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Pandemic lessons learned by live: #1-5

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. Here, we present the first five…

1. Don’t trust declarations that we’ve won the war against Covid-19

“It’s not over (the pandemic) until it’s over, much as we wish it were,” says Teresa Moore, director of A Greener Festival. “We need to be innovative, flexible and adaptive as things change. Connected to this, we need to be able to diversify using the skills we have in the industry to create new experiences, new businesses, and more sustainable business models. These need to include environmental and social impacts, not just the economic ones.”

WME co-head of live music Lucy Dickins underlines the need to be flexible. “Be prepared for the unexpected,” she says. “Make sure you have multiple outcomes and have several backup plans.”

Moore adds, “Tough as things are, if any industry can do it and move forward into this new era, it’s the live industry, where innovation and flexibility are its bread and butter.”

2. Politicians neither understand nor value live music…

With a remit that includes overseeing theatres and arenas, as well as all the content and shows that fill the seats in those venues, Jessica Koravos, co-chair of Oak View Group and president of The Really Useful Group, has spent much of the pandemic period talking to policy makers.

“Our industry is in the hands of government and public health decision-makers who still fail to understand how our business operates and the enormously positive impact we make on local economies and the general happiness of the nation,” she says. “We must make sure that, going forward, we have more seats at the decision-making table.”

3….But fans do!

“While some politicians may still not grasp the importance of culture, the general population has shown us how much they value it,” states Beverley Whitrick of the Music Venue Trust (MVT).

“During the pandemic, music, films, TV, books, art – making things and appreciating the things others make – became a focus for many people’s mental wellbeing. We saw amazing public support for fundraising initiatives such as #SaveOurVenues and #ILoveLive; and pure joy when people could return to live music, festivals, theatres, etc.”

4. Everyone in the supply chain needs and deserves protection

“Huge swathes of the working population in live music earn very little money, and so when a pandemic or similar event that prevents working occurs, they have no savings or money to fall back on,” observes Emma Banks, co-head of CAA’s London headquarters.

“We are seeing costs for the ‘show workers’ – crew, security, etc – going up as they can dictate higher wages, and we need to embrace that and make sure that this is an industry that properly looks after all its people, not just the people at the top of the tree.”

“Encourage a healthy workspace,” urges WME’s Dickins. “The uncertainty around us and learning to adapt to working from home and then back to the office can take its toll. It’s important to look out for one another and make sure that at all times, people feel safe whilst still being able to brainstorm ideas,” she adds.

On a related note, Live Nation’s executive president of touring, Phil Bowdery, lauds the industry’s ability to embrace the concept of staff working remotely. “The value of flexible working – I think even the harshest sceptic of home working had their minds changed pretty quickly in 2020,” he says.

And MVT’s Whitrick adds, “We need to find a way to support activity that makes people’s lives better rather than just makes money. It is heartbreaking that so many people have had to leave the creative industries to work in more secure but less fulfilling sectors.”

5. Complacency should be confined to history

The live entertainment industry had been expecting a record-breaking year in 2020 but, like the rest of the world, was caught unprepared when the pandemic shut down touring and festivals.

“The pandemic has taught us that, overnight, we can lose many of the things we hold dear,” says Phil Rodriguez, founder of Move Concerts. “We’ve also learned how easy it is to control all of us. I’m a history buff; what we’ve been through and are still going through takes the cake!”

 


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IQ 107 out now: Industry heads map the road ahead

IQ 107, the latest issue of the international live music industry’s favourite monthly magazine, is available to read online now.

In the January 2022 edition, industry leaders from around the world share their thoughts about the state of the industry and the recovery of the sector, over the coming weeks and months.

Elsewhere, the IQ news team looks back at the trends, deals, events and, of course, the Covid restrictions that made the headlines during 2021.

On page 34, IQ Magazine editor Gordon Masson explores the benefits that blockchain technology can offer the live music industry.

For this edition’s columns and comments, Wayne Forte details the process behind producing his critically acclaimed Mad Dogs & Englishmen documentary, and Richard Davies urges the industry to adopt a more strategic approach in its efforts to beat ticket touts.

