Bulls-hit on parade
I wrote this column at least 1,000 times in my head over the last eight weeks before putting it down on paper today. When ink did hit paper, I ended up with a very different version to the prior madness, and although it was very poignant it wreaked of an anger so deep with frustration and ugliness that there was no way to contain it in an 800-word essay.
You see, I was fired recently from a major sold-out arena tour that was to start up a week after the pandemic shut us all down. Then unceremoniously terminated – two weeks past the one-year anniversary, to be exact. Seriously, a year into a global pandemic, and then I get fired? Fucking ridiculous. Putting me out with gasoline while on fire is an understatement. And goddamn, I have been spitting piss and vinegar ever since.
Although I have been fired thrice before from other projects over what I would call on paper a successful and respected 35-year career, this was definitely different. Not that the previous times didn’t hurt and or make you question yourself and your abilities eight ways to Sunday, this had the added fear of a never-ending global pandemic attached to it with zero constructive communication from day one by my employers.
However, after checking my head with the help of some dear and trusted peers, the soul-searching melted into a clear and underlying suspicion that you had been employed by some incredibly dysfunctional and most likely heartless people that actually knew very little about large-scale touring and had zero interest in learning from the professionals that they hired to give such guidance. Not that I haven’t always had the classic Hunter S. Thompson quote about the music business in my veins to rationalise such shitty behaviour, but enough is enough. When you sell your brand heavily based on the plight of the working man and woman, the impoverished, the exploited, the systemic violation of human rights across the globe, then maybe it’s time to put down that copy of the ‘Anarchist’s Handbook for Dummies’ for a second and look in your own back yard and find out what your responsibilities are as a corporate employer of a large labour force.
Communication on the task at hand, and to the people you hire, is key here – with any of our touring projects, it’s the framework to getting all parts of the project built when applied successfully. You, sirs, give zero fucks. Add serious dysfunction and animosity within a group and your chances of that success are lowered considerably. Heck, I feel for you, man; everybody has that drunk uncle at the Thanksgiving holiday table, but please don’t pawn your personal problems onto the kids’ table. I’m just trying to have a piece of that apple pie, too, brother.
Contrary to what you are reading here, please note that I hold no ill will towards you. I love your band’s music, I wish you continued success and I cherish you as human beings, as we are all God’s children in the end. But we are professionals here, and we are tired of being exploited by such flippant behaviour. So please pay up and honour the commitment we all made when hired.
You need us to sign an NDA and now a Covid-19 waiver? Sure thing. And let’s use that same pen to sign my employment agreement…
With that said, here is a list of additional lessons learned during my pandemic along, with some tips that might be useful to IQ readers:
- Let’s make employment contracts standard operating procedure for production crew when being hired for a tour. We are the last hold-outs here and I’m not sure why. Every other technical arm of the entertainment business has agreements as standard operating procedure.
You need us to sign an NDA and now a Covid-19 waiver? Sure thing. And let’s use that same pen to sign my employment agreement while we are at it. Now that’s what I call sustainability.…
- Include a severance deal or arbitration clause in your employment contract.
- Get a good lawyer who advertises on motorway billboards.
- Get a meeting with the band before you accept an offer. Find out if they are in therapy. And if they are, ask if you can get in on the sessions. It may be the only time to get your production questions answered.
- Make sure you speak to your production managers directly when in need to discuss production. Not through the TM, not through your cousin who cuts your hair, and certainly not through your dog walker. (But I do love me a dog.)
- If the band members have mobile phones, explain to them how they work.
- If the band doesn’t have a manager because they don’t want a manager, make sure there is a qualified human resources rep hired for the tour and available to all crew employed.
- If the band does have a manager even though they say they don’t have a manager, but there is a person that says they are a manager but only really manages one member of the band, but that manager actually makes decisions for the other members of the band, and the tour too… have that ‘manager’ explain to you how that works.
- If George Costanza from the Seinfeld television comedy arrives on set as the band’s ‘visual designer’, call the HR rep immediately.
- If George Costanza is presenting their fourth-try visual design deck to the band via Demi Lovato’s Instagram page and off of his iPhone, just kill yourself and save the embarrassment.
- If the masseuse makes more than the rigger, call your HR rep.
- Explain to the band what a rigger is.
