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DEAG acquires Fane Productions via Kilimanjaro

Germany’s DEAG (Deutsche Entertainment AG) has announced the acquisition of literary events production company Fane Productions via its subsidiary Kilimanjaro.

Through the acquisition, DEAG is “successfully expanding its business activities in the UK, the company’s most important secondary market,” according to a statement from the Berlin-based live entertainment group company.

In the UK market, DEAG has already acquired a majority stake in UK Live in June 2021, as well as a majority stake in UK ticketing vendor Gigantic Holdings in December 2019.

This follows the company’s acquisition of promoter The Flying Music Group in 2017 and Belladrum Festival in Scotland in 2018.

Meanwhile, Kilimanjaro acquired a stake in Collective Form in early 2021, and launched Irish promoter Singular Artists in 2020 along with DEAG.

Founded in 2017, Fane Productions has hosted sold-out live events for talent including Margaret Atwood, Malala Yousafzai and Grayson Perry. In 2020, Fane launched an online arm that has “revolutionised” the way virtual book events are delivered. The company has offices in the UK and Australia.

“After a year of exponential growth and our busiest autumn ever, it’s the perfect time to join forces”

Stuart Galbraith, CEO at Kilimanjaro Live, says: “Having known Alex for several years we are pleased to welcome Fane Productions into the Kili Group. We look forward to working with Alex for many years to come and expanding and growing the Fane family both in the UK and internationally.”

Alex Fane, MD at Fane Productions, adds: “I’m delighted to be partnering with DEAG and Kilimanjaro Live as we look to our next steps as a company. After a year of exponential growth and our busiest autumn ever, it’s the perfect time to join forces with an industry leader who understands our business and can offer us the expertise and investment we need to expand our offer within the UK and beyond.”

Jonny Geller, CEO of The Curtis Brown Group, comments: “We were all excited at Curtis Brown to launch Fane Productions into the world of literary and live events back in 2017 and many of our clients have worked happily with their team over the years. We are proud to have seen Fane grow over the years and are delighted that they have found a new home in Kilimanjaro and we wish them many more years of spreading the joy of reading throughout the country.”

Earlier this year, DEAG raised another €6 million to fund acquisitions, and says it recently enlisted the services of a “renowned American investment bank” to identify new opportunities outside its “core markets of Germany, the UK, Switzerland, Ireland and Denmark”.

 


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Sheeran sales fill European promoters with optimism

Ed Sheeran’s recently announced ‘blockbuster’ tour has filled promoters with optimism about the industry’s post-pandemic recovery.

Tickets for the first leg of Sheeran’s + – = ÷ x (‘mathematics’) stadium tour went on sale last Saturday (25 September), with extra dates added due to demand.

The tour, which kicks off in April next year, will see Sheeran play shows across the UK, Ireland, Central Europe and Scandinavia.

The UK leg, which now includes five dates at London’s Wembley Stadium (cap. 90,000), will be largely be staged by Kilimanjaro and FKP Scorpio – both of which say that the demand is a positive sign for the industry’s recovery.

“We’re absolutely delighted with the ticket sales we’ve done on next year’s tour; so much so that we’ve been able to add extra shows everywhere including fourth and fifth nights at London’s Wembley Stadium,” Kilimanjaro’s Steve Tilley tells IQ.

“I know I speak on behalf of both Kilimanjaro and FKP when I say that we’re over the moon to see the strength of the market especially coming out of what’s been a terrible 18 months for the live music industry and associated ecosystem.’’

“This should provide us all with optimism that our industry can recover and even become bigger than ever”

FKP Scorpio UK’s managing director and longtime Sheeran co-promoter, Daniel Ealam, tells IQ: “We are so pleased with the sales on these shows. It not only proves the magnetism of Ed after the incredible success of the [previous] Divide Tour but also shows that blockbuster tours can still sell huge numbers, as we begin to come through the pandemic. This should provide us all with optimism that our industry can recover and even become bigger than ever.”

FKP Scorpio CEO Folkert Koopmans told Germany’s Musik Woche that he was “very satisfied” with ticket sales for ‘+ – = ÷ x’ so far.

According to Musik Woche, a few hours after the start of advance sales, FKP Scorpio had already sold more than a million tickets for the 31 European concerts it is involved with. German shows in Munich, Gelsenkirchen and Frankfurt account for 200,000 of the total.

“We are very satisfied with this result so shortly after the start of advance sales – and more than nine months before the first concert,” Koopmans told the publication.

“Of course, the expectations of a mega-star like EdSheeran are high, but especially with a view to Covid and the resulting uncertainty among concert-goers, more than a million tickets sold within a very short time are a great result and an expression of the unbridled lust of people to finally experience live music again. ”

Sheeran’s agent, Jon Ollier from One Finiix Live, told IQ that dates in Asia, Australia, America and other territories will be announced “as things roll out”. Read the full interview with Ollier here.


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One Fiinix Live’s Jon Ollier talks Ed Sheeran tour

Ed Sheeran’s agent Jon Ollier has spoken to IQ about the sequel to the biggest concert tour of all time.

Sheeran’s 255 show ÷ (Divide) run from 2017-19 surpassed U2’s 360° as the highest-grossing tour ever, with a gross of US$776.2 million. It also set a new record for total attendance, at 8,796,567, according to Pollstar data.