And, in this month’s Your Shout, Dan Steinberg (Emporium Presents), Rob Challice (Paradigm), Mark Davyd (Music Venue Trust) and Nick Hobbs (Charmenko) describe their best moments of 2021.

As always, the majority of the magazine’s content will appear online in some form in the next four weeks.

However, if you can’t wait for your fix of essential live music industry features, opinion and analysis, click here to subscribe to IQ for just £5.99 a month – or check out what you’re missing out on with the limited preview below:


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Leading live execs share their hopes for 2022

Industry leaders have spoken to IQ about their biggest hopes and fears for the live business in 2022.

With the Omicron variant looking sure to disrupt the touring calendar for at least the first few months of the new year, the next 12 months are clouded with uncertainty. But speaking as part of a special feature in the new issue of the magazine, a raft of the sector’s leading lights have shared their optimism that better times are ahead.

“The pandemic fatigue will lead to full recovery of the live industry, but it will come with its ups and downs,” predicts Lucy Dickins, co-head of music at WME. “It’s certainly going to be a crowded marketplace. There is a huge backlog of touring due to the amount of new artists we have been breaking through and also the artists that have released multiple projects in the world where being on the road was halted.”

Dickins’ clients include Adele, who returned with her fourth studio LP 30 last year and will headline two sold-out nights at AEG’s BST Hyde Park festival in the summer.

“I also think we’ll see more traditional songs and artist albums return,” adds Dickins. “We are already beginning to see this with a few big artists, as during the pandemic there were far less collaborations.”

The agent, who also represents the likes of Mumford & Sons and Mabel, expects technology to play an even bigger part in artist campaigns moving forward.

“TikTok is definitely having a moment with more artists using the platform, but I think we’ll see a rise in other mediums over time,” she says. “The metaverse has already made its mark on the music industry. I think we will see more in 2022. Roblox and Fortnite have millions of daily active users who have been living the avatar life for some time. I’m slowly getting my head around it all!”

“We will get through this, but it will be tricky for a while longer”

Following a “rocky” conclusion to 2021, CAA Emma Banks anticipates an even “rockier” opening to 2022.

“Clearly, the continuing lockdowns in various European markets are bad for business, and even when venues are allowed to remain open, we are seeing a high level of absence at shows, where people are no longer feeling confident to go out. So business is going to be tough because we are going to lose more shows, and that is bad for everyone,” she says.

“I assume that as the population gets vaccinated with a third shot, we will then see case numbers reduce and can get back to the place we have been in the last few months, with shows happening and everyone out and about again. We will get through this, but it will be tricky for a while longer, and the 2022 bounce back looks like it is going to take longer than we hoped.”

LIVE group chair Phil Bowdery, Live Nation’s executive president of touring, international, strikes an optimistic note.

“I think we’ve all learnt that the industry stands ready to deal with any bumps in the road, and the calendar looks great well into 2022 and 2023,” he concludes. “Whatever comes our way, I think 2022 is going to be a bumper year, and I can’t wait.”

Co-Head of UTA’s UK office Neil Warnock naturally has reservations regarding Q1, but is confident the business will burst into life come spring.

“The first three months of 2022 may be chaotic,” he advises. “The new variant has sent yet another curve ball through the whole of our live industry. We had hoped that the end of 2021 would see the start of a new normality in 2022. However, I’m hopeful that by April we’ll be back to business, and the business will be huge. We will have bursting box offices, and I look forward to a massive festival season from late May onwards.”

The full interviews will be published in the new issue of IQ, which is out later this month.

 


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Arthur Awards 2022: All the nominees

The list of nominees has been revealed for the Oscars of the international live music business, the 2022 Arthur Awards.

The awards and Gala Dinner will return in-person to its old stomping grounds, Grade II-listed ballroom Sheraton Grand Park Lane in London on 4 March.

Hosted once again by renowned agent Emma Banks, the Arthurs will pay tribute to a dozen of the industry’s trailblazers, in front of 350 industry professionals.

The Gala, meanwhile, will consist of a champagne reception followed by a five-star, four-course feast prepared by award-winning chefs.

The events form part of the 34th International Live Music Conference (ILMC), which will host 1,200 top live music executives from over 40 countries at a new five-star venue, the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London, from 1–4 March 2022.

