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Pol’and’Rock triumphs over “huge logistical undertaking”

Pol’and’Rock says it has “introduced a blueprint for holding events in the new normal,” following the successful 27th edition of the Polish festival.

The festival, which took place exclusively online last year, made its in-person return between 29–31 July at a brand new location, Makowice airfield.

Typically, Pol’and’Rock attracts an audience of almost half a million people each year but this year organisers were forced to whittle down the attendance to 20,000 domestic and international visitors.

Despite the festival’s reduced size, organisers said this year’s edition required a “massive logistical undertaking” due to on-site testing procedures for staff, artists and participants.

According to organisers, Pol’and’Rock were the only event in Poland that introduced the additional Covid-19 safety measure of rapid testing in addition to the requirement of vaccination certificates, which Poland has been quick to implement.

“It seems that our festival played an important role in promoting vaccination among the young people”

Tests were charged to participants at a cost of 49 Polish zlotys, the equivalent of a little more than €10. Otherwise, the festival remained free.

“We have not yet witnessed any increase in infections following the event,” says Pol’and’Rock’s Olga Zawada. “Even though we were faced with a wave of criticism from organized groups of anti-vaxxer trolls, it seems that our festival played an important role in promoting vaccination among the young people, who otherwise were reluctant to look into it.”

Other Covid-19 safety measures included the requirement of masks during concerts and, for the first time, the event was ticketed in order to control the flow of visitors.

Fans who couldn’t attend in person were able to watch the festival online for free.

The festival – also known as the ‘Woodstock of Poland’ – featured performances from international artists, as well as talks and workshops from social activists, artists, media personalities, sportspeople and NGOs.

 


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Industry divided over vaccinated-only concerts

Nearly six months after Maggie Keenan, a 90-year-old Briton, became the first person in the world to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine outside a clinical trial, opinion remains divided among international live music professionals about how, if at all, fans’ vaccination status should be taken into account as live activity resumes.

Nowhere is this more the case than in the United States, where the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) say that those who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 (i.e. had both jabs of one of the three vaccines, BioNTech/Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson or Moderna, approved for use in the US) may once again attend indoor events, including concerts, with no need for social distancing or mask wearing.

“Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing,” CDC director Rochelle Walensky told press at the White House earlier this month. “If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic.”

Following the CDC’s announcement, some of the country’s most famous concert venues, including the 20,000-capacity Madison Square Garden arena in New York and Los Angeles’ Hollywood Bowl (17,500-cap.), have signalled they will differentiate between vaccinated and non-vaccinated patrons when they reopen, with the latter planning designated vaccinated seating sections where no social distancing will be required.

MSG, along with other venues in New York, will be allowed to reopen at 100% capacity if patrons show proof of vaccination, under plans drawn up by New York state governor Andrew Cuomo. It hosted 15,000 people for a New York Knicks basketball game earlier this week, with vaccinated fans not required to wear a face covering.

New York venues will be allowed to reopen at 100% capacity if they require patrons to show proof of vaccination

In Florida, meanwhile, a concert promoter made headlines yesterday (26 May) after announcing plans for a ‘no-vax tax’ that would see concertgoers charged 50 times as much for tickets should they choose not to get the vaccine.

Leadfoot Promotions, which is promoting a show by pop-punk legends Teenage Bottlerocket in Saint Petersburg on 26 June, explains: “DISCOUNTED tickets are available for $18 in advance, $20 day of show. To be eligible for the DISCOUNT, you will need to bring a government issued photo ID and your PHYSICAL COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card. […] If you do not care about the discount, tickets are available for a flat rate of $999.99.

“Note that all staff, volunteers, and band members will be vaccinated. Also know if you buy one of these advance tickets and show up without your vaccination card or government issued photo id [sic], you won’t be let in at this price, you will need to pay the remaining $981.99 to enter or go back and get your card. There will be NO REFUNDS. We are NOT telling you what to do here, we are making a business decision and letting the market decide. If someone wants to come in unvaccinated, they will scare off a large number of patrons and will need to pay the difference.”

Speaking to Tampa Bay’s ABC Action News, Leadfoot’s Paul Williams explains: “We’re just trying to do a show safely. And they [fans] should go out and get vaccinated to protect themselves and their families and their community.”

