Kiss sued over death of guitar tech
The family of a long-serving Kiss guitar tech who died after contracting Covid-19 while on tour have launched a lawsuit against the band, alleging negligence and wrongful death.
Francis Stueber, 53, who had worked with the group for more than two decades, passed away in hospital in October 2021 after being quarantined in a hotel room in Detroit, US for two days.
The lawsuit names Kiss members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, their manager Doc McGhee, promoter Live Nation and hotel chain Marriott International as defendants, according to documents seen by Rolling Stone.
“The failure to enforce or have adequate Covid-19 policies or procedures caused a Covid-19 outbreak amongst band members and tour personnel,” claims the suit.
“As a direct and proximate result of the dangerous condition created by defendants, decedent suffered fatal injuries and plaintiffs suffered damages.
“Defendants… breached their duty to plaintiffs by their negligent production, operation, inspection, supervision, management and control”
“Defendants… breached their duty to plaintiffs by their negligent production, operation, inspection, supervision, management and control over The End of the Road Tour that ultimately resulted in the death of decedent.”
The band, Live Nation and Marriott are yet to respond publicly to the lawsuit.
Speaking to RS at the time, three crew members alleged The End of the World Tour’s Covid-safe measures were insufficient. “Every day during the shows, we weren’t tested,” claimed one roadie. “It’s horrible that Fran passed, and it’s horrible if this is our protocol just for us to tour.”
Kiss, who said they were “profoundly heartbroken” by Stueber’s death, issued a statement denying the claims, insisting their safety protocols “met, but most often exceeded, federal, state, and local guidelines”.
“Ultimately this is still a global pandemic and there is simply no foolproof way to tour without some element of risk,” the statement added. “If certain crew chose to go out to dinner on a day off, or have beers at a local bar after the show, and did so without a mask or without following protocols, there is little that anyone can do to stop that. Particularly when many of our tour markets did not have any state or local mask mandates in place.”
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Report questions Covid payouts to stars
A raft of major artists including Post Malone, Lil Wayne and Chris Brown received some $200 million in payouts from a government-backed scheme intended to provide “emergency assistance” to US live entertainment businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In December 2020, the US Congress passed the Save Our Stages bill to provide around US$15bn in Small Business Administration grants to independent music venues, museums, booking agencies, movie theatres and other institutions.
However, a new report from Insider revealed that a number of world-renowned artists – some of whom are not from the US – were awarded grants of up to $10m while, reportedly, the maximum relief money many venue owners received was $100,000.
Artists that reportedly benefited from the grants include Chris Brown ($10m), Steve Aoki ($9.9m), Lil Wayne ($8.9m), The Smashing Pumpkins ($8.6m), Vampire Weekend ($8.3m), Korn ($5.3m), Melissa Etheridge ($3.9m), Usher ($3.1m), Common ($2.8m), Portugal. The Man ($2.25m), Becky G ($2.2m), Leann Rimes ($2m), Nickelback ($2m), Father John Misty ($1.7m) and Slipknot ($1m) for their music festival, Knotfest.
The report notes that many of these artists own or may have owned businesses or corporations that could qualify for such grants, such as Aoki’s corporation, DJ Kid Millionaire Touring Inc., which reported four full-time employees on its application for a $71,000 Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan.
Industry sources contacted by Insider defended the programme, pointing out that many artists typically contract with hundreds of sound and lighting technicians, costumers, drivers, security personnel, and other freelancers when they put together a tour. All those contractors were out of work during the lockdowns, the sources said, and artists applying for grants could have used the money to help keep them afloat. But there was no requirement that they spend the money that way.
An anonymous live music professional close to the programme told IQ, “Unlike the PPP, you do have to attribute costs to a specific cause, so [successful grant applications] have to show that the money was spent in accordance with the grant.”
A number of world-renowned artists – some of whom are not from the US – were awarded grants of up to $10m
The programme’s oversight of contractors was addressed by behemoths of the live music industry, who formed a coalition to petition the US government to expand the Save Our Stages act to include live event workers.
While it is unclear which artists applied for grants themselves, it may have been done by a third party, as the article notes: “A single financial-management firm in Los Angeles [NKSFB, which represents artists including Post Malone, Chris Brown, Steve Aoki, Marshmello, and Lil Wayne] successfully submitted grants on behalf of 97 artists, venues, and managers, amounting to more than a quarter of a billion dollars in grant payouts.”