Due to the pandemic, this year’s special end-of-decade edition of the Arthur Awards was streamed live to ILMC delegates from London’s most iconic venue, the Royal Albert Hall.

Among the Arthurs 2021 winners were SJM Concerts’ Simon Moran, who won the Arthur of the Decade for the Promoters’ Promoter; Glastonbury Festival, whose organiser Emily Eavis picked up the award for Liggers’ Favourite Festival; and the late, great Steve Strange of X-ray Touring, who attended in person to collect his Arthur of the Decade for Second Least Offensive Agent.

To vote for your Arthur Awards 2022 winners, click here. A full list of award nominees is below:

FIRST VENUE TO COME INTO YOUR HEAD
Climate Pledge Arena, Seattle
Lanxess Arena, Cologne
L’Olympia, Paris
OVO Hydro, Glasgow
Paradiso, Amsterdam
The O2, London
Utilita Arena, Birmingham

MOST PROFESSIONAL PROFESSIONAL
Chiara Badiali, Julie’s Bicycle
Oleg Gaidar, World Touring Artists Consulting
Sarah Martin, WME
Dick Molenaar, All Arts Tax Advisers
Katie Moore, Live Nation
Jeremy Summers, Lewis Silkin
Tim Thornhill, Tysers

THE PROMOTERS’ PROMOTER
Kim Bloem, Mojo Concerts
Xenia Grigat, Smash!Bang!Pow!
Simon Jones, AEG Presents
Sophie Lobl, C3 Presents
Ioannis ‘Pana’ Panagopoulos, DreamHaus
Steve Tilley, Kilimanjaro Live
Pascal Van De Velde, Greenhouse Talent

THE PEOPLE’S ASSISTANT
Claire Macleod, X-ray Touring
Wai Mundia, DHP Family
Cat Munro, Live Nation
Helen Rabbitt, ITB
Sandra Swift, AEG Presents
Simon Tagestam, ATC Live
Louise Thomas, SJM Concerts

FESTIVAL ORGANISER’S ORGANISER
James Barton, Superstruct Entertainment
Melvin Benn, Festival Republic
Caroline & John Giddings, Solo
Jim King, AEG Presents
Folkert Koopmans, FKP Scorpio
Fruzsina Szép, Goodlive AG
Mikołaj Ziółkowski, Alter Art Festival

THE GOLDEN TICKETER
Reto Balz, Gadget
Lucia Bocankova, Ticketportal
Martin Fitzgerald, Eventim UK
Stefano Lionetti, TicketOne
Amy Oldham, DICE
Sarah Slater, Ticketmaster
John Talbot, AXS

SECOND LEAST OFFENSIVE AGENT
Obi Asika, United Talent Agency
Alex Bruford, ATC Live
Craig D’Souza, WME
Mike Malak, Paradigm Agency
Maria May, CAA
Jon Ollier, One Fiinix Live
Beckie Sugden, Primary Talent International/ICM Partners

THE UNSUNG HERO
Erin Benjamin, Canadian Live Music Association
Henrik Bondo Nielsen, Roskilde Festival/YES Group
Phil Bowdery & Stuart Galbraith, CPA/LIVE
Jens Michow, BDKV
Lucy Noble, Royal Albert Hall/NAA
Evelyn Richardson, Live Performance Australia
Craig Stanley, Marshall Arts/LIVE Touring

SERVICES ABOVE & BEYOND
Eat to the Beat
EFM Global Logistics
eps
Megaforce
Stageco Belgium
TAIT Towers
The Tour Company

TOMORROW’S NEW BOSS
Talissa Buhl, FKP Scorpio (DE)
Jenna Dooling, WME (UK)
Emma Greco, AEG Presents France
Paris Harding, SJM (UK)
Tessie Lammle, UTA (US)
Will Marshall, Primary Talent/ICM Partners (UK)
Arjun Mehta, Moment House (US)
Flo Noseda-Littler, Paradigm (UK)
Anna Parry, The O2 (UK)
Théo Quiblier, Two Gentlemen (CH)
Dan Roberts, Live Nation (UK)
Age Versluis, Friendly Fire (NL)

THE WINNER TECHS IT ALL
BASE Entertainment
Driift
LIVENow
LiveStyled
Moment House
Veeps

THE BOTTLE AWARD
Awarded to an individual who has contributed greatly to the live music industry

 


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ILMC 33: The Open Forum reflects on the year that wasn’t

Fresh off the back of the worst year in the history of the live music business, a quartet of industry titans put their heads together to figure out where we go from here for ILMC’s traditional opening session, the Open Forum, which moved to a mid-afternoon time slot for this year’s one-off digital edition.