Tickets go on sale tomorrow (September 25) for the first leg of the follow-up + – = ÷ x stadium tour (pronounced |mathematics”), which kicks off in April next year.

The tour will see Sheeran play shows across the UK, Ireland, Central Europe and Scandinavia, but Ollier said breaking further records was low on the team’s list of priorities.

“Coming out of the pandemic, I think everyone would be very happy with just following it with excellence and keeping the fans happy,” the One Fiinix Live boss tells IQ.

“I think everyone would be very happy with just following [the ÷ tour] with excellence and keeping the fans happy”

“We’ve frozen the ticket prices from last time, because of everything the world’s been through, so we’re not really looking at our ambitions as much as just trying to do the best we can.

“Genuinely, the things that we are focusing on at this point in the process is getting the tickets into the hands of real fans, making sure people aren’t getting ripped off, making sure that we’re delivering excellence in everything that we do, and trying to deliver a great tour. And then everything else follows.”

The UK dates will be staged by Kilimanjaro Live, AEG Presents and FKP Scorpio, which hired longtime Sheeran co-promoter Daniel Ealam from DHP Family last year alongside Scott O’Neill.

“We had to go into arenas first on ÷ because we needed to understand the market and understand that everything was there for the taking in the way that it was, create the heat and create the demand,” explains Ollier. “But we’re at a place now where we need to satisfy the market rather than stoke the fire.”

The new tour is in support of Sheeran’s new album =, which will be released on October 29 through Asylum/Atlantic. The campaign is expected to run for three years and will include another LP before the end of 2024.

“They’ve changed up the [production] offering, so that it’s not just re-touring the old show with new songs”

“We’ll be announcing Asia, Australia, America, etc, as things roll out and I know that Ed would love to get to some new places, so I’m sure that’s on the horizon,” adds Ollier.

“We all hope that we are coming back to a market that is buoyant enough to support the level of business that will keep us running for a period of time that would allow us to get done what we usually get done. I think Ed said, ‘Right, here’s my tour, this is me now for the next three years,’ so that’s where his head’s at with it.

“And we’ll find out tomorrow when we go on sale, but we would love to be coming back to a market that feels buoyant enough for us to be able to do something like that.”

The concerts will also feature a new production set-up with Sheeran’s staging in the round, surrounded by the crowd in each stadium, potentially upping capacities. Previous tours have seen Sheeran perform solo with a loop pedal.

“They’ve changed up the offering, so there’s definitely a feeling that they’re doing something different, that it’s not just re-touring the old show with new songs,” says Ollier. “So there is definitely going to be a progression in production.”

“This time, we’ve made our ticketing 100% digital, which we think is going to be the future”

The ÷ tour was also notable for its aggressive campaign against the secondary market, and the upcoming tour will use specially developed mobile digital ticketing technology, which have safeguards in place “to ensure genuine fans are buying genuine tickets and to stop unofficial secondary ticketing sites, and unofficial ticket sellers, from being able to resell tickets at inflated prices and rip off fans”.

“This time, we’ve made our ticketing 100% digital, which we think is going to be the future,” says Ollier. “The ticketing companies have been fantastic in working with us – we’ve put quite a lot of pressure on them during a pandemic to develop their apps and the mechanisms that we need in place.

“We hope that this time [the battle against unauthorised resale sites] is going to feel a lot more like it’s all happening in the background. Last time around, it had to play out in the media because no one was listening. But people are listening now, people are aware and at the table, trying to change laws, trying to move things forward.

“There is no reason why in a world full of technology, that we can’t lean on technology a little bit more so we will have all of the failsafes and backdrops that you’d expect us to have. But it’s all going to be delivered through a digital platform, through an app, which will make sure that people enter the venue with legitimate tickets.”

Ollier began his career at Helter Skelter, moving to Free Trade Agency in 2008, when he first began working with Sheeran. He moved to CAA as a senior agent in 2015 before launching One Fiinix in November 2020, taking with him a roster of acts including Sheeran, Anne-Marie, JC Stewart, Lauv and 2Cellos.

 


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Music and theatre sue UK govt for pilot show data

Live music industry body LIVE and a range of theatre businesses, including Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group, Cameron Mackintosh, Michael Harrison and Sonia Friedman, have commenced legal proceedings against the UK government to force it to hand over the report from its series of test events, the Events Research Programme (ERP).

The ERP is the government’s research into Covid-19 mitigations in sport, entertainment and business conferences settings. The music industry and theatre businesses have repeatedly called on the government to outline the scientific basis for its decision to maintain restrictions on events. Despite portions of the ERP economic impact assessment being leaked to the media this week, the government refused calls from many MPs in a debate on Tuesday 22 June to release the report in full.

Several UK festivals, including Kendal Calling, Truck and Let’s Rock, have cited the non-release of the ERP data as a reason for cancelling their 2021 events. “Without this safety guidance, there are numerous aspects of the festival we cannot plan, and which could lay us wide open to last minute unforeseen regulations or requirements which could scupper an already built festival,” reads a statement from Kendal Calling, which cancelled earlier this week.

Stuart Galbraith, CEO of Kilimanjaro Live (which recently acquired Let’s Rock) and co-founder of LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment), the representative body for the live music industry, says: “The live music industry has been very willing to work with government for the last year to show that our industry can operate safely. But it is intolerable that after running pilot shows for the government’s Events Research Programme, at our own cost, we have been blocked from seeing the results, leaving the whole sector in limbo with the real chance that the entire summer could collapse for the second year running.

