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EAA’s Olivier Toth warns of ‘another tough year’

European Arenas Association (EAA) president Olivier Toth says 2022 is shaping up to be another tricky year for the touring industry as it navigates its way through the Covid crisis.

The Rockhal Luxembourg CEO, who succeeded AEG’s John Langford in the EAA role last September, tells IQ that, despite some positive signs, it will likely take another 12 months for the market to get back to near full strength.

“We are taking a lot of bookings, but we are also expecting to see many postponements as we face new threats such as new variants and spikes in new cases,” he says. “2022 is going to be another tough year, and we are not expecting to see significant recovery until 2023.

“In order for our industry to recover, we are going to need a coordinated reopening effort that is adopted by all member states across Europe and applied to all those venues wanting to attract international tours and get back to hosting a wide mix of high-quality, full-capacity, safe live events.”

The next scheduled concert at the 6,500-capacity Rockhal, based in Esch-sur-Alzette, is by French singer Dadju on 3 February. Other acts lined up to play the venue this year include Maneskin, Biffy Clyro, Rag’N’Bone Man, Sting, Texas and Bryan Adams.

“The pandemic has highlighted the need for very visible and heightened safety measures”

Toth suggests a number of protocols developed because of Covid are here to stay post-pandemic.

“Arenas are all about safety – we cannot host the events we do without putting safety at the core of all our operations,” he says. “However, the pandemic has highlighted the need for very visible and heightened safety measures, which has led to a new set of safety protocols. Some of these protocols are now legal requirements and some are expected by stakeholders – we call these Mandatory Expectation or MX.

“Throughout the pandemic, our arenas have been incorporating MX into their digital journeys, not only to comply with legal requirements, which are ever-changing, but also to enhance the live event journey and create confidence with all stakeholders – artists, players, staff, partners, fans, and visitors.

“I think we must accept Covid-19 is not going to go away, and as we learn to live with the virus so must we continue to adopt and integrate extra safety measures into the live event journey as seamlessly and painlessly as possible.”

The EAA’s membership comprises 34 arenas in 20 European countries. According to the association, which was founded in 1991, its member arenas host over 2,900 annual events attracting a total audience of 19 million people.

Toth, an EAA board member, is a co-founder of the EAA EU Subgroup which morphed into the Arena Resilience Alliance (ARA) during the Covid-19 pandemic to open dialogue with EU governing bodies.

“The lack of unified operating protocols, and the existence of border controls affecting freedom of movement across Europe and beyond is making it very difficult for international tours, big and small, to take place,” he adds. “As a result, we are seeing a rise in bookings of domestic artists as well as cross-border activity.

“The current situation is at least allowing both established and new domestic talent to get out and perform, and we would hope that these domestic acts will eventually get a chance to travel at least across their closest borders in the near future as we work together to create shared protocols and travel requirements.”

The full interview with Toth will appear in the new issue of IQ, out next week.


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Operation Phoenix: How arenas are getting back to business

Scientists and epidemiologists predict that the winter months will see another peak in cases of Covid-19, so as arena management around the world draw up plans to cope with their busiest year ever, Gordon Masson, with the help of the European Arenas Association, learns about some of the strategies to reopen venues – and keep them open. In the first part of this serialised feature, executives from the European arena business discuss how they’re getting back to business.

Major concerts and tours are taking place throughout North America and Europe, but scratch the surface and it’s obvious that the coronavirus pandemic is far from over, as many territories still have social distancing restrictions in place, or outright bans on mass gatherings.

In the UK, meanwhile, the entire business is awaiting the findings of the Manchester Arena Inquiry, although the ramifications of that will doubtless have an international impact, too.

Nevertheless, a cursory chat with anyone in the arenas sector yields similar responses: venues are massively oversubscribed for 2022 and 2023, and the volume of shows and tours in the diary mostly surpasses the levels of business enjoyed in 2019.

European Arenas Association (EAA) president Olivier Toth notes that, as the restrictions change on a regular basis, the association’s recent survey of its members only captures a moment in time – in this case, 25 November. Given that the survey was conducted before the omicron variant became an issue, the data is certain to change in the coming days and weeks.

“With capacity restrictions, we see strong differences between the northern part of Europe and the southern part of Europe”

“I was hoping that things would change and everybody would be able to reopen, go to full capacity and all of that good stuff. Yeah. But unfortunately, it’s the other way round. So it remains complicated,” says Toth.

Nevertheless, Toth believes the EAA survey was important to gauge the disparity of restrictions throughout the organisation’s membership – and indeed, all 36 members of the EAA submitted data to help in that regard.