- Put your HR rep on speed dial.
- When you fire someone, let them know why with a personal phone call and letter. If you need help on how to use the phone or a pen, ask your ‘manager’ as to how it works.
- Better yet, call them personally before the action and talk about any issues you may have’ you actually may be able to work the situation out without termination. Unconfirmed third-party gossip can be very dangerous. It’s been in the news of late, I hear…
- And if you are still too chicken-shit to confront the issues like an adult, at least have your lawyer do it. Not via a phone call from yet another unemployed crew member who now has to make his living by driving a delivery van. Fuck, that is some tacky shit.
- Be prepared to take responsibility for not only my newly unemployed status, but some of the other crew members and vendors who will lose their tour jobs also because they were hired under my direction. We may not have employment agreements, but we do have billboard lawyers who also don’t give a fuck.
- Practice what you preach.
And so, I quote:
“It has to start somewhere.
“It has to start sometime,
“What better place than here?
“What better time than now?”
Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.
ILMC Production Meeting 2021: Highlights
The 14th ILMC Production Meeting (IPM) took place today, providing the foremost platform for international production professionals to meet, network and share good practice.
IPM 14 gathered the world’s leading production managers, health, safety and security specialists, crewing companies, production suppliers, transport and travel firms, new technology suppliers, and venue and promoters’ reps to discuss the most pressing issues affecting the live event production industry.
GEI and IPM joined forces to discuss the viability of sustainable production during It’s Not Easy Being Green.
Carlot Scott, Tait/Sipa (UK), kicked off the panel on an optimistic note, saying she could see the industry returning to touring with ‘a greener way of thinking’ after the pandemic.
“During the hiatus, many of us, and individual organisations and groups have started to pull together and started to become a cohesive force started to really analyse where we were going wrong as an industry and how we can be better.”
“One of the things that we really discovered was that people were already on board already with the idea of sustainability, they just didn’t know what to do and they wanted some guidelines and a way to start their journey,” she said.
Ric Lipson, Stufish (UK), says that, as set designers, they’re often ‘berated’ for designing something that’s too big and that uses too many trucks but that’s not the biggest issue in their pursuit to be more sustainable.
“I don’t think necessarily the scale of the production is the problem, but it’s the speed at which the scale of the production has developed and the choices that have to be made to enable that to happen whether that’s going down the road of using something that’s been used for 20 years because we know it works but it might be too heavy, versus we talked about that material because it’s coming from some part of the world that you know we’d have to fly it here or whatever else.”
“We need to go to the promoters and say: look, if you want us to come in with a set design that fits a good budget and doesn’t end up [being used for other artists too], we need to understand the routing schedule of the tour. And maybe the conversation with the artist has to happen much earlier, not necessarily when they’ve got an idea of what the design is but what they want the concept of the show to be.”
“People were already on board already with the idea of sustainability, they just didn’t know what to do”
In the second of two Gaffer Q&As, IQ‘s Jon Chapple quizzes Jake Berry on his career in live production, working with the likes of AC/DC, U2, Barney, Cher and Frankie Goes to Hollywood.
The pair discussed how Berry was offered the opportunity to work mid-pandemic on an esports event in China, organised by Riot Games.
Berry dubbed the event ‘the world cup of Wii gaming’, adding “the productions were huge”.
“When you’ve been in the business for 40 years you’re always looking for something that’s a little exciting, and for me it was different. I don’t understand eSports or gaming but it was an exciting thing and it was in September October  when there was nothing going on, so to be able to do something was pretty amazing.”
“I was very fortunate to be working and you’re out there with 12,000 people in the stadium. Just to see a live crowd brought tears to my eyes.”
Commenting on the ongoing shutdown of the live music industry, Berry said: “It amazes me that you can fly these days in a cigar tube with 150-200 people, no problem for 10 hours, and sports players can come back and forth and be exempt from all the quarantine rules, but we can’t put people in the theatre?”
However, in reference to the UK’s recently announced roadmap, Berry said “it’s probably too soon to announce shows…we don’t want to come back to soon and risk another lockdown”.
“Just to see a live crowd brought tears to my eyes”
Health & Mental Health: Of sound body & mind explored realistic improvements in the health and wellbeing of those working in post-pandemic event production.
