, it was “really surreal being here because it feels dreamlike,” he said. “You’re seeing people from the industry and you bump into them and you’re wondering, ‘Wow, is this really happening?’”
Speaking to IQ, Benn related the event in similar terms, saying organisers, fans and artists alike were conscious of participating in a “historic moment” paving the way towards an overdue return to something approaching normality.
Benn is as confident as he was in summer 2020 that rapid testing (now coupled with vaccinations) is the key to unlocking the return of live events. “It’s something I’ve been saying since June last year, and it’s taken a long time for government to listen, but I think they do believe in it now,” he explained. “They did have faith in this [Sefton Park Pilot], and certainly [from conversations with] the scientific teams from government and outside of government that I’ve been working with, the modelling of this seems to suggest to me that it can work.”
“What we are learning is that a festival isn’t going to need to look different to how it did look, or behave different to how it behaved,” pre-coronavirus, he continued. “Putting on a festival, as any festival promoter will tell you, is a series of hurdles, and we’ve all learnt how to jump every single hurdle that’s ever put in front of us. Covid one is another one. We’ll find ways of overcoming.”
The other hurdle at present, of course, is the non-availability of event cancellation insurance, though Benn expects more news on that front in the coming weeks.
“What we are learning is that a festival needn’t look different to how it did”
“The government provided insurance for this event, to give us the backing we needed, and in doing so they demonstrated there’s a need for insurance,” he explained. “There’s a team working very hard to find a way […] out of this, and hopefully by the beginning of June there’ll be something in place.”
As in Barcelona, where a recent pilot arena show demonstrated a lower incidence of Covid-19 than in the city as a whole, Sefton Park Pilot needn’t record zero cases to be considered a success, Benn continued. “It’s not necessarily about no infections,” he said. “The ideal outcome is that there is no greater spread of the virus in Liverpool than there already was. We want to prove you can have these events and it doesn’t present a greater risk to the area than already exists.”
While interim findings from the ERP events will be reported to the prime minister in a matter of weeks, Benn revealed that a second FR-organised outdoor pilot show is in the pipeline. While details are yet to be announced, it will likely be similar in format to Sefton Park Pilot, and “greenfield, for certain”, according to Benn.
Like Sefton Park Pilot, that second pilot event will again mobilise an army of festival staff and music fans in numbers not seen since the summer of 2019. But Benn, like everyone involved with the pilots, is hopeful those events won’t be a one-off.
“There have been a huge amount of people who made the effort to give up their time for this, and they all put an enormous amount of work into it,” he said. “So what we’re learning, we want to tell everybody – because this is for the whole industry.”
IQ 99 out now: NFT ticketing tech & more
IQ 99, the latest issue of the international live music industry’s favourite monthly magazine, is available to read online now.
In May’s edition, IQ examines the hype around nonfungible tokens and the exciting possibilities they can bring to ticketing, while news editor Jon Chapple discovers some of the ways that live entertainment can embrace sustainability in its return to action.
In comments and columns, the Australian Festivals Association’s Julia Robinson discusses how a lack of government-backed insurance could impact business confidence and Laura Davidson explains the driving force behind her new female-led live services consultancy, Amigas.
Following the inaugural edition of IPM Production Notes in IQ 98, tour manager Rebecca Travis reflects on 20 years on the road and one year off, while Mike Malak updates readers on the new technology impacting the music industry in Pulse.
Plus, enjoy the regular content you’ve come to expect from your monthly IQ Magazine, including news and new agency signings – the majority of which will appear online in some form in the next four weeks.
Whet your appetite with the preview below, but if you can’t wait for your fix of essential live music industry features, opinion and analysis, click here to subscribe now and receive IQ 99 in its entirety. Subscribers can log in and read the full magazine now.
Plotting the path back: Live music tests its mettle
Historically, the live music business has relied on an army of creative minds to deliver once-in a-lifetime experiences for fans, but as the industry slowly starts to emerge from an enforced shutdown, professionals are turning to the scientific community to help kick-start live events.
Statisticians and epidemiologists have been key players in government policy to put a lid on the spread of Covid-19, and with international studies proving that various vaccines are even more effective than originally thought, the events industry is hoping scientists can help map out the best way to reintroduce live entertainment to society.
In the UK, such high-profile occasions as the Brit Awards on 11 May and the FA Cup Final on 15 May are being run as test events to showcase various Covid-safe systems, procedures and products that will help pave the way to arenas and stadia reopening – and that’s in addition to dedicated pilot shows such as this weekend’s 5,000-cap. Blossoms show in Liverpool, organised by Festival Republic. Across the North Sea in the Netherlands, meanwhile, a series of test events are being run by Fieldlab Events, a government-backed initiative that has represented the events sector during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Elsewhere, test events have been held recently in Barcelona and Berlin; programmes are being discussed in the likes of Denmark and Greece (where a collaboration of rap acts are working on a solution); and in Germany, a group of scientists, health experts and doctors have created a set of guidelines to enable the gradual return of audiences to cultural and sporting events.
Biosecurity Systems uses robotic cleaners and other integrated technology and services to diminish the risk of Covid-19 and other epidemic infections in tourism destinations, public buildings (such as airports) and sporting events.
Company CEO Dr Paul Twomey says the test events that the industry is relying on to plot its return to action need to deliver results that convince scientists and politicians, but crucially the proof will also be vital to restore confidence among consumers. “One of the bosses of a major arena operation told me that they were not in the business of trying to convince the kids; they are in the business of trying to convince the parents of those kids that it will be safe when their children come back home to see grandma after a show,” he notes.
Indeed, the Biosecurity Systems founder notes that being able to list a series of precautionary measures could also be crucial in persuading artists to return to live work – especially those from North America. “The Americans are a lot more risk conscious and litigious, so acts based in the states are going to be cautious not only for themselves but because they live in a different liability environment, they’re going to want to know that people have taken all the steps that they can to minimise any prospect of negligence claims,” notes Twomey. “Due diligence is going to be important.”
“Arenas are in the business of trying to convince the parents of kids that it will be safe when their children come back home to see grandma after a show”
Test event programmes
When the coronavirus first started shutting down events last March, most people in the industry (if they are honest) thought the ‘pause’ would last a matter of weeks. When it became apparent that was not the case, promoters and venue operators in a number of nations were granted permission to run test events to prove that live entertainment could still continue, despite the virus.