“Even now, the live music sector has no idea what the rest of the summer brings, and we are left with a complete inability to plan ahead due to the government’s continued unwillingness to provide some form of insurance to enable events to move forward.”

“The govt’s actions are forcing theatre and music companies off a cliff as the summer wears on, whilst cherry-picking high-profile sporting events to go ahead”

In the legal action, lodged today, the parties assert that the government has “flagrantly breached the ‘duty of candour’ which requires it to be transparent when faced with a legal challenge and that none of the reasons given for withholding the Events Research Programme material they seek withstand scrutiny”. They have asked the court to consider their application at an urgent hearing as soon as possible.

“The government’s actions are forcing theatre and music companies off a cliff as the summer wears on, whilst cherry-picking high-profile sporting events to go ahead,” comments theatre impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber. “The situation is beyond urgent.”

As well as declining to publish the ERP results, the bodies argue that the British government is yet to provide any form of insurance scheme for the sector or to make it clear what kind of ongoing mitigations may be required in the future – effectively making it impossible to plan for any live entertainment business. According to recent research from LIVE the potential four-week delay to reopening will lead to around 5,000 live music gigs being cancelled, as well as numerous theatre productions across the country, costing hundreds of millions of pounds in lost income.

Peter Gabriel, speaking for WOMAD Festival, says: “Without immediate government intervention, the festival industry is on the brink of collapse. That doesn’t mean cash, it means providing the certainty to enable us to deliver festivals, guidance on safety, and an understanding of how their timing affects us in the real world.

“We struggle to understand why these trials took place if the government can’t now tell us the results and how that will affect all of us”

“At the end of this week, WOMAD will be faced with one very difficult and heart-wrenching decision. Millions of pounds of investment and the livelihood of around five thousand people are at stake. Several pilot events have been successfully run over recent months. But, like other festival teams, we need to be told what that research means for WOMAD. We struggle to understand why these trials took place if the government can’t now tell us the results and how that will affect all of us.”

While today’s suit focuses on forcing the government to release the findings of its pilot programme, the suit is also critical of the lack of guidance for the forthcoming step four – the final stage of reopening, provisionally scheduled for 19 July. Lack of clear guidance was a contributing factor to Kendal Calling cancelling earlier this week despite it taking place after the step 4 date.

Craig Hassall, CEO of the Royal Albert Hall, says: “The chronic uncertainty and endless indecisiveness from government, and pilot events with no published results, have damaged audience confidence and further harmed a sector that has already been decimated by the pandemic. For as long as venues like the Royal Albert Hall, and hundreds more across the country, are prevented from effectively operating with no justification, we cannot play our part in supporting the critical ecosystem of freelancers, small businesses and suppliers who rely on us and who are so desperately in need of work.”

Live entertainment and theatre generate £11.25 billion in gross value added each year, and the sectors support just under one million jobs between them.

LIVE’s members are the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), Association for Electronic Music (AFEM), Association of Festival Organisers (AFO), Association of Independent Promoters (AIP), British Association of Concert Halls (BACH), Concert Promoters Association (CPA), Featured Artist Coalition (FAC), The Entertainment Agents’ Association (TEAA), Music Venue Trust (MVT), Music Managers Forum (MMF), National Arenas Association (NAA), Production Services Association (PSA) and Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR).

 


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DEAG’s Kilimanjaro to acquire promoter UK Live

DEAG has acquired a majority stake in UK Live, the independent Buckinghamshire-based promoter behind Let’s Rock, the popular festivals of ’80s  and ‘retro’ music held in 14 cities.

Berlin-based DEAG announced last month it had raised more than €6 million to fund acquisitions in “key markets” around the world. Through UK subsidiary Kilimanjaro Live, the company has taken a 90% stake in UK Live, which has also organised headline shows by the likes of Craig David, Kim Wilde, Rick Astley and the Kaiser Chiefs, as well as festivals PennFest and Sunset Sessions (Exeter and Norwich).

In addition to organising shows, UK Live specialises in artist booking, stage construction and event technology. The company’s founders and managing directors Nick Billinghurst and Matt Smith, will stay on board as minority shareholders and will continue to manage the company in the long term.

“In view of the positive development with regard to the vaccination situation in our core markets, we expect to see our business activities increasingly return to normal in the coming months. We are already setting the course for a continuation of our successful business development and can further expand our strong market position in the UK with the acquisition of UK Live,” says Detlef Kornett, member of the executive board of DEAG (Deutsche Entertainment AG).

Other DEAG businesses in the UK include the Flying Music Company, Belladrum Festival, MyTicket UK and Gigantic Tickets, as well as Singular Artists in the neighbouring Republic of Ireland.

“We are very excited about our future collaboration with DEAG and look forward to driving our growth journey together”

“UK Live has its own productions and independently covers the complete infrastructure from stage set-up to technology. By focusing on the domestic market, UK Live’s business activities are hardly affected by the Brexit,” continues Kornett. “The partnership with UK Live offers us potential, especially for our ticketing and live entertainment business. For example, we will offer tickets for UK Live events for sale exclusively through Gigantic.com.”