Live Nation’s executive president of international touring, Phil Bowdery, kicked off the panel in a different way to usual. “We normally start off this session by talking about the year’s biggest grosses,” he said, before asking panellists how they’d spent the past year in the absence of selling hundreds of thousands of tickets.

Emma Banks, agent and co-head of CAA in the UK, summed up the mood when she said “we’ve all been busy fools”, rearranging tours and shows with no knowledge of when live music might be able to return. “Anybody that claims they know when we’ll be able to do international tours, they know something the rest of the world does not,” echoed Tim Leiweke, CEO of Oak View Group. “This thing has its own path of destruction it has to reap, and we’re going to have to be patient.”

When the time is right, “we have to open up globally,” said Jay Marciano, CEO of AEG Presents. “There was a time last year when everyone was experimenting but socially distanced shows, but at 50% [capacity] we realised we’d basically paid for the lights and the stagehands and then not made any money. And it takes away from the live experience.”

Referring to the number of fans who have kept their tickets for postponed events, Marciano added that he’s been struck by “how patient our fans have been”.

“I want to open up – I have $5 billion invested in nine new arenas. But in order to open up we have to have an agreement [as to when], because if one of us opens up too early it’ll affect the rest of us, too.”

“We’re still losing 2,000 people a day in the United States to this virus. So we need to hunker down” until it’s safe to reopen, he added.

“I’ve never seen this kind of demand … We’re going to get through this”

While “Covid has been horrendous”, there have been upsides to 2020’s time out, said Banks. “One thing that has been good is no planes – hopefully that’s been helping the planet we’ve been wrecking,” she explained. “Travel represents a tiny amount of carbon emissions, but – without taking away the gig – what we’ve learnt with Zoom, Webex, Teams, etc., is that we don’t need all the meetings we have, which we fly all over the world for often, often only for a day. We need to rethink what we’re doing.”

She also highlighted that artists have had time for other projects, whether its working on a book or starting a podcast, because they haven’t been on the road.

Both Leiweke and Marciano also pointed to advances in new technology such as 5G while touring has been on pause. “Technology didn’t take a year and a half off,” said Leiweke. When shows return, “we’re going to be see brand-new technology that will enhance the experience but won’t replace it”, he added.

Whenever it is live returns, none of the panellists were in any doubt about fans’ continued passion for live music, referencing the incredible pent-up demand for shows that has been building throughout 2020/21.

“There’s a whole load of catching up to do,” said Banks. “But it will be OK.”

“I’ve never seen this kind of demand. [For 2021] we have 180 holds in our new arena in New York already,” added Leiweke. “We’re going to get through this.”

Tickets for ILMC 33, which include all panels available to watch back until 5 April 2021, are still available. Click here for more information.

 


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UK CAA agent Ben Kouijzer passes aged 36

Ben Kouijzer, an agent for CAA UK and formerly UTA who represented electronic acts including 808 State and Meduza, has passed aged 36 of kidney and liver failure.

Kouijzer was diagnosed last summer with malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumour (MPNST), a rare and aggressive type of cancer, for which he underwent surgery and radiotherapy.

The cancer later metastasised to Kouijzer’s lungs, which doctors said was incurable.

Kouijzer and his fiancé, Lotte Bowser, moved to Tijuana, Mexico in September for treatment, and Kouijzer tested positive for Covid in late October. He also battled pneumonia, influenza, sepsis and other infections while in intensive care.

His passing was announced on Sunday via his Go Fund Me page, which had been created to draw donations for his treatments. At the time of writing, the campaign has raised over £250,000.

