21 June: Delay would lead to 5,000 UK cancellations
Research published today (10 June) shows that even a four-week delay to the deadline for lifting the final restrictions on live events in the UK would cost the live music sector over £500 million and leave the summer festival season at risk of total collapse.
More than 5,000 shows by artists including Olly Murs, Tom Odell, Rag’n’Bone Man, Beverley Knight, McFly, Alexandra Burke and Rudimental would either need to cancel or postpone if the 21 June deadline was pushed back, incurring immediate costs across the live music supply chain and further damaging an industry already hanging in the balance, according to industry body LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment).
The rumoured move, as IQ reported earlier this week, comes despite the fact that, by the government’s own evidence, large-scale events can happen safely with the right precautions in place.
Through LIVE, a federation of 13 associations representing more than 3,000 live music companies, the live sector is calling for government to publish the data from the first round of Events Research Programme (ERP) pilots, so “they are able to follow their own science” and allow live businesses to reopen with Covid-safe precautions. The ERP findings which have been released by government to the media show that with screening, improved ventilation and other mitigating factors, mass events are reportedly as safe as a trip to the supermarket.
“We implore the government to follow their own scientific data that proves live events are safe with the right mitigations”
Lucy Noble, chair of the National Arenas Association, says: “The pilot shows at the Brits and Liverpool were touted as the key to getting back to full-capacity live performance, which is why it’s extremely frustrating that the government refuses to publish the full report and allow the sector to open up through the carefully planned precautions which are currently waiting in the wings.
“We implore the government to follow their own scientific data that proves live events are safe with the right mitigations. Now is the time for them to protect the live events sector for generations to come.”
Any delay to the 21 June reopening date would have significant and immediate repercussions for grassroots music venues, with 248 venues facing an immediate threat of eviction if the government does not fully compensate their financial losses from delayed reopening, says Mark Davyd, CEO of Music Venue Trust.
“In the event of any delay to reopening, government action to restore confidence to the sector will need to be swift, decisive and comprehensive,” says Davyd. “Any decision to delay places the sector in the most perilous and uncertain situation since April 2020. All that has been done by government, the public, artist and communities to save our venues risks being undone.”
“We cannot keep waiting indefinitely without knowing when step four will take place”
The UK’s much-anticipated summer festival season would also see significant casualties, with 65% of all Association of Independent Festivals members saying they will be forced to cancel if faced with a five-week delay – and 21% already gone.
Jim King, CEO of European festivals for AEG Presents, comments: “A delay into July without a clear road map to get back to step four [full lockdown lifting] puts an impossible strain on all festivals, including AEG’s All Points East festival, along with our suppliers across the industry.
“We cannot keep waiting indefinitely without knowing when step four will take place, and this uncertainty will undoubtedly result, by default, in more cancellations. We are desperate for the UK festival season to begin again, but an undated reopening makes long term planning and investment unfeasible.”
Festival leaders look to domestic artists for 2021
Gathering speakers from Australia, South Korea, Germany, Switzerland and the UK, Festival Forum: Reboot & reset delved into the states of those local markets and their various timelines for reopening.
Moderator Beatrice Stirnimann, of boutique event Baloise Session, explained that when her event was cancelled early on in 2020, it allowed the organisation to spend time concentrating on a series of livestreaming shows, leading her to quiz her fellow speakers about how they have spent the last 12 months.
Stephan Thanscheidt, CEO of FKP Scorpio, disclosed that the company had to get creative during last year’s first lockdown by developing digital versions of festivals to prepare audiences for the rescheduled 2020 festivals, although he admitted that this year’s diary is now looking precarious as well.
Thanscheidt said tickets are currently on sale for events, but nobody is buying at the moment. “I don’t see festivals happening in June or July in continental Europe,” he stated, adding that he believes a lot more events will cancel their 2021 events in the coming weeks. “We have to think about strategies to keep people on board to have the best possible outcome for 2022.”
“I don’t see festivals happening in June or July in continental Europe”
Jim King reported that AEG Presents took a view to pause and review what the situation was during the past year, while the company tried to be a voice to support the various organisations that have been lobbying on the industry’s behalf. “With the success of the vaccination programme in the UK, it’s giving us a foundation to build off,” he said. “What is important for us [in the UK] is that we now have these ‘not before’ dates which brings all the stakeholders together in the industry so everyone can align. That means that the planning side now becomes easier, although it’s still not easy.”
