‘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.
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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.
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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.
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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).
ASM Global announces Clorox hygienics partnership
ASM Global has announced a partnership with The Clorox Company to enhance health and wellness in venues across the US.
The multi-year “advanced hygienic” link-up will span ASM’s portfolio of arenas, stadiums, theatres and convention centres, with Clorox products, including disinfecting wipes, hand sanitiser and electrostatic sprayers, used to help protect fans and guests.
To honour Covid frontline responders and health care workers, Clorox will also provide $1 million in tickets to premier sports and entertainment events across the country.
ASM previously initiated a series of hygiene protocols, dubbed VenueShield, in 2020 to provide “trusted protection” for visitors in response to Covid-19.
“Clorox’s industry-leading solutions allow us to continually enhance the quality of our event experiences”
“Since the very start of the Covid pandemic, our focus has been on reimagining the future of live events and preparing clean and safe venues for the return of our team members, athletes, fans, partners and guests,” says ASM Global president Ron Bension. “Clorox’s industry-leading solutions allow us to continually enhance the quality of our event experiences, and we’re excited to partner with them in honouring the heroic workers that have supported all of us as we’ve navigated through the pandemic.”
ASM and Clorox will officially launch their partnership at the Oakland Arena in California on 1 June, prior to rolling it out to the venue giant’s other US facilities, with an eye toward expansion across a wider portfolio of worldwide venues.
“Clorox is committed to supporting people’s health and well-being no matter whether they’re at home or out in the world, which is why we are incredibly excited to be working with ASM Global,” adds Tad Kittredge, VP and general manager at Clorox. “It’s especially rewarding to extend our support to those who have been on the frontlines during the pandemic with the well-earned thanks they deserve.”
Platinumlist powers through the pandemic
The pandemic has brought a lot of changes to the events industry worldwide and triggered a reset button for many in the ticketing industry. Here, we catch up with MD Vassiliy Anatoli to find out how Dubai-headquarterd ticketing platform Platinumlist has weathered the pandemic.
We had a very successful Q1 of 2020 that helped us a lot with the rest of the troubled year. We noticed that despite the pandemic, many attractions kept operating and that is what we focused on whilst there were no events.
Previously, in 2018, we have entered into an OTA (online travel agency) sector and started selling attractions along with the events. This has helped us a lot in 2020. Most major OTAs have slashed budgets and we have become the number one OTA attractions seller locally. This has yet boosted our OTA division which has now grown three times in revenue and continues to do so every year.
The events were only stopped for approximately four months in the UAE and for over a year in Saudi Arabia. Despite this, we have managed to have a healthy break even at the end of 2020.
“The UAE resumed events in full swing by September 2021, which has catapulted our revenues”
2021 has started well but was swiftly cut off by another spike in cases locally which halted the industry for another four months.
However, by March 2021, Saudi started making plans and we have won the tender for the Formula 1 STC Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2021 and many other major projects such as Rotana Concerts, Evolution Exhibition, Museum of Happiness, and Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale.
Finally, the UAE resumed events in full swing by September 2021, which has catapulted our revenues. Another major win was the 2021 Indian Premier League and ICC World Cup which has sold over 350,000 tickets. The Gulf football, UAE Pro League, has resumed its operations at the same time around August 2021.
We were very lucky to be able to retain our full technical team past the pandemic. The work of adding more products and refining the existing functionality has not stopped. We have ventured into online events and streaming briefly but quickly understood that it’s not our future. The plan over the pandemic was to increase our functionality set and launch with a big major product by the end pandemic.
“We are actively looking for partners worldwide to enter new markets”
Staying true to our commitment, we are about to introduce a SAAS solution that is aimed at empowering small to medium organisers to build their own events and manage ticket sales from start to finish. Currently its in Beta mode, but will be launched fully with map configuration at the end of Q2.
Moreover, the Upsells or Ticket Add-ons functionality was also launched, adding value to the users’ ticket purchases and at the same time increasing the revenue of the organisers.