As successful as those initial tests were, the fact that strict social distancing had to be implemented meant that venue capacities were slashed, making shows financially unviable. However, thanks to the thousands of scientists around the world who have been studying the virus, the test events that are being held in 2021 are benefitting from a whole host of new technology and protocol that is geared toward showing that the live entertainment industry can reopen its doors with minimal risk of Covid-19 transmission.
Individual companies have been formulating their own plans to mitigate Covid transmission – for example, ASM Global’s VenueShield is being rolled out across the group’s 325 venues worldwide in an effort to provide “the highest levels of safety, security and consumer confidence, in alignment with approvals from local government officials and health care experts.”
In Israel, where the majority of the population has now had both Covid-19 vaccinations, a new passport or ‘green pass’ has been introduced by the ministry of health that has to be shown before fans are admitted to concerts and other gatherings, although such events are still subject to capacity limits. The certificate, which can also be presented virtually on a mobile device, confirms the holder has received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which has been preferred by the Israeli government.
On 5 March, local star Ivri Lider performed to an audience of 500 fans at the 30,000-capacity Bloomfield Stadium in a concert that was organised by the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality, which governs the city. Although those fans were not socially distanced, they were all seated and were required to wear face masks.
Thanks to the success of that pilot, up to 1,000 people were soon allowed into indoor events in the country, and 1,500 for open-air shows, provided all attendees have a green pass. However, those capacity limits came with caveats as they only applied to venues that normally can seat more than 10,000 people. For smaller venues, a capacity of 500 still exists for indoors, while smaller outdoor spaces are limited to 750 fans.
The green pass programme has quickly been adopted nationwide, with Israeli restaurants, hotels, cafés, gyms and shops allowed to reopen without social distancing restrictions provided patrons can prove they have had both doses of the vaccine, and seated venues are now able to welcome up to 4,000 people for indoor shows.
The green pass programme has quickly been adopted nationwide, with Israeli restaurants, hotels, cafés, gyms and shops allowed to reopen without social distancing
In the UK, all hoped are currently pinned to the results of the forthcoming Events Research Programme (ERP), which will examine scientific findings from a dozen pilot events over the coming weeks in order to gauge the viability of large-scale events without having to impose social distancing on audiences.
Depending on the results of the ERP, the UK may see a return to full-capacity concerts, shows, sports, festivals and other events as early as June, with the UK prime minister’s roadmap to recovery naming 21 June as the date when all restrictions on indoor gatherings are set to be lifted. Before that (from 17 May), outdoor gatherings will be permitted with audiences of up to 10,000 people, under that roadmap strategy.
“These test events will be crucial in finding ways to get fans and audiences back in safely without social distancing,” stated Dowden. “We will be guided by the science and medical experts, but will work flat out to make that happen. We want to get the people back to enjoying what they love and ensure some of our most important growth industries get back on their feet.”
Experts in the Netherlands have been running a testing regime called Back to Live for a number of weeks. Dutch tests have used Amsterdam’s Ziggo Dome (17,000-cap.) , where 1,300 participants were given access to a dance event featuring a number of DJs, and a similar number enjoyed a concert by André Hazes. Those events, organised by Mojo and ID&T, ran from 3pm till 7pm in order to comply with the nationwide curfew (9pm to 4.30am), which had been in place since January.
The promoters of the Ziggo Dome shows report that 100,000 people applied for tickets, providing further evidence of public support for the industry’s revival. Those who were successful were required to produce proof of a negative Covid-19 test within 48 hours of doors opening. Those applicants who received a positive test, which amounted to 12 people, were not admitted. Those who did attend were asked to take another test five days after the shows, while the Back to Live guidelines ensured that the movements of event participants were tracked and traced.
The Dutch testing scheme has been heralded as one of the most comprehensive yet. Attendees for the Ziggo Dome shows were divided into five ‘bubbles’ of 250 people, plus one of 50, each of which had to comply with different rules to test different spectator scenarios.
Additionally, one group was reportedly given a fluorescent drink and encouraged to sing along to the music, so that scientists could monitor the levels of saliva being spread.
“These test events will be crucial in finding ways to get fans and audiences back in safely”
Speaking to media, Tim Boersma, of Fieldlab, said, “We hope this can lead to a tailor-made reopening of venues. Measures are now generic, allowing for instance a maximum of 100 guests at any event if coronavirus infections drop to a certain level. We hope for more specific measures, such as allowing the Ziggo Dome to open at half its capacity.”
The Back to Live series has also included a simulated conference environment with 500 people and two music festivals on the site usually used by Lowlands Festival in Biddinghuizen, with future events including the Eurovision Song Contest in May. The behavioural data gathered at the pilot events will inform governmental decisions on the easing of restrictions in the Netherlands as the country plots its way out of lockdown, which has seen a ban on gatherings of more than 100 people for more than a year.
In Spain, a concert by chart-toppers Love of Lesbian on 27 March at the Palau Sant Jordi arena has been hailed as a success, with the non-socially distanced format presenting no increased risk to the 5,000 fans present, according to doctors.
Audience members were given three locations in Barcelona where they could take a rapid antigen test on the morning of the show. Test results were communicated in a matter of minutes via an app on their phones and only a handful of people tested positive, with those fans banned from the concert but refunded. The ticket price covered the cost of the Covid test, while attendees were also provided with a mask as part of the package.
At the Palau Sant Jordi, the show was delayed due to the strict health controls at the entrance, but with the audience all wearing masks, the event was heralded as a great success.
The planning for that show reportedly persuaded organisers of Barcelona festival Cruïlla to proceed with plans for its 8–10 July 2021 festival, despite fellow Parc del Fòrum festival Primavera Sound cancelling its 10–12 June activities. The proposed Cruïlla is a step forward from last year when the festival pivoted to host a series of socially distanced concerts, Cruïlla XXS, in place of its usual 25,000-capacity gathering.
While shows in Israel have required proof of full vaccination, Cruïlla promoter Barcelona Events Musicals will allow vaccination proof as well as depending on a rapid testing programme to create a “sanitary bubble” of healthy festival- goers. The company is confident that that will deliver a full-capacity festival, with no social distancing restrictions for attendees who have bought tickets to see the likes of Two Door Cinema Club, Editors, Morcheeba, Of Monsters and Men, and local acts Kase.O, and Natos y Waor.