Jessica Ducrou of Secret Sounds explained that the company has recently rescheduled its 2021 edition of the Splendour in the Grass festival from July to November. “We’ve been offering refunds to people, but the retention is high at 90% despite rescheduling three times. So that shows that people are really looking forward to events reopening,” she said.
Tommy Jinho Yoon of International Creative Agency revealed that there are shows currently happening in Korea, but a travel ban means there are no international acts performing at the moment. “I’ve been doing the same as everyone else at the moment – basically putting out fires,” he said.
Explaining that his events generally twin with festivals in Japan to share acts, Yoon observed that optimism appears to be is higher in that country than Korea, which informed his decision not to plan any festivals in 2021. However, he revealed that the shows he is booking for Q1 and Q2 of 2022 are in conjunction with artists who are also confirming Australian dates, hinting that international touring could be on the way back sooner than some people imagine. “When our shows go back on, it’s going to be intense,” said Yoon. “Machines are not going to replace that.”
Exploiting domestic talent makes sense for the UK while there is a high degree of hesitancy for international acts to travel
For her part, Ducrou told her peers that Australia is gradually getting back to business. “Domestically, artists are touring not at full capacity, but the shows are getting bigger,” she said, noting that the government recently gave approval for a festival at Easter with a 50% capacity and other restrictions.
“Using domestic talent is where Australia is at the moment. Shows are getting bigger and density is getting higher, so I’m optimistic,” added Ducrou. But in terms of international acts, she stressed that the mandatory two-week quarantine for anyone entering the country remains the biggest challenge.
On a similar note, King said exploiting domestic talent made sense for the UK while there is a high degree of hesitancy for international acts to travel. Therefore any AEG events this summer would likely be dominated by UK artists.
However, Thanscheidt said that having only domestic artists would not work for some of Scorpio’s festival brands, where restrictions such as social distancing or zero alcohol policies wouldn’t be a good fit either.
But Thanscheidt also ended on a positive vibe, by repeating a theme that has run throughout the discussions at ILMC, thanks to regular calls that the FKP Scorpio team have had with the likes of AEG Presents, Eventim Live, Goodlive, Live Nation and Superstruct as part of Yourope’s Solutions for Festivals Initiative. “The teaming up by different companies in solidarity is, for me, a very astonishing and very good outcome,” he declared.
Festival leaders talk uncertain future in latest IQ Focus session
Representatives from some of Europe’s best-loved festivals took part in the second of IQ’s virtual panel sessions yesterday (14 May), reflecting on the long-term impact of the coronavirus crisis on this important seasonal sector of the industry.
Available to watch back now here, as well as on Facebook and Youtube, the session saw AEG Presents’ Jim King, FKP Scorpio’s Stephan Thanscheidt, Bloodstock Open Air’s Rachael Greenfield, Roskilde Festival’s Anders Wahren and Montreux Jazz festival’s Mathieu Jaton offer their opinions on the biggest challenges facing the festival industry post Covid-19 and the steps the sector must take for recovery.
Although Thanscheidt stated FKP was “planning on having a normal season in 2021”, others did not share his optimism.
For King, the negative effects of the coronavirus crisis will continue to harm the sector until a vaccine is created. “I am severely doubtful that anything is going to take place this year and I’m somewhat doubtful about Q1 next year,” said AEG’s CEO of European Festivals.
The festival supply chain is of particular concern to King, given the number of independent festivals that face collapse due to the current situation.
“These community festivals provide income for freelancers and suppliers of all sizes,” said King, citing a recent Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) report which warns that 92% of its members could be bankrupted by refund requests.
“I think overall the average price for an artist will come down, and I think you’ll see that on touring too”
“If those festivals are impacted, the supply chain will be dramatically affected as well. This has a massive ripple out to the wider industry,” said King. “The impact will be seismic, and that’s an understatement.”
The panel agree that fan confidence had taken “a battering”, and that the coronavirus crisis will lead to fans having less money to spend. As a result, “there’s going to be a correction across costs generally” to account, argued King.
“Artists are going to get paid less because staff and suppliers are going to get paid less – everyone’s going to have to take a big bite of this to protect our relationship with the fan.