“It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of Ben. He fought so hard and we are so so proud of him but in the end it was too much for him. A combination of factors lead to kidney and liver failure and he passed away in the early hours of Sunday morning. We are beyond devastated. We are all hurting together,” the announcement reads.

Emma Banks, co-head of CAA’s London office, issued the following statement to Variety: “Today is such a sad day for everyone at CAA and particularly those who worked closely with Ben in the music department. It’s a testament to the man that while he had only been working with us for a couple of years, we are mourning a lifelong friend. Everyone who encountered Ben immediately loved him – he was a fantastic agent but more than that, he was simply a great human being.

“It’s a testament to the man that while he had only been working with us for a couple of years, we are mourning a lifelong friend”

“He was so brave tackling his cancer and with his beloved fiancée Lotte by his side he was determined to try every possible option to beat the disease. Ben is an inspiration to us all. He may be gone but he will never be forgotten and his spirit, soul and the love that he shared will remain with us forever. We send all of our love and condolences to Lotte and to Ben’s family and friends.”

Tributes have been pouring in from across the live music industry, with Kouijzer’s client, Meduza, writing: “Throughout the last 2 years you have been inspirational for us. We had so much more to do together, so many more fun times to share, so many more plans to implement and enjoy together, you made our teams craziest dreams come true in such a short period of time.

“From the moment we met you, we knew what our team were telling us about you was true. A truly magical human being, full of love and not a bad word about you from anyone. We were proud to have you in our corner.”

 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Lotte Bowser (@lottebowser)


DJ and producer Roger Sanchez tweeted: “Ben Kouijzer was not only the best agent I have ever worked with, he was one of the kindest, honest and universally loved person I know. A true warrior – from the dojo to the agency, to the way he faced cancer, he always gave 100% and never backed down. Ben, we will miss your presence on this planet tremendously but we will love you and remember you forever. In the words of the 100: Your fight is over Ben-Com-Skai Kru. May we meet again.”

Elsewhere in the electronic community, SG Lewis tweeted: “Heartbreaking news about Ben Kouijzer. One of the nicest guys in music, and loved by so many. RIP Ben.”

While DJ Got Some wrote: “Gutted to hear about Ben Kouijzer passing away. I want to send my regards to his family & GF. This guy was a proper stand up dude.”

Kouijzer is survived by his fiancé, Lotte Bowser, who wrote: “You had suffered so much these past 7 months, and you were too tired to go on. Fly high and return home to peace now my love.”

 


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Sheeran agent Jon Ollier to launch own company

Jon Ollier has become the latest agent to use 2020 as a springboard to launch his own independent company, after CAA today confirmed he will be leaving the agency within weeks.

Ollier will be taking his biggest client, Ed Sheeran, with him, alongside fellow British stars Anne-Marie and Calum Scott, but at the moment it is unclear who else from his roster might also be part of the new venture.

Ollier was at Free Trade Agency until March 2015, when he joined CAA’s London office. His departure from the company is amicable, with CAA offering their full support for his yet-to-be named new venture.

“Starting my own company has been a dream of mine and I appreciate CAA’s support in this transition”

“CAA has been a wonderful experience and one I am incredibly grateful for,” says Ollier. “It has been an absolute privilege working alongside so many outstanding people who care deeply about their clients and each other.”

He adds, “Starting my own company has been a dream of mine and I appreciate CAA’s support in this transition.”

CAA co-head, Emma Banks tells IQ, “Jon has been a great colleague and friend. We wish him the very best as he pursues an entrepreneurial path, and look forward to working with him in his new role.”

Ollier will be handing over and wrapping up with the company until mid-November and more details about his new company will be released in due course.

 


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IFF puts finishing touches to biggest programme yet

The Interactive Festival Forum (iFF) has announced two Soapbox Sessions panels for the event taking place on 2 and 3 September.

The first 55-minute session will invite five industry experts to deliver quick-fire presentations on a range of specialist topics including agency roster analysis, socially distanced events and mental health.

Soapbox Sessions: Five in 55 will see ROSTR co-founder and CEO, Mark Williamson, present highlights from an analysis of 650+ agency rosters with ROSTR: The Agency World in Numbers.