In nearby Canet del Mar, the annual Canet Rock extravaganza on 3 July is planning wide-ranging measures including rapid tests, mandatory masks, a trace-and-track app, and a scheme to enlarge the festival site to provide extra space for its 50,000 visitors.
“We hope this can lead to a tailor-made reopening of venues”
Despite calling time for the second year in a row, Primavera Sound Festival has been at the forefront of activities to try to reopen the events sector in Spain. In addition to a series of 70 small gigs last summer, Primavera partnered with Hospital Germans Trias i Pujol and the Fight AIDS Foundation to conduct a test event in Barcelona’s Apolo venue last October. The show saw 1,000 fans trial a situation that coupled temperature testing with a rapid testing scheme, before watching the concert wearing face masks.
That pilot show was considered a success as the venue introduced additional ventilation and the study concluded that people should be able to begin attending live events again, as long as similar measures were followed. For 2021, the Primavera team is organising a second round of shows in late April, where over the course of a week the likes of Swedish singer-songwriter José González, Seville collective Califato ¾ and Derby Motoreta’s Burrito Kachimba will entertain fans at Barcelona’s Coliseum Theatre.
In Denmark, the live music industry’s ‘restart team’ has submitted a catalogue of recommendations on the reopening of the cultural and sports sectors to the ministry of culture for government approval. The ten-person team – which includes Esben Marcher (Dansk Live), Signe Lopdrup (Roskilde Festival Group) and Sara Indrio (Danish Artist Association) from the music sector – has met with more than 80 key stakeholders across the two sectors to determine how the government should allocate its DKK 50million (€7m) fund.
Among its recommendations are:
- Form an advisory expert group composed of members of the culture and sports sectors, which will maintain dialogue between the sector, authorities and the government, and assist in the preparation of a fact-based long-term opening plan
- Launch a nationwide campaign, immediately after reopening the entire cultural and sports sectors, to celebrate the restart. The team has recommended that the government arranges a nationwide festival, and sets aside DKK 2m (€0.3m), for this purpose
- Back the implementation of SAFE (Sars-CoV-2 antigen testing of fans before events in Denmark), which is a large-scale study of Covid-19 antigen testing of the public prior to matches in the 3F Superliga. The estimated cost is DKK 5m (€0.7m)
- Create an ‘innovation laboratory’, bolstered by DKK 6m (€0.8m), which will develop new digital formats, technologies and initiatives for parts of each sector that have difficulty reopening – principally crowd management solutions for live music events
- Collect data to understand citizens’ concerns, considerations and motivations in relation to cultural and sports life in the wake of Covid-19 and make the information publicly available so the sectors can make informed choices of how to restart. DKK 500,000 (€67,000) has been suggested for this recommendation
- Set aside DKK 36.5m (€4.5m) for the development and testing of new formats for culture and sports, which will enable a safe return.
The team has also made a number of recommendations that require a longer-term effort and/or funding that is outside the allocated DKK 50m. As a result, various schemes, such as compensation funding and a government-backed insurance guarantee, were tabled, as was the suggestion of ongoing compensation for those who have to wait longer to open.
Dansk Live’s Marcher says: “We have gone for broad, embracing proposals that can benefit all actors, which, of course, means that recommendations are not necessarily directly aimed at live organisers. However, I think it is positive that the SAFE project on quick tests is included in recommendations, just as it is positive that there is a focus on pushing for innovation in culture and sports.”
Roskilde’s Lopdrup, who is deputy chairman of the restart team, says: “Our recommendations certainly do not solve all the challenges, but I hope they can help inspire and open up new opportunities for the players and thus pave the way for the reopening of cultural and sports life, so we can meet about the community-creating experiences again.”
Earlier this week, the group said it now looks unlikely there will be major music festivals in Denmark this summer, as the “work [was] started too late”, although it is hoped there will still be at least one test event sometime this year.
“If you say to consumers that there’s going to be a bit more expense as we try to sort things out, I think consumers will live with that”
All who rely on the live entertainment business for their livelihoods will be anxiously awaiting the results of those test show schemes to gauge when they might conceivably get back to work. For its part, and despite zero revenue streams, the industry at large has been investing significant time and money into creating protocols that will allow doors to reopen, to meet the huge demand for entertainment that has been underlined by the frenzy for festival tickets apparent in the UK.
And those protocols could be a vital part of the business into 2022 and beyond, according to Twomey of Biosecurity Systems. “The population might slowly be beginning to understand that the vaccine does not solve Covid,” he says. “It certainly diminishes it, and the death rates and hospitalisation numbers will ease, but the disease problem is not going to go away and the variety of issues around that are going to continue to exist. “The real question for the industry, particularly in Europe, is can they get to a position where they can show sufficiently diminished risk to the extent that public health authorities – and agents and artists – are willing to adopt that risk. If that’s the pertinent question, then I can see a tiered pathway forward.”
Twomey believes venues should be able to show that the risk profile of the people they are inviting into an event is well known and “less than the average risk elsewhere in the environment”. Using Israel’s green pass scheme as an example, he comments, “I can see the same thing happening in Europe built around showing similar types of passes or passports that show that the holder has been inoculated or has recently had a PCR test. The mix between those two is going to vary country by country.
“At ILMC, one of the things I was taken with was some of the festival people saying they would not consider vaccine passports because it was against their beliefs. Obviously, I’m not close to their business or the people that attend their events, but my immediate thought is that those events won’t be returning to business as quickly as those who do implement such guidelines. Put simply, if you’re not willing to make the effort to shift and know your risk, then that’s not going to solve any problems.”
Citing such measures as air purification, disinfection of surfaces, obligatory mask usage, and audience testing, screening and contact tracing, Twomey draws parallels with the anti-terrorism precautions introduced by airports in the aftermath of 9/11, where, ultimately, travellers bore the cost. “The difference between this and terrorism is that everybody now has changed their behaviour, whereas there was only a small percentage of the population who went through airports regularly,” he observes. “With Covid, everyone has been through it and everyone understands it. Therefore, if you say to consumers that there’s going to be a bit more expense as we try to sort things out, personally I think consumers will live with that.”
Twomey concludes, “It’s going to cost a bit more money but probably not as much as people think. But people are going to have to do something. If your model is I’m going to sit and wait, that’s fine, but plan for the second quarter of 2022… maybe.”
This feature has been edited since first appearing in the digital edition of IQ 97. Read the original piece below:
This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.