Back in New York, baseball team the Brooklyn Nets is also incentivising immunisation by charging more for tickets sold to fans who have yet to receive both vaccines, as well as introducing a Hollywood Bowl-style vaccinated-only section at its home venue, the 19,000-capacity Barclays Center.

“We are not telling you what to do – we are making a business decision and letting the market decide”

Williams says he came up with idea of a ‘tax’ after realising in Florida he probably couldn’t legally restrict entry to those who can prove their vaccination status.

In contrast to the position taken by Cuomo in New York – where a planned ‘Excelsior pass’ will verify New Yorkers’ vaccination status – Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, has taken a hard line on vaccine certification, having signed into law a ban on so-called vaccine passports earlier this month.

“Under no circumstances will the state be asking you to show proof of vaccination,” said DeSantis, “and I don’t think private companies should be doing that either. If you want to go to an event, go to an event. If you don’t, don’t. But to be requiring people to provide all this proof, that’s not how you get society back to normal.”

The launch of the Excelsior pass follows the successful roll-out of the similar green pass in Israel, where promoters were once again putting on (non-socially distanced) shows before the recent flare-up in violence. In fact, so successful is the combination of vaccination + certification that Israel will axe all restrictions – including the green pass – from the beginning of June, though health minister Yuli Edelstein says it could be re-introduced should the situation change. For now, he said, “The economy and the citizens of Israel will get extra room to breathe.”

Despite allowing for concerts of thousands of people in pandemic conditions, the green pass programme is not without its critics: writing in the UK’s Daily Telegraph today (27 May), five Israeli doctors say the scheme has ‘backfired’ by creating “two classes of citizens: the upper vaccinated and the lower unvaccinated”. This situation, they say, has resulted in a situation incompatible with the “basic principles of the medical profession”.

Talk of vaccine ‘passports’ is equally controversial in the UK, where critics warn of government overreach and an ‘us and them’ society divided along vaccination lines. As such, the UK live business is pushing for a system of certification that would also include people who have natural immunity to the virus, or who can produce a negative Covid-19 test.

“The intention of Covid-status certification is to find a non-discriminatory solution”

Writing to the government last month, a cross-section of the UK live entertainment, events and sports sector suggested that so-called Covid-status certification is the key to reopening venues safely following the planned abolition of all restrictions on 21 June.

“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,” say the signatories, who include AEG Europe, the Concert Promoters’ Association, Ticketmaster, ASM Global and umbrella body LIVE. “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.”

Unlike restricting entry only to those who have had the vaccine, certification would not discriminate against those who cannot have the vaccine for medical reasons, or otherwise don’t feel comfortable having being immunised against the virus, they say.

“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 letter reads.

Outside of live events, vaccine passports are also being trialled for international travel, with the European Union, China and Japan among those developing digital vaccination certificates to enable the resumption of overseas holidays from this summer.

 


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 IndexIQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

OVG helps develop safe-venue certification ahead of reopening

Oak View Group (OVG) has partnered with Sharecare, an Atlanta-based health company, and CAA’s Icon division to launch a new hygiene certification for venues that aims to boost fan confidence and mitigate risks associated with Covid-19.

Sharecare’s Verified ‘health security’ certification programme, which provides a Covid-secure seal of approval for hotels and other tourism businesses, will now be extended to events venues through the partnership with OVG, which operates or is building arenas in North America, the UK and continental Europe, and CAA Icon, the agency’s venue consulting arm.

To achieve verification from Sharecare, venue operators must meet certain standards across 600 venue ‘checkpoints’, explains the company, including building preparation, the fan journey, sanitisation and cleaning, and air circulation. The process is navigated via a chatbot-enabled screener, which also offers other relevant guidance, including the US’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations and requirements for sports leagues.

After completion of the process, stadia, arenas and other public venues earn Sharecare’s Verified badge. Atlanta’s 21,000-capacity State Farm Arena became the first venue to achieve this designation, in January 2021.

