Giddings blasts ‘joke’ government insurance scheme
Isle Of Wight Festival promoter John Giddings has criticised the British government’s long-awaited reinsurance scheme for live events.
The £800 million scheme, which opened yesterday (22 September), will cover costs incurred if an event has to be cancelled, postponed, relocated or abandoned due to a government-imposed lockdown in response to Covid-19.
The cover, which is a partnership between the government and the Lloyd’s of London insurance market, is now available to purchase alongside standard commercial events insurance for an additional premium.
However, Solo Agency boss Giddings tells IQ he believes the cover did not meet requirements.
“I think it’s a joke,” he says. “They want far too much money and there are too many caveats in it. I think they just keep paying us lip service like they have done all the way down the line.”
“[The British government] want far too much money and there are too many caveats in [the insurance scheme]”
Premium is set at 5% of the total value of insured costs (plus Insurance Premium Tax) and claims will be subject to an excess of 5% of the value of the insured costs or £1,000 (whichever is higher) per policy.
However, the scheme will not cover loss of revenue due to lower demand for tickets, reduced venue capacity, or self-isolation of staff or performers. “It was financially impossible and it didn’t cover the things it needed to cover,” adds Giddings.
On a brighter note, Giddings says last weekend’s return of the Isle Of Wight Festival, headlined by Liam Gallagher, Snow Patrol, David Guetta and Duran Duran, could not have gone better.
“It was incredible,” he says. “It was four days of sunshine, all the bands turned up and the audience were gagging for it. We had incredible demand and the audience were incredibly excited about being out in the open air again.
“It was complete absolute, utter luck on our behalf that the weekend in June we should have done it poured with rain every day and the dates in September, the sun shone every day and it was like an Indian summer.”
“Somebody said to me, ‘What do you think about 50,000 people in a field?’ and I said, ‘Well, it’s safer than going to the supermarket.’”
The 2021 event was switched to September due to the pandemic, but will return to its traditional weekend next year from June 16-19. The 2022 line-up is due to be unveiled on Monday morning (September 27).
“When it was obvious June was going to be a problem this year, we took the executive decision to move to September, so that we didn’t have to move another year,” explains Giddings. “We certainly had good ticket sales and a very excitable audience, but it’s such a gamble with the weather, that’s the problem.
“The good news was it got darker earlier, so the top three acts played in darkness as opposed to the top one and a half acts. But it does get cold at night, I have to say.”
In line with government guidelines, ticket-holders were required to either be double-jabbed at least 14 days before the festival, proof of a negative lateral flow test or an exemption in order to be permitted entry.
“Everybody was willing to do it and they expected it. It was a collective responsibility,” says Giddings. “Somebody said to me, ‘What do you think about 50,000 people in a field?’ and I said, ‘Well, it’s safer than going to the local supermarket.’”
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UK stars weigh in on ‘final countdown’ for insurance
UK superstars have joined the chorus of industry experts and trade associations calling on the UK government to commit to underwriting cancellation costs of events such as music festivals and tours, to enable the restart of the live entertainment sector from this summer.
Jools Holland, Depeche Mode, Johnny Marr, Sir Cliff Richard, Robert Plant, Roger Daltrey, Amy McDonald, The Chemical Brothers, Frank Turner and Judas Priest are among those who have weighed in on the ongoing petition for a government-backed insurance scheme, similar to those launched in Norway, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Belgium.
The industry’s call-to-action comes days before chancellor Rishi Sunak is set to unveil the Budget. Alongside a government-backed insurance pot, the industry is also urging the chancellor to grant extensions on the 5% VAT rate on ticket sales; employment support; and business rates relief for shuttered venues.
The industry deems event cancellation insurance the ‘last remaining barrier’ to planning events this summer after British prime minister Boris Johnson announced a ‘cautious’ reopening roadmap that could allow festivals to take place after 21 June, but says the window of opportunity for this summer ‘will slam shut very shortly’.
“With the cut-off point for many organisers at the end of the month, this really is the final countdown for many businesses”
Paul Reed, AIF CEO, says: “The prime minister has set out a roadmap and a ‘no earlier than’ date for festivals, and audiences have responded, demonstrating a huge appetite to be back in the fields this summer. But we need government interventions on insurance and VAT before the end of this month when festivals will need to decide whether they can commit to serious amounts of upfront capital.
“Now that we have a ‘no earlier than’ date, insurance is the last remaining barrier to planning. We know that government is aware of the insurance issue and AIF has provided evidence and data to support the case. Having injected huge consumer confidence, government should intervene at this stage and ensure that our culture-defining independent festivals can mobilise and plan for this summer. With the cut-off point for many organisers at the end of the month, this really is the final countdown for many businesses.”
AIF, whose members include Boomtown Fair, Shambala, Boardmasters, End of the Road and Bluedot, recently conducted a member survey in which 92.5% of respondents confirmed they cannot stage events without insurance and described insurance measures as ‘vital’ not optional.
“The window of opportunity for this summer will slam shut very shortly. The government needs to act now”
Tim Thornhill, director of Tysers Entertainment and Sport Division, is working closely with the live entertainment insurance industry and live music industry umbrella organisation Live, to urge the government to work with industry to find a solution.
Thornhill comments: “The government has successfully created a scheme that has enabled the film and television industries to get back to work. Now they need to do the same for the live events industry. But the window of opportunity for this summer will slam shut very shortly. The government needs to act now.
“The live events industry is a massive employer and a significant generator of economic activity. Music alone employs over 200,000 people, with music tourism contributing £4.7bn to the UK economy*. The new YouGov survey shows that demand is there – they will buy tickets and spend on accommodation, food and drink. The government can unlock this boost to the economy at no cost to themselves, just a commitment to help underwrite the cost of cancellations should they occur.”
“This cover will allow our business to function as soon as it is safe for us to do so”
Jools Holland comments: “The solution to this problem could be simple – and what’s more, it doesn’t involve the government paying out money now. Maybe not even in the future, unless Covid strikes again. All we need from the government is the commitment to help if necessary.”