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Spain pilot shows no impact on Covid-19 spread
Festivals per la Cultura Segura, the organiser of the recent pilot concert in Barcelona on 27 March, today announced that the event had no impact on Covid-19 transmission among attendees, despite the lack of social distancing observed at the 5,000-person show.
Having analysed the data, doctors from the show’s medical partners (the Germans Trias Hospital and Fight Aids and Infectious Diseases Foundation), who observed the event, have concluded that the indoor concert setting did not increase the coronavirus risk – with concertgoers exhibiting a lower incidence of Covid-19 than the general population in Barcelona at the time.
Taking place at the 17,000-capacity Palau Sant Jordi Arena, the event saw popular local rock act Love of Lesbian perform to an audience of 4,994 fans, all of whom had tested negative for Covid-19 on the day (six people were turned away after testing positive). While the use of a medical-grade FFP2 mask was mandatory, there was no social distancing among fans, who were separated into three areas, once the show got underway.
Compliance with the measures that were in place – such as the mask mandate, the three concert zones and a regulated flow of people around common areas such as bars and the toilets – was “scrupulous”, say organisers.
Of the 4,592 concert attendees who gave consent for the doctors to analyse Covid-19 tests taken after the event, six people tested positive for Covid-19 within 14 days of the show. All six cases had mild symptoms, or were asymptomatic, and no secondary transmission was observed; additionally, analysis suggests that four of the cases originated outside the concert.
“We will continue to work under the guidance of the scientific community to make further progress”
The six cases, say the scientists, represent a cumulative incidence (at 14 days after the show) of 130.7 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 inhabitants. Compared to Barcelona as a whole, this is lower than the 259.5 cases/100,000 people in the city’s population at the time.
In a statement, Festivals per la Cultura Segura – comprising Primavera Sound, Sónar, Cruïlla, Canet Rock, TheProject and Vida Festival – say they view the experiment “very positively”, stating their intention to use the lessons of the Love of Lesbian show to push for the safe return of full-capacity live concerts.
“We will continue to work under the guidance of the scientific community in order to make further progress,” they say. “The aim is for this established model to generate new proposals within the framework of a strategic plan of pilot studies, such as the one carried out on 27 March at the Palau Sant Jordi.”
The Palau St Jordi show is the latest scientifically monitored pilot show to conclude concerts do not increase the rate of Covid-19 transmission, following similar events in Germany (Restart-19 in Leipzig and a test show at Dortmund’s Konzerthaus) and elsewhere in Barcelona (Primacov at Sala Apolo).
Watch the the event’s aftermovie, which includes on-the-day interviews with the organisers and fans (with English subtitles), below:
This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.
Barcelona to provide grants for summer 2021 shows
As part of ‘Barcelona Never Stops’, the Spanish city’s post-pandemic recovery plan, Barcelona city council has announced half a million euros’ worth of subsidies for ‘large-format’ concerts in the city this summer.
The €500,000 in grants will go towards the cost of promoting shows at two of Barcelona’s most celebrated open-air venues, the Parc del Fòrum (home to festivals including Primavera Sound and Cruïlla) and the Anella Olímpica (Olympic Ring), the complex built for 1992 Olympic games.
Jaume Collboni, first deputy mayor of Barcelona, says the grants aim to help the city “regain [its] leadership as the capital of live music in southern Europe”.
The concerts organised as part of the initiative, which must place at one of the two venues between 20 May and 30 September, will follow a Covid-secure format, taking place outdoors with social distancing and mask wearing, and are expected to have a capacity of between 1,000 and 3,000, says the council.
“Barcelona wants to regain leadership as the capital of live music in southern Europe”
To be eligible for a grant, promoters must have a confirmed date at one of the venues, after which they will be reimbursed 40% of the costs of the show. Grants will be given on a first-come, first-served basis until the €0.5m fund is exhausted.
Application forms may be downloaded from the Barcelona City Council website.
The Association of Music Promoters (APM) welcomes the announcement, with spokesperson Tito Ramoneda saying the subsidies show that Barcelona is serious about retaining its crown as a music capital.
“This is very good news,” says Ramoneda. “Barcelona has historically been a city that has welcomed music in all senses; undoubtedly music is part of its identity. It it is a very powerful sector economically speaking – therefore, it must be protected and a path to normality sought.”
Under cover operations: Insuring live music in 2021
The fact that more than 350 delegates tuned in to participate in the specialist insurance session at this year’s ILMC underlines the live entertainment industry’s drive to return to normality, albeit with the reasonable caveat that their risks are insured should restrictions on mass gatherings be reintroduced due to Covid.
“Insurance in the past has always been a dirty word: nobody gave a damn and that was always reflected in the show contracts,” states Martin Goebbels of broker Miller Insurance. “Either nobody looked at, or perhaps understood the full implications of show contract cancellation and force majeure clauses until volcanic ash and a couple of instances after that – terrorism particularly.
“Obviously, Covid has just blown everything out of the water and people are suddenly realising that insurance can be important. But insurance runs in line with contract terms so it is vital to get both in sync.”
The business, however, has never been trickier. Insurers globally lost more than £8 billion (€9.3bn) in the past year because of the pandemic – £2.6bn (€3bn) of which was incurred by Lloyds of London alone.
“41% of Covid losses last year were as a result of event cancellation”
Understandably, insurers are, therefore, reluctant to offer any future Covid cover, leaving event organisers high and dry when it comes to including the coronavirus as part of their event cancellation coverage.
In a number of markets, notably Austria, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, the industry has been able to persuade government to set aside funds to provide an insurance stop-gap should events have to be cancelled because of a new wave of Covid cases, while trade bodies – and, indeed, the traditional insurance market – elsewhere around the world are lobbying authorities to create similar schemes that would allow the beleaguered live events business to get back on its feet.
Tim Thornhill of specialist brokers Tysers Insurance has played a lead role in the ongoing negotiations between the UK government and the country’s live music and event businesses.
He notes, “41% of Covid losses last year were as a result of event cancellation, so that is one of the key reasons that the commercial insurance market is not in a position at this moment and does not have the appetite to write Covid-related risks. That’s one of the critical reasons why we have been working alongside other brokers in the live music sector to ask UK government to provide a government-backed insurance solution.”
“Covid aside, over the past couple of years the contingency insurance market took some massive hits”
Tysers’ efforts have included employing professional lobbyists and PR firms, months of conversations with the Treasury and other government departments, and complex modelling developed with the live music sector, including umbrella trade organisation LIVE.