Kate Bunyan, MB Medical Solutions/Doctor Care Anywhere (UK), said the digitisation of wellbeing resources due to the pandemic will prove extremely useful when crew members hit the road again.
“I think one of the things that the last 12 months have done is show people what [help] they can access virtually. We’ve seen this explosion of resources available online, which means [when crew go back on tour] you won’t need to find resources in each town, each city, each country you’re going to, and you can start having some continuity of those tools, through the virtual network.
“That is something that we have to be grateful to Covid for. I think the fact that we have been able to elevate resources and put them into a more remote environment to tap into wherever you’re travelling to really does help,” she says.
“One of the things that the last 12 months have done is show people what [help] they can access virtually”
In the first of two Gaffer Q&As, Ed Sheeran production manager Chris Marsh sat down with IQ’s Lisa Henderson to discuss his career in live music production – a job he likened to a “drug” to which he has been addicted from an early age.
Recalling his first meeting with Sheeran in 2011, Marsh recalled that “he dragged every bit of information out of me”, describing the singer as a “sponge” when it comes to knowledge. Marsh first saw Sheeran at Latitude Festival, when he “had a field of people singing every single to word to every single song, none of which I’d ever heard. If you can draw that many people at midday on a Sunday, you know you’re dealing with something pretty special.”
Marsh likened the production challenges of working with a solo, acoustic act like Sheeran, particularly at stadium level, to a comedy show, where it’s similarly important every person feels engaged with, and can hear, the live performance, regardless of their position in the venue.
Speaking about the evolution of Sheeran’s sound set-up, Marsh recalled how the singer was forced to trade wedges for in-ear monitors after not being able to hear himself over a crowd in Bogota – while in response to a question about his most difficult moments as a PM, he described an occasion in 2015 when Sheeran lost power half-way through a show that was being recorded for release.
“It was on the first night at Wembley Stadium in 2015, during ‘You Need Me [I Don’t Need You]’, and we were left with complete silence – and it happened at exactly the same point on night two. Finally we found out it was caused by faulty strobe lights that shut down every computer in the vicinity…”
Marsh also spoke about his recent work on making touring more sustainable with the PSA’s Tour Production Group, as well as how and when live entertainment will return post-pandemic.
Marsh likened the production challenges of working with a solo, acoustic act like Sheeran to a comedy show
We Don’t Need No Education: Erm… Yes, you do!, chaired by Superstruct Entertainment’s Dan Craig, asked how the exodus of talent from the industry during the pandemic would influence its return.
Craig asked whether there could be value in a common ‘passport’ ensuring equal standards across the production industry globally. David Suslik from the Czech Republic’s OnSinch was supportive, saying the production business is “late to the party” and should be collaborating on an international standard.
The UK’s Keith Wood said there’s nothing better than hands-on experience: “They see how we do things, they see how we approach things, and they learn on the job. […] You won’t necessarily learn everything in a classroom,” he commented.
He also spoke of the benefit of international travel to see how crews other countries in other countries do things – good or bad – and allow both sides to learn from other.
Here in Jakarta, we learn many things from production managers who come through Indonesia,” agreed Indonesian show director and stage manager Asthie Wendra.
“A mass testing solution, coupled with vaccinations, is probably the only way forward”
Let’s Get On with It: part II (part I was at Event Production Forum East in Budapest) explored how the production sector can help get the events industry back on its feet post-pandemic.
Led by Martin Goebbels (Miller Insurance), the panel assembled Glen Rainsbury (general manager of Ticketek, AU/NZ), Jesse Sandler (production manager, US), Vatiswa Gilivane (founder, VatiCan Group, ZA) and Chris Woodford (Logical Safety Solutions Ltd, UK).
The session kicked off by checking in with each panellist on the state of restrictions in their territory, and whether the public is observing the rules.
Vatiswa Gilivane said: “We find in [South Africa] is that it’s the informal gatherings that are now causing detriment to the bigger to the picture.”
Chris Woodford added: “The UK’s roadmap is solely dependent on certain targets and data and criteria being met. And if people don’t play ball, and they don’t play by the rules and the guidelines, the roadmap will go backwards.”
Glen Rainsbury commented: “[Australia] is starting to suffer now because no one can get a line of sight as to what the future is going to be because the restrictions are very fluid and quite often very reactionary.”