Roger Daltrey CBE comments: “The music business and arts have been enormously affected by the Covid-19 virus, with the ongoing health issues plus the problems thrown up by the government’s essential decision to close our places of work. The government however needs to understand how our industry functions. Promoters, especially those with festivals, bands and any touring acts have enormous outlays before commencing a tour, so insurance for these costs is paramount.
“Insurance companies will no longer cover these costs for Covid-19, which will render much of our business unviable as no promoter can risk setting up an event or tour without this cover. All we ask of our government is to put in place an insurance policy that, in the event of this situation happening again, will cover these costs. As it may be 100 years to the next pandemic it is extremely unlikely that this will involve the government paying out any money, but this cover will allow our business to function as soon as it is safe for us to do so.”
“We have seen the impact on the many people who help make the live shows happen”
The Chemical Brothers comments: “Like many other people we have had to put a lot of work on hold in the last year, and we have seen the impact on the many people who help make the live shows happen. Thousands of jobs have already been lost across the UK live music industry, with many more at risk. The UK government has already provided a financially backed scheme for the film industry, which has allowed production to resume. All we ask is that the same approach be taken to help those in the live events industry, which needs the support too and provides so much to the UK economically as well as culturally.”
Sir Cliff Richard comments: “The live events industry has suffered hugely as a result of the pandemic and has been shut down for nearly a year. Venues, performers and crew have all been badly affected. People’s jobs and income have vanished almost overnight. OUR BUSINESS BRINGS INSPIRATION AND HAPPINESS INTO PEOPLE’S LIVES. WE CAN MAKE THEM SMILE WHEN THEY ARE SAD AND WE CAN HELP THEM SING WHEN THEY HAVE NOTHING TO SING ABOUT! We need the government to help us plan for when it is safe to resume OUR business.”
“The industry is facing near catastrophe without adequate government support”
Amy MacDonald comments: “When people attend a gig they buy a ticket, turn up and enjoy the show. What they don’t always understand is the months of preparation that went on behind the scenes to get to that particular point. Thousands of emails and phone calls, meetings, site visits and not to mention huge amounts of money spent to just get to a point where the tickets are on sale. Another important aspect of preparing for a show is the need to ensure the event but it’s now impossible to get any insurance to cover these shows.
“As we have seen from the recent cancellation of Glastonbury, the live industry cannot even plan to start up again because it is too much of a risk without any insurance. The live industry has been put on hold for nearly a year and with no date for a return and no chance to even plan a return, the industry is facing near catastrophe without adequate government support. Nobody wants to live in a world without live music.”
“Can the PM tell us why he won’t help an industry that contributes billions to the UK economy each year?”
Robert Plant comments: “We all desperately want the UK live industry back on its feet again, so we can enjoy our favourite bands or sports event. Yet without insurance to cover these events, these things can’t happen. So please, can the PM tell us why he won’t help an industry that contributes billions to the UK economy each year?
“We’re not asking for any money, just a commitment to help if Covid ever strikes again. We don’t want a hand-out, we just need a hand up.. to help us get back on the stage. I’ve spent 55 years performing in halls, clubs, theatres and concerts halls across the UK. Now we’re in unchartered waters, soon there will be nowhere left to play. So I’m lending my voice to this campaign in the hope that the government will see sense and lend support before many of our beloved music venues disappear forever.”
Harvey Goldsmith CBE, promoter, comments: “As promoters and producers of live concerts we cannot produce tours without insurance against Covid. We are the risk takers and often have to pay considerable sums upfront to be able to create the tour. If the government at any time decide it is unsafe to continue, or commence a tour, we must be able to take insurance to protect us, as any normal business would expect. If no insurance is available our business will collapse.”
“The single most powerful measure the government could take is to underwrite any losses from Covid-19 cancellations”
Philip McIntyre, promoter, comments: “I would like to support your campaign to have the government underwrite any losses suffered from Covid 19 cancellations whilst the pandemic is still prevalent. My company is in the top five of all live entertainment groups in the UK we are obviously keen to start operating again but we worry about uninsured risk. Now we have a plan to come out of lockdown the single most powerful measure the government could take is to underwrite any losses from Covid-19 cancellations after June this year.
“This would give the risk takers so much confidence they the live arts would return to normal by December this year. If there are claims they would more than likely be on a regional basis and not onerous and the business generated in town and city centres would more than cover them in my estimation the government would be in profit 12 months ahead of a no action situation.”
Frank Turner comments: “It cannot be exaggerated, the devastation caused in my industry by the pandemic. We’re doing what we can to hang on and plan for a better future. An insurance plan will help us survive and come back quicker, and it doesn’t involve the government paying out any extra money now (or possibly ever). It would make an enormous difference.”
“Every effort is made to reduce the costs of a cancelled concert including trying to reschedule a date”
Johnny Marr comments: “The solution to getting music back up safely is easy and it doesn’t involve the government committing money now. All we need from the government is the commitment to help if necessary with an insurance scheme backed by them, and that will get our crews and suppliers back working. The government would only have to pay out in the worst case.”
Barrie Marshall MBE, promoter, comments: “The tremendous work of the NHS and the vaccination programme means that live events can start soon, this gives us hope that we can begin to share those magical moments and wonderful concerts once again. However, we need the government to help us by providing financial backing in the form of an insurance fund. This is needed to cover the costs of an event if it must be cancelled as a result of a Covid outbreak. Every effort is made to reduce the costs of a cancelled concert including trying to reschedule a date in the future but there are some circumstances where this is not possible.”
“We help to get our industry back on track and to help restart live events in a safe, effective way once it’s possible to do so”
John Giddings, promoter, comments: “Our industry has been hit immeasurably over the past year and we need to get it back up and running again. The government has got to help!”
Judas Priest comments: “The world has been more or less brought to its knees because of Covid-19 in this past year. It has affected so many people and businesses in all walks of life in so many ways. Our industry, the entertainment industry (which is a multi-billion dollar business), is suffering massively. It isn’t just affecting us – a band who want to get back out on the road, performing to our fans around the world – but it is affecting mainly our crew (and all the other crews), the venues and their staff, cleaners, security, caterers, local crew, bus drivers, truck drivers, lighting and video personnel, stage set designers and stage set builders. The list is endless.