Goebbels explains that the landscape for live events coverage had already started thinning prior to the pandemic. “If you put Covid to one side, over the past couple of years the contingency insurance market took some massive hits,” he says.
“Certainly in the UK – which is generally recognised as the centre of the insurance industry – on the music contingency side and cancellation insurance side, there were about half a dozen insurers pulled out of writing that class of business prior to Covid, because their losses on adverse weather, illness and other reasons had increased in recent years.
“More insurers have now pulled out because of Covid. But there are glimmers of hope, as there are some new markets that have expressed an interest in coming in. [But] quite often in the past we’ve had people who want to get involved in what they see as a glamorous business, dip their toe in the market, find they have some losses, and then get twitchy and withdraw again.”
“The contingency market recovers well and they are already open for business”
That’s a dilemma underlined by Paul Twomey, director of contingency insurance at broker, Gallagher. “Some new companies have seen this as an opportunity to make money because rates are going up and exclusions are going onto the policies; there are definitely some chancers out there who can see this as a potential way to make a quick buck,” he warns. “But because nobody is buying, it’s very much up in the air as to whether these new players will stick around.”
Thankfully, the news isn’t all bleak. Edel Ryan, sports entertainment & media industry head of strategic business development UK&I for specialist brokers Marsh, observes that although a number of insurance companies have withdrawn from live entertainment cover, the expertise on the underwriting side has not been lost.
“While some key insurers have formally exited from the entertainment industry, those experts and teams have moved and turned up in new places,” Ryan tells IQ. “The contingency market recovers well and they are already open for business, providing terms where although the cover may have changed, the rates are kinder than we would have expected.”
The insurance industry’s losses amount to about 13 years worth of premiums
With the insurance industry’s losses amounting to about 13 years worth of premiums, EC3 broker James Davies sums up the dilemma that live events find themselves in: “Traditionally, the contingency market generates something in the region of between £500-600million [€580-696m] per year in premiums, so it’s going to take a very long time to recover that income,” he says.
Indeed, Twomey estimates it could take the insurance market an entire generation to claw back those sums. “If the insurers were to have a run with no other losses beginning today, they are telling us it would take 24 years to get back that money,” says Twomey.
Pragmatic in trying to encourage insurers to remain interested in the live music sector, Davies reveals why his company is in talks with government over a UK insurance scheme.
“One of the reasons we’re trying to structure something is to involve the insurance market so that they can still generate some income to recover, and they can underwrite some of the non-Covid risks that we need them to cover,” he says.
“With gov-backed insurance for costs aligning to the roadmap, the flow of money to the supply chain will unlock”
For his part, Tysers’ Thornhill observes, “Live music events and festivals are, understandably, unwilling to be the first to walk the plank and cancel their events in light of the unprecedented pent up demand and ticket sales following the announcement of the [UK] roadmap.”
Thornhill adds, “No festival wants to cancel, but might be forced to because of the result of the [UK’s Events Research Programme], safety concerns of organisers or a lack of confidence in the ability to pay suppliers in time and release deposits to the supply chain. With government-backed insurance for costs aligning to the roadmap, the flow of money to the supply chain will unlock, bringing many out of furlough to plan events in their industry.”
On 16 March, Denmark became the latest nation where the government proactively stepped in to assist promoters and event organisers, when it created a DKK 500m (€67.2m) safety net for festivals and major events, allowing organisers to plan for this summer without the financial risk posed by a potential Covid outbreak.
The safety net will cover organisers of recurring events with at least 350 participants (such as music festivals, sports fixtures, conferences and markets), as well as events that were planned before 6 March 2020, but will not include new events created during the pandemic.
“One of the problems insurers have for insuring something like a pandemic is the global losses”
Denmark’s move mirrors similar schemes in Germany (which has announced a €2.5bn fund); Austria’s €300m ‘protective umbrella’; a similar €300m pot in the Netherlands; Belgium’s €60m festival cancellation fund; Norway’s €34m festival safety net; and Estonia’s €6m risk fund for large-scale events.
A government scheme is also under consideration in France, it is reported. Although some of the announced schemes have delayed their start dates, to varying degrees the government support provides event organisers with peace of mind in case the Covid-19 situation results in cancellation, postponement or significant changes to their event. In effect, governments are plugging a hole that the traditional insurance market is not prepared to cover, at least in the short-term.
That’s a stance that Goebbels fully understands. “One of the problems insurers have for insuring something like a pandemic is the global losses – they’ve got no cap on how much they can lose, whereas on a regular tour it’s pretty much a finite amount. That’s why they are having an issue with it – they can’t just have a blank, open cheque book.”
EC3’s Davies agrees. “There are still policies in place that are covering Covid-related cancellation risks into the next three years, so insurers are still on risk for long-term policies. So that’s why the insurance industry has stepped back from underwriting Covid-related risks for cancellation,” he explains.
“Covid cover is actually available for individuals, but it only covers them”
Detailing some of the exclusions in the current insurance market, Davies states, “Covid cover on cancellation abandonment insurance for live events is not available. Forms of communicable disease insurance is available, while Covid cover is actually available for individuals, meaning you could buy individual Covid cover if you had a superstar who is going to attend, but it only covers them: it does not cover the cancellation of the event.”
In conjunction with Tysers, which has been leading efforts, EC3 has joined forces with some of the UK’s live entertainment trade associations in lobbying the Treasury and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) over the past nine months in the hope that they will fund a scheme similar to the one they have rolled out for film and TV production in the UK.
Crucial to that process, says Davies, is the collaboration of the insurance industry. “We feel that the insurers need to be engaged in order for them to create an element of premium income outside of Covid – in other words the bits that they can underwrite,” he says, noting that without any premiums more insurers will exit from the sector.
“We’re in discussions with gov about the details, but the aim is for it to cover costs across three specific areas”
Tysers’ Thornhill comments, “We’re in discussions with government about the details, but the aim is for it to cover the costs across three specific areas: a local authority shut down; the artists or crew not being able to turn up to allow the show to go ahead; and the third would be an enforced reduced capacity, so if, for example, the government limited maximum mass gatherings to 500 and 5,000 tickets had been sold, the policy would respond at that point.”
Film & TV compensation scheme
One company with invaluable experience in partnering with government is Marsh, which is administering the UK government’s Film and TV scheme.