The report also notes that two businesses partly owned by veteran manager Irving Azoff, whose firm’s clients include the Eagles, Lizzo, Harry Styles, and Gwen Stefani, together received $17.5m from the programme.
Similarly, venues affiliated with Live Nation, which was specifically stated to be excluded from Save Our Stages, received some $19m in funding from the programme, according to Variety last year, though a rep told Insider that the company has “no ability to control whether its subsidiaries access aid programmes”.
Today’s news comes a year after more than 60 lawsuits were filed against the Small Business Administration by companies who said they were unfairly denied millions in relief.
According to the aggrieved venues, SBA has refused their requests without good reason or a proper explanation, putting particular companies at a huge disadvantage over rivals who have received aid. Attorneys involved in the cases claim that rates of refusal under SVOG “significantly exceed typical government grant programmes.”
A spokesperson for the SBA told Insider: “The programme helped save thousands of entertainment venues and operators across the country during the Covid-19 pandemic. Nearly half the grant money went to businesses with fewer than five full-time employees, the smallest of small businesses.”
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Japan lifts cheering restrictions on concerts
The Japanese government is relaxing its longstanding ban on cheering at concerts and sporting events after announcing it is to reclassify Covid-19’s disease status.
From 8 May, coronavirus will be downgraded from class Class 2 to Class 5 – the same tier as seasonal flu – in the country, with residents told to use their own judgement when it comes to mitigation measures, including mask-wearing.
“With the change in categorisation, the nation’s Covid-19 measures will change from one where government agencies make various requests (to people and institutions) and intervene, to one that respects the choices of individuals, like in response to seasonal influenza,” says a statement by the infectious disease panel, as per the Japan Times.
“The government will need to make detailed explanations of its basic view and changes to be brought on by the reclassification, and provide necessary information.”
“Some in the audience will probably keep masking up, while others won’t”
Under the current restrictions, which will be lifted immediately, cheering is permitted only at venues where attendance is limited to 50% or less of capacity. Music venues have been able to operate at 100% capacity as long as audience members “wear masks, keep their voices down to conversational levels, and cheer or sing along for less than a quarter of every song”, reports Nikkei Asia.
“Some in the audience will probably keep masking up, while others won’t,” says Masashi Kondo, head of the Live House Commission trade group. “It’s hard to respond unless there are clear standards, so I hope the government will provide an explanation based on science.”
It was revealed last month that concert-goers in Japan could require government-issued ID cards to attend gigs under plans being considered by the government to help combat ticket touting.
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China lifts some Covid restrictions on concerts
Mainland China is set to welcome back artists from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan – but restrictions remain on international acts will remain.
The Chinese ministry of culture and tourism says provincial departments can resume vetting and approving performance applications by entertainers from the regions from 16 February after the country lifted its “Zero-Covid” policy.
However, the South China Morning Post reports that the curbs will only be relaxed for foreign acts already on the mainland, with the ministry reminding departments to ensure effective pandemic control measures are implemented by event organisers.
Concerts have effectively been halted in China since the onset of Covid-19
Concerts have effectively been halted in China since the onset of Covid-19, with audiences required to abide by rules limiting interaction at the few performances permitted.
The ministry of culture and tourism previously implemented a centralised ticketing system for the country’s live performance sector in 2021.
All domestic ticketing systems for live performances — including music, dance, comedy, and plays — were linked to a national ticketing information management platform with unified standards for sales, distribution, and refunds.
The China Association of Performing Arts (CAPA), an industry body under the ministry that led the creation of the standards, said that their implementation would effectively curb scalpers as well as help monitor ticket sales and analyse the performance industry.
The platform was launched following criticism of some local and national vendors and event operators for setting aside tickets for “speculation and scalping”.
In an effort to curb such practices, the ministry of culture and tourism in 2017 introduced a new measure that required event operators to sell at least 70% of tickets for commercial performances directly to the public.
‘Financial barriers’ slow Oz market’s recovery
Financial barriers are slowing the post-pandemic recovery of Australia’s live music market, according to a new report.
The Live Attendance Update, conducted in October 2022, gives insights into the changing habits of gig-goers, revealing that money worries has replaced Covid concerns as the main deterrent to attending concerts.
But the long tail of the pandemic still continues to impact attendance, with 44% of audiences reporting they are attending fewer performing events than prior to March 2020, while spending levels have not increased since early 2022.