“With capacity restrictions, we see strong differences between the northern part of Europe and the southern part of Europe,” he reports. “In northern venues and western venues, nobody has restrictions. In the south, however, we see no restrictions for 56% of our colleagues, while 44% do have to work with restrictions. In central Europe, it’s 75% working with restrictions, while in eastern Europe, it’s similar with 71% having to deal with capacity restrictions.”

“Those restrictions will, again, be variable, and there it becomes very complex because they change between countries, but they also change between regions. One example that struck me: we were talking to friends [at an arena in southern Europe] and whereas in my part of Europe everybody thinks and believes that Covid digital certificates are the way out for our sector, this particular venue doesn’t use them.

“[The focus has evolved through the intervening 18 months, and reopening is more about vaccines, tests, face masks, crowd size

“They’re not going to check [certificates] at the entrance, at least not at a time when they participated in the survey. But, on the other hand, they need to keep the bars closed. They need to keep wearing masks and seated shows are mandatory. So no standing.”

Such disparities mean that coming up with an overarching guideline to help arenas across the continent to reopen is – at present – an impossible task. That’s certainly the case for some of the major venue operators, internationally.

Ron Bension, president and CEO of ASM Global, notes that while there is no set plan to cover every arena in the company’s portfolio, that network of venues provides its own cumulative strength. “When [the pandemic] initially happened, the focus was on cleanliness, containing the air and those kinds of things to ensure that people were safe and that people didn’t get [the virus]. That’s evolved through the intervening 18 months, and reopening is more about vaccines, tests, face masks, crowd size.

“The good thing about ASM Global is we’ve got more than 300 buildings around the world. The advantage we have, and our clients have, is that we’re giving them global data on a real-time basis as to what’s happening in the marketplace, and what to be prepared for: it’s rich, more narrative data, about what happened, what we did, how did it work, and what does that mean for you? And if we can provide that to our clients and customers and act upon it in a proactive way, then we and our clients are winners.”

“[OVG] is in a very good position with the new buildings because of all the technology we’ve been able to deploy”

At Oak View Group, executive vice president Brian Kabatznick notes that the company is in a unique situation, given that it is able to integrate Covid mitigation measures into the construction of its properties.

“We’re fortunate with the ten new arenas we’re opening because there are two methods of Covid mitigation – retrofitting existing buildings or opening new buildings where you’ve got the touchless systems, the HEPA filters, the ability to take fresh air from the outside and run that through the arenas on a much more efficient level. So from an arena perspective, we’re in a very good position with the new buildings because of all the technology we’ve been able to deploy, effectively and efficiently,” says Kabatznick.

“We’re the largest developer of arenas in the world, we’ve invested $5.5billion (€4.9bn) in deployed capital. For Oak View Group (OVG), we’re able to move very quickly and efficiently as an investor, operator, developer, builder, financer. But the first ten arenas are the tip of the iceberg. The next tranche will be similar, major markets, OVG coming in as investor operator, usually with a local partner.”

Quizzed on what steps ASM has taken to ensure the safe reopening of its buildings, Bension points to the collaboration with Drexel College of Medicine to create VenueShield, which he describes as “the number one safety protocol for coming back to business.”

He continues, “It’s not rocket science: it’s just very detailed protocols for backstage, offices, front of house, artist areas, convention centres, meeting rooms, front desk, ticket taking. We take each area and figure out: What are the touchpoints? What are the interface points? And what do we need to do to ensure guests’ safety at those points, ensure cleanliness at those points? What do we need to do at the end of the day, and before opening, to ensure that we can get the venue up for the next day’s business? It’s extremely detailed.”

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EAA adds arenas in Poland and the UK to membership

The European Arenas Association (EAA) is welcoming two new venues, taking the total membership to 36 arenas across 20 European countries.

Arena Gliwice, one of the largest and most modern sports and entertainment venues in Poland, has joined the association.

The Gliwice-based arena (cap. 17,000) opened in May 2018 and has since hosted more than 460 events in the region.

The purpose-built arena comprises two separate venues, Arena Glowna and Mala Arena, which each boast “cutting edge technology”.

According to newly elected EAA president Olivier Toth, Eastern European members now total almost 20% of the total membership.

ASM Global’s AO Arena in Manchester, UK, is also joining the membership.

At 21,000-capacity, the AO Arena has the highest seating capacity of any indoor venue in the UK

At 21,000-capacity, the arena has the highest seating capacity of any indoor venue in the UK and the second-highest in Europe.

Toth says the arena will bring “extensive know-how and experience” to the association.

“Also we are looking forward to following their progress as they transform into one of Europe’s most sustainable venues as a result of their current development plans,” he added.