“The acquisition of UK Live adds attractive events and concerts to our events portfolio,” says Stuart Galbraith, CEO of Kilimanjaro Live. “Nick Billinghurst and Matt Smith have many years of experience in the live entertainment industry and have shaped UK Live from its early days with Let’s Rock The Moor with 1,000 visitors to a successful company with over a dozen festivals and countless concerts within only a few years. Today, the four series of events, Let’s Rock, PennFest, Friday Night Live Norwich and Sunday Sessions, alone attract over 200,000 visitors annually.”

Billinghurst adds: “We are very excited about our future collaboration with DEAG and look forward to driving our growth journey together. With DEAG, we have a strong partner on our side, with whom we are ideally positioned for the post-corona era.

“Together we will soon be presenting our audience with top-class concerts and events again. I am sure that both sides will benefit from our merger in the long term.”

 


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Promoter Joff Hall joins Kilimanjaro Live

British concert promoter Joff Hall has joined Kilimanjaro Live, becoming the London-based live music firm’s latest hire after four years with TEG MJR.

At TEG MJR (formerly the MJR Group), Hall promoted tours for artists including Culture Club, Dream Theater, Blue Oyster Cult, Joan Collins, Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox, Static X, Madeleine Peyroux and Daniel O’Donnell, as well as programming hundreds of shows in MJR’s venues.

Prior to joining MJR, Hall worked for VMS Live, where he programmed in house for then-clients Manchester Academy, Liverpool Olympia and Norwich UEA, working with the likes of Gary Numan, the Flaming Lips, Garbage, the Fratellis and Soul II Soul. He also programmed a significant amount of the company’s outdoor projects, with the Human League, Will Young, Texas, Kaiser Chiefs, Primal Scream and more.

“We jumped at the chance to bring Joff onto our team”

Kilimanjaro Live CEO Stuart Galbraith says: “It’s been a very difficult time for the live music industry but we at Kili are strongly focused on a positive future. We jumped at the chance to bring Joff onto our team, as the breadth of his experience and his good standing reputationally will further bolster our incredible promoting team.”

“I am excited to be joining Kilimanjaro and working with Stuart, Zac [Fox], San [Phillips] and the rest of the team. This is a company that has such a wealth of experience and knowledge within it, and of course a great reputation within the industry,” adds Hall. “I am honoured to have this opportunity to join them.”

 


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Kilimanjaro Live launches rock-oriented live brand

Kilimanjaro Live is launching a new rock-oriented live promotion brand called Action! Presents, spearheaded by the company’s veteran promoter Alan Day.

The first tour announced under the new brand is Bring Me The Horizon’s five-date arena run which kicks off in September 2021 at Glasgow’s SSE Hydro (cap. 14,300) and ends in London’s O2 (21,000).

The Action! Presents team has helped build the careers of rock acts such as Muse, Don Broco, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, Sabaton, While She Sleeps, Deaf Havana and more, taking them from small clubs through to the country’s biggest theatres, arenas and even stadiums.

“We aim to build a social community around this brand, and bring audiences the best in alternative music that goes up to 11”

“During these trying times of quiet in the world of live music, we are all looking forward to a return to Action! and the full live music experience,” says Day.

“From the record to the stage to the mosh pit to the lyrical content, the word Action! is pivotal to rock. We aim to build a social community around this brand, and bring audiences the best in alternative music that goes up to 11. To launch with a new tour from one of the UK’s hottest acts, Bring Me The Horizon is very exciting.”

Day joined Stuart Galbraith’s Kilimanjaro Live during its first year of launching in 2008, along with promoter Steve Tilley.

Kilimanjaro has previously been behind major rock events such as Sonisphere festival (70,000) and the European leg of the Vans Warped Tour, as well as staging Babymetal’s SSE Arena (12,500), Wembley in 2016 – the largest, sold-out show a Japanese act has ever played in the western world, which smashed the venue’s merchandise sales record.

 


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DEAG launches in Ireland with Singular Artists

Germany’s Deutsche Entertainment AG (DEAG) has launched in Ireland in partnership with veteran concert promoters Fin O’Leary, Brian Hand and Simon Merriman.

Through its UK subsidiary, Kilimanjaro Live, the Berlin-based company has established Singular Artists, a new company that will organise concerts in both Northern Ireland and the Republic. It also plans to expand its ticketing businesses, MyTicket and Gigantic, to Ireland following Singular Artists’ launch.

DEAG holds a majority (55%) stake in Singular Artists, with the remaining equity split between O’Leary, Hand and Merriman, all of whom most recently worked at Aiken Promotions. All bring from Aiken a diverse roster of touring artists and cultural events, including a growing portfolio of non-music events, including podcasts, YouTubers, comedy and spoken word.

Acts the trio have worked with include My Chemical Romance, Sufjan Stevens, Fontaines DC, Daryl Hall and John Oates, Yungblud, Tones and I, Jose Gonzalez, A-ha, Larking Poe, Clannad, Loyle Carner, Soak, the Dubliners and Girl Band.

“We are pleased that this expansion opportunity has opened up for us in these challenging times for the live entertainment industry,” says Kilimanjaro CEO Stuart Galbraith. “We are all looking forward to presenting concerts and events to our audience again soon.