While Jesse Sandler lamented: “The messaging in the US is all over the place and there’s no uniform way of dealing with it and that definitely hurts the touring industry because the touring industry lives in society around the world I mean we travel and we interact with people. Until we can get that under control, touring will continue to suffer.”
Addressing how the production sector can help live entertainment return in some capacity under restrictions, Chris Woodford said: “A mass testing solution, coupled with vaccinations, is probably the only way forward.”
While Rainsbury believes that governments will be more inclined to bring back live entertainment in some capacity if organisers consider the wider risk of an event.
“We know that some [Australian] states have been suppressing the maximum capacity for events, not on the basis of what’s going on between the four walls of a venue but say, about the train on the way home with a concern that they don’t have event organisers don’t have control over that.
“I think our responsibility as event organisers and promoters venues is no longer just the drip line of the venue, it is the full picture and governments and regulators are absolutely focusing in on it because they’re not actually seeing as you as being a benefit as much as a risk. You’ve got to prove that you can manage their risk as far out as it spreads from your venue because you are the core. Fold that into your risk matrix and your communications plan.”
Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.
Registration opens for IPM 14
Registration is open for the 14th ILMC Production Meeting (IPM), which will take place in a virtual format on 2 March 2021.
For 2021, IPM returns to its traditional slot the day before ILMC, which is also taking place virtually from 3 to 5 March. IPM 14 will welcome production managers, health, safety and security specialists, crewing companies, sound and lighting companies, venue personnel, tech companies and production services and suppliers, as well as representatives from promoters, venues and others with an interest in international event production.
According to organisers, next year’s programme is looking “bigger and bolder” than ever before, with additional sessions and speakers from across the globe. The agenda team are welcoming suggestions for panels or other topics, including ideas for guest speakers and new products or services.
The IPM 14 agenda team are welcoming suggestions for panels or other topics
A ticket to IPM 14 will provide access to all panels, as well as the Production Notes sessions and a selection of break-out discussions shared with the Green Events & Innovations Conference, which takes place simultaneously.
Delegates will also have numerous opportunities to network throughout the day, with options to organise one-to-one and private meetings, hang out in networking lounges, visit exhibition stands and talk with old friends, and make new ones, during virtual speed meetings.
Tickets are now available at a discounted earlybird rate of £35 + booking fee. To join the biggest names in the international production community next March, register for IPM here.
Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.
UK production pros launch Covid-19 working group
Professionals from across the UK concert touring sector have joined forces to launch the PSA Tour Production Group (PSA TPG), a new association that aims to provide a unified industry response to the impact of Covid-19 on live music events.
The group is a new arm of the Production Services Association (PSA), the trade body for the live event production industry, and includes tour managers, production managers, safety professionals, venue and festival managers, travel and logistics specialists, promoters and suppliers. Past and present clients of the PSA TPG team include artists such as Adele, Madonna, Pink, U2, Ed Sheeran and Spice Girls and events including Isle of Wight Festival, Lollapalooza and British Summer Time Hyde Park (pictured).
The formation of the group centres on getting touring professionals back to work safely, and supporting the sector’s survival, “in a pre-vaccine Covid-19 era”, according to the PSA, when tour-specific safety guidelines working around local threat levels will become the norm.
To that end, PSA TPG today (30 July) released a Working Procedures Guidance document which outlines how touring productions – defined as one-off shows, festivals and live events of any size that require moving personnel and equipment to a new destination – can better align with suppliers, venues and promoters to assist risk management relating to transmission of the coronavirus.
“Based around a hierarchy of control (including elimination, substitution, engineering controls, administration and PPE) and a responsive threat scale, the guidance details different levels of design, schedule and control measures appropriate to conditions,” explains the group. “These measures include social distancing, health declarations and monitoring, hygiene and cleaning, and mitigation.”
there’s no better group of people to find the solution than those that deliver shows for a living
The document is designed to add to existing guidance “by outlining practical measures that will inform tour-specific risk assessments and method statements”, the association adds. Production industry professionals are encouraged to provide feedback on the guidance via the PSA website.
Take That production manager Chris Vaughan says: “We have brought together the leading experts in live music concert touring to agree on how tours should be run whilst the threat of Covid-19 remains with us.