James Allen, GM, AO Arena Manchester, says: “The long period of separation during the global pandemic has highlighted the necessity of collaboration in a supportive manner across Europe, which the EAA champions.

“Our new headline sponsor, AO has strong links with mainland Europe so it is only right that their arena does too. It is a privilege to have our membership application accepted and we look forward to being active members.”

The addition of Arena Gliwice and AO Arena Manchester comes after Spain’s Navarra Arena joined the association last month.


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ARA publishes analysis of European test events

The Arena Resilience Alliance, the purpose-driven initiative created by the European Arenas Association (EAA), has published a report analysing findings from more than 20 test events hosted at 12 of its partner arenas across Europe.

ARA partner arenas that have hosted test events and experimental studies include AccorHotels Arena Paris, Ahoy Arena Rotterdam, Avia Solutions Group Arena Vilnius, Barclaycard Arena Hamburg, Mercedes-Benz Arena Berlin and Palau Sant Jordi Barcelona.

Quarterback Immobilien Arena Leipzig, Rockhal Luxembourg (2 venues), Saku Suurhall Tallinn, The O2 London, and Ziggo Dome Amsterdam are also affiliated with the ARA and have hosted experiments.

The new report aims to share the experience and insights gathered from those test events – which took place with between 100 and 5,000 participants – in order to provide a framework for the return to live events in Europe.

According to the ARA’s analysis, the total amount of visitors admitted at each event varied from under 5% of normal maximum capacity to over 30%.

The highest capacity events were held at the AccorHotels Arena in Paris which sold 5,000 tickets representing 33% of total capacity and the Palau San Jordi in Barcelona which also hosted 5,000 people which represented 28% of capacity.

“Building confidence amongst all our stakeholders that live events are a safe environment is so important”

The report also notes the varying approaches to safety and preventative measures:

In terms of infrastructure development, arena ventilation and air filtering were found to be the highest priority for all participating venues, with 92% actively monitoring ventilation performance and 8% operating specific air filtration systems.

When it came to customer experience delivery, 100% of venues provided detailed pre-event customer guidance communications and ensured all the onsite staff were given adequate training to be able to deliver the new protocols. Almost 60% of venues offered food and beverage services and 42% operated contactless payment processes.

The report emphasises that, at the time of publication, there are “no recorded clusters of infection from those who attended the test events and there is no published evidence that these events contributed to the spread of the virus”.

It concludes: “From the evidence available to date, it appears that with the correct implementation of safety measures, in particular pre-event Covid testing and the use of the EU Digital Certificate, it is possible to host safe indoor live events.”

“We were pleased to share these findings, with a view to building towards a model that can be scaled”

“Arenas sit at the hub of the live events ecosystem playing a vital role in bringing together all the major stakeholders and playing a crucial role in communities across Europe,” says John Langford, president of European Arenas Association. “Over the past year, ARA has been promoting important dialogue around why we need unified conditions that will allow music, culture and sports to return to arenas and enable arenas to reopen.”

Olivier Toth, CEO, Rockhal in Luxembourg, EAA board member and co-founder of ARA, added: “After almost a year and a half without live events, experiments like our Because Music Matters showcase and other test events that have been taking place across Europe, are an important and positive step forward in testing the safety measures we can employ to support our back to business strategies.

“Building confidence amongst all our stakeholders that live events are a safe environment is so important. We were pleased to share these findings, with a view to building towards a model that can be scaled as the industry continues to work towards the safe and sustainable return of live events.”

Robert Fitzpatrick, CEO, The Odyssey Trust, owners of The SSE Arena, Belfast, EAA Member and co-founder of ARA, commented: “As the advocacy platform for European arenas, the ARA has developed a manifesto, which will be an important tool as we prepare for a return to live events, whilst working to protect the health and wellbeing of our communities and the sustainability of our industry.

“This report publishing the findings of the recent test events provides a further tool to help industry and key EU decision-makers come together and discuss the regional and national frameworks that will help us get back to business.”

See an extensive list of the test events and experimental studies that aim to show a scientific path back to live here.


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Operation Restart: How EAA members plan to reopen

When the European Arenas Association (EAA) celebrated its 20th birthday back in 2011, the live entertainment industry was in the infancy of a record-breaking run, as live music, in particular, grew in popularity, and venues throughout the continent enjoyed the challenges of ever bigger visiting productions, attracting more and more eager fans.

A year ago, many of the EAA’s 36 member venues were predicting 2020 would deliver yet another record year, but the Covid-19 pandemic soon obliterated such optimism and ten months on from the beginning of lockdown measures, there is still no clear indication about when Europe’s arenas will be able to resume operations.