“Some [artists] won’t tour if they have to take a cut. But I think overall the average price for an artist will come down, and I think you’ll see that on touring too.”
Beyond the pressure on costs and artist fees, guests referenced the incompatibility of festivals with any form of social distancing measures.
“A festival is all about bringing people together. To institute any form of social distancing… I fail to see how that could work,” said Greenfield, who cancelled the 2020 edition of Bloodstock earlier this month. “To be able to have a good time you can’t separate people – that’s not what a festival is about.”
“A festival is all about bringing people together. To institute any form of social distancing… I fail to see how that could work”
Wahren, head of programming at Roskilde Festival, which was forced to cancel this year due to the Danish government’s summer-long events ban, agreed that “it’s all or nothing”.
“I can’t see us running a festival wearing masks or standing one metre apart.”
For Wahren, alternative forms of live events such as drive-in concerts, although fun, are mere stopgap solutions and “not what we are in this business for”.
Session host and ILMC head Greg Parmley asked each guests for a positive lesson that the last two months had taught them. Unanimously, all spoke of an overwhelming sense of audience loyalty towards their events.
Full festival tickets for Roskilde 2021 sold out in a matter of hours earlier this week, with 85% of ticketholders holding onto their tickets for next year. Thanscheidt cited similar numbers for FKP’s twin festivals, Hurricane and Southside, with 75 to 80% of fans expected to retain their tickets for 2021, and Greenfield put refund requests for Bloodstock at just 8%.
“We also managed to roll over 95% of bands for next year, which surprisingly wasn’t at all difficult,” added the Bloodstock director.
In Germany, parliament is set to pass new laws regarding the refund system in the next few days, said Thanscheidt. The German government is among those to protect corona-hit event organisers by allowing them to offer credit vouchers instead of cash refunds.
“There is a great opportunity for us to reshape the industry, we’ve just got to get to the point to allow ourselves to do so”
And beyond the fans themselves, panellists highlighted the solidarity shown throughout the industry, with many pulling together to support others in need.
However, a more unified approach to tackling the crisis is needed. According to Thanscheidt, “it’s time to team up and start lobbying on a pan-European level.”
For Jaton, the unification should go further still. “The first steps right now are to save the industry in individual countries, but we are an interdependent industry – we are very dependent on the US, so if there is a problem in the US, that’s half our festival gone [talent wise].”
King agreed, saying that, as an industry, “we have still not set out what our key objectives are”.
“Everyone’s thinking very differently about when we recover. We’ve got to put in a longer term plan over multiple cycles and we need to align on how we can collectively come out of this.
“There is a great opportunity for us to reshape the industry, we’ve just got to get to the point to allow ourselves to do so.”
The next IQ Focus session, The Venue’s Venue: Building Back, takes place on Thursday 21 May at 3.30 p.m. BST/4.30 p.m. CET, with speakers John Langford (AEG Europe), Lucy Noble (Royal Albert Hall/NAA), Olivier Toth (Rockhal/EAA), Oliver Hoppe (Wizard Promotions), Tom Lynch (ASM Global) and Lotta Nibell (GOT Event).
AEG partners with Festicket for UK festivals
Festicket has signed a deal to become an official ticketing and travel package partner for the 2020 editions of AEG Presents’ All Points East and British Summer Time (BST) Hyde Park.
The festival travel marketplace will provide exclusive transport packages and official tickets to All Points East, which will be headlined by Tame Impala and Kraftwerk, among others, across two weekends in May.
The ticketing company, which has raised almost US$30 million in funding since launching in 2012, is also among official ticket sellers and travel package providers for BST Hyde Park, which takes place from 3 to 12 July with performances from Little Mix, Pearl Jam and Taylor Swift.
Jim King, CEO European Festivals, AEG Presents comments: “We’re excited to be announcing Festicket as a partner. They’ve built a strong audience base and a dynamic marketing offering which complements our wider ticketing strategy.”
“Festicket has built a strong audience base and a dynamic marketing offering which complements our wider ticketing strategy”
“We’re delighted to be working with such a prestigious promoter in AEG Presents, and with American Express presents BST Hyde Park and All Points East in particular,” adds Greg Holmes, commercial director at Festicket.