“Price sensitivity may increase, as financial reasons have now overtaken the virus as the main barrier to attendance,” says the report by research agency Patternmakers. “Financial barriers are now affecting 40% of audiences, up from 24% in August 2022. It’s likely to be a bumpy ride, with factors like re-entry anxiety and lacking energy to go out also impacting decisions.”
“While most audiences are feeling confident and many are optimistic about increasing their attendance in future, new barriers are emerging related to economic factors and lifestyle changes”
On a more encouraging note, 71% of the 5,438 people surveyed said they are “ready to attend [shows] now” – up from 65% in August and 59% in March – the highest percentage since the start of the pandemic. In addition, the data indicates that the shift towards last-minute ticket buying is here to stay.
“Full recovery will take time,” says the study. “While most audiences are feeling confident and many are optimistic about increasing their attendance in future, new barriers are emerging related to economic factors and lifestyle changes.”
Patternmakers suggests that gradual increases in attendances are likely, with half of audiences (51%) saying they expect to attend more often in the next year.
“However, the situation is complex and some are perceiving a lack of appealing events available (32%) or are prioritising other things in their lives at the moment (24%),” it advises.
“Things are slowly improving, and audiences are much more likely to be increasing their attendances than decreasing them over the next year”
Concluding there is reason for “cautious optimism”, the report notes that “gradual improvements in confidence are evident”.
“There’s cause for cautious optimism, and half of audiences said they expect to attend more often in the next year – but another 43% said their behaviours will stay the same,” it says.
“Things are slowly improving, and audiences are much more likely to be increasing their attendances than decreasing them over the next year – though plenty will be maintaining their current levels.”
Covid-19 stripped Australia’s live entertainment industry of AUS$1.4 billion in revenue during 2020, according to Live Performance Australia’s Ticket Attendance and Revenue Report.
Prodiss report highlights post-Covid gig habits
Almost a third of French music fans say they will attend fewer events going forward after the pandemic, according to the results of live association Prodiss’ latest Live Barometer.
Produced by the Toluna Harris Interactive polling institute, the annual report surveyed 1,010 people aged 15 and over about their concert-going habits.
After two heavily interrupted years due to Covid-19, the results give an opportunity to take stock of the impact of the crisis on event-goers. While 49% of respondents said they will not change their habits, 18% say they would now attend more concerts, whereas the remaining 32% would go to a show less often.
Purchasing power was the overriding concern, with a lack of disposable income given as the main reason by 48%, with the fear of contracting Covid-19 (22%) and a preference for other activities (19%) also cited.
The survey of 1,010 French people was conducted online from 14-15 September 2022
The motivations for going to shows were to hear quality sound (89%), to take their mind off things (88%), to feel emotions and experience something exceptional (87%) , or sharing moments with family or friends (86%). Finally, 58% of live spectators said they would be encouraged to go to the show for interactive experiences or augmented reality.
In addition, 75% of spectators indicate that live events’ commitment to the environment is important to them, with 23% deeming it “very important” and 52% “rather important”. Key areas of concert include good waste management (63%), preservation of the show site (53%), energy savings (47%) and access to less polluting transport (44%).
The survey was conducted online from 14-15 September 2022 and is available in its entirety here. The results were unveiled to coincide with last month’s MaMA Music & Convention Festival.
German government to help venues with energy bills
Germany’s federal government has announced plans to repurpose the remainder of its €2.5 billion event cancellation fund to help cultural institutions weather the energy crisis.
The decision comes after a government hearing last Wednesday (12 October), in which the country’s live music association BDKV said the industry would not survive the crisis without further financial aid.
Claudia Roth, minister of state for culture, says there is at least €1bn left over from the cancellation fund, which was designed to allow event organisers to plan events without the financial risk posed by a potential Covid outbreak.
Details on how the fund will now be distributed are yet to be announced but Roth says the energy aid should take effect from 1 January 2023, “retrospectively to October”.
In return for the energy fund, the minister expects “that the cultural institutions act in solidarity and do everything they can to save energy”. According to Roth, the target for federally funded facilities is 20% energy savings, which she believes a lot of venues are achieving already.
“We cannot afford it, and we do not want to afford it, for cultural institutions to be closed”
However, BDKV president Jens Michow says it is a major problem for the industry that from 2023 there would no longer be any cover for event cancellations caused by the pandemic.