As a result, the EAA finds itself as the central hub for discussions about strategies for getting back to business, with members in constant contact to help plan how they can safely welcome artists and audiences back into their buildings while also protecting their staff and production crews.

“Our EAA conversations over the past year have highlighted that although we are all in a different situation, country by country and city by city, we’re all actually in the same situation when it comes to the use of the venues,” reports current EAA president John Langford.

“But having conversations facilitated by EAA membership between venue managers in Germany, France and the UK, for instance, alerts you to how people are responding differently and gives us the opportunity to learn from others.”

“Although [countries] are all in a different situation, we’re all in the same situation when it comes to the use of the venues”

One topic that arena bosses all agree on is that any solutions for reopening need to be universal to facilitate artist plans for international touring, meaning that the discussions that the EAA is hosting will be crucial to the recovery of major live events on this side of the Atlantic.

“Communication with our colleagues across Europe is as important right now as it has ever been,” states Mantas Vedrickas, events manager at the Žalgirio Arena in Kaunas, Lithuania.

“The EAA helps us communicate easily, and the sharing of experiences helps us all deal with the situation that we are placed in. It allows the exchange of ideas, and helps find the best ways to implement solutions.”

That sentiment is echoed by arena management across Europe, who are carefully making preparations to get back to business as soon as authorities give them the green light.

Preparations behind closed doors
Many of EAA’s member venues last hosted concerts in March 2020, meaning that they are but a handful of weeks away from having an entire year without shows.

That situation also means that thousands of people have been made redundant, further complicating the task of arena bosses when it comes to opening their venues for audiences.

“Whenever hosting events will be allowed, [Žalgirio Arena] will be all ready to restart”

However, some venues have been more fortunate than others. Vedrickas notes that the Žalgirio Arena has remained open for local basketball team, Žalgiris Kaunas, albeit without fans at games.

“Throughout this entire situation, we have been in constant dialogue with event organisers [and] whenever hosting events will be allowed, we will be all ready to restart,” he pledges.

Representing both the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin and the Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg, Uwe Frommhold VP & COO of AEG Germany tells IQ, “Due to the generous furlough programme of the German government, we have been able to keep our staff on board throughout these tough times for our business. So we will be able to ramp up our workforce fairly quickly, once the situation calls for it.

“Furthermore, we were able to stage several non-concert events – fairs and sports – with reduced capacity, where our hygiene and social distancing protocols were put in practice. So we feel well prepared to gradually bring people back when the pandemic eases.”

In Portugal, Jorge Vinha da Silva, CEO at the Altice Arena in Lisbon, says that outside of the complete lockdown restrictions, the venue had permission to run events at 50% capacity, respecting regulations such as social distancing, reserved seats, hand sanitisers, thermal cameras, a renovated air-conditioning system, and a complete contingency plan approved by health and safety authorities.

The Altice Arena in Lisbon had permission to run events at 50% capacity, respecting regulations

Silva notes, “Of course, there were no international acts, but it was possible to have smaller events with local artists. We also used the venue for TV productions without audiences, and for the corporate side of the business, [we created] virtual or hybrid events.”
Across the border in Spain, the Palacio Vistalegre in Madrid has been put to similar use.

“We did some film and TV shooting during the pandemic while we were not in lockdown or confined, as they need a big space now for the actors, separate dressing rooms, and different and isolated space for extras and bystanders,” says CEO Juan Carbonel.

“In the meantime – with zero income – we invested and did improvements in the facilities as we upgraded air systems and natural air venting, together with [audience signage], new protocols for security and extra cleaning, etc.”

Carbonel says the venue has also created new protocols regarding access strategies to protect arena workers and visiting crews.

Detailing the plans for a return to hosting events at the Arena Riga in Latvia, chairman Girts Krastins says, “Our approach will be based on local health regulations, but as the summer and first months of autumn were relatively relaxed we were able to host some events with spectators and test some procedures.”

Among those tested protocols were designated entrances, sales of socially distanced tickets, disinfection procedures for visitors and staff, clean zones for sports teams, shielded concessions, and safe food packaging.

“Our ice hockey team is still playing at Arena Riga, without spectators, and that allows us to routine our procedures”

Like Vedrickas in neighbouring Lithuania, Krastins has been able to hone some systems thanks to a sports team that calls Arena Riga home. “Our ice hockey team is still playing at our venue, without spectators, and that allows us to routine our procedures and keep [our] employees.”

And highlighting the importance of local trade bodies, as well as the EAA, on a bigger scale, Krastins adds, “Together with our local venue association we have been in touch with health authorities regarding possible solutions for crowd management under Covid-19 and that is one of the reasons why we were able to operate in summer and autumn.”