Another major highlight is the launch of the Platinumlist App on IOS and Android, which immediately ranked 5th on the Appstore upon launch and has now become the platform of choice of over 450,000 downloads combined IOS Android.
Higher revenue has increased our profitability, which allows us to continue to reinvest in daring projects such as SAAS and event funding backed by crypto, a safe resale platform to name a few and to continuously expand into new regions.
Our benchmark year was 2019 when we saw 60% growth YOY. By the end of 2021, we have managed to increase our revenue in comparison to 2019 even though we operated only for six months of the year, which I think is a notable testament of our team and technology resilience.
We have set an ambitious goal for 2022 and Q1 looks like we are on track. We are actively looking for partners worldwide to enter new markets as our functionality stack very competitive at the moment.
Belgium rolls back restrictions on live events
Belgium has transitioned to ‘code yellow’ on its coronavirus barometer, meaning the majority of restrictions have now been lifted.
As of today (7 March), the Covid Safe Ticket (CST) will no longer be required to gain entrance to events, bars and gyms, given the “favourable evolution of the epidemic conditions”.
The maximum capacity for activities, concert halls and theatres has also been lifted, meaning that concerts and other shows can take place in full venues again.
The mandate to wear face masks in public spaces has also been ditched. “However, in places where no safe distance can be maintained, it is still recommended,” prime minister Alexander De Croo said during a press conference Friday (4 March).
The testing and quarantine rules have not changed, but Belgium’s health ministers are expected to discuss this topic on Wednesday (9 March).
The testing and quarantine rules have not changed, but Belgium’s health ministers are expected to discuss this topic
Prior to today, Belgium was operating at ‘code orange’ on the barometer, in which the CST was mandatory for all indoor activities with more than 50 participants and for all outdoor activities with more than 100 participants. Face masks were mandatory for indoor concerts.
The CST, initially introduced in July 2021, certifies that a person has either been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, has tested negative for Covid-19 or has recovered from Covid-19.
Elsewhere in Europe, England, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland, Germany, Austria and Switzerland have all announced plans to lift all remaining limits.
In Germany, most Covid curbs will be axed from Freedom Day – 20 March – although “low-threshold basic protective measures,” such as mask-wearing, will still apply.
Italy’s live music sector was still waiting for the green light to restart.
Pandemic lessons learned by live: #6-10
The Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly been the biggest challenge that the live entertainment industry has ever had to deal with. Thankfully, thousands of businesses around the world have survived two years of unprecedented hardship, proving that the ability of this sector to come up with creative solutions has been underscored. But just what are the main lessons we should be taking from the Covid experience? IQ talked to a number of business leaders to identify the 10 key lessons that the pandemic has taught us (read part one here). Here, we present the final five…
6. Global consensus is vital for international touring
Michael Hosking, founder of Singapore-based Midas Promotions, notes that there is very little in the way of joined-up thinking, internationally, which has created significant obstacles for touring acts and productions.
“The world remains polarised on this and so many other significant issues – zero grey areas in which to compromise and an understanding that no two cities, states, or countries will ever share the same opinion on anything these days,” Hosking tells IQ. “So just because an artist can perform to full-capacity venues with quarantine in some markets doesn’t mean the neighbouring market will be the same […] A worldwide consensus needs to be reached before we can go headlong into worldwide touring or there will be even more financial casualties along the way.”
7. Sustainability needs to be at the heart of everything
Alongside equality and mental health, environmental protection has become one of the key issues that the industry is
pledging as a priority, going forward.
“When we exploit the natural environment, it shuts us down,” states Claire O’Neill, organiser of the Green Events & Innovations conference. “Our wellbeing is the most valuable thing we have. When we have space to rest, we have the capacity to care for others and our environment, and to achieve great things.”
8. There is strength in numbers
CAA’s Banks applauds industry leaders for the way in which they put rivalries aside to join forces during the pandemic.
“This has been a time where we, the live music industry, have worked together really well,” she says. “Joint campaigning across every sector has achieved results – be that the reduction of VAT, the formation of the Culture
Recovery Fund [in the UK], or moving forward, some of the Brexit issues that we have all worked on, a joint approach has reaped rewards that would never have been achieved individually.”