“We need help, for the venues to be able to put on shows and the artists to be able to perform we all need to get tour insurance that will cover Covid-19 so shows can go ahead. Now we have the vaccine things should be on the way up but we need your help urgently, please!”
Depeche Mode comments: “With the live music industry in the UK shut down for over a year, our crew, our fans, venues, and everyone else who makes shows possible has been badly affected. Jobs and income have vanished almost overnight, and fans and artists alike have been left wondering when live shows will be possible again. We need the government to help us get our industry back on track and to help restart live events in a safe, effective way once it’s possible to do so.”
Government-backed insurance funds will be explored at ILMC during Insurance: The Big Update, while lessons that can be learned from 2020’s lost festival summer will be discussed during Festival Forum: Reboot & Reset.
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Industry heads predict return to normal by 2022
Yesterday’s news of Moderna’s 94.5% effective coronavirus vaccine provided yet another glimmer of hope for the live music industry and its return to normality.
Moderna’s announcement came a week after Pfizer reported that its vaccine, developed in collaboration with BioNTech, was more than 90% effective – causing share prices in industry giants such as Live Nation, CTS and DEAG to soar by double digits.
As the race for a Covid vaccine accelerates – with trials also being conducted in China, Russia, India and Australia – and optimism in the return of live music increases, IQ asks some of the industry’s big hitters for their thoughts.
Here, CTS Eventim’s Klaus-Peter Schulenberg (Germany), AEG Presents France’s Arnaud Meersseman, Isle of Wight Festival and Solo Agency’s John Giddings (UK) and Radar Concerti’s Fabrizio Pompeo (Italy) share post-vaccine predictions and preparations.
Crystal ball gazing
“Ever since the pandemic began, I have repeatedly emphasised that we need a vaccine or effective drugs to combat the disease before any concerts or events can be held to the familiar extent. It is very encouraging, therefore, that vaccine development is progressing at such a rapid pace. Leading experts are turning optimistic, now that there is obviously a very promising vaccine candidate,” says Klaus-Peter Schulenburg founder of CTS Eventim, the German entertainment conglomerate.
“This news also gives us hope, accordingly, that the very difficult situation our industry finds itself in will take a turn for the better in the foreseeable future and that people will once again be able to enjoy art and culture the way they did before the pandemic,” he adds.
Head of AEG Presents France, Arnaud Mersseman, echoes the sentiment saying: “The vaccine news has definitively given us a sense of a light at the end at the tunnel and some sort of horizon.”
More importantly for AEG Presents France, which has a slate of shows scheduled from as early as May next year, news of the vaccines provides a sense of security when it comes to planning ahead.
“The vaccine news has definitively given us a sense of a light at the end at the tunnel and some sort of horizon”
“I definitely think that’s what has been the hardest so far – no timeline, and therefore the feeling that this will go on forever. Now, that we know that distribution should start somewhere around early 2021, we can start actively preparing for a return to activity,” adds Meersseman.
Over in the UK, which is in lockdown until at least until 2 December, Isle of Wight Festival and Solo Agency’s John Giddings said he couldn’t speculate on when the industry might return to live but he is optimistic that news of a vaccine might speed things up.
“I’ve just got more hope, that’s all it boils down to. It just means hopefully, it will accelerate the chance of getting back to normal quicker – that’s what we’re praying for,” he says.
However, Radar Concerti’s Fabrizio Pompeo is more cautious and believes “it will be a slow process, even with vaccines”. “I do believe next summer we will start promoting some shows but nothing really big,” he says.
Festival season 2021
For festival organisers in the northern hemisphere, the need for an effective vaccine or test and trace system to be developed before the summer season could be crucial in order to host thousands of patrons and invite international artists to play.
As Meersseman says, festivals are “the big question”. “Will there be enough diffusion of the vaccine, completed by rapid testing measures to allow festivals to play out this summer? Will the acts be able to travel? It’s still 50/50 in my opinion,” says Arnaud.
Giddings, who owns the iconic Isle of Wight festival which has been rescheduled to June 2021, is more optimistic.
“I think [festival season] has got a good chance if this all comes according to plan,” he says. “I know that MPs are meeting and having a conversation about it.”
“I think [festival season] has got a good chance if this all comes according to plan”
Last month, a coalition of UK industry bodies published new guidance to help the festival sector mitigate risk and plan Covid-secure events ahead of next summer, which will be continually updated.
The working group also includes the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and Public Health England (PHE) who provided input on the development of the guidance.
Pompeo, who partners on festivals Cinzella and Flowers with Radar Concerti, believes that whether or not live has made a comeback, the summer will still hold promise for domestic promoters, events and artists.
“Being in the south of the EU, Italy may have some advantages considering the amount of summer venues opportunities and a very strong domestic artist offering,” he says.
The future of domestic/international touring
While news of the vaccines has inspired hope for a busier 2021, promoters and agents are still apprehensive about the recovery of international touring which, with or without a vaccine, could prove difficult with each country’s varying immunity, legislation and post-Covid regulations.
“My personal prediction is that international touring will take a bit longer than domestic: a tour is built on 15 to 20 different national legislations and sanitary policies, and for these to be harmonised will take some time,” says Meersseman.
“I suspect we can see some sort of semblance of normalcy by fall 21, with a return to normal by early 22. I would also predict an earlier return to normal for domestic touring, somewhere between late spring and early summer. It’s much easier to plan a routing from Bordeaux to Lyon than from Munich to Barcelona!” he adds.
“I suspect we can see some sort of semblance of normalcy by fall 21, with a return to normal by early 22”
Giddings, whose clients at Solo Agency includes Little Mix, Blondie and Iggy Pop, agrees, adding that the logistics of a tour could become fragmented.
“The problem is if you’ve got a European tour in April/May/June, all the different countries have got different rates of infection. To do a European tour, you have to do all of the dates, you can’t do half of them and take time off in between so that’s going to be more difficult to look at. Lots of people think that there won’t be proper shows until 2022. But it really depends on how quickly the vaccine and the testing comes out,” he says.
Pompeo reinforces this sentiment, adding that he thinks it’s unlikely international touring will happen before 2022. “I see shows to up to 3-4000 cap in wide open-air spaces possible as a return to live music. If we are lucky the first arena shows may happen in the fall.”