That foresight in testing and training is a common theme among EAA members.

At Münich’s Olympiapark, general manager Marion Schöne says, “During the first lockdown, we developed and implemented hygiene concepts for all our venues, and leisure and tourism facilities. We also trained employees as hygiene advisors in an in-house training course.

“From mid-May, we received permission to reopen under certain conditions. We were also able to hold daily concerts in the Olympic Stadium for six weeks in the summer, but only for a maximum of 400 people.”

“We were able to hold daily concerts in [Münich’s] Olympic Stadium for six weeks in the summer for a maximum of 400 people”

In Prague, Robert Schaffer, CEO at the O2 arena, reveals that the venue has been used several times, including for online concerts, but otherwise arena staff have taken the time to carry out maintenance programmes. But he remains cautious about the doors reopening.

“We hope that from the second [half of the year] we can start to return to normal,” he says. “Specifically, from September, we can start hosting concerts, especially by domestic artists.” International artists will likely not return until 2022, he predicts.

“Protecting the health of all involved is a top priority for us and we will certainly comply with all effective regulations, whether on capacity, time-segregated entrances to all sectors, temperature measurement, staff testing and, of course, regular disinfection,” continues Schaffer.

At the SEC in Glasgow, which includes the SSE Hydro Arena on its campus, director of live entertainment Debbie McWilliams notes that because it hosted a temporary hospital during the pandemic, staff have benefitted from National Health Service advice when planning for the venue’s return to action.

“We are fortunate to have the input of NHS Scotland as they have implemented best practice in managing hygiene and cleaning of the NHS Louisa Jordan [hospital],” she says.

“We hope that from the second half of the year [the O2 arena, Prague] we can start to return to normal”

And McWilliams acknowledges that instilling confidence among fans will be a major part of the rebuilding process. “Customer communication is pivotal in informing and encouraging responsible fan behaviour,” she says.

“In partnership with Ticketmaster we have enhanced our ticket purchase process to include allocated entry arrival times, potential for carpark advanced bookings, a switch to fully mobile ticket delivery to support reduced contact entry, and we are transitioning all F&B and merchandising to cashless. Our comms plan is being developed to take cognisance of individual audience profiles and their needs.”

Meanwhile, in Paris, AccorHotels Arena director general Nicolas Dupeux applauds his team’s flexibility to adapt to the ever-changing situation. “Since last March, we have been able to organise a number of events,” he says.

“The first one, in June, was part of the annual Fête de la Musique celebrations, broadcast on French television. In record time, we had to prepare to welcome more than 30 artists, and then reorganise in less than three days to welcome 3,000 people, taking into account all the sanitary measures.”

That ability to rapidly reorganise staff and systems to host major events is one of the arena sector’s unique skills. And facilitated by the communication networks that have developed through EAA membership, arena management across the continent are currently updating plans, often daily, for Covid-safe systems that will help relaunch their businesses and welcome fans back into their buildings.

“Since last March, we have been able to organise a number of events [at AccorHotels Arena, Paris]”

The recovery
While there is still no set date that will allow arenas to reopen for business, the EAA’s members are working tirelessly to ensure they remain up to speed with government guidance, as well as best practice procedures advocated by the association.

AccorHotels Arena boss Dupeux sums up the role EAA will have in the venues sector recovery. “Being part of the EAA gives us a great space to exchange with other venues that face the same challenges – managing venues and re-welcoming our fans – and this has proven extremely useful, especially in the current context.

Membership also gives us access to industry benchmarks on recovery stimulus and actions. Being that our venue is so large and specific, EAA is the only space available to do this on a European level.”

Highlighting just how eager he is to kickstart the recovery, Dupeux discloses, “We have been working since the first lockdown on our reopening protocols to ensure the strictest respect for health and safety: social distancing, reinforced cleaning and disinfection procedures, establishing one-way circulation paths, implementing mandatory face-covering rules and deploying hand-sanitiser stations. Our protocol was successfully tested last June.

“On the digital side of things, we have sped the deployment of our touchless solutions (click&collect and cashless payment) to be ready for reopening. We are also ready to gradually reopen with design offers for production with smaller gauges, all with a ready-to-use setup to limit costs.”

“From autumn, business must be running again to some extent, otherwise we see black for the future”

Addressing her expectations for the coming year, Marion Schöne at Olympiapark in Münich, comments, “In our economic plan for 2021, we have assumed that we will not have any operations in the first quarter; from the second quarter, we hope to be able to reopen our tourism facilities but with limited capacities, and in the summer, the first open-air concerts and festivals must be possible again, albeit with conditions.”