“Production and tour managers are responsible for the operational, logistical, financial, creative and technical delivery of concerts around the world and, as such, we are proposing a series of guidelines that can be practically and realistically implemented.”
Sam Smith’s production manager, Wob Roberts, adds: “Covid-19 is an unwelcome addition to the rider, yet there’s no better group of people to find the solution than those that deliver shows for a living. More than a document, this is intended to be a responsive set of protocols that efficiently move with a changing environment.”
“From an industry whose timeless motto is ‘the show must go on’, the pandemic has been a devastating blow, both economically and for the mental wellbeing of the huge number of people who work behind the scenes,” comments Mark Ward, production director of BST Hyde Park. “These new documents offer many of the answers those people are searching for.”
This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.
IPM Says! returns with second virtual panel
The second virtual IPM Says! panel took place this morning (2 June), welcoming five international event professionals to discuss the current state of the production sector and a positive way forward from the shutdown.
Joining host Carl AH Martin for “It ain’t all Doom & Gloom!”: The sequel – which followed June’s inaugural IPM Says! session – were Lisa Ryan of EFM Global Logistics, Dutch Music Export’s Marcel Albers, Nick Love of the UK’s Assess All Areas, Sanjin Corovic of Serbia’s Production Pool and Sophie Ridley from Safents Consulting (Ireland).
After referencing today’s #LetTheMusicPlay campaign in the UK, which is calling for government support for the beleaguered live industry, Martin asked to share their own experiences of the past four months, as well as how their local markets have adapted to the coronavirus crisis.
Ryan said the global production sector’s recovery relies on lifting on restrictions on both mass gatherings and border crossings. “The fact that there’s no consistency and no real certainty around who can travel, and whether they have to quarantine when they get there” is preventing the industry getting restarted, she suggested.
Albers praised the Dutch government response in the early days of the crisis, when authorities stepped in to stop production companies from collapsing. However, he said he shares Martin’s concern that many smaller firms may still go under, saying that future aid must be distributed fairly in order to ensure the survival of businesses of all sizes.
“Some events are happening … It’s not much, but it’s something”
In response to a question from Miller’s Martin Goebbels, which asked whether production staff would be willing to work uninsured while Covid-19 is still a threat, Love said crew must decide for themselves. “There will be some who will take the risk, and there’ll be others who want to be cautious about their health and won’t go back to work,” he explained. Love suggested it would be very unlikely for events to be face any legal action as a result of any infection, explaining: “There’s no way to prove the outbreak originated at any one point in time.”
Ridley suggested disclaimers could be the answer to liability concerns, noting she is involved in a television production on which everyone has to sign one. “Whether it holds up, whether it can actually be enforced” is debatable, she said, “but we are having to sign a disclaimer.”
Describing the situation in Serbia, Corovic said events look likely to return later this year. “I’m not thinking as far as next spring; I’m thinking about autumn or winter,” he said. “Some events are happening and I think they’ll generate some kind of income. It’s not much, but it’s something.”
Watch the full discussion back on YouTube above.
Debut IPM Says! panel highlights live’s resilience
The inaugural virtual ILMC Production Meeting (IPM) panel, IPM Says!, took place last week, with eight live event production professionals coming together to discuss positive ways of moving forward from the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
IPM’s Carl A H Martin chaired the panel, entitled It Ain’t All Doom and Gloom, which reflected on the resilience of the industry, the creativity of those within it and the road to recovery.
ITB agent Steve Zapp stressed that different markets were moving at different speeds, with “very little” currently possible in the UK. However, whereas the earlier weeks of the crisis had been characterised by cancellations and postponements, conversation has now turned to recovery.
Andy Lenthall from trade association Production Services Association (PSA) said while members were currently doing little in live events, the organisation has been busy helping them to navigate this “temporary normal” and “helping people to help themselves”.
“I have faith in an industry that is resilient and full of resolve to get back to work,” said Lenthall, who stated he was looking forward to the release of UK government guidance on how to get back to work safely.
For Sarah Hemsley-Cole, company director of Cardiff-based SC Productions, work has not fully come to a halt, with the company getting involved in various products, including helping to set up a makeshift field hospital at the Principality Stadium.
