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Let us offer credit for cancelled shows, say assocs

As the coronavirus crisis continues to exert financial pressure on the live sector, industry associations and businesses in Europe, Asia and North America are asking for changes in the way refunds are issued for cancelled events.

In Europe, research shows digital footfall to event ticket sales sites has collapsed in recent months, with only travel agencies harder hit by concerns over the virus. According to Comscore, visits to ticketing sites fell by 47% in France, 12% in Germany, 52% in Italy, 55% in Spain and 26% in the UK between 17–23 February and 9–5 March.

The figures come as associations in the the UK warn of a cashflow “crisis” amid widespread concert cancellations – with British artists and managers alone expected to lose more than £60 million should a ban on mass gatherings last for the next six months – and other sectors, including cinema and aviation, similarly grapple with an unprecedented drop-off in ticket sales.

In countries including Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal, the UK, Russia and Kazakhstan, associations representing cash-strapped local operators are pushing for an extended refund grace period (up to 365 days), to be permitted to give vouchers in lieu of cash refunds, or a combination of the two.

“If you can afford it, you should consider whether it is really necessary to return your ticket for a refund,” reads a blog from Ticketmaster Germany, which is supporting the European Association of Event Centres (EVVC)’s #keepyourticket campaign. “Every ticket that is not returned helps organisers, venues and [sports] clubs, even after the coronavirus has passed, and enables them to be able to organise great events in future.”

The EVVC, which represents arenas and conference centres in central and southern Europe, is inviting its members to support the campaign by sharing text and visual materials calling for solidarity with promoters and venues. “For organisers, suppliers and cultural professionals, the corona pandemic is a threat to their existence,” says the association.

“If you can afford it, you should consider whether it is necessary to return your ticket for a refund”

Promoters’ association BDKV – which estimates its ~450 members will lose a combined €1.25 billion from March to May as a result of Germany’s event ban – is asking the German government to extend temporarily, to 365 days, the time within which a refund must be paid, as well as offer credit for tickets instead of cash refunds (a solution it says would especially benefit members sitting on large ticket inventories, such as theatres).

The former request (a grace period for refunds) is also believed to be the option preferred by Britain’s UK Music and Colisium, which represents promoters in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus.

In Spain, newly launched umbrella body Esmúsica (which includes the Association of Music Promoters) is also asking for a grace period, lasting until 31 December, for cancelled events. For postponed events, however, “given the exceptional situation”, the organisation says promoters must not be obliged to offer a refund, instead offering only a new ticket for rescheduled date(s).

“Several organisations and municipalities are cancelling events on a daily basis. Shows on sale for the end of the year and early 2021 are not selling. We have to work together on a reimbursement policy for postponed and cancelled shows that helps to minimise catastrophic losses,” says Portugal’s APEFE, which backs Esmúsica’s position on no refunds for postponed shows, suggesting that “purchased tickets must be valid for postponed shows without mandatory reimbursement”.

Both Esmúsica and APEFE (Association of Promoters of Shows, Festivals and Events) are also calling for a temporary reduction in VAT charged on tickets, among other relief measures.

In the Netherlands, meanwhile, the associations’ counterpart there, VVEM (Association of Event Producers), appears to be making headway with its campaign for ticket vouchers, with the Dutch cabinet discussing the issue this week.

“It is currently impossible for us to offer immediate cash refunds to all buyers”

Dutch culture minister Ingrid van Engelshoven has previously asked ticketholders not to request cash refunds, while VVEM has also reportedly found a sympathetic ear in the form of economy minister Eric Wiebes, who has said the government will provide further “strong help” for the sector (though it remains to be seen in what form).

While European associations focus on lobbying their respective governments, US secondary ticketing giant StubHub has taken the matter into its own hands, announcing that – where legal – it will no longer provide refunds for cancelled events to its American and Canadian customers. Instead, ticketholders will receive a voucher worth 120% of the original value of the ticket.

The change in policy comes as StubHub, which is in the process of being acquired by European rival Viagogo, lays off as much as two thirds of its workforce, in what it calls a “difficult but sensible decision”.

Explaining the shift in its refund terms, a StubHub spokesperson says: “In normal times, we’ve made the decision to refund buyers before collecting money from the seller to offer buyers more convenience. And under normal circumstances, this works well, even with StubHub taking the risk of timing delays and some losses when we are unable to collect from the seller. With the coronavirus impacting 28,000+ events and the associated magnitude of challenge in recouping monies owed by sellers over the coming months, it is currently impossible for us to offer immediate cash refunds to all buyers.

“When the volume of cancellations accelerated a few weeks ago, we were the first in our industry to offer a coupon worth 120% of the ticket value. This will now be our default option in Canada and in the US. Outside of the US and Canada, fans are defaulted to a refund.”

 


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STAR urges “patience” as ticketers handle Covid-19 refunds

The Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers has asked ticketholders to be “patient and kind” as ticket agencies process refunds and exchanges following sweeping event cancellations across the UK.