But she warns, “From autumn, and at the latest in the fourth quarter, business must be running again to some extent, otherwise we see black for the future.

“We are represented in various nationwide working groups and are trying to convince politicians to develop a roadmap for the restart, together with the event industry. Our great hopes are the vaccinations, certified and inexpensive corona [rapid testing], as well as further studies that show that events can be held safely.”

In Scotland, McWilliams is equally realistic about the path to doors opening. “Assessing the year ahead, we expect promoter focus to be on the summer and the crucial return of festivals. We expect arena business to return in September following a successful festival programme,” she reports.

Noting that forecasts are reliant on the success of the UK’s vaccine programmes, McWilliams explains, “Following this timeline, we are working with Scottish government on a road map back to full capacity, which will include some test events at reduced capacities, building to full capacity.”

“we are working with Scottish government on a road map back to full capacity, which will include some test events”

Arena Riga’s Krastins is similarly pragmatic about the coming year. “Our plan for this year is mainly sports,” he states. “We will probably host the World Championship in ice hockey (with or without spectators) in May till June, then some international competitions in ‘bubble’ format, and then the regular ice hockey season starts in August.

“And if shows resume in September or October, we will be ready. In general, I feel that 2021 will be better than 2020, but definitely nowhere close to 2019.”

In Germany, AEG’s Frommhold is also counting on a revival in the second half of the year. “We are clearly looking at late Q3 and Q4 for larger crowds to be allowed back into the venues,” he comments. “Currently, a lot of shows and concerts are moving out of 2021 into 22.

“In Berlin and Hamburg we are in ongoing conversations with local and regional promoters about shows with limited capacity, whenever this is allowed, to bridge the gap to the start of regular touring. We are hoping for May for such shows to take place, but that is hard to predict. Obviously, a sustained business case and social distancing are mutually exclusive, but those events would send a positive message and get people working,” observes Frommhold.

Altice Arena chief Jorge Vinha da Silva is more optimistic that science can help reduce the impact of Covid-19 and allow mass gatherings to become commonplace again. “I hope by mid-year we can start recovering, especially in the third and fourth quarter when I hope our venues progressively return to full capacity with the evolution of the vaccination process or by mass [use] rapid testing.

“Fan research confirms pent-up demand for live, however, we need to be aware of consumer disposable income levels”

“I believe events will return first in a regional setting, as one of the most important factors is to rebuild consumer confidence and none of us can really evaluate the effect of an inevitable economic crisis. On the other hand, after the pandemic, everyone will be willing to share collective experiences such as concerts and festivals and this will be positive for the industry.”

Advocating “Clear, consistent, positive messaging on all customer touchpoints,” McWilliams agrees with Silva’s summary and concludes that ticket pricing could be a key factor to the success of the industry’s relaunch.

“Fan research confirms there is pent-up demand for live events, however, we need to be aware of the impact on consumer disposable income levels,” she warns.

“In a post-Covid world, there may be lots of choice but attendance could be stifled by a change in purchase practice, with consumers displaying self-protection and a need for security in their spending habits. If ticket prices were lower for a period of time this may help mitigate risk.”


Read this feature in its original format, with additional insight from EAA president John Langford, in the digital edition of IQ 96.

ARA set to reveal manifesto for Europe’s return to live

The Arena Resilience Alliance (ARA), the purpose-driven initiative created by the European Arenas Association (EAA), is set to launch a manifesto detailing the essential next steps for a safe return to live music and sport across Europe.

The action plan will be revealed during the industry body’s second conference, ‘A Game of Two Halves: The Return Leg‘ in association with IQ, which will be streamed live on Thursday 18 February at 1 pm GMT on the EAA’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.

The free virtual event will feature contributions from a range of speakers including John Langford (AEG Europe COO and EAA president), Sam Tanson (minister of culture for Luxembourg) and Alex Jäger, (sport director at Champions Hockey League).

The free virtual event will feature contributions from speakers including John Langford, Sam Tanson and Alex Jäger

A Game of Two Halves: The Return Leg will also feature a keynote speech and presentation by Sam Tanson, minister of culture for Luxembourg, featuring behind the scenes footage and in-depth analysis from a series of test concerts taking place in Luxembourg at Rockhal arena’s club venue.

Alongside the Rockhal test events presentation and ARA manifesto launch, the event will also feature two panel discussions titled ‘Ready to Rock and Play’ and ‘Working out Way Back To You’ which will explore what support the live events sector needs from policymakers on both a national and EU level to enable long-term resilience and future growth.