“We’re pleased to align ourselves with Sharecare as we prioritise safety”

“As we begin to see the industry reopen, bringing innovation to the sports and entertainment industry that sets a new standard for the health and safety of fans, artists and staff must be a top priority,” says Oak View Group CEO Tim Leiweke. “We’re pleased to align ourselves with Sharecare as we prioritise safety so all who enter live entertainment venues can feel comfortable and confident in attending sporting events and concerts once again.”

“We were drawn to Sharecare because of their ability to customise their verification platform for this unique building type and their willingness to commit the time to do so,” adds Tim Romani, chairman of CAA Icon. “This allowed us to interactively collaborate on the technology so that it is flexible for changing protocols, league requirements, and clinical recommendations.”

In addition to State Farm Arena, the new venue-focused Sharecare Verified platform was trialled with two under-construction arenas, OVG’s Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle and UBS Arena in New York, both of which have also adopted the Verified Solution.

“Whether resuming activities or building next-generation event experiences, we’re proud to deliver stadiums and arenas a flexible solution precisely designed to align with their operational needs, yet easily configured to best practices, as well as league and public health protocols as they evolve,” comments Hermann Elger, executive vice-president of travel, entertainment and health security for Sharecare. “We’re grateful for the support of CAA Icon and OVG in bringing this high-tech, high-touch solution to venues worldwide to enable visitors a safe and sustainable return to live event experiences.”

 


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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.

Signed,

Exhibition and Conferences
Agribriefing
Rupert Levy, Group Finance Director
Harrogate Convention Centre
Paula Lorimer, Director
NEC Group
Paul Thandi CBE, Chief Executive Officer
Association of Event Organisers (AEO)
Chris Skeith, Chief Executive Officer
Hyve Group PLC
Mark Shashoua, Chief Executive Officer
Nineteen Group
Peter Jones, Chief Executive Officer
Association of Event Venues (AEV)
Rachel Parker, Director
Immediate Live
Paul Byrom, Managing Director
Olympia London
Nigel Nathan, Managing Director
Business Design Centre
Dominic Jones, Chief Executive Officer
Informa Markets
Mark Temple-Smith, Chief Operating Officer
P&J Live
Nick Waight, Managing Director
Clarion Events
Russell Wilcox, Chief Executive Officer
Manchester Central
Shaun Hinds, Chief Executive Officer
Reed Exhibitions UK
Anna Dycheva-Smirnova, Chief Executive Officer
CloserStill Media
Philip Soar, Executive Chairman
Manufacturing Technologies Association (MTA)
James Selka, Chief Executive Officer
SEC
Peter Duthie, Chief Executive Officer
Events Industry Alliance (EIA)
Lou Kiwanuka, Chair
Media 10
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
William Reed
Andrew Reed, Managing Director, Events & Exhibitions
ExCeL London
Jeremy Rees, Chief Executive Officer
Montgomery
Damion Angus, Managing Director
Farnborough International Exhibition & Conference Centre
Gareth Rogers, Chief Executive Officer
NCC Events
John Lally, Chief Executive Officer
Music, Ticketing, Theatre and Comedy
AEG Europe
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
Marshall Arts
Barrie Marshall MBE/ Doris Dixon, Chairman/Director
Royal Albert Hall
Lucy Noble, Artistic and Commercial Director
ASM UK
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
See Tickets
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
The O2
Steve Sayer, VP & General Manager
British Association of Concert Halls
Kevin Appleby, Chair
Nottingham Arena
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,
Owner/MD
Ticketmaster UK
Andrew Parsons, Managing Director
Featured Artists Coalition
David Martin, General Manager
Production Services Association 
Dave Keighley, Chair
#WeMakeEvents
Duncan Bell, Steering Committee Lead
Kilimanjaro Live Group
Stuart Galbraith, CEO
Professional Lighting and Sound Association (PLASA)
Peter Heath, Managing Director
Indoor Sports
Badminton England
Adrian Christy, Chief Executive Officer
Grandstand Group
Emma Wardell, Event Director
Queensberry Promotions
Frank Warren, Founder
British Athletics
Ryan Murphy, Commercial Director
Matchroom Sport
Eddie Hearn/ Frank Smith,
MD Matchroom Sport/CEO Matchroom Boxing
ESL UK
James Dean, Chief Executive Officer
PDC
Matthew Porter, Chief Executive Officer

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 IndexIQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.