“We’re really excited to show what the Festicket platform can do for fans, streamlining their usual booking process, reducing stress and ultimately allowing them to enjoy the event to its fullest.”
The AEG events join Festicket festival partners including Coachella, Tomorrowland and Reading and Leeds. Last year, Festicket acquired ticketing and cashless payments platform Event Genius, which works with events such as BPM Festival, Ibiza Rocks and Summer Daze.
AEG European festivals expands leadership team
AEG’s European festivals division has appointed former MAMA marketing director Clare Lusher as its first marketing and brand director.
Lusher, who prior to MAMA held positions at the Walt Disney Company and Sony Music, will lead on all aspects of brand and marketing across events, partnerships and artist channels, as well as developing strategies for future events.
As part of the European festivals leadership team, which is led by CEO Jim King, Lusher will build on AEG’s presence in the European festival market, with a portfolio that includes London events British Summer Time Hyde Park and All Points East, as well as Rock En Seine in Paris.
“The creation of this new leadership position was a hugely important part of the festival division structure”
“The creation of this new leadership position was a hugely important part of the festival division structure,” comments King. “It underlines AEG’s commitment to invest in high-quality marketing, brand and partnership strategies so we can offer even greater value for the fans, artists and partners.
“Clare is highly creative and has a proven track record in leadership and delivering excellence so we’re delighted she has chosen to join AEG to drive this key part of our business.”
Lusher adds that she is “delighted” to be joining AEG, saying that “the new position presents the ideal opportunity to nurture and develop a multifaceted, creatively insightful and future-fit marketing team.
“I look forward to maximising the wealth of collaborative potential across brand and media partnerships combined with overarching strategic clarity”.
Laura Davidson joins new AEG European festivals team
Longtime Goldenvoice UK promoter Laura Davidson has joined AEG Presents’ new European festival division, established earlier this month under CEO Jim King.
Davidson joined AEG-owned Goldenvoice in 2014 alongside former Metropolis colleague Oscar Tuttiett. She was most recently Goldenvoice UK’s VP of live music.
As part of the new European festival unit, she will serve as head of artist bookings, responsible for all bookings for All Points East (APE) in Victoria Park, London. She will also support King across all existing AEG festivals, as well as future projects.
“Laura will be an integral part of the team”
“Laura will be an integral part of the team and I couldn’t be happier that she has joined us,” comments King. “She is one of the most passionate music fans that I have ever met and has proven herself to be expertly skilled in the role of originating and curating incredible festival line-ups.”
Davidson adds: “I’m excited to be joining this new division at AEG. I was very proud to have been part of the team that launched a brand-new festival with All Points East. I’m looking forward to an even better 2020 in Victoria Park, as well as working with Jim across all of AEG’s festivals.”
In addition to APE, the European festival division oversees British Summer Time Hyde Park in London and Rock en Seine in Paris.
AEG promotes Jim King to CEO, EU festivals
AEG Presents has announced that Jim King, current executive vice-president of live music, is to take on a new role as chief executive of European Festivals.
King’s appointment will launch the newly created European Festivals division, as AEG Presents looks to expand its presence in Europe. In his new role, King will seek out new opportunities in the festival space.
King previously worked for club brand Cream, later launching and running Creamfields festival. Prior to working at AEG, King ran his own company, Loudsound, which promoted and produced several UK festivals.
Since joining AEG Presents in 2008, King launched and produced BST Hyde Park in 2015 and All Points East in 2018.
The European Festivals boss will continue to work from AEG’s London office, reporting directly to president of AEG Europe, Alex Hill.
“I really believe that AEG does something truly special when it comes to festivals,” says King.
“I really believe that AEG does something truly special when it comes to festivals”
“The music fans and the artists are always at the heart of our thinking and this has meant we have been able to curate shows that resonate with them and keep both coming back.”
Hill, who says King “is without a doubt the very best at what he does”, expects “great things” from the European Festivals chief executive and his team.
“We wanted to give him [King] the freedom to accelerate AEG’s activity in the festival space hence the creation of this division and his leadership role at the head of it,” comments Hill. “Being able to confirm him in this job as we approach the second weekend of BST Hyde Park seems very fitting indeed.”