“We’re very excited for the artists we’re working with, and for the new relationships we will be forging”

“[The Republic of] Ireland is an attractive market within the EU. We are starting off with a strong team and are now building the foundations to conquer the Irish market once the pandemic ends. The DEAG group’s strength also lies in the fact that it recognises such opportunities and has the ability to seize them.”

Kilimanjaro will provide Singular with “infrastructure, accounting and other relevant synergies”, according to the company.

“Singular Artists is incredibly exciting for all of us – Brian, Simon and I have worked side by side for a number of years, so it was natural that we would join forces to create something new, given the circumstances,” says O’Leary. “We always strived for an artist-friendly approach to music promotion, and we’re very excited for the artists we’re working with, and for the new relationships we will be forging. We are looking forward to building on this with Stuart, Steve [Tilley] and the Kilimanjaro team as Singular Artists.”

Adds DEAG’s Detlef Kornett: “DEAG is expanding despite the crisis. We are not only retaining our key personnel in the group, but even expanding it. The Irish market is extremely attractive. We will position ourselves there with top-class content and grow.

“Already, over 8,000 events are held in Ireland every year. Together with our own events, these form an excellent basis for the expansion of our ticketing activities to Ireland.”

 


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Learning & growing: 12 key lessons from the corona crisis

The latest issue of IQ Magazine features a bumper coronavirus special report that delves into the lessons learnt from the crisis, various governments’ responses to the pandemic, and predictions for the shape of the industry’s post-Covid-19 recovery.

Here, we look at the key business takeaways from the global concert business shutdown, with a little help from Paradigm’s Alex Hardee, Echo Location’s Obi Asika, Yourope’s Christof Huber and more…

 


1. Entrepreneurialism and creativity remain at the heart of the industry
While much of the debate in the live music sector in recent years has centred around independent versus corporate approaches, when the shit hit the fan the spirit of entrepreneurialism has shone through.

Artists around the world have been streaming live shows and content to maintain their relationship with fans, while companies big and small are thinking outside the box and going above and beyond to help out employees, crew and others in the business, financially and though other support packages.

“We adapt fast and we can deal with the curveballs,” comments Live Nation Belgium’s Herman Schueremans. “We are resilient and artists and fans will always find a way to connect.”

2. Technology makes mass home-working a possibility
The use of Zoom, Houseparty, Skype, FaceTime and other video conferencing platforms has helped millions of employees around the world to effectively communicate with colleagues, peers and clients in a way that many would have thought impossible a few months ago.

“Anyone who said home-working doesn’t work was wrong,” says Live Nation chairman of international music, Thomas Johansson.

3. The appetite for risk needs revision
The very nature of the live music industry had historically relied on a cash-flow wing and a prayer, with everyone in the chain relying to some extent on future earnings to pay for their latest projects. The sudden cessation of the business has put this situation into sharp relief, as thousands of event postponements and cancellations have highlighted that the global business could collapse if refunds were mandated internationally.

“You have to have reserves,” states Obi Asika of London-based agency Echo Location. “A lot of this business focuses on the future, prospecting and possibilities. We make bookings really far in advance and now this has shown that anything can happen.”

“This crisis has shown that anything can happen”

4. Every day brings new challenges
It seems that as long as the coronavirus pandemic continues, uncertainty will be the new norm. Agents, promoters, artist managers, venue operators and everybody in the production supply chain are working incredibly hard to make sure things are ready for business to resume, but with no concrete dates to work toward, the planning process is never-ending.

“We make plans and strategise and then overnight something happens and the next day we have to start all over again,” says Paradigm’s Alex Hardee. “When I’m doing my P&Ls at the moment, they are all Ls.”

5. Government intervention is crucial
The live music business has a long and proud tradition of policing itself and trying hard to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to issues like health and safety and self-regulation. However, it has become apparent in the coronavirus environment that businesses involved in the live entertainment sector need the co-operation of government and local authorities to survive.

At the time of writing, summer festivals in some countries are still waiting to announce 2020 cancellations because they have not been told by government that they cannot hold this year’s events, meaning that promoters could be liable to pay artist fees if they take that sensible decision themselves.

“There’s a fear among promoters when it comes to announcing festival cancellations, because nobody wants to lose the momentum when difficult decisions need to be taken,” says Christof Huber of European festival association Yourope.

6. One rotten apple can spoil the barrel
The domino effect of a cancelled show has never been more apparent than during the economic shutdown. Artists often rely on the revenues from certain key festival or headline dates to pay for visits to less lucrative markets, and the cancellation of one or more of those key dates can put the whole tour – and, therefore, other festival shows – in jeopardy.

With the pandemic amplifying this situation more than ever before, festival organisers who perhaps previously viewed each other as rivals have been working closely on key announcements and strategies.

“We make plans and strategise and then overnight something happens, and the next day we have to start all over again”

7. Honesty is the best policy
With millions of people suddenly and unexpectedly facing redundancy, business owners and senior management around the world have never been under greater scrutiny. However, early and continued communication has proved invaluable during the halt to commerce and, by and large, people who have been included in the hard conversations have accepted that everyone is in the same boat because of this global crisis.

“If you are transparent, honest and upfront with people, then when you have to make difficult decisions the reaction of people can pleasantly surprise you,” reports Paradigm’s Hardee.