Deer Shed director and AIF member Kate Webster will deliver a Soapbox Session on Deer Shed Basecamp, the festival’s socially distanced, sold-out camping weekender with AIF presents: Touching Base.

Tim O’Brien – professor at Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics at the University of Manchester (the site of AIF member festival Bluedot) – will reprise a much-loved talk from a previous AIF Festival Congress with AIF presents: Sounds of Space.

Geoff Dixon will present exclusive new research on festivalgoers’ confidence about returning to live events over the next 12 months

In Soapbox Session Covid-19: You Are Here, Dr Mark Salter, consultant for global health at Public Health England, will update delegates on the latest international developments in the fight against Covid-19, including the search for a vaccine, as well as how public health authorities are planning for the months ahead.

Finally, Getting Back to Work: The Fan’s Perspective Vivid Interface will hear Geoff Dixon present exclusive new research on festivalgoers’ confidence about returning to live events over the next 12 months.

Another new addition to the conference schedule is The Lost Causes, a series of presentations from specialists covering diversity, accessibility, and mental health and welfare.

Attitude Is Everything‘s Gideon Feldman will deliver Accessibility: Building Back Better, Keychange‘s Francine Gorman will present Equality: Representation Matters and festival booker-turned-psychotherapist Tamsin Embleton will educate delegates on Mental Health: Minding the Gap.

Today’s announcement follows the news that CAA board member and London co-head Emma Banks, Paradigm’s head of global music, Marty Diamond, and FKP Scorpio MD Folkert Koopmans are joining the conference.

With just over one week to go until iFF, and with passes increasing in price on 1 September, secure your place and save money by registering here. Tickets are still just £50 inc. ALL fees.

 


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Next wave of industry elite announced for iFF

Another round of free-thinkers, ground-breakers, and industry stalwarts has been announced for the Interactive Festival Forum (iFF) in two weeks’ time.

The two-day livestream event, taking place on 2 and 3 September, is expected to host over 400 professionals from festivals and agencies across the globe.

Among the most recent speakers to join the programme is CAA board member and London co-head Emma Banks, Paradigm’s head of global music, Marty Diamond, and FKP Scorpio MD Folkert Koopmans.

The three industry heads will discuss adapting deals, escalating fees and the impact of the “lost year” on ticket pricing during the Ticket Price, Artist Fees and Deals panel, moderated by ILMC head Greg Parmley.

Elsewhere in the iFF schedule, Live Nation Belgium/Rock Werchter CEO Herman Schueremans joins the lineup for The Big Rebuild: Festivals bounce back.

Fullsteam Agency promoter Aino-Maria Paasivirta will chair the Refunds, Deposits & Force Majeure session, with Mojo Concerts’ Kim Bloem joining Sziget Festival CEO Tamás Kádár, Primary Talent partner Peter Elliott, and Glastonbury Festival’s general counsel, Ben Challis, to complete the panel.

Emma Banks and co. will discuss adapting deals, escalating fees and the impact of the “lost year” on ticket pricing

Meanwhile, Live Nation Sweden’s president of festivals and concerts, Anna Sjolund, will chair This Is Why We Do It, with Independent Talent head Duncan Heath, Fruzsina Szep, Paradigm partner/agent Alex Hardee and Martin Elbourne (Glastonbury/DMZ Peace Train) completing the lineup.

Also announced, Sophie Roberts from United Talent Agency is added to Shifting Landscapes: Covid’s effect on corporate relationships, joining Alex Bruford (ATC Live), Arnaud Meersseman (AEG Presents), Matchbox Live CEO Theresho Selesho,  and IQ Magazine staff writer Lisa Henderson.

IFF also welcomes Henrik Bondo Nielsen & Morton Therkildsen (Roskilde Festival) and Nick Morgan from We Are The Fair to the New Threat, New Risks workshop, which features Paleo Festival/iSSUE’s Pascal Viot too.

Lastly, Bella Concerts head Isabelle Pfeifer and MightyHoopla’s Jamie Tagg join the already announced Rob Gibbs (Progressive Artists) and Nika Brunet from MetalDays on Survival Stories: The Independents and psychotherapist Tamsin Embleton (Music Industry Therapist & Coaches) will speak about mental health and wellbeing during Soapbox Sessions: The Lost Causes, alongside Attitude is Everything’s Gideon Feldman and Youth Music’s Daniel Williams.