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Festival bosses talk cash flow, artist fees
The second IQ Focus festival panel, Festival Forum: The Next Stage, saw festival leaders from around Europe discuss the thorny issues of refunds and insolvency, as well as the outlook for 2021, in what should have been the halfway point of the 2020 season.
Hosted by IQ Magazine editor Gordon Masson, the panel welcomed Mad Cool’s CIndy Castillo, Isle of Wight Festival/Solo Agency’s John Giddings, ARTmania’s Codruta Vulcua and Goodlive’s Stefan Lehmkuhl, two months on from the initial virtual Festival Forum session.
The current situation, said Giddings, has made it “blatantly obvious” that the business has an issue with cash flow and that many promoters don’t have any kind of “war chest to go forwards”.
“I don’t understand how you bankrupt companies by refunding tickets,” he said. “You shouldn’t be spending the ticket money on costs – you need to be in the position to be able to refund all the money. We have a responsibility to the audience.”
Giddings noted that some promoters have got into the habit of “taking money from the future to pay the past”, and it has become clear that this doesn’t work.
“This may teach people a lesson on how to run a business,” he said.
The other panellists agreed to an extent, but noted that a lack of support and clarity from the authorities has complicated matters in a lot of cases.
“This may teach people a lesson on how to run a business”
“Our government hasn’t even declared force majeure yet for live events”, said Castillo, who promotes Madrid’s Mad Cool festival. “This has put us in a very tricky legal situation.”
The Mad Cool team only started its refund period last week, explained Castillo, but is allowing people to make the decision on whether to hold onto tickets for next year or refund them until after the full 2021 line-up is revealed.
In Romania, said Vulcu, an immediate reimbursement “would have bankrupted many organisers”, as the government is implementing new restrictions every two weeks.
“There are companies with shows built up, everything ready and paid for, and then suddenly it had to be cancelled,” she said. A voucher scheme implemented by the government, allowing promoters to offer credit for shows or merchandise in place of cash refunds, has been a lifeline for many.
ARTmania did choose to offer refunds, but only received 43 requests. “Our decision to trust our audience really worked for us,” said Vulcu, adding that this tactic may “work for rock and metal audiences perhaps more than for others.”
“So far, we have been able to spend our own money,” he said,” but the next step would be to touch the ticket money, then to get low-interest credit from the government in case it takes longer.
“What happens if it takes longer than a year?” he asked. “Few companies will be able to survive for longer than a year.”
“Our decision to trust our audience really worked for us”
Mindful of cash flow, Goodlive has asked for deposits back from acts it booked for this year. “There is mutual understanding there,” said Lehmkuhl. “We are trying to rethink our festivals for next year, adjusting dates and concepts. We will start from scratch in some ways next year.”
As the promoter of Isle of Wight Festival, Giddings said he also asked for deposits to be returned. “We are doing contracts going forward for next year and will pay the deposit then.”
In terms of being an agent, Giddings said he is not going to take a fee reduction for artists. “I would rather they didn’t play than take a reduction on my act,” he said.
“As an agent I wouldn’t book an act for festival next year unless they’re going to pay me the same money,” he said, “and we’ve done the same thing as a festival.”
Ticket prices will also have to stay the same, as so many fans are rolling over their tickets to next year. “Anyone raising ticket prices is insane,” said Giddings. “We need to get an audience back first before charging more.”
Vulcu, who said she left the money with the agencies when rescheduling, agreed that she will not be paying artists less money, “but we will definitely not pay more”.
“Romanian audiences will have a lot less money and the priority will not be going to festivals,” she said.
“As an agent I wouldn’t book an act for festival next year unless they’re going to pay me the same money, and we’ve done the same thing as a festival”
Castillo said her experiences have been “positive” with every agent. “We are looking out for each other to prevent the industry collapsing,” she said.
The Mad Cool booker admitted that it will be “really hard” to get the same audiences next year, “so we need help with fees to make things happen”.
“We are running a big risk with the festival next year”.
The recovery of the music business in Spain “hasn’t event started yet”, said Castillo, as “you first have to understand our business model, identify problems and offer solutions – and we haven’t been offered any solutions yet.”
Giddings replied that, although the recent culture funding package announced by the UK government is sizeable, “we have no idea who it’s going to go to and how it will work”. He added that it was more likely to benefit venues than agents or promoters.
Sponsors are another issue for 2021. “Investing in events is risky now,” said Castillo, “and this is definitely affecting us.”
Vulcu said that, while ARTmania has secured its main sponsor for next year, “it is very difficult to get new sponsors”.
“Investing in events is risky now, and this is definitely affecting us”
Most Isle of Wight Festival sponsors have also “stuck with us” said Giddings, who believes that sponsors will start to come back in once it’s clear the event is going to happen, although they may be “different kinds of sponsors relating to our changing normal”.
Giddings added that he is “praying” for some direction on what will happen next year by Christmas, with clear information needed by March at the latest.
For Lehmkuhl, the key for the “new normal” is a high level of flexibility and an ability to keep running costs very low.
The Goodlive co-founder said that the idea of testing at festivals “is one of the few realistic plans [for getting event up and running] nowadays”, provided that the government is able to provide tests for free.
“It is hard for me to imagine that we will be able to do festivals as normal next year,” he admitted, “but one thing’s for sure, I will not be doing them with social distancing.”
IQ Focus returns with ‘Festival Forum: The Next Stage’
After a week’s break, IQ’s virtual panel series – IQ Focus – is back with Festival Forum: The Next Stage, which sees representatives from a handful of European festivals give an update on the state of the sector.
The ninth panel of the popular IQ Focus series, the session will be streamed live on Facebook and YouTube on Thursday 9 July at 4 p.m. BST/5 p.m. CET, building on a previous Festival Forum panel almost two months on.
Midway through what would have been this year’s festival season, it’s a summer like no other. But are we midway through the crisis, or is there still further to go before the festival sector can confidently progress into 2021?
How confident are promoters feeling about next year, and are artists and audiences ready to return?
With a number of government support packages in place, and much of this year’s line-ups transplanted to next year, how confident are promoters feeling about next year, and are artists and audiences ready to return?