“I have faith in an industry that is resilient and full of resolve to get back to work”
Vatiswa Gilivane, business development manager at the 20,000-capacity Ticketpro Dome in Johannesburg, said her team has also found alternative ways of working, with events still prohibited in South Africa.
“We had to change the way we think,” said Gilivane. “We could no longer rely on others to bring us opportunities, but had to use our own expertise and start creating our own content.”
Máté Horváth from Hungary’s DDW Music said things are opening up in the country for open-air shows, with some venues now also beginning to open up in different ways, acting as beer gardens, for example, in order to generate some revenue.
The ban on large-scale events in Hungary expires on 15 August, said Horváth , “so there could be some major festivals going ahead after this date, with a line-up of domestic acts”.
In general, shows are being moved to 2021, added Horvath, and although this may be a less optimistic scenario, “it is much more secure” and likely to be better for the industry in the long run.
Alberto Artese from Italian industry organisation Assomusica said that live shows will be permitted again in Italy in the next week “but there will be many rules”. From 15 June, 1,000 fans will be allowed at open-air shows and 200 people – including staff and artists – at indoor shows.
“We could no longer rely on others to bring us opportunities, but had to use our own expertise and start creating our own content”
The viability of capacity limits and social distancing measures was a talking point for panellists, with many stressing the importance of proper collaboration between the industry and national governments.
ASM Global’s Paul Sergeant OBE spoke of the newly formed Live Entertainment Industry Forum in Australia, which acts as a conduit between the live industry and the government, developing a way to safely reopen events.
Neighbouring New Zealand is lifting all restrictions on live events this week, focusing on contact tracing to prevent outbreaks of the virus, rather than relying on social distancing measures. “We’d like to think Australia might follow suit in the not too distant future,” said Sergeant.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport in the UK has similarly asked for industry input on how to reopen safely, said Lenthall.
“Every government around the world sees the value of live events, but we are going to be the last to reopen as we are the most challenging environment.”
Lenthall stressed that social distancing cannot be a financially viable solution for live events. “Globally, we will see a different approach that doesn’t include distancing.”
“Every government around the world sees the value of live events, but we are going to be the last to reopen as we are the most challenging environment”
For Zapp, one of the most encouraging things throughout the crisis has been the “incredibly low” number of refund requests, which indicates that fans are keen to get back to events and has helped to avoid “massive problems” with cash flow.
Chrissy Uerlings of Germany’s CU Production Gmbh summed up much of what had been said, pointing out that problem solving and coming up with creative solutions had become key, something that the live industry has always excelled at.
“We have to be smart and it was clear that, for many of us as freelancers, we had to do this on our own.
“If you let loose, then you have two hands free – and that makes you creative.”
PRG lends hand to combatting coronavirus
Production Resource Group (PRG) is the latest in a string of event production companies to lend its skills to the medical manufacturing sector in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
The event production giant is helping to equip a temporary hospital in Berlin and manufacturing face shields for medical workers in New York, joining event infrastructure suppliers and staging companies all over the work in the fight against Covid-19.
“We are responding to the rapidly changing needs of our customers during this emergency, and, with projects like these taking shape around the globe, we are actively at work in the fight against the coronavirus,” comments PRG chairman and CEO, Jere Harris.
“PRG has resources with direct applicability to this important cause, and we take great pride in playing a role.”
In Berlin, PRG Germany is working to fully equip a field hospital built in Hall 26 of the Berlin Expo Center, one of a number of makeshift hospitals in exhibition centres, arenas and other venues around the world.
The Corona – Jafféstraße Treatment Centre will serve as an overflow hospital receiving respiratory patients who can no longer find a place in Berlin’s clinics.
Construction started on 30 March, with the hospital on track to be fully operation within 25 days. PRG will deliver and install lighting, truss and hoists for the suspension of the lighting fixtures, gas and water pipes, as well as IT infrastructure and approximately 25 tons of cabling for the basic supply of electricity.
“PRG has resources with direct applicability to this important cause, and we take great pride in playing a role”
“PRG is taking its significant resources directly to the battle against COVID-19,” says PRG president and COO, Stephan Paridaen. “We are proud to support this temporary hospital and hope to help bring the global pandemic to an end.”