Opening addresses will be delivered by Rita Brasil de Brito (chair of the Cultural Affairs Committee, Portuguese presidency of the council of the EU and Viviane Hoffmann (deputy director general at the European Commission Directorate-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture).

ARA’s first virtual conference, A Game of Two Halves, which streamed in December 2020 is available to watch online here.


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New year, new hope: IQ 96 is out now

IQ 96, the latest issue of the international live music industry’s favourite monthly magazine, is available to read online now.

February’s IQ Magazine details the unique 2021 edition of the International Live Music Conference (ILMC) and offers an exclusive preview of new session Pulse with agent Mike Malak.

Elsewhere, IQ editor Gordon Masson finds out New Zealand’s industry is coping in its post-pandemic bubble, and talks to some of Europe’s biggest venues to find out how they plan to get back up and running, as the European Arenas Association turns 30.

This issue also hears from Crosstown Concerts director Conal Dodds, who details his firm’s creation of a new live-streaming operation, and Nue Agency chief Jesse Kirshbaum, who extols gaming’s ability to introduce artists to new audiences and accelerate career development.

And if you’re curious to know what Rob Challice (Paradigm), Claudio Trotta (Barley Arts), Alan Day (Kilimanjaro Live) and other industry pros are looking forward to most when life gets back to normal, you’ll find the answers in Your Shout.

All that is in addition to all the regular content you’ve come to expect from your monthly IQ Magazine, including news analysis and new agency signings, the majority of which will appear online in some form in the next four weeks.

Whet your appetite with the preview below, but if you can’t wait for your fix of essential live music industry features, opinion and analysis, click here to subscribe now and receive IQ 96 in full.


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Safe to hold hackathon on Covid-19 solutions for live

Safe – a European project that deals with event safety, security and crowd management – is inviting the public to join its hackathon, which aims to find innovative and viable solutions to help festival and events manage the constraints caused by Covid-19.

The hackathon will take place in the form of an ideation camp with four different focus groups, which will be guided by experts from the live sector, safety management, technology, data, smart cities and sociology:

The Safe hackathon will take place on 21 and 22 January from 9:30 am –12:30 pm CET. Each group will host a maximum of 12 participants and registration is now open.

Safe is a project lead by Prodiss, with International Live Music Conference (ILMC), Le Laba, Issue, Wallifornia, TSC Group Management, Mind Over Matter Consultancy, BDV and European Arenas Association, and backed by the European Union via Erasmus Plus program.


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ARA conference: “Arenas are the workhorses of the biz”

Industry pros from music, sport and the EU yesterday came together for a virtual conference organised by Arena Resilience Alliance (ARA), a newly formed purpose group created by the European Arenas Association (EAA), in association with IQ.

The conference, titled A Game of Two Halves, opened a dialogue about the need for a pan-European strategy for the return of live music and sports events indoors.

The live music session invited speakers MEP, Monica Semedo; Herman Schueremans, CEO, Live Nation, Belgium; Olivier Toth, CEO, Rockhal, Luxembourg and Jason Danter, production manager/director for artists including Madonna, Lady Gaga and Iron Maiden.

The panel’s central focus was the role of arenas in the industry’s ecosystem, which heard speakers explain why it is important to keep the venues open.

Danter says that from a touring point of view, arena shows are what bands often strive to achieve at the peak of their careers.

“There’s a huge difference in the number of arena bands versus the number of stadium bands. Not every band can sell the number of tickets to play stadiums but many will play arenas,” he says.

“If arenas are not a spoke in the wheel, they’re the hub… a very important part of the touring world”

He goes on to emphasise the importance of arenas as a major employer in the music industry, as well as a substantial revenue source.

“Arenas have a huge amount of shows with a huge capacity of people coming through it. The shows demand a level of production and a budget which means we get to employ more people, and we get to give contracts to more companies. Essentially, arenas workhorse of the touring world. If arenas are not a spoke in the wheel, they’re the hub… a very important part of the touring world,” he concludes.

Rockhal CEO, Toth, ran with the analogy, adding that if arenas close for good, it’ll have a knock-on effect for the industry: “The different stakeholders in our industry are the spokes to that hub, helping it operate as a full wheel. If you take out that hub, obviously the spokes are not of any good use. It’s not about getting arenas back to business tomorrow or next week but it’s about starting to plan because we need six months–nine months to get started again.”

Speaking about the impact of Covid-19 on the live music industry, Live Nation Belgium CEO Schueremans, says: “We were in shock. A cultural industry that didn’t exist 45–50 years ago, that started from nothing and created a lot of jobs and VAT was going to be destroyed. As a live industry, we were not internationally well organised, even though we organise tours all over the world.”