IQ Magazine editor Gordon Masson hosts this IQ Focus discussion with panellists Cindy Castillo of Spain’s Mad Cool festival; John Giddings of the Isle of Wight Festival and Solo Agency; Stefan Lehmkuhl who promotes Splash, Melt, Superbloom and With Full Force festivals at Germany’s Goodlive; and Codruta Vulcu of Romania’s ARTmania Festival.
All previous IQ Focus sessions, which have looked at topics including diversity in live, management under lockdown, the agency business, large-scale and grassroots music venues and innovation in live music, can be watched back here.
Festival Fever: More festivals reveal their 2020 line-ups
Following on from last week’s round-up of 2020 line-up announcements, IQ looks at a selection of festivals to see which acts will be gracing the stages in summer 2020.
(See the previous edition of Festival Fever here.)
When: 2 to 5 July
Where: Festival Park, Werchter, Belgium
How many: 88,000
Pearl Jam and Twenty One Pilots are the first acts announced for the 2020 edition of Rock Werchter, playing on 2 and 4 July respectively.
Founded and promoted by Live Nation Belgium CEO Herman Schueremans, Rock Werchter last year saw headline performances from Pink, the Cure, Tool, Florence and the Machine, Mumford and Sons and Muse, in an edition that Schueremans deemed “a top result compared to a lot of festivals in Europe and the USA” that year.
Speaking at the International Festival Forum (IFF) in September this year, the Rock Werchter founder stressed the continued importance of festivals, saying they “sustain the live industry just as the Amazon rainforest sustains the world’s climate.”
Tickets for Rock Werchter 2020 go on sale on 6 December at 10 a.m. (CET), with a full festival ticket costing €243 (£207) and a single day-pass priced at €110 (£94).
Pearl Jam and Twenty One Pilots are the first acts announced for the 2020 edition of Rock Werchter
When: 9 to 11 July
Where: Passeio Maritimo de Alges, Lisbon, Portugal
How many: 55,000
Everything is New’s Nos Alive festival runs on the ethos that “all stages are main stages”, last year programming acts including Johnny Marr, Primal Scream, Greta Van Fleet, Idles, Bon Iver, Grace Jones and Vampire Weekend.
The 2020 edition of the festival sees headliners Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish and local favourites Da Weasel playing alongside Caribou, Two Door Cinema Club and Haim.
Portugal’s preeminent annual annual rock festival, Nos Alive is now entering its 14th year, having expanded from three stages in its inaugural year to seven, while striving to keep ticket prices low.
Tickets for Nos Alive 2020 are available now, priced at €69 (£59) for a one-day ticket and €159 (£136) for a three-day pass.
The 2020 edition of the festival sees headliners Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish and local favourites Da Weasel
When: 16 to 19 July
Where: Henham Park, Suffolk, UK
How many: 40,000
Latitude is one of a number of Festival Republic events to have enjoyed back-to-back sell-outs in recent years. The 2019 edition, which saw headline performances from George Ezra, Stereophonics and Lana Del Rey, contributed a season that, according to Festival Republic MD Melvin Benn,“genuinely couldn’t have been better.”
The 15th edition of Latitude includes headline performances from Liam Gallagher, the Chemical Brothers and Haim, with the Lumineers, Michael Kiwanuka, Keane and Charli XCX also appearing on the bill.
Gallagher, who is currently playing around the UK on the Why Me? Why Not? tour, is returning to the festival after playing as the ‘secret act’ in 2018.
Tickets for Latitude festival 2020 go on sale on 6 December at 9 a.m. (GMT). Adult weekend tickets cost £210, with accompanied teen tickets priced at $145 and child passes at £15.
Latitude is one of a number of Festival Republic events to have enjoyed back-to-back sell-outs in recent years
Isle of Wight Festival
When: 11 to 14 June
Where: Seaclose Park, Isle of Wight, UK
How many: 90,000
The Isle of Wight festival yesterday (3 December) revealed its 2020 headliners, with Lionel Richie and Lewis Capaldi playing the mainstage on the opening night, Snow Patrol and the Chemical Brothers heading up the second evening and Duran Duran closing proceedings on the Sunday.
The 2020 festival will mark the 50th anniversary of its 1970 edition, which saw headline performances from Jimi Hendrix, the Who and Joni Mitchell and constituted the last festival on the island until its 2002 resurrection.
“I’m excited to be playing at the Isle of Wight Festival next summer,” says Lionel Richie, who will make his debut appearance at the event. “It’s a festival steeped in music history – Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones have all headlined and I’m honoured to be joining the esteemed list.”
Other acts on the 2020 line-up include Happy Mondays, Kaiser Chiefs, Sam Fender, Dido, James Arthur and Primal Scream.
Tickets for the Isle of Wight Festival 2020 go on sale on 6 December at 9 a.m. (GMT), with adult weekend tickets priced at £185.
“It’s a festival steeped in music history – Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones have all headlined”
When: 15 to 19 July
Where: Bannfy Castle, Cluj, Romania
How many: 50,000
Romania’s multi-genre Electric Castle festival is returning for its 8th year in 2020, with already announced acts including Twenty One Pilots, Foals, Floating Points, the Neighbourhood and Fisher.
The 2019 edition of the festival, which takes place each year in an old Transylvanian castle, saw performances from Florence and the Machine, Thirty Seconds to Mars, Limp Bizkit, Bring Me the Horizon and Chvrches.
For the second consecutive year, Electric Castle will have an area dedicated to visual artists, called the New Media Castle, which will house art installations from Robert Henke, James Clar and Claire Hentschker.
Tickets for Electric Castle 2020 are available here, with general tickets costing LEI 499 (£89) and camping passes priced at LEI 539 (£96).
Romania’s multi-genre Electric Castle festival is returning for its 8th year in 2020
Bilbao BBK Live
When: 9 to 11 July
Where: Kobetamendi, Bilbao, Spain
How many: 40,000
Set in the mountains near to the coastal city of Bilbao, BBK Live has nearly doubled in size in recent years. The Spanish festival welcomed 112,800 people from 100 different countries to its 14th edition last year, with performances from the Strokes, Rosalía, Liam Gallagher and Hot Chip.
Founded in 2006, BBK Live has seen the likes of the Police, Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers, New Order, Depeche Mode, Guns N’ Roses and Lenny Kravitz perform over the years.