To view the full conference schedule, click here. Passes are currently £50 including fees until September, register here.

 


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Indie promoters talk challenges, post-corona recovery

The latest IQ Focus virtual panel, The State of Independence: Promoters, checked in with independent concert promoters in the UK, Europe, India and South America to discover how these entrepreneurs are preparing for the live industry’s return to normality.

Hosted by agent Emma Banks (CAA), yesterday’s session welcomed British promoters Anton Lockwood (DHP Family) and David Messer (DMP), Munbir Chawla from India’s The Wild City, Melanie Eselevsky from Argentina’s Move Concerts and Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion’s Roman Pitone to discuss the current difficulties unique to their sector, as well as the opportunities and challenges of a post-Covid-19 world .

Speaking about emerging concert formats such as drive-in shows, Pitone said Karsten Jahnke has done a number of drive-in events in Germany over the past few months. “Overall, they went well,” he said, but enthusiasm has declined over time as fans increasingly miss ‘real’ shows: “You could see when we started it that people were really eager to see shows [in some form] again, but it slowed down as time went on as people realised it’s just not the same.”

He added that the company is only breaking even on its drive-in and other socially distanced events. “With the income, we’re just paying for what we’re doing,” he explained. “This is just to keep doing something that is our passion and our livelihood, until we can do something [else]…”

In India, where live music is still invariably sponsored, brands have realised the coronavirus crisis isn’t going away and are spending less on live events, creating a headache for promoters, said Chawla. “The brands have realised they’re in it for the long haul, and cultural marketing spend is now being put back into marketing the products” directly, he commented.

“I want to remain independent. It’s not all and gloom”

“Unlike a lot of other scenes, the Indian scene is pretty reliant on brands. So, with the brands spending less money, that will also affect shows and the scale at which they can happen.”

Giving an overview of the situation in countries where Move Concerts operates, Eselevsky brought panellists up to date on the latest developments in Latin America, from the furlough scheme in Argentina to ticket vouchers in Brazil and drive-in concerts in Puerto Rico.

She also touched on the challenge of organising concerts in Argentina when the value of the local currency fluctuates so often: “Three years ago, the exchange rate was 18 pesos [to the US dollar],” she said. “Now it’s 75 pesos.”

Banks described her own experience of playing Argentina, relaying how one of her acts once oversold a show in Buenos Aires and still didn’t break even. “Try explaining that to the manager!” she said.

Turning to 2021, Messer said he’s “finding that because so many things have been moved into next year, things are fully booked” for late 2021 already. “So it’s very hard to know what you can book – the dates are going very quickly, but you can’t book the artists” because the situation around international touring is still so unclear.

“People are talking a lot more to each other … We’re all in the same place”

Lockwood said he can understood why many artists, especially American ones, could be reluctant to travel internationally well into next year, even if it’s a “depressing” thought. “Imagine the nightmare of being a US band,” he explained, “you get to the border of Spain and Portugal, and your bus driver gets a cough and you have to quarantine for 14 days. So, your whole tour’s just gone.

“Whereas, at least if you’re a US band and you tour the US, you won’t get caught in that.”

While the crisis has thrown into sharp relief the vulnerability of the independent sector, none of the panellists responded in the affirmative when Banks asked, tongue in cheek, if they wish they’d sold to Live Nation before coronavirus hit.

“It’s not all and gloom,” said Chawla, highlighting the quality of the music being released and the increasingly global nature of the industry as among the bright spots, while Messer praised how “people have come together” to mitigate the impact of the concert shutdown.

“People are talking a lot more to each other – people from different sides of the industry,” he said, in a sentiment echoed by Banks. “We’re all in the same place, and luckily everyone’s helping each other, which we have to do. We all need each other – we’re not going survive unless we can all exist.”

For more discussion and debate, including on ticket pricing, refunds and vouchers, ‘Swiss-cheese touring’ and much more, watch the session back on YouTube or Facebook now.

 


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