BST returns this weekend (13 and 14 July), with headline performances from Florence and the Machine and Robbie Williams. Tickets for the Saturday are still available, with general admission priced at £73.60 and VIP packages starting from £163.95.
ILMC 31: Festival Forum: Fan First?
Chair Codruta Vulcu of Romania’s Artmania festival welcomed the session as co-chair Dany Hassenstein from Switzerland’s Paléo festival offered some facts and figures relating to the state of play.
“The good news is that most people still go to festivals for the music,” said Hassenstein, “but as ticket prices are rising, fans are beginning to voice their concerns.”
ICM Partners’ Ari Bernstein, the sole agent on the panel, stated that “the experience of the audience is first and foremost the most important thing,” in terms of retaining customer loyalty. The agent added he would like to see “fewer multi-genre festivals” to vary the types of artists appearing on festival line-ups.
Jim King of AEG Presents spoke of the highly developed UK festival scene, stating that there is now limited growth in terms of procuring bigger headliners. “It comes down to experience at this point,” said the All Points East and BST Hyde Park promoter. “We need to add as much value to the festival experience as is justifiable.”
Talk turned to catering festivals to different cultural markets, a topic of which C3 Presents’ Sophie Lobl has experience. “We definitely tailor Lollapalooza to the country it’s in, whilst keeping it to the level expected of our brand,” explained Lobl.
“We need to add as much value to the festival experience as is justifiable”
However, in Spain, said Nara Pinto of Mad Cool festival, fans value line-up over experience. “We’re struggling with the experience side of things,” she admitted. “We create that bond with the public through our line-ups.”
King described the key to enhancing any festival experience, saying that “the basics of any event are the critical part,” and stressing that finding, entering and navigating around a festival has to be simple for the fan. “If that fails, then everything else fails.”
Crisis management became the topic of conversation, as Pinto outlined the need for communication in times of difficulty, “people need to know what’s going on.”
The panel moved away from the focus on fans to explore the subject of artists, and how to contend with ever-rising fees. Block-booking an act for multiple events “helps to secure the bands but not to save money,” said Lobl, as panellists agreed that festivals remain line-up driven in essence.
“That’s never going to change,” said King. “Even the best experiential festivals have a lifespan.”
Behind the scenes at All Points East
This year, AEG Presents launched a new festival, All Points East in Victoria Park. Victoria Park is a fantastic green space in the heart of a vibrant area of London, one of the most important live music cities in the world. It will be the home of All Points East for the next four years.
We were focused on creating a series of shows that widened our relationships with the artist community and music fans. We wanted to achieve this by delivering an event that complemented what we already did in London but would carry its own personality and identity.
Staging a brand-new event in a crowded market is always as much about thinking differently and creatively as it is about utilising past experience. We waited patiently for the chance to present our ideas to Tower Hamlets local authority and when the new contract opportunity arose we knew we needed to move quickly and deliver a vision that resonated with them. If we were successful, we were also acutely aware of other stakeholders we needed to connect with to ensure the event was a success on all levels, not just musically.
The often-used ‘we’re only here for two weeks’ argument never seemed the strongest way to win the hearts and minds of people who rely on parks for their family enjoyment and well-being. Being a good partner is an important part of AEG’s DNA, and being a good partner in the community even more so. We are able to do this by having the right people with the right outlook. We don’t look to compete on volume. We just want to do what we do as well as we possibly can. That allows our team to spend a little longer to make something a little better.
The real challenge for me is whether we, the industry, are giving fans what they want
The fact that Victoria Park has such a unique cultural history meant we were able to strengthen our All Points Equal event. This celebrated 100 years since some women were given the right to vote and 90 years of equal voting rights for women and men, with a rich vein of inspirational educational and historical content that kicked off the midweek programme of free-to-access activities.
Music, of course, matters the most. There is a lot of talk about the industry lacking headliners but I’ve never totally bought into that argument, which I see as a fairly limited assessment of the live music landscape. The real challenge for me is whether we, the industry, are giving fans what they want. Are we creating platforms where they return home inspired to come back for another live music experience as quickly as they are able to? That’s essentially the challenge we want our team to meet at All Points East.
All Points East was, and is, about artists who never dial it in. It was booked driven by our own musical passion, and we wanted musicians who wear their own passion on their sleeves, and always deliver. So 40,000 people came to see Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds give one of the most memorable headline performances that I have ever seen. Raw, heartfelt, sometimes brutal, and searingly honest.