For the 2020 edition, Kendrick Lamar, the Killers, Pet Shop Boys and Bad Bunny top the bill, playing along with Caribou, Four Tet, Supergrass, Kelly Lee Owens and Slowthai, with more acts still to be announced.
Tickets for Bilbao BBK Live are available here with a full festival pass costing €140 (£119) and camping tickets priced at €158 (£134).
For the 2020 edition, Kendrick Lamar, the Killers, Pet Shop Boys and Bad Bunny top the bill
All Points East
When: 22 to 31 May
Where: Victoria Park, London, UK
How many: 40,000
All Points East has announced another headliner since the last edition of Festival Fever. German electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk will perform their only UK show of the year at the festival on Friday 29 May, supported by Iggy Pop, Johnny Marr, the Orb and others.
Kraftwerk mark the second UK exclusive for the festival, adding to the headline performance from Tame Impala on Saturday 23 May.
AEG’s other London festival, British Summer Time (BST) Hyde Park has added Taylor Swift and Pearl Jam to its 2020 headliner list, following the announcement of its first headline act, Little Mix, last week.
Pearl Jam will perform on Friday 10 July, as part of their 13-date European summer tour, with Swift playing on the following evening. Pixies and White Reaper will join Pearl Jam on the Friday.
Little Mix will play the opening Saturday of the concert series (4 July), along with newly announced special guests Rita Ora, Kesha and Zara Larsson.
Tickets for Kraftwerk at All Points East go on sale on 6 December at 10 a.m. (GMT). Tickets for Taylor Swift at BST will become available 6 December at 9 a.m. (GMT), with Pearl Jam tickets going on sale on 7 December at 10 a.m. (GMT).
Angry punks and happy faces: industry pros talk breakthroughs
Hard work, knowing the right people and a slice of good luck can all play a part in getting a proper footing on the career ladder. IQ puts some more ILMC regulars in the spotlight and asks them to share their breakthrough moments…
John Giddings, Solo Agency
When I was about 14 years old, a mate at school persuaded me to learn to play bass guitar, with the promise that we would pull chicks. I had to borrow a bass because I could not afford to buy one and that’s why, to this day, I play bass guitar with a right-handed guitar, upside down, because I’m left handed.
We were at a gig and we were playing ‘The Nile Song’ from Pink Floyd’s More album and this punk came up to the stage and said, “If you don’t stop playing, now, then I’m going to fucking hit you!”
That was the end of my career as a musician, but I knew I wanted to be part of the live music thing, even if I was not capable of being onstage.
In those days, we just used to listen to LPs on our own in our bedroom, but I remember going to Isle of Wight Festival and walking over the top of the hill to see 600,000 other people who liked the same music as me – it was like going on a pilgrimage. And that was that – I was hooked.
Going to Isle of Wight Festival was like going on a pilgrimage – I was hooked
When I was around 15, I knew that I wanted to work in music and organise events. I even wrote business plans about my future virtual company. After my apprenticeship, I looked around for job options, but at that time there were very few in the Swiss market and I couldn’t find a way in. I never lost that focus, but I had to work in several other jobs, including as a bookkeeper in real estate in 1992. Hell!
Out of the blue, a former work colleague called me to tell me that she was working for OpenAir St. Gallen, as the assistant for the festival director but was going to leave. As I was so persistent in telling her about my vision, she suggested I put myself forward for the job interview. This was my chance!
I went to the interview and tried to convince them that there was only one person who would be perfect to do the job. They asked me for some time as they had other candidates, but due to a timeline in my other job, I needed a quick answer. They had me complete some tests and I convinced them that I would do everything to make my dream come true. And they finally offered me the job.
I remember as I drove home that I looked at other people and felt so lucky to have achieved my dream.
I started in 1993, was able to take over the event company a few years later and work with wepromote Switzerland on a national level for many festivals and concerts.
In addition, for the past 20 years, I have been part of the European festival family of Yourope where I’ve made so many close friends.
Thank you, Lisa and Andreas, for having given me this opportunity.
I remember as I drove home that I looked at other people and felt so lucky to have achieved my dream
Fruzsina Szép, Lollapalooza Berlin
Since childhood I had always been very passionate and enthusiastic about arts and music and creating and organising things. Watching the happy faces during a festival is “my fuel“ and has kept me going for so many years in the industry, despite the gigantic workload many of us deal with day to day.
In 2008, I was offered the position of programme and artistic director for Sziget Festival in Budapest. I was 30 and I thought ‘Oh my God!’ – this coat is really not my size. My size is S/M and that coat felt XXL.
But I listened to my inner voice. I knew that if I didn’t try, I would never know if I was capable. I can always fail, I told myself, but only after trying.
I’m so extremely happy that I was wise enough to listen to my inner voice, to have the support of my family, and to believe in myself.
If Elon Musk asked me to organise the first festival on Mars, I’d be up for the job
I’m so thankful for having gained such an enormous amount of experience in those seven years working at Sziget. Without which, I could have never taken the next huge challenge and worn the even bigger coat known as Lollapalooza Berlin.
Moving the Lolla festival site four years in a row allowed me to learn so much and overcome so many challenges. I must say that I’m very thankful for these experiences because now, if Elon Musk asked me to organise the first festival on Mars, I’d be up for the job.
I’m so grateful to have been able to work in such an amazing industry, to have colleagues from whom I can learn day by day, and to be part of an international festival family with like-minded humans that are rocking their own festivals every summer.
The New Bosses 2019: Charly Beedell-Tuck, Solo
The New Bosses 2019 – the biggest-ever edition of IQ‘s yearly roundup of future live industry leaders, as voted for by their peers – was published in IQ 85 last week, revealing the twelve promising agents, promoters, bookers and execs that make up this year’s list.
To get to know this year’s cream of the crop a little better, IQ conducted interviews with each one of 2019’s New Bosses, to discover their greatest inspirations and proudest achievements, pinpoint the reasons for their success and obtain advice for those hoping to be a future New Boss. Snippets of the interviews can be found in the latest IQ Magazine, with all interviews being reproduced in full online and on IQ Index over the coming weeks.