8. There goes my hero, he’s ordinary
People that society has taken for granted are stepping up and putting the health of themselves and their families at risk to make sure the rest of the world’s suffering is minimised. Health workers, carers, supermarket employees, teachers, sanitation staff, pharmacists, truck and delivery drivers and many more ‘ordinary’ people are the true heroes of the hour.

9. Insurers need to take a long hard look at themselves
There’s no need to mention any names, but for reference have a look at Hellfest’s website about the small-print cowardice that has been manipulated to shirk responsibility. To quote our French comrades: “Fuck you!”

10. Coronavirus is kryptonite to the super-touts
As much as the legitimate live music industry is reeling from cancellations, postponements and having to deal with refunds and other unexpected costs, the situation for the secondary ticketing business is even more dire, as many super-touts have to deal with inventory they can no longer shift.

Having agreed a highly controversial $4 billion deal that would see it merge with Viagogo, in late March, StubHub announced it was furloughing two thirds of its staff, and company policy on refunds would change, whereby purchasers of tickets to cancelled events in North America would now be offered vouchers, rather than refunds. Cue class-action lawsuits.

With StubHub now reportedly struggling hard and Viagogo saddled with debt, the future for the world’s biggest secondary ticketing platforms looks precarious to say the least. “In the context of the unprecedented crisis being played out in all our lives, this could well be one the most poorly timed acquisitions in recent corporate history,” says Adam Webb, campaign manager for FanFair Alliance.

2021 could prove to be live music’s most important year ever

11. Trade associations and industry collectives are proving their worth
In days gone by – and they are not that long ago – the live music industry was a cutthroat, highly competitive battlefield where often ludicrous deals would price others out of the game, all in the name of market share.

Coronavirus has levelled the playing field somewhat, and it’s heartening to witness just how quickly previously warring factions have come around the table to collaborate and agree sensible paths forward to try to minimise the impact on staff, suppliers and, of course, the artists. Hats off to the many trade associations and organisations who are lobbying parliaments, government ministers and local authorities on behalf of the business – you have never been so important to the livelihoods of so many people.

“[The corona crisis has] certainly made me realise the huge importance of associations and representative bodies,” says Kilimanjaro Live boss Stuart Galbraith. “Government don’t want to talk to individual commercial organisations, but they will talk to the Concert Promoters Association, AIF, UK Music, etc., and there’s been huge co-operation between [the associations] as well. Because it affects everybody.”

12. It’s only rock’n’roll… but I like it
As lucky as we are to have careers in such a great industry, at the end of the day it’s only rock’n’roll. Yes, it’s important for culture and for people’s happiness and wellbeing, but people we know are dying – relatives, friends and neighbours – and the battle to minimise that death toll far outweighs any gig, tour or event (or shareholder expectations, for that matter).

However, the hundreds of musicians and artists who are livestreaming to entertain millions of fans confined to their homes shows that the power of music is as strong as ever. Once we emerge from this dark period, people will be clamouring to get out, socialise and see their favourite acts.

Twenty-twenty is undoubtedly going to take its toll, but for those able to remain in the business, 2021 could prove to be live music’s most important year ever.

 


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Covid 2020: The recovery position

Aside from parts of China, that are gradually reopening, and countries like Sweden, which has apparently adopted a herd immunity approach to the pandemic, almost everywhere else has seen live entertainment sectors shut down, with losses estimated as high as $9 billion until the end of the year, according to Pollstar.

Despite the uncertainty and lack of deals being agreed between the likes of agents and promoters, those at the sharp end of the business are working constantly to ensure that when business does resume, they are ready to act and kick-start the industry back into gear.

However, with teams of support staff either furloughed, redundant, or placed on indefinite leave, and production crews in similar situations, the live music sector is going to require a period to rebuild before any touring activity can realistically happen.

“The recovery is going to be slow and long; I don’t think the business is just going to bounce back,” says Paradigm Talent Agency’s Alex Hardee. “We had 15 years of straight growth and I thought we were peaking anyway. For a while now, breakthrough acts and those at the top have been doing well, while the middle tier was suffering, so maybe we can have some kind of correction there.”

“The recovery is going to be slow and long; I don’t think the business is just going to bounce back”

Obi Asika, who heads up London-based agency Echo Location also believes the pandemic may allow the business to reset itself. “There’s been too much money and domination in every sector of the music business,” says Asika. “The money and size of everything was getting outrageous. I think this will set us back in terms of 10-15 years, but this is maybe not a bad thing. It will be painful at first but exciting too. We can get back to business and be successful.”

For her part, CAA’s Emma Banks comments, “We must all accept that everybody is going to be away from the office and working from home for a really long time. We’ve just all got to stay a part of the music and touring business ecosystem, and we have got to be patient and understanding. We really must look after each other, and get enough sleep.”

And on the promoting side of the business, Live Nation’s Phil Bowdery says, “As chairman of the Concert Promoters Association, I am seeing that everybody is coming together at this time. Not only the promoters, but the artists rely on a huge workforce of production services; lighting and sound engineers; crew; security and hospitality staff ; musicians – I could go on.” He adds, “We will get through this together.”

“I am seeing that everybody is coming together at this time – we will get through this together”

What?
Picking up on Hardee’s observation about what the rebooted international live music business is going to look like once the pandemic situation ends, it’s a fair assumption that the challenges will outweigh the opportunities as companies, big and small, and individuals try to figure out how best to ramp up their activities to pre-corona levels. So, what might the industry look like when it gets up and running again?