“[The €2.5 billion government-backed insurance pot] is expected to have remaining funds of €1.5–1.8 billion by the end of the year. We demand that all remaining funds from 2022 remain unrestricted in the economic sector for which they were originally made available,” he said.
Speaking to concerns about fresh Covid restrictions this autumn and winter, Roth said she doesn’t want cultural institutions to have to close. “We cannot afford it, and we do not want to afford it, for cultural institutions to be closed, as was the case in the first two years of the pandemic, because then our democracy will no longer have a voice.”
Last month, IQ heard from a number of European arenas who also said that skyrocketing energy costs are emerging as the sector’s biggest challenge since the Covid-19 pandemic.
AEG-owned Barclays Arena (formerly the Barclaycard Arena) in Hamburg, Germany, was among the venues that reported a “huge” increase in energy costs.
The UK government was the first to address the crisis with its Energy Bill Relief Scheme, which will see energy bills for UK businesses cut by around half of their expected level this winter.
The news followed the revelation that some UK live music venues are seeing their energy bills increase by an average of 300% –in some cases as much as 740% – adding tens of thousands of pounds to their running costs.
Korea to drop mask mandate for outdoor concerts
The South Korean government is set to finally drop its mask mandate for outdoor concerts and other large gatherings following a steady decline in Covid-19 cases.
The move, which could come into effect as soon as this week, reports the Korea Times. Under the current rules, people who do not comply with the regulations at events attended by more than 50 people are subject to a fine.
However, rules on mask-wearing at indoor shows will continue for the time being.
Korea previously eased its coronavirus protocols in the spring when it lifted its ban on clapping and cheering at gigs
Korea previously eased its coronavirus protocols in the spring when it lifted its ban on clapping and cheering at gigs, but retained the indoor and outdoor mask mandate. Fans were handed plastic clappers to emulate crowd noise at BTS’ Permission To Dance On Stage – Seoul three-night residency in March, which marked the K-pop group’s in-person concert return in their homeland. Just 15,000 people per night were permitted to attend the 70,000-cap Jamsil Olympic Stadium in Seoul due to social distancing restrictions.
A BTS homecoming concert in Korea planned as part of Busan’s World 2030 Expo bid was recently forced to move venues due to safety concerns. The free BTS Yet to Come in Busan show on 15 October was set to attract up to 100,000 people to a special stage on the site of a former glass factory, but has been switched to the Busan Asiad Main Stadium following complaints the venue was ill-equipped for an event of such scale.
Economist Will Page on UK’s live music resurgence
Former Spotify and PRS for Music chief economist Will Page has delved deeper into his forecast for the resurgence of the UK’s live sector in a new Q&A with IQ.
Page, the author of Tarzan Economics: Eight Principles of Pivoting Through Disruption, presented his groundbreaking research last month, based on his analysis of consumer spend on live and recorded music since 2019.
He noted that in 2019, British gig-goers spent GBP £1.7 billion on concert tickets – a fifth more than the £1.4 billion that consumers spent on recorded music in the same 12 months. But in the pandemic-hit 2020, live takings collapsed 90% in the UK to just £200 million, whereas spending on recorded music accelerated by 6% to breach the £1.5bn watermark.
However, as lockdown eased in 2021, UK recorded music reached close to £1.7 billion, whereas live spend staged a partial recovery to £700m.
And in an upbeat conclusion, Page suggested the sector’s recovery was on track to be “more like a slingshot than a rebound”.
“Wallets are set to be squeezed further this year and next,” he said. “That said… the imperative is for all of us – policymakers, professionals and performers – to come together to unlock the ‘coiled spring’ demand for music on British stages up and down the country.
“Now the dust has settled, let’s remind ourselves that music is the alchemy in the room that brings us together. And with the pandemic finally behind us, those rooms will surely be packed to capacity. If the collective ‘we’ get this right, it’ll be more like a slingshot than a rebound.”
With that in mind, IQ sat down with Page to expand further on his findings…
“Everyone needs to be reminded of the intimacy of the live music experience”
Given the UK is in the midst of a cost of living crisis, what impact do you expect that to have on the bounceback of the live business?
“There’s psychology at play with the current crisis; the fact that prices are still accelerating matters as we can’t see light at the end of the tunnel. If/when they stop accelerating, the psychology will change and change fast. I’m quietly confident that inflation will return to something we’d call normal soon, but remember we haven’t had a normal (real interest rates above the rate of inflation) for over a decade!”