Meanwhile, in New York, PRG Scenic Technologies is working alongside two other local companies and NYU Langone Health to manufacture face shields for use by health workers. The project aims to produce around 300,000 items in under two weeks.
“We’re proud to be a part of this initiative and hope to continue to help those who are aiding in this crisis,” says PRG general manager Mark Peterson, who is leading the effort. “By utilising versatile production methods and intelligent design and in working with Local 311 stagehand labour, we’re going to be able to turn out these shields in record time.”
PRG was among companies to form the Live Events Coalition in the US last month, calling on the government to “rescue the industry in the face of total collapse” due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Leading event production specialists gathered at the ILMC Production Meeting (IPM) on 3 March in London. Read the IPM 2020 report here.
IPM 13: The Challenges of Expanding Markets
Following an introduction by this year’s day host, Rod Laver Arena’s Meagan Walker, the 13th ILMC Production Meeting (IPM) got underway with a discussion about the challenges and opportunities involved in touring non-traditional, ‘expanding’ markets.
Ian Greenway of London-based production company LarMac Live, which works across the Middle East (including the UAE and, more recently, Saudi Arabia), emphasised that it’s essential western companies “don’t just turn up” to emerging markets, “put a zero on our quotes and run for the hills” – but rather lend their expertise and help put local crews on a solid footing for a sustainable future. “We need to make sure we leave these markets with a sense of self-esteem,” he explained.
Turning to the situation in the far east, panel chair Roger Barrett, of Star Events, drew a distinction between China and south-east Asia: In the former, he said, you can rent any of the equipment (largely local copies) you need for a major show, and nearly all production companies are staffed by full-time crew, with next to no freelancers available.
South-east Asia, meanwhile – because of the limited number of major shows – “what we’re seeing now are a couple of companies based in Malaysia who have fairly well-trained crews who can turn their hand to pretty much anything,” Barrett explained, “and they’re travelling throughout south-east Asia. That’s a situation that’s really interested and has only developed over last 12 months or so.”
“It’s essential western companies don’t just turn up to emerging markets, put a zero on our quotes and run for the hills”
Production Pool’s Sanjin Corovic, a promoter-turned-production manager, described the unique situation in Serbia, which is surrounded by European Union countries but is itself outside the EU (drawing parallels with the post-Brexit UK), while Megaforce’s Brigitte Fuss and Bümo’s Schlanky Schilling, both based in Germany, spoke on their companies’ activities in eastern Europe.
Speaking from the audience, Jeff Burke from ES Global emphasised the opportunities in Japan, where ES is delivering part of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games. “We’ve realised it really is the land of opportunity,” he explained. “They’re a contracting marketplace: the general population is getting older and there are no young people to work in the business we’re working in, so there’s a big gap. We identified that as an opportunity – and when the Olympics are done, we’re going to have a substantial business there.”
Often the most important thing when entering a new market is to make contact with the local consulate, said XD Motion’s Neil Levett, while ASM Global’s Tim Worton predicted India as the next land of opportunity: “They’re going to build a phenomenal number of venues,” he explained, “as it’s completely underserviced” beyond cricket stadia and Bollywood-specific venues.
Returning to Greenway’s point about the importance of investing in local markets, Star Live’s Pete Holdich stressed the benefits for everyone of driving up standards globally. “If we leave a legacy of training local people, of bringing them up to the standards we’d expect to see, that’s only going to benefit us all,” he said.
IPM 13: Small Venues: Does size really matter?
‘Does size really matter?’ was the question posed to IPM delegates at the day’s penultimate panel, which looked at the production challenges faced by venues with capacities from 25 to 5,000.
Serge Grimaux, from the 4,000-capacity Fórum Karlín in Prague, spoke on the pressures small venues without “anchor tenants”, such as sports teams, face to fill their calendars. “As soon as you try to bring in other events – whether it’s a food festival, a smaller sporting fixture – you get into additional challenges to deliver them, and that’s where you need good production people to make things happen,” he said.