As the UK government advises the public to avoid gatherings of any size, events are being rescheduled or called off around the country as iconic venues including the O2 Arena, the Royal Albert Hall and Alexandra Palace close their doors until further notice.

UK ticketing industry body STAR is urging customers to avoid “flooding contact centres with calls and emails” and rather wait for ticketsellers to contact them regarding ticket exchanges or refunds.

“Rest assured, our members are working as hard as they can to resolve your issues,” saysd STAR chief executive Jonathan Brown. “They are very busy also dealing with their own measures to care for their staff and run their businesses.

“Please be patient and kind as box offices, ticket agents and other ticket sellers are committed to helping you during this extremely difficult period”

“Please be patient and kind as box offices, ticket agents and other ticketsellers are committed to helping you during this extremely difficult period.”

The Dutch culture minister Ingrid van Engelshoven (pictured) issued similar advice yesterday (18 March), calling on customers not to request refunds and encouraging them to accept alternative compensation offers, such as vouchers.

“We as a society can only overcome a crisis like this if we also show some solidarity and look after each other,” the minister told Dutch newspaper NRC. “If everyone is going to ask for their tickets back at the same time, that is asking a little too much of the sector.”

The option for ticket sellers to offer customers a voucher instead of a cash refund has been put forward by industry associations including Germany’s BDKV and Spain’s Esmúsica. BDKV has also asked for an extension to the time within which a refund must be paid, along with UK Music and the Colisium International Music Forum, which represents promoters in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus.

Photo: Frank Jansen/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0) (cropped)

 


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Spanish live industry reports another record year

The Spanish live music business generated a record €382 million (£333m) in 2019, representing its seventh consecutive year of growth.

According to the Live Music Yearbook, which is compiled by Spanish promoters’ association APM, turnover in 2019 exceeded the previous year’s record revenue by 14.6%.

Despite the positive results, the past year saw a deceleration of year-on-year growth, which had hit 20% and 24% in 2017 and 2018 respectively, following a cut in cultural tax in 2017 from 21% to 10%.

October, December, May, July and September proved to be the most profitable months of 2019, with more than €40m (£35m) generated in each.

The Spanish live music business generated a record €382 million in 2019

National tours by Manuel Carrasco, Marea and Alejandro Sanz attracted over 600,000 fans between them, with Carrasco alone selling 351,994 tickets.

In terms of international touring artists, Metallica and Ed Sheeran performed the best, drawing 122,000 and 108,386 fans respectively for just two shows each.

Morat, Muse, Mark Knopfler, Bon Jovi, Hans Zimmer, Bryan Adams, Bob Dylan and Rammstein were among other acts to visit Spain in 2019.

Formed in 2001, APM now has 78 members that together make up 80% of the Spanish live industry’s economic activity.

Last year, the association launched a festival arm, APM Festivals, as well as joining new Spanish music federation, Esmúsica.

Photo: Cristina Ruiz/Unnika (CC BY-SA 4.0) (cropped)

 


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Esmúsica: ‘collective voice’ of Spanish music biz is born

Organisations from the live, recorded and publishing sectors in Spain have joined forces to create Esmúsica, a federation acting as a “collective voice” for the Spanish music industry.

The umbrella body was formed yesterday (Wednesday 30 October) at industry conference BIME Pro, which is taking place until 1 November in Bilbao, north Spain. The organisation takes a similar model to that of umbrella groups in Britain (UK Music) and Canada (Music Canada).

Industry figures signed the agreement to launch the federation, with representatives from Acces (national association for live music venues); Aedem (Association of independent music publishers); AIE (Society for performing artists and publishers); APM (Association for music promoters); Arte (Association of stage technicians); Opem (Organisation of professional music publishers); Promusicae (Spanish music producers); SGAE (General society of authors and publishers); and Ufi (Union for independent phonographers).

Iñaki Gaztelumendi, founder and president of Spain Live Music and the person responsible for the new body’s strategic plan, told Spanish news agency Efe that Esmúsica will “put the demands of this sector – which is of such economic, cultural and social importance – on the public agenda, so we can improve as a collective entity.”

“Esmúsica will put the demands of this important sector on the public agenda”

Esmúsica aims to work closely with the state to aid the sustainable development of the Spanish music sector, focusing on areas of talent, creativity, intellectual property, entrepreneurship, training, innovation and internationalisation.

The association also wants to create national standards for all areas of the music industry in the country.

In addition, Esmúsica will produce a best practice guide relating to hiring in the sector and collaborate in the formation of an Academy of Spanish Music.

In terms of financing, the umbrella organisation plans to create a state fund dedicated to the development of the music industry.

The new body will also form the Observatory of Spanish Music, an analytical body looking at the current state of the Spanish music industry and working on ways to advance in the future.

Spain is the focus of the latest IQ market report, available to read online in the most recent edition of IQ Magazine here.

 


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