Expressing her admiration for that scheme, Marsh’s Ryan tells IQ, “The DCMS and Treasury really did their homework with regards to engagement with the insurance industry – brokers and insurance companies – as well as engaging directly with the client sector, associations, broadcasters and independent production companies. They spoke to us because we have clients active in this space and it’s an area where we have expertise, as is live music, as is sports.”
“[DCMS and the Treasury] have proven that they listen and will find a way, if there is a way to do it”
She explains, “What we’ve done, which is a little bit different to how we would work with our clients, is that we’ve assembled a team who are not necessarily experts in this space but are experts in the intention, the purpose, the rules and the criteria of this scheme, and that’s what was important. We were also able to put plans in place should there be a tsunami of enquiries, which we were primed to expect.”
However, the Marsh team was not initially inundated with calls. “The applications in the beginning were slow, but they’ve picked up because of the extensions that have been put in place, which have made the application much more feasible for production schedules,” says Ryan.
Describing the scheme as a compensation scheme, rather than insurance, Ryan says, “For the industry it’s a first. It’s set the standard and I am not at all surprised that live music and live entertainment is looking toward that and appealing to the DCMS and Treasury to replicate it or extend it beyond its scope.
“The film scheme is far easier to underwrite because film sets by their very nature are enclosed environments”
“If the government were to do it, I think they have a model to be able to shape it very quickly. And what the DCMS and Treasury have also proven is that they are willing and able to work with industry. They’ve already extended the film and TV scheme four times, and they’ve extended some of its cover beyond the original intention to things like the over 70s. So they’ve proven that they listen and will find a way, if there is a way to do it.”
While the UK government’s stop-gap for the film and TV sectors provides a glimmer of hope for the country’s live events business, brokers are at pains to stress that the industries operate to very different standards, with those IQ spoke to believing it is 50-50 as to whether government departments will establish a similar programme for concerts and festivals.
Goebbels observes, “The film scheme is far easier for the government to underwrite because film sets by their very nature are enclosed environments that don’t rely on the public or an audience. So for film it’s far clearer as they can put themselves into a bubble or isolated set situation and carry on their business. Any event reliant on an audience is a very different proposition.”
“We need everyone in the supply chain to be supported and [a government fund] would do that”
Davies believes that even if a government scheme is approved, it will still take some time to establish. “If the government gives a green light, we then have to work on the structure in order to put the indemnity scheme together and we’ve been advised that would take between six to eight weeks from the green light,” says Davies.
Thornhill is hopeful. “The government does understand, from the conversations that we have had, that there is a need, so we are hopeful that something will come out,” he says. “We need everyone in the supply chain to be supported and [a government fund] would do that.”
At Marsh, Ryan is also hopeful that the government could provide the live entertainment sector with the same kind of support it has extended to film and television production companies. And she sees a series of upcoming pilot shows as being crucial to persuading politicians.
“There seems to be a determination by the industry and the government to make this happen,” says Ryan.
“I think those [test] events will set the standard in regards to how things can be done safely”
“I believe there are test events planned, and I think those events will set the standard in regards to how things can be done safely. They will influence things like capacity and audience numbers. I also think the speed and success in the way the vaccinations are being rolled out is going to be a significant factor.”
Making a compelling case for state-sponsored help, Thornhill says, “The commercial insurance market does not have an incentive to put its neck and money on the line when there is so much insecurity around Covid. But the gov- ernment does have an incentive.
“If it put down a fund now, then it would only have £400m [€463m] of exposure, but that could generate £9bn [€10.4bn] in economic value added to the UK economy across the course of the year. So the government’s risk reward is much greater because it will be rewarded by companies not going out of business and economic activity in certain sectors.”
“Communicable disease and Covid are going to be at the forefront, and other areas coming into it now”
Backing up that assertion, Ryan says, “What I read recently from the [British Film Institute] was they believe that close to £1bn [€1.2bn] in production costs have happened because of this scheme, supporting over 25,000 jobs.”
The main difference between industries is obvious, but there are other factors at play according to Ryan. “Of course, film and TV is not reliant on a mass audience,” she says, “but prior to the fund being announced they had also proven that they were able to get back to work. However, the single barrier that was preventing other projects was insurance,” she adds, again drawing parallels with the situation in which events organisers find themselves.
Covid aside, the insurance market for live events has never been more complex. “It’s going to be a tough market, certainly for the next year or two,” warns Goebbels. “Communicable disease and Covid are going to be at the forefront, and other areas coming into it now are things like cyber insurance, where insurers can see potential global losses and they have to find a way to cap their losses as they go along.”
“Everyone is going to have to work out where their responsibility lies with the person they are contracting to”
Goebbels also notes with interest the way in which the industry has made fundamental changes in its operations. “Live Nation made a clear statement by announcing proposed changes to their show contracts: if the show happens, the artist gets paid; if the show doesn’t happen, for any reason, they don’t. That’s it. It’s very clear and skips all the grey areas from previous contract as to when a promoter must pay an artist or not.
“So the artist will then have to draw up their own deals with suppliers and the promoter in turn, whether that’s with venues or advertisers or sponsors or whatever else it may be. Everyone down the line is going to have to work out where their responsibility lies with the person they are contracting to. That’s going to be a lot of work and maybe needs some legal input somewhere down the line.”
Thornhill points out that it’s not just the contingency market that is seeing an increase in premiums – it’s many classes of business. “We’re going into a hard market now, which means that the premiums are going to be increasing across many of the insurance policies that those in the industry purchase,” he says.
“This is not a competitive market, so my message to clients is choose your broker well and talk to them early”
“There is a lot of change going on in the insurance market at the moment and we, as brokers, have got to be mindful of that and we have to make everyone who is buying from us aware of the changes that are happening.”
That’s a sentiment Marsh’s Ryan echoes. “This is not a competitive market, so my message to clients has not changed since day one: choose your broker well and talk to your broker early,” she advises.
“With our clients, we make sure they have a relationship with their market, as well as having it with us. We make sure the client is involved in making sure the underwriter has a very good impression of what the event is, rather than what they think it might be. Those are significant factors in how underwriters will rate it and price it. And while rates are going up you want to make sure the client has as much faith in their market as they do in their broker.”
One monumental change of tune amongst the insurance community is the way they are working with clients to refund premiums. Gallagher’s Twomey explains, “One of the biggest issues that clients are concerned about is getting the money back if Covid does shut things down. They know they cannot claim for it, but can they get their premiums back?”