Olivier Toth, president of the European Arenas Association (EAA), says, “We have recognised the importance of coming together and speaking and acting as one voice. Arenas lie at the centre of a very complex ecosystem made up of a very wide variety of dedicated and talented professionals, who, at the start of the pandemic, lacked a common voice. Never has the phrase ‘strength in numbers’ been so significant.
“Throughout the pandemic, we have come together to raise awareness of the situation of everyone involved in our industry, to reach out to policymakers and health authorities, and to provide them with relevant real-time data from live test events and surveys to help shape solutions.”
He continues, “We have also come together with our local communities to provide vaccination and testing centres, as well as auxiliary hospitals and food banks. Working together as an industry and working even more closely with our communities makes us better and stronger and is something we should carry on doing to help our short term recovery and build strength for the future.”
Jim King, CEO of European festivals for AEG Presents, comments, “Investing in and having strong industry representation is a key lesson for me. When compared to other industries, our pre-pandemic industry coordination was not seen as a priority by many and so we struggled to be heard when the crisis hit. This undoubtedly increased the impact of the pandemic, as it created an environment where the UK government and their advisors had a lack of understanding of many of the key mechanics of our industry and thus how to react.”
Live Nation’s Bowdery agrees. “The LIVE trade body [in the UK] was born out of the need for one voice to represent the live sector, and the successes that the industry has had with government would never have happened if we’d all just been getting on with our own jobs and not thinking of the whole,” he says.
King adds, “A positive lesson to take away and that I hope connects, is when faced with the ‘go/no go’ opportunity for festivals in summer 2021, UK agencies and UK promoters worked collaboratively and with great speed, demonstrating that taking a simple and fair pathway delivers great results for everyone.”
9. Enforced lockdowns create extra ‘thinking time’
ASM Global president and CEO Ron Bension explains, “At ASM, we quickly pivoted; and rather than focus on managing through the pandemic and a closed industry, we immediately went about looking at what we want to look like when we come out of the pandemic, with a focus on content, marketing and technology that will provide added value and meet the needs of our clients and community once things return to normal.”
Embracing technology and innovation gave birth to companies such as livestreaming operation Driift, whose CEO, Ric Salmon, comments, “Aside from realising that I should have spent less time travelling or commuting and more time with my wife and kids, long before the pandemic kicked in (what were we all thinking?!), professionally it’s driven home how important innovation is, and how fragile our world and the very fabric of our industry is.”
10. Nothing can replace live entertainment
EAA president Toth believes the pent-up demand for concerts, shows and festivals proves that the live experience is unique and cannot be replicated by other forms of entertainment.
“Although digital technology has helped us through some very difficult times since the onset of the pandemic, and although we continue to embrace digital to enhance all parts of the live event customer journey, I think we have fully acknowledged that virtual can never take the place of the real thing,” he says.
“There is no replacing the raw emotion felt by attending live events and the buzz you get from hearing your favourite track played live or seeing your team score goals. The same applies to the artist or player experience, where nothing replaces the applause and the cheering.”
But ASM’s Bension warns, “[We need to] excel at quickly understanding a rapidly and ever-changing fan live entertainment landscape. For the foreseeable future, it’s more complex until we fully emerge from the pandemic. However, if we’re sensitive to the needs of our guests, who deeply desire the community of the live experience, that key pillar of the industry will remain firm.”
And UTA’s global head of touring, Neil Warnock, suggests that everyone in the business, “finds the positive for our managers and our artists.” Adding, “It’s easy to be negative in these trying times but positivity [for] everyone is badly
needed and helps to give confidence.”
Koravos concludes, “Putting on shows in a pandemic is a thankless task. We are now amid the third round of devastation for the live entertainment industry, with waves of shows being cancelled every single day. With the protection of insurance still not an option, this wave has been made worse by the lack of government support and the lack of alternative dates to postpone to. This is partly due to rapidly rising rates of infection, but much of this is also caused by collapsing consumer confidence in the face of dire warnings from our government and media.”