With scientists and government advisors forecasting that a vaccine for the virus realistically could take 12-18 months to develop, test in clinical trials, manufacture and distribute on a mass scale, even a partial lifting of isolation and social distancing guidelines will not appease everyone who used to enjoy the carefree joy of attending concerts and festivals, meaning that the pool of fans that artists and their promoter partners are targeting will be a fraction of their previous volume.

Looking at the agency business overall, Asika opines, “We will definitely see fewer people working in every company. I believe there will still be lots of business to do but the people might change.” And he hints that, for those  independent promoters whose businesses survive, the future could be bright.

“The whole world and industry had gone a bit crazy – I booked 90% of shows with indie promoters back when I tarted, now that takes up 10%, and then it’s fighting for festival slots. This [situation] will take us back to basics a bit,” he contends. “A lot of good things and opportunities could come from this, and it will give a chance to new players – everyone will have to show their value.”

“A lot of good things and opportunities could come from this, and it will give a chance to new players – everyone will have to show their value”

Noting a more collaborative, less aggressive business environment, Hardee also believes that the crisis might oust some of the more unscrupulous players from the industry. “People who do not act responsibly will be exposed quickly,” he says.

Kilimanjaro Live boss Stuart Galbriath agrees, noting that cooperation has never been as prevalent. “There’s no such thing now as normality or precedent. We’ve been having conversations that cut across any normal relationship – whether it’s with a manager, an agent, an ad agency, venues – and asked to do things way outside of what the contracts say, because needs must.”

But, like Asika, Hardee believes that the number of shows and events will take a severe hit. “If we can come back to 50, 60, 70% in terms of business volume, I think we’ll be doing well, but we have to work together to not turn the tap on full, all at once,” he says. “I think it will take at least a couple of years to return to the same level of business we were doing before the virus shut things down.”

On the other side of the planet, veteran Australian promoter, Michael Chugg, has similar concerns about the industry flooding the market with events, once restrictions are lifted.

“We are very worried about the long-term effect on the hundreds of companies involved in the production, presentation and running of the tours, festivals and events, as well as the thousands and thousands of contractors, crew, security and other workers, who lost all income  immediately when the public gatherings were banned,” Chugg tells IQ. “The doubt about when or if live entertainment can recommence is causing a lot of stress and depression worldwide, and I’m sure the industry will be a lot more cautious and careful about saturating the marketplace.”

“We’ve been having conversations that cut across any normal relationship and asked to do things way outside of what the contracts say, because needs must”

Despite such concerns, Live Nation Belgium’s Herman Schueremans is trying to remain upbeat and believes that pent-up demand for live entertainment will ensure positive results once venues reopen their doors. “We’ve seen demand for the on-sales for shows being scheduled the other side of the ban,” he says.

Christof Huber, who heads up European festival association Yourope, contends that the number of tickets in  irculation from postponed tours and shows will help reignite interest among fans. “There will undoubtedly be a period of recovery before people want to spend money on going to see concerts; young people will be quicker because they are all desperate to go out and enjoy themselves,” says Huber. “But there are a lot of postponed shows, so people already have the tickets for those. The big question is over the new shows that go on sale.”

On that note, Ticketmaster UK chief, Andrew Parsons reports that on-sales during the pandemic lockdown have been encouraging. “Live events have always been incredibly resilient,” he says. “We’re still seeing demand for the shows that have been on sale during this time, which only tells us that the power of live entertainment and its innate human connection always endures. Artists will want to get back out on the road and fans will want to be there to see them.”

In the meantime, Parsons says the Ticketmaster team is working hard behind the scenes to prepare for a return to normality. “We’re making the most of the situation and have focused our technology teams on creating and rolling out more features across the board at a faster rate than ever before – ready to hit the ground running when the time comes,” he says. “While we are certainly living in extraordinary times, it has been incredible to see the industry come together to ensure that we are all working for the benefit of one another, artists and fans. Personally, it’s been a proud moment to see how the Ticketmaster team has responded – as resilient and positive as ever.”

“We’re still seeing demand for the shows that have been on sale during this time”

When?
It’s the multibillion-dollar/euro/pound/peso/ruble etc question that everyone is desperately seeking an answer to, and, at press time, there were ‘green shoots’ (to quote government parlance) of hope that some countries are cautiously looking to relax lockdown rules for certain citizens.

With China already phasing out restrictions, on 13 April scientists observed the rate of new infections slowing down in Spain, prompting the country’s politicians to ease lockdown measures by allowing some construction and manufacturing workers to return to their jobs. The same day, French president Emmanuel Macron told the country’s citizens that restrictions would last until 11 May, and further added that festivals would be banned until mid-July, giving hope to organisers whose events are due to take place later in the summer.

Such steps are heartening, but balanced by bans on large gatherings until 2021 in cities like Los Angeles, and a number of predictions by health officials that concerts and festivals won’t return in full until well into next year.

“Our business will be last in line,” states Huber. “First they will allow shops, small bars and restaurants to reopen, probably under strict hygiene rules, but music events, and festivals, in particular, will be last in the chain.”