The second New Boss is 29-year-old Charly Beedell-Tuck, an agent at UK-based Solo. Londoner Beedell-Tuck graduated from Cardiff University in 2012 and went on to intern at various management companies before joining WME in 2013. Starting as a receptionist, she became Russell Warby’s assistant, working with acts including Foo Fighters, the Strokes and Johnny Marr.
In January 2017, Beedell-Tuck left WME for Solo, where her roster includes Rothwell, Wild Front, Chinchilla and Paradisia. She also books acts such as Boyzone, James and Imelda May with Solo managing director John Giddings. (Read the previous interview with Ticketmaster’s Bonita McKinney, here.)
What are you busy with right now?
Just wrapping up the last of my 2019 bookings: seeing through the last shows with James, who are coming to the end of their current cycle, finalising Wild Front’s headline tour and concluding the Boyzone farewell tour.
I’m working on a new project for 2020 called Generation Sex, which I am really excited to be a part of. It’s a supergroup that includes Billy Idol and Tony James of Generation X and Steve Jones and Paul Cook of the Sex Pistols, performing material from both bands. I’m also beginning to plot the touring strategy for Imelda May’s new album, working towards seeing one of pop artists, Rothwell, on her first European tour.
I will also continue to develop my roster of emerging artists, including Cruel Hearts Club (who will be touring with the Libertines), brilliant new signing Chinchilla and, following a successful summer of festivals, planning the next London headline show for afrobeat collective The Compozer.
Did you always want to work in the music business?
Yes, that is something I have always known. Growing up in London, there was a huge culture surrounding the live music scene, when I was at school I used to spend all my money on gig tickets. I probably went to at least three shows week (it drove my mum mad), so it feels surreal that my hobby has turned into a career.
Venues like the Astoria, Mean Fiddler, Metros and the Borderline were instrumental in our youth. Last week saw one of my artists, Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly, play one of the last-ever gigs at the Borderline, before closing for good, which was incredible to be a part of but also bittersweet, as it was the last of the venues that we grew up in, that made such an impact on our lives.
“Being a part of the process and seeing your artists reach new milestones is what makes it all worthwhile”
What are some of the highlights of your career so far?
Watching any of the artists I have worked with reach new milestones in their careers, whether it’s Foo Fighters finally headlining Glastonbury after being forced to cancel the first time round, to Wild Front opening the main stage at the Isle of Wight Festival, being a part of the process and seeing your artists reach new milestones is what makes it all worthwhile.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt while at Solo?
Make sure you don’t email John Giddings anything that you don’t want to be forwarded on!
What, if anything, would you change about how the live industry is run today?
I think we are moving in the right direction, but certainly ensuring the structures within companies are shifting to allow for more women in higher positions. I think there is still a running narrative within the industry that tells young women, that at a certain point it becomes impossible to have a family and maintain a successful career. From my days starting out on reception at WME, to being an agent at Solo, I have always balanced my career with being a parent, something that I feel women should know is an option, and be confident about being able to achieve.
What do you do for fun?
Eat burritos and listen to the Vengaboys, something that has become a Friday tradition at the Solo offices!
Do you have an industry mentor?
I have been very fortunate to have two great mentors in my career thus far: Russell Warby and John Giddings. Russell Warby was the first agent I ever worked for, and he truly believed in me, giving me a lot of responsibility early on that helped shape me into becoming the agent I am today. We were a great team, and he will always remain someone that I look up to.
“John Giddings is the true definition of the word ‘mentor’ in every sense”
As for John Giddings, he is the true definition of the word ‘mentor’ in every sense, and I am so thankful for him taking me under his wing. He is the most loyal person I know, and has taught me so much about being an agent and conducting business in a fair and respectable manner. He constantly pushes me to succeed, giving me credit, when credit is due, something that is quite rare in such a competitive industry, and which I am so grateful for.
I think it is also important to mention some of my peers, who have been instrumental in the growth of my career. Kara James (WME) and Sophie Lobl (C3) whom I started alongside at WME and have since gone on to do incredible things in their careers; and Lily Crockford (Crockford Management) who I have developed a strong relationship with over the years, by helping each other and working closely together on a number of artists. I really respect and look up to all of these women, and think it’s just as important to recognise the power of your peers, as that of your bosses.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to get into, or is new to, the business?
My nine-year-old son, Evann, recently told me he wants to get into the business, as he has decided he wants to be a DJ. To which my immediate response was, “Don’t do it, get a real job!”
For anyone new to the business, I guess my advice would be, as consuming and stressful as it may seem at times, it’s always worth remembering no one is dying, even if the font size on a poster is smaller than you agreed. (Trust me, I have got my ruler out many times!)
Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?
Hopefully at the ILMC, being nominated for the Second Least Offensive Agent award!
ILMC 31: The Open Forum: With or Without EU
Live Nation’s president of international touring, Phil Bowdery, returned as host for this year’s standing room-only Opening Forum, which saw six heavyweights gather to discuss the last 12 months in the business, hot-button industry issues and the looming threat of Brexit.
After running through some of the headline figures from 2018 – the largest tour was Ed Sheeran’s ÷, which grossed US$432.4m from 93 concerts in 53 cities, with Taylor Swift’s Reputation in second – Bowdery asked what the trend towards rising ticket prices, coupled in many cases with falling attendances, outlined in IQ’s European Festival Report 2018 means for the industry’s future growth.
Deutsche Entertainment AG (DEAG) CMO Detlef Kornett said that while his company experienced healthy growth last year – and that sales of top-end tickets continue to grow – less wealthy fans are increasingly finding themselves priced out of shows. “Twenty per cent of the population in Germany now can’t afford to go to a show,” he explained. “The P1s keep increasing, but the lower end is a concern.”
Coda agent Alex Hardee said while he didn’t have any statistics to hand (“not that that’s stopped me before!”) he feels the overall market is “flat”. “You’re never going to have a problem selling [new, hot acts like] Billie Eilish, but it’s more difficult with bands on their second, third albums… Record labels are the strongest they’ve been since the ’80s, but the live industry feels like it’s plateauing slightly.”
Tim Leiweke, the ex-AEG CEO who now leads venues company Oak View Group (OVG) – which used the conference to launch its new London-based OVG International division – cautioned that the business “need[s] to address whether we’re pricing people out of concerts”, especially if the global economy takes a downturn.