There has also been a lingering reticence to return to live shows from a certain segment of the audience, how does that factor into your projections?
“This could be genuine, lingering, doubts about the pandemic, but it’s more likely inertia. To combat that, I think the industry needs to optimise for reach over revenue, get more people to attend at least one event, as opposed to a few people to attend many. Everyone needs to be reminded of the intimacy of the live music experience – once experienced, they’ll never go back (to their sofas, Pringles and Netflix, that is!).”
“Live music faces costs just like all parts of the entertainment economy, but may benefit from the tough times as well”
Are there any other factors you are concerned about that could impact the resurgence?
“Yes, I think there’s displacement effects to consider. There’s an old expression that goes ‘Domino’s Pizza wins in a recession as people dine out less’. I think that can be applied to live music – in that consumers might push back on European short breaks which might set them back £400 in flights and hotel and invest that money in domestic live shows, which with a meal, travel and child care could be a £200 bill. Live music faces costs just like all parts of the entertainment economy, but may benefit from the tough times as well.”
You noted in your analysis that, since the London Olympics, all the growth in UK live music was contained within stadiums and festivals – increasing their share from 23% in 2012 to 40% in 2019. Why do you think that was and do you expect that trend to continue?
“Andrew Bud, a statistical inspiration to me and also the founder of iProov, taught me an inconvenient truth of the long tail in 2008: when you offer more choices, people want more hits. We’re clearly seeing that play out here. Also, there are simple economies of scale effects to consider, as big means bigger margins. Finally, when you play festivals you’re often told not to tour theatres – that tips the scales even more.”
“When I look at the global success of Dua Lipa, that makes me so proud of a UK music export success, but also concerned as I can’t really think of any British act to emulate her since”
When you predicted the comeback will “be more like a slingshot than a rebound”, what sort of timescale did you have in mind?
“Let the data do the talking. I was so grateful to the PRS for Music team for enabling me to work with their data from 2019-20-21 as we can learn about the recovery, let’s wait to see what the data tells us at the end of 2022. Since publishing my work in Music Business Worldwide and Financial Times, many companies have shared data to suggest that this year will be the slingshot and set new box office records. It sure feels like 2022 is well on its way to being a slingshot.”
Are there any closing thoughts you would like to add?
“Going back to the long tail, we need to think about the smaller venues as a seed bed for future growth. I worked on a piece for The Economist in 2015 looking at the average age of festival headliners. To be clear, I don’t want to sound ageist. I respect the sentimentality that makes live music so special. I love thinking about how many of those fans who went to see Coldplay weren’t born when Yellow was released! But… I do think that the live industry doesn’t have a long list of headliners in their 20s like we did when Radiohead did Glastonbury in the mid-to-late ’90s. I have no time for ‘bs’ scaremongering but that, I feel, is a legitimate concern. When I look at the global success of Dua Lipa, that makes me so proud of a UK music export success, but also concerned as I can’t really think of any British act to emulate her since. To go back to our statistical analogy, this lopsided success of live music reminds us we need the long tail to feed the head.”
Psy concerts investigated over Covid claims
South Korean authorities are investigating claims that Psy’s water-spraying concerts could be contributing to the spread of Covid-19.
The Gangnam Style singer’s Summer Swag tour came under fire earlier this summer for allegedly wasting water during a nationwide drought.
First held in 2011, the popular shows involve audience members being drenched in water as they sing along to the music, but attracted criticism after it was revealed that each gig uses around 300 tons of water.
“We use the performance venue’s water supplies as well as sprinkler trucks,” Psy told talk show Radio Star.
“We have launched an investigation to see what kind of actions are taking place during the event that could be risk factors in transmitting the virus”
Now, with Korea in the midst of a Covid spike, the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters says it has received reports from people claiming they have contracted coronavirus after attending the shows.
“We have launched an investigation to see what kind of actions are taking place during the event that could be risk factors in transmitting the virus,” a spokesperson tells Korea JoongAng Daily.
Music promoters are being urged not to spray water during events while the claims are looked into.
In response to the concerns, Psy’s label P Nation says it will hand waterproof masks to each concert-goer at his upcoming Korean tour dates in Yeosu (6 August), Daegu (13-14 August) and Busan (20 August).