Turning to the crucial question of exactly when the live entertainment business may be able to resume, Switzerland-based Huber states, “I personally still have hope that we will see shows in the autumn, but others I have been speaking to think there will be nothing for the remainder of 2020. At the same time, a few believe we’ll see live music in June. So, nobody really knows.”

“Our business will be last in line. First they will allow shops, small bars and restaurants to reopen, but music events, and festivals, in particular, will be last”

That June deadline seems very optimistic, but it’s certain that domestic acts in small venues will be the first to benefit as guidelines are eased. The question of a timeline for international tours is much more complex. “How do you route a European tour if the countries don’t all open their borders at the same time?” asks Hardee.

Promoter Galbraith says, “Realistically, we’re going to lose everything we have through June to August. And because the [spring/summer] sales window has completely gone, I think you’re going to see a lot of shows that postpone until next year.”

The Royal Albert Hall is currently dark for the first time since World War II, with many staff furloughed. Artistic and commercial director, Lucy Noble, who also chairs the UK’s National Arenas Association, ddresses some of the trials that venue operators may have to confront: “Every venue is different, and some will be able to withstand this crisis more easily than others,” she says. “The biggest challenge may well be getting audiences to come along. The public will still be nervous about venturing out, and it may take time to build their confidence.”

Addressing some of the trials that venue operators may have to confront, Noble continues, “Every venue is different, and some will be able to withstand this crisis more easily than others. The biggest challenge may well be getting audiences to come along. The public will still be nervous about venturing out, and it may take time to build their confidence. This is going to impact on concert attendance and ticket sales.”

“How do you route a European tour if the countries don’t all open their borders at the same time?”

Highlighting some of the angst that billions of people around the world are enduring because of the uncertainty surrounding the length of the lockdown period, CAA’s Banks says, “We have no idea what timeframe we are on and this is impactful on so many people’s lives – especially those working on zero-hours contracts and freelancers, they are really going to be hit hard.”

Northern hemisphere markets that share the same summer months have been hardest hit, but nowhere is so far unscathed. With a business that concentrates on Latin American events, Move Concerts founder, Phil Rodriguez, says, “We are much luckier because our touring cycles are at the beginning and end of the year, so we did not get hit hard with cancellations or postponements in April/May/June.”

“It’s way too soon to project the future of our business,” he continues. “When will shows return? How will they return? Well, just like there was a before and after for 9/11, there will be the same with Covid-19, unfortunately.”

In Australia, Michael Chugg finds himself in a similar position. “We are optimistic that Australian live music and public gatherings could get back as early as October/November, but it could be January,” he concedes. However, he adds a significant caveat. “International acts touring here could be a lot later: the government would be reluctant to take the risk of international visitors bringing the virus back to us.”

In addition to such political hurdles, those working in the planning side of the live music industry acknowledge that many artists either won’t want to travel, won’t be allowed to travel because of border control policies, or, in a bestcase scenario, might be otherwise engaged fulfilling commitments on rescheduled tour dates.

“The public will still be nervous about venturing out, and it may take time to build their confidence”

“We are all postponing shows to a point at which we think it will all be ok,” says Banks. “There is no point just pushing things back by a couple of months, but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be anything in the interim.

“We are taking the worst-case scenario until we all get to grips with it. The most important thing is to pay attention to government advice, because it’s the scientists that are behind it. Let’s all be sensible, and we’ll wait and see.”

In Germany, Deutsche Entertainment AG (DEAG) boss Peter Schwenkow is optimistic that we will see concerts before the end of the summer, if steps can be taken to allay people’s fear of catching the virus. Speculating that medical testing is about to become more efficient, he says, “By taking the fear away, we might be able to reintroduce shows for up to 1,000 people.” He believes the UK will lag some weeks behind Germany reopening for concerts, while the Americas will be “much later.”

On a macro scale, however, he is painfully realistic. “The open-air season is destroyed,” he says. “We have been postponing about 85% of our events for next year.” And for those businesses that find themselves in financial trouble, he offers a lifeline: “In-between there is a window of opportunity for those who have willing investors.”

With a comprehensive insurance policy that covers DEAG for costs incurred during the coronavirus pandemic, Schwenkow finds the company in a privileged position to help others. “We work in a people business and our company, like many others, depends on people and other small companies. But at the moment, many of those smaller businesses and operators are in danger of going bust, so while we’re not involved in putting on shows, we’re looking at this as a time to buy other companies, both so we can save them, but also so that [DEAG] can expand and put us in a stronger position for the future.”

“We are taking the worst-case scenario until we all get to grips with it”

How?
While everyone that IQ spoke to for this article agrees that international touring cannot practically resume until social distancing guidelines are lifted across multiple countries – perhaps continents – there are numerous plans afoot to reintroduce live music into people’s lives as soon as possible.

Live Nation chief Thomas Johansson says, “It looks likely that the recovery will follow the pattern of the spread of the virus, with Asia opening up first, Europe next, hopefully over the summer. Of course we are planning for the other side. I’ve every faith in our business. It’s resilient and adaptable. I’m pretty sure that demand for live music will be stronger than ever when we get there.

Live Nation colleague, Bowdery comments, “I really believe that as each territory comes through this, all genres will be eager to get out and enjoy the live music scene, including concerts and festivals. Music fans are extremely social creatures and they will respond to the return of live music as they have done for hundreds of years, with high energy.”

Indeed, tapping into the connection that fans have