Unlike arenas and stadia, venues such as London’s Eventim Apollo (5,039-cap.) “have finite parameters,” said its production manager, Alice James. “Believe me, I’d love to make the stage bigger, move the back wall, give you three more truck bays… but our venue was built in the ’30s and they didn’t think of things like lifts, or getting big wardrobe cases into dressing rooms…”
To bridge any gap between artist and venue expectations, it’s important to “make sure our communication is strong – and early,” continued Luke Hinton, promotions manager at the 170-cap. Horn in St Albans, “because it can be that if additional equipment is required, for example, we could do things like reduce the saleable capacity of the show. But we have had occasions where we’ve only found that out after the show sold out, so it’s important to get that communication in early from both sides.”
“Believe me, I’d love to make the stage bigger … but our venue was built in the ’30s”
“There has to be some compromise,” added Máté Horváth from Hunarian promoter DDW Music, “from both sides, such as making sure the management and the artist are understanding all the technical requirements. You have to work together and make it happen in the end.”
Unlike arenas, “people feel a love for their local grassroots venue”, said chair Chris Jones, manager of Selby Town Hall in Yorkshire. “They often know the door staff, the sound engineer, in a way you don’t get in the bigger venues – where you go, you enjoy the experience and then you go home. They’re really a part of the local ecosystem in a way that bigger venues can’t be.”
That may be true, but the core challenges are the same – so Jones asked panellists to finish by reflecting on the similarities between production for shows in small and large venues.
“You have to work together and make it happen in the end”
Advancing, suggested James: “For example, [at the last minute] the band decide they want to film the show, which creates kills – but in a sold-out show there aren’t any seats to kill. I’ve talked to my colleagues at the O2 [Arena in London] and they’ve experienced the same thing.”
“You need great people” no matter the size of the venue, said Grimaux. “If I remember back to when I was working in a tiny venue, even if we were three people doing the job of ten or 15, you need to be dedicated and realise the role you have in that chain.”
“When you’re advancing a smaller venue, you have a more active role,” continued Horváth, “but what’s common is that all artists and touring personnel deserve to have best possible show. This is something that has to apply equally for an arena and a 100-cap. room – no one should feel like they’re nothing special, just a band playing in a small room.”
“It’s not true that the bigger the venue, the bigger the problem,” Grimaux added. “The problems are the same. It’s the attitude that’s the most the important thing.”
The final countdown: ILMC week is here
The 32nd International Live Music Conference (ILMC) is kicking off tomorrow (3 March) in London, welcoming top music industry professionals for a wide range of panel discussions, keynote interviews and networking events.
The 2020 edition of ILMC features the conference’s most wide-reaching agenda yet, with sessions looking at the agency, ticketing, venue and festival sectors, as well as exploring green touring, mental health, the Insta-generation and life after losing a star act.
This year also sees the return of Futures Forum on 6 March, a forward-looking discussion and networking event created by young professionals for the next generation of live music industry leaders.
Highlights of the ILMC agenda include the ILMC Breakfast Meeting, which sees Dire Straits manager Ed Bicknell site down to interview fellow legendary artist manager Peter Rudge, and the Futures Forum keynote, featuring Team Mumford & Sons – founding band member and venue owner Ben Lovett, manager Adam Tudhope and booking agent Lucy Dickins.
The 2020 edition of ILMC features the conference’s most wide-reaching agenda yet
Elsewhere, ILMC’s main opening session The Open Forum: Universally challenged will consider the impact of Covid-19 coronavirus on the business, as well as other key topics; agents line up to discuss recent strategies for both emerging and established artists in The Agency Business 2020; urban music’s meteoric rise is examined in the Urban Legends: Hip hop on top panel; and the industry’s duty of care towards its workforce forms the centre of conversation in the Mental Health: Next steps for live session.
A packed ILMC workshop schedule will look at the impact 5G is likely to have on live music, the benefits video-sharing platform TikTok brings to the business, how to maximise the potential of digital marketing and the advantages of digital ticketing.
Outside of the conference programming, the best and brightest of the industry will be crowned at the ILMC Arthur Awards Winners’ Dinner on Thursday night and delegates will go head to head in a series of activities including the It’s a Copout game show night, as well as staples of the ILMC night-time programme table football and karaoke.
ILMC takes place at the Royal Garden Hotel in London from 3 to 6 March. Companies supporting this year’s conference include Live Nation, Ticketmaster, Eventim, Universe, Livestyled, Tysers, Joy Station, Mojo Rental and Showsec.