Solo Agency’s John Giddings countered: “Every time we put a show on sale, it seems to sell out. People want to go out and have a good time.” He revealed that his Isle of Wight Festival 2019 had sold more than 30,000 tickets before it had announced a single artist.
“Fortnite is a $60bn business, and it doesn’t charge to play. … I think there’s a lot to be learnt from that”
However, he added: “We push ticket prices all the time – the artists want more money, venues want that peripheral income – so there must be a level it reaches when we say it’s enough.”
Marsha Vlasic of Artist Group International (AGI) said AGI had a great year, with the likes of Billy Joel, Def Leppard and Metallica continuing to sell out shows. She said her biggest concern for the future is “who are the next headliners, and how do we get the next generation of acts to that level?”.
Asked about the impending merger of AEG Facilities and SMG, and the new company, ASM Global’s, potential to rival OVG, Leiweke said he doesn’t think “two [companies] coming together is ever good”, predicting that “they’re going to get challenged in the UK, they’re going to get challenged in Germany and elsewhere in Europe…” He also revealed that OVG’s lawyers are “looking at it” on anti-competition concerns.
Returning to ticket pricing, and the value of the market, artist manager Bill Silva argued that the live music industry – predicted to top $30bn in 2022, according to the latest PwC data – is actually small fry compared to the videogames business, where many IPs rely on a free-to-access model.
“Fortnite is a $60 billion business, and it doesn’t charge to play,” said Silva. “That’s one game that’s bigger than our entire industry by a multiple [of two]. I think there’s a lot to be learnt from what’s going on there – people are spending their time on that activity, rather than music and concerts – there’s a model around engagement and experience that encourages them to spend.”
“It’s the old drug dealer model,” he joked. “‘First one’s on me,’ right? Not that I was a drug dealer…”
Kornett argued the success of games like Fornite could help open up to the live business to a wider audience, using the example of DJ Marshmello’s recent performance in Fortnite, which was seen by 10m people.
“We need to remember we work in a system where other people rely on us”
Following on from ILMC head Greg Parmley’s welcome address, when he paid tribute to the ILMC members who had died in 2018, Silva urged the industry to come together and look after those in need.
“When we watch our artists taking their own lives – Chris Cornell, Chester [Bennington] and now this week Keith Flint – as well as promoters [referencing Croatia’s Jordan Rodić, who committed suicide in January], we need to remember we work in a system where other people rely on us as well.
“I guarantee any of the people around people who have taken their lives would say they did everything they could, or that they had no idea… We all have a lot of fun doing what we do, but I like to end most interaction on a high note and let people know I appreciate and respect them.”
Inevitably, with the UK set to leave the EU (with or without a deal) at the end of this month, talk then turned to Brexit. Several people in the room said they were hedging dollars to prepare for any post-Brexit plunge in the pound. “We’re in a gambling business, and that’s just another gamble we’re taking,” said Giddings.
“We’ve been following everything on Brexit, all the scenarios,” added Hardee, “but what can we do?”
Asked the view from the continent, Kornett said: “Once in a while, it’s good to take the other side. The UK industry accounts for almost 25% of Europe’s, so if it gets harder to get to the UK from Europe our business gets harder. So there should be a vested interest to avoid that.”
‘It’s rare to see a group work this hard’: Giddings on Little Mix’s road to the Brits
On Wednesday, UK pop superstars Little Mix picked up their second Brit Award, taking home the best video artist prize for ‘Woman Like Me’ featuring Nicki Minaj.
Coming on the back of five studio albums and five years of nearly constant touring, the band’s UK/RoW agent, Solo Agency’s John Giddings, says it’s a well-deserved reward for the hardest-working pop group out there…
IQ: It’s the second Brit award for the band, and the first since 2017, when they won British single of the year for ‘Shout Out to My Ex’. How important is it for you, and the team around the band, to be recognised for your hard work?
JG: I think it’s fantastic.
It’s so rare to see a group who work this hard – I’ve said this before, but pop groups work ten times harder than rock acts when it comes to things like promotion, working the room, meet-and-greets… Little Mix are rightly being rewarded for that.
The band hit the road again this autumn for the LM5 tour, their sixth in six years. That’s a pretty gruelling touring schedule…
It is. It’s amazing to see how hard these girls work.
And they still like each other! They get on, they enjoy each other’s company… and that’s so important. It’s the same with any group – you take away the fun element and nobody wants to be there; they just all want to go home.
You’ve worked with Boyzone, the Spice Girls, Westlife, the Corrs… Is the Little Mix phenomenon a similar vibe to those acts in their heydays?
Very much so. I remember when we opened the gates at Wembley Arena on the Spice Girls’ first tour [in 1998] and I suddenly realised there were mothers dragging their children in, as they enjoyed the music as much as their daughters!
That was the first time I remember selling tickets in sixes and eights, as opposed to twos and fours, because it was proper family entertainment. And that’s definitely the case with Little Mix too.
“It’s amazing to see how hard these girls work”
How has the fanbase evolved since you started working with Little Mix? Is it a case of the fans growing up with the band?
Yes, to an extent. But there are also women of 40, 50, who love their music, too, and not just through their children. So we’re seeing their audience growing in multiple ways; the girls are going from strength to strength.
The group were formed on the X Factor in 2011—
They were, but I think most people have forgotten they’re X Factor winners at this point. They’re not considered a reality TV band – they’ve gone way beyond that.
You’ve obviously played a key part in that growth. Who else has been instrumental in Little Mix’s ascent?
Richard Griffiths and Harry Magee at Modest Management, who have steered the ship incredible well. Their collective experience really came into play in looking after [Little Mix] – they’ve kept them together and took them to the next level.
How did the rate their performance of ‘Woman Like Me’ on Wednesday night?
I thought they were incredible. They’re such athletic performers and that really came across. You can see the stamina [they bring to their live shows].
Two Brits wins under the belt now, then… You must be hoping for a third next year?
Absolutely. It’s important for groups to see their results of their success. They work so hard, and they love getting close to their public.
I’d like to see them win best album – they’d be deserving winners.