“Our message to clients is buy early”
That flexibility is proving helpful. “Pretty much everyone in the contingency world has agreed to premium cancellation clauses that work in favour of the client,” says Ryan. However, she says clients remain “hesitant” for fear of exposing themselves to sunken costs, meaning she and her colleagues are bracing for a deluge of enquiries as events begin to announce a return.
She adds, “Because the pandemic was declared so early in the year in 2020, many festivals were able to avoid a lot of sunken costs. That is a positive, but many festivals also were not insured because of their practice of purchasing insurance closer to the event. So our message to clients is buy early. The price is the price and each day closer to your event doesn’t reduce the cost – the cost is always going to be the same. So you should make insurance one of your first to-do’s.”
The fact that brokers’ phones and email inboxes are becoming more active again signals that confidence is slowly returning to the live entertainment industry.
Twomey says, “We’re starting to be hopeful for the back end of 2021. We’re quoting on some US events, dependent on the state where the event is taking place because of the way they are doing things: Texas has opened up; Florida never seemed to close down in the first place.
“Covid has certainly opened people’s eyes to the benefit of insurance”
“European-wise, international touring may be a no-no for this year, whereas UK artists doing a UK tour or French acts touring in France may be feasible. Later on this year I think we’ll see some of those starting to come through and that’s the way it will run for this year.”
But Twomey believes the increase in prices may dissuade some promoters from hosting events until 2022. “Margins were quite tight anyway for promoters, and if insurance is the thing that tips the margin into the negative because the rates have increased, then that’s going to be an issue,” he says. “On the other hand, Covid has certainly opened people’s eyes to the benefit of insurance, because with billions paid out, a lot of clients have benefitted from policies, so I like to think it’s concentrated minds on things.”
As for other areas of concern, Goebbels suggests that with the Queen in her 94th year, the prospect of a period of national mourning is becoming more of a reality – not just in the UK but also around the world in Commonwealth nations.
“It’s a sad reality that’s never happened in our lifetimes so we don’t know the full impact, but when it happens everyone will be looking to be paid. But I try to point out it is excluded by all standard cancellation policies as they have an age limit. We don’t know for sure whether the USA would have national mourning for a serving president but Biden now also exceeds insurers’ age limit. These are matters that many clients don’t take note of but no doubt when it happens will expect insurance to pay.”
“The market has failed, so the government have to step up”
And, of course, Brexit has also created untold issues, with many insurers having to establish European offices to adhere to legal requirements.
“As and when touring starts, we’re going to run into issues with visas and travel, because it is a requirement of all insurance policies that all arrangements are made in advance,” says Twomey, regarding Brexit. “If we arrive at a situation where a UK band cannot enter Germany because they don’t have the correct visas, or whatever, then the insurance policy would not respond because it’s warranted that all arrangements are made in advance.”
At EC3, Davies concludes that the entire future of insuring live events is in the balance, unless governments intervene. “The market has failed, so the government have to step up and insure this element of the contingency insurance policy that is not covered at the moment. The future of both the contingency market and UK live events relies on this,” he says.
Read this feature in its original format in the digital edition of IQ 97:
UK live industry states support for Covid certification
Live music, entertainment, exhibition, events and indoor sports associations and businesses have pledged their support for Covid-status certification as a means to fully reopen venues.
In an open letter, signatories including AEG Europe, the Entertainment Agents’ Association, Kilimanjaro Live, the Concert Promoters’ Association, Ticketmaster, ASM Global, the Association of Festival Organisers, NEC Group and umbrella body LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment) state they are willing to work with the British government to implement Covid-status certification – ie ensuring all attendees are free from Covid-19 – at venues in order to get the industry back on its feet safely.
The signatories note that while under the current ‘roadmap’ live shows may return from 17 May with social distancing, the limit of 50% capacity indoors is unviable for the vast majority of businesses, who require at least 80% capacity as the economic threshold for their events.
As an alternative to social distancing, they propose certification – not be confused with vaccine ‘passports’, the idea of which has proven controversial in the UK – that all eventgoers are either vaccinated against Covid-19; have natural immunity to the disease; or have had a negative test within a set period of time prior to arrival.
“The intention of Covid-status certification is to find a non-discriminatory solution that is safe, simple, protects privacy and doesn’t cause unnecessary delays”
“The intention of Covid-status certification,” they write, “is to find a non-discriminatory solution that is safe, simple, protects privacy and doesn’t cause unnecessary delays or a poor experience for visitors.”
The letter, which can be read in full below, is also signed by non-live music bodies including Plasa (the Professional Lighting and Sound Association), #WeMakeEvents, the Meetings Industry Association, the Event Supplier and Services Association, Badminton England and British Athletics.
The sectors represented say they would support a blanket industry-wide introduction of Covid-status certification on a temporary basis following the planned relaxation of all capacity limits from 21 June. “We would expect that any certification is imposed fairly across the economy, reviewed regularly and removed when it is safe to do so.”
While vaccine passports, such as Israel’s green pass, have enabled the resumption of live entertainment in some territories, they are controversial in the UK due to privacy concerns, as well as for perceived discrimination against the unvaccinated, with the opposition Labour party having taken a stand against their introduction.
The live events and music industry will work with the Government on COVID-status certification to support full reopening and sector recovery.
The live events and music industry which includes exhibitions; conferences; music arenas; festivals; theatres and indoor sporting events, welcomes the establishment of the Events Research Programme and the safe return of live events as part of the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown.
The industry is committed to working with the Government to ensure a swift delivery of the Event Research Programme’s pilot events and stands ready to establish protocols based upon the information and guidance they provide.
Under the current roadmap, the live events and music industry can plan for the return of some indoor business and music events from 17 May. These will follow social distancing guidelines and have attendance capped to the lower of 1,000 people or 50% of capacity indoors, 4,000 or 50% capacity outdoors and 10,000 or 25% capacity if seated outdoors. However, given the economic threshold for most business and music events is around 80% of maximum capacity, activities under these limits will be far from sufficient to end the sector’s financial crisis. This will also continue to have grave economic impacts on sectors that every live event supports, including but not limited to, hospitality, production, transport and logistics.
The Government’s reviews announced in the roadmap (COVID-status certification, social distancing, and the Events Research Programme) will explore different access control measures that businesses could be legally required to introduce. One that continues to be hotly debated in the press is the introduction of COVID-status certification. Not to be confused with the term ‘vaccination passports’, the simple premise is to reduce the likelihood of people who may be infected from attending events and ensure the safety of other attendees and event staff. This would be managed by ensuring that all attendees are either vaccinated OR have natural immunity OR have a negative COVID test within a set period of time prior to arrival. COVID tests are now available free of charge to all UK adults. The intention of COVID-status certification is to find a non-discriminatory solution that is safe, simple, protects privacy and doesn’t cause unnecessary delays or a poor experience for visitors.
The industry welcomes that the Events Research Programme is considering whether COVID-certification can be used as an enabler of all event types to return to capacity audiences, without masks or social distancing. We would support a blanket, industry-wide introduction of COVID-status certification on a temporary basis, to permit the full relaxation of capacity limits from 21 June, Stage Four of the Government’s roadmap. Implementation would be subject to the provision of clear and timely guidance from the Government, it being simple to understand and be of little cost to businesses. We would expect that any certification is imposed fairly across the economy, reviewed regularly, and removed when it is safe to do so.
The introduction of COVID-status certificates as a temporary measure could be a pragmatic solution that would enable events to resume at commercially viable attendance levels and will also give further confidence to customers that events are safe to attend.
We recognise there are many issues to be addressed including how the technology would work, its viability for use at a range of different events and related data protection issues, for both the attendees and the organisers. The industry is committed to working at speed with the Government to help address these issues over the coming weeks as part of its considerations. It is essential that the industry has visibility and certainty as soon as possible on the form this government guidance will take so that it is able to plan effectively. This is particularly important given many major live music and business events are planned from late June and onwards and the sector typically requires a lead time of anywhere between three to six months to successfully stage large scale, organised meetings, events and performances.
The live events and music industry is confident that if the introduction of a robust COVID-status certification programme is recommended by the Government to enable the full reopening of capacity events, together with other calibrated, evidence-based mitigation measures, it would provide safe environments for all visitors, staff and audiences. The industry is more than capable of implementing additional health and safety practices; working with the Government, this can be done if all parties take a timely and transparent approach.
Live events are a part of our nation’s DNA, enriching our culture and commerce, boosting the economy by over £70 billion per year. It is time for their return. We look forward to working with the Government in resuming live events in a safe and sustainable manner and ensuring their role in contributing to both the economic success and cultural wealth of the UK returns.
|Exhibition and Conferences|
Rupert Levy, Group Finance Director
|Harrogate Convention Centre
Paula Lorimer, Director
Paul Thandi CBE, Chief Executive Officer
|Association of Event Organisers (AEO)
Chris Skeith, Chief Executive Officer
|Hyve Group PLC
Mark Shashoua, Chief Executive Officer
Peter Jones, Chief Executive Officer
|Association of Event Venues (AEV)
Rachel Parker, Director
Paul Byrom, Managing Director
Nigel Nathan, Managing Director
|Business Design Centre
Dominic Jones, Chief Executive Officer
Mark Temple-Smith, Chief Operating Officer
Nick Waight, Managing Director
Russell Wilcox, Chief Executive Officer
Shaun Hinds, Chief Executive Officer
|Reed Exhibitions UK
Anna Dycheva-Smirnova, Chief Executive Officer
Philip Soar, Executive Chairman
|Manufacturing Technologies Association (MTA)
James Selka, Chief Executive Officer
Peter Duthie, Chief Executive Officer
|Events Industry Alliance (EIA)
Lou Kiwanuka, Chair
Lee Newton, Founder and Chief Executive Officer
|Tarsus Group PLC
Douglas Emslie, Chief Executive Officer
|Event Supplier and Services Association (ESSA)
Andrew Harrison, Director
|Meetings Industry Association
Jane Longhurst, Chief Executive
Andrew Reed, Managing Director, Events & Exhibitions
Jeremy Rees, Chief Executive Officer
Damion Angus, Managing Director
|Farnborough International Exhibition & Conference Centre
Gareth Rogers, Chief Executive Officer
John Lally, Chief Executive Officer
|Music, Ticketing, Theatre and Comedy|
John Langford, Chief Operating Officer
|LIVE (Live Music Industry Venues and Entertainment)
Greg Parmley, Chief Executive Officer
|Really Useful Group
Jessica Koravos, President
|AEG Presents UK
Steve Homer, Co-CEO
Barrie Marshall MBE/ Doris Dixon, Chairman/Director
|Royal Albert Hall
Lucy Noble, Artistic and Commercial Director
John Sharkey, Executive Vice President for Europe
On behalf of: AO Arena Manchester, Bonus Arena, First Direct Arena, P&J Live, The SSE Arena, Wembley, Utilita Arena Newcastle.
|Mick Perrin Worldwide
Mick Perrin, Managing Director
Rob Wilmshurst, Chief Executive Officer
|Association for Electronic Music
Greg Marshall, General Manager
|Music Managers Forum
Annabella Coldrick, Chief Executive Officer
|Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR)
Jonathan Brown, Chief Executive Officer
|Association of Festival Organisers
Steve Heap, General Secretary
|Music Venue Trust
Mark Davyd, Chief Executive Officer
|The Entertainment Agents Association
Tarquin Shaw-Young, Chair
|Association of Independent Festivals
Paul Reed, Chief Operating Officer
|National Arenas Association (NAA)
Lucy Noble, Chair
Steve Sayer, VP & General Manager
|British Association of Concert Halls
Kevin Appleby, Chair
Martin Ingham, Chief Executive Officer
|The SSE Hydro
Debbie McWilliams, Director of Live Entertainment
|Concert Promoters Association (CPA)
Phil Bowdery, Chair
|Phil McIntyre Entertainment
Phil McIntyre/Paul Roberts,
Andrew Parsons, Managing Director
|Featured Artists Coalition
David Martin, General Manager
|Production Services Association
Dave Keighley, Chair
Duncan Bell, Steering Committee Lead
|Kilimanjaro Live Group
Stuart Galbraith, CEO
|Professional Lighting and Sound Association (PLASA)
Peter Heath, Managing Director
Adrian Christy, Chief Executive Officer
Emma Wardell, Event Director
Frank Warren, Founder
Ryan Murphy, Commercial Director
Eddie Hearn/ Frank Smith,
MD Matchroom Sport/CEO Matchroom Boxing
James Dean, Chief Executive Officer
Matthew Porter, Chief Executive Officer