While All Points East is travelling a different road to British Summer Time Hyde Park and requires elements of different thinking, there is an overriding philosophy that unites them. Both events stand for a delivery of quality. We want artists to walk out the production exit feeling they had a great time and that they were treated respectfully. Equally, we want the fans to walk out the public exit and say they had a great time and were treated respectfully.
I like to not overcomplicate things…
Final straw: Major fests join indies in banning plastic straws
The major UK festival operators have told IQ their events will be plastic straw-free this summer, following an announcement by ministers earlier this week Britain is set to ban the sale of plastic straws, drinks stirrers and cotton buds in a bid to combat environmental damage.
Festival Republic, Global/Broadwick Live and AEG/Goldenvoice join Mama Festivals and the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) in committing to eliminating plastic drinks straws as of this festival season, as awareness grows of the plastic pollution crisis affecting the world’s oceans. (An island of floating plastic waste in the Pacific ocean – dubbed the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ – is now twice as large as France.)
Live Nation’s Festival Republic, whose UK portfolio includes Download, Wireless, Community, Latitude and Reading/Leeds, yesterday announced a host of new green initiatives across all its UK events, which follow an existing ban on single-use plastic cutlery and containers from its traders, caterers and bars which has been in force since 2009.
Existing partnerships with Greenpeace UK and Friends of the Earth Ireland remain, while all plastic bottles bought at Festival Republic events are now subject to a refundable deposit designed to encourage recycling. The scheme started with water bottles in 2009 and has expanded to cover all plastic drinks bottles, with Greenpeace volunteers operating bottle deposit return points at the 2018 Download, Community, Wireless, Latitude, RiZe and Reading and Leeds festivals.
In addition, only re-usable straws, such as those made of biodegradable plastic, wood or paper, will be allowed into Festival Republic events as of this year.
“Festivals inspire change in people, so we just need to take the steps collectively”
“Environmental issues have always been a focus for us across all Festival Republic shows,” Melvin Benn, managing director of Festival Republic, explains. “Our aim is to not only implement schemes to minimise the use of plastic on site, but to educate our audiences at the same time. Whether that’s through our long-standing ban on single-use plastic across all food traders since 2009, or working in partnership with Greenpeace UK on the introduction of our deposit return scheme for water bottles in 2009 and all bottles in 2016, we’re ensuring that our waste reduction and recycling rates improve year on year.
“Recycling and single use plastics are only a small part of what we do to be more economical and environmentally friendly.”
Broadwick Live parent company Global, the UK’s second-largest festival business, is similarly banning plastic straws from its events, which include Field Day, Standon Calling, Festival №6, Truck Festival, Y Not and Rewind, starting this summer.
“Plastic straws will not be available at any Broadwick Live festivals this summer,” confirms a spokesperson.
Over at AEG – which is gearing up for its first summer as sole tenant of east London’s Victoria Park – meanwhile, leading exec Jim King says the company is striving to minimise the environmental impact of its UK festivals, which include All Points East in Victoria Park and British Summer Time in Hyde Park, as well as a rumoured new event in Knebworth Park.
“Any move towards reducing plastic pollution is to be welcomed and supported”
More than 80 venues, sports teams and festivals globally already track their environmental performance metrics, including greenhouse gas emissions, waste and water usage, through the company’s corporate sustainability programme, AEG 1Earth.
King, AEG Presents’ executive vice-president of live music, tells IQ: “Clearly, any move towards reducing plastic pollution is to be welcomed and supported.
“AEG works hard to ensure that our events have as minimal an environmental footprint as possible – and, for example, we will no longer be using plastic straws at festivals including British Summer Time Hyde Park and All Points East.”
As a result of all three companies committing to a plastic straw ban, both corporate and independent festivals in the UK are united on minimising the environmental harm caused by single-use plastic.
“There’s loads that festivals can do to design out disposable plastics such adopting reusable cups, banning drinks sales in plastic and encouraging festival goers to bring re-fillable water bottles,” says Chris Johnson, co-founder and operations director of AIF member Shambala Festival. “Festivals inspire change in people, so we just need to take the steps collectively and create the new normal – a better normal.”