“We need harmonised and co-ordinated Covid measures within the EU in order to have clarification”

MEP Semedo followed that point, emphasising the importance of pan-European co-ordination with the restart of European and international touring.

“We need harmonised and co-ordinated Covid measures within the EU in order to have clarification on whether artists and people can cross borders and whether they need to quarantine or not. There needs to be a one-stop-shop with conditions for artists, arenas and events, reducing the bureaucratic burden. It’s important that all actors in this cultural and creative industry work together,” she said, wrapping up the session.

Closing the event, Gordon Masson, editor of IQ Magazine, hosted a discussion with ARA co-founders: Olivier Toth, CEO, Rockhal in Luxembourg; Robert Fitzpatrick, CEO, The Odyssey Trust; the owners of The SSE Arena, Belfast; and Adrian Doyle, Board Member, EAA.

The event also featured addresses from a range of speakers including John Langford, EAA president; Tamas Szucs, director for culture and creativity at the European Commission and a keynote speech by Sam Tanson, minister of culture, Luxembourg.

Commenting after the event, Langford said: “Arenas play a crucial role in communities right across Europe. This event has opened important dialogue around why we need unified conditions that will allow music, culture and sports to return to arenas and enable arenas to reopen. We would like to thank our speakers for their valued contribution and for all of our industry colleagues for joining us. With continued discussion and collaboration, we will create a framework that will help us to rebuild these important industries.”


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EU arenas report bumper year for live music

Increased venue construction and sweeping market consolidation are the major themes emerging from IQ’s latest European Arena Yearbook (EAY), as live music further strengthens its position as the driver of European arena success.

The third edition of EAY shows that boom time for Europe’s arena business is far from slowing down, with many venues surpassing the record-breaking results exhibited in EAY 2018 thanks to an increasingly diversified entertainment space and growing demand for live music events in particular.

EAY – a standalone publication replacing IQ’s traditional European Arena Report – is produced by ILMC in partnership with the European Arenas Association (EAA) and the UK’s National Arena Association (NAA). Sixty-one European arenas, which collectively sold 37 million tickets to almost 6,000 events, contributed to latest edition.

A major theme of EAY 2019 is the increasing trend towards consolidation

Live music remains on top, making up 44% of all events taking place at the European arenas surveyed – up from 37% the year before. Concerts also attracted much larger audiences than other events, with an average of 8,116 fans per show, compared to a Europe-wide event average of 6,395.

A major theme of EAY 2019 is the increasing trend towards consolidation. “The merger of AEG Facilities and SMG to form ASM Global is the most significant example of this [consolidation] in the industry since Live Nation predecessor SFX Entertainment started rolling up promoters and venues in the late 90s,” writes IQ/EAY editor Gordon Masson.

Indeed, market consolidation was deemed “very concerning” for some respondents whose venues do not belong to one of the major global players.

As always, this year’s EAY includes six in-depth regional profiles – central and eastern Europe; France and Benelux; Germany, Switzerland and Austria (GSA); the Nordics; southern Europe; and the UK and Ireland.

“Evolution in the business has been astounding”

The south of Europe retains its crown as the busiest market, attracting an average of 10,869 fans per event – up from 8,555 last year and far higher than its closest competitor, central and eastern Europe (7,903). A record year for the Spanish live music business and plans for a mega new arena in Valencia reflect the region’s sense of buoyancy.

New venue developments are taking place all over Europe, in fact, with major new complexes set to break ground in Germany, Russia, Finland, the UK and Italy in coming years. Masson notes that “evolution in the business has been astounding, with each new year seemingly generating more venue construction than the year before.”

Major takeaways from EAY 2019 in numbers:

Stars of the future

In terms of future growth, the Nordics lead the way, with a predicted growth rate of >1% for 2021. The UK and Ireland are the only other region expecting growth, with a drop for all others, not least for central and eastern Europe, with predictions of a decline of almost 4%.

EAY 2019 growth predictions

Creeping concerns

An overriding sense of positivity emerges from the arenas surveyed, but some concerns do creep in. Ticket prices, increasing production costs and the threat from competition are among the top worries for respondents, with the state of the economy and industry consolidation not far behind.

EAY 2019 industry concerns

Ticket prices: the eternal bugbear?

Although ticket prices remain at the top of industry concerns for 2018, deemed as ‘worrying’ or ‘extremely worrying’ by 22% of respondents, the average ticket price across all events fell slightly compared to the previous year (from €44.34 to €43.49). Music events, which continue to be the most expensive, also experienced a dip, from €54.88 to €53.23.

EAY 2019 ticket prices


For more insights, read IQ’s European Arena Yearbook 2019 here.

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