IQ Focus: Tech pros chart a way forward for concerts
The most recent edition of IQ Focus brought together representatives from some of live music’s leading technology, production and venue companies to shine a light on the various technological solutions helping to get concerts back on the road while Covid-19 is still a threat.
The Technology of a Pandemic, streamed live at 4pm yesterday (30 June), saw chair Steve Machin (LiveFrom.Events) invite Adam Goodyer of Realife Tech (formerly LiveStyled), Brigitte Fuss of Megaforce, Seats.io’s Joren De Wachter, ASM Global’s John Sharkey and Paul Twomey of Biosecurity Systems to discuss the technologies and systems that will allow venues to function at their peak until a coronavirus vaccine is found.
After a round of introductions, Sharkey showed a video demonstrating the concept behind ASM’s VenueShield hygiene system, as well as its successful trial at ASM’s VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, with an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) event on 9 May.
“For us, the key thing is, we need to understand that we do have a viable business to come back to,” he commented, “and that it has to work to generate confidence, not just the back of house and in front of house but with our staff and everybody coming through our buildings.”
That’s especially true, he added, “whenever we are going to be changing to suit the jurisdictions that we operate in, and also the changing state and cycle of where we are in dealing with the virus.”
Moving onto social distancing, Machin suggested that “in seated venues maybe it’s somewhat easier because you can run different seat maps” and other solutions to put space between guests, but “social distancing in [standing] venues is hard.”
“The real challenge, as I see it, is making sure that customers stick to the rules,” he added.
“Regulators all saw things differently after September 11. I think the same thing is true for biosecurity with Covid-19”
For any person involved in producing live events currently, the ability to be flexible is key, said De Wachter. “There are certain things we can’t control: We don’t know when a second wave will hit a particular place, we don’t know what authorities will do… so what you need to do from the technology perspective is have this flexibility that allows you to react quickly to changing situations.”
“Covid-19 is just one of five or six diseases we’ve had which have been epidemics, if not pandemics, over the last 15 to 20 years, and we can expect to see that happen again,” commented Twomey, emphasising that events must prepare for outbreaks of other diseases in future.
“I think that the challenges for events, organisers and facilities is to make the investment now – not just for this infection, but the future ones,” he continued, adding that the coronavirus pandemic is as much of a turning point for venue safety as the events of 11 September 2001.
“The comparison with September 11 is pretty clear: there was terrorism before, there was terrorism after, but the consumers and the governments and the regulators all saw things differently after September 11. I think the same thing is true for biosecurity with Covid-19. Everything is different now, so even after we get some improvement with vaccines, etc., in the next couple years, I think it’s still important people make the investment in the sorts of facilities, equipment and solutions that consumers are going to keep looking for.”
Fuss, who also represents disinfecting company ATDS Europe, revealed that ATDS has a solution to ensure that cases of equipment brought into venues or festivals are Covid-19 free.“We have a hygiene gate which can be placed directly at the truck’s loading dock, so when the cases go out they go directly through this disinfection shower,” she explained.
Fuss also spoke on the track-and-trace system already in operation in Germany, which could be adapted to allow venues to reopen without social distancing, as they already have in places like Korea. In Germany, “we already have small events, and if you go there or if you are on the guest list you have to write down your name, your address and your your phone number or email, so that in case of Covid-19 we can follow you up and see who had contact with you,” she said.
“People want to be able to enjoy events again. If they’re willing to share their data, it’s genuinely a good thing”
Coronavirus aside, said Goodyer, this level of data capture is something venues “should be striving for anyway”. “But the reason to do it has now changed,” he continued, “and people want to be able to enjoy events again. If they’re willing to do that [share their details] – and we’re doing it across all of our portfolio – it’s genuinely a good thing.
“And we’re seeing that fans are happy to do it when it’s clearly explained and that they know their data is being held securely and privately.”
“We have to rebuild trust with people who want to go to events, so that they know that they will be safe,” added De Wachter, “and the same is true for their data and for their whereabouts. I don’t think we can wait for a vaccine, because it’s going be too long: we need to get people back into events and to rebuild that relationship now.”
“I think the way we communicate about all of this is going to be absolutely key,” he concluded. “We need to make sure that people know that they can trust event organisers that the right thing will be done. […] There’s going to be a need for a massive amount of increased transparency, in how ticket buyers are being treated before, after and during the event.
“It’s a human business, and in human businesses, in order to build trust, you need to communicate as much as possible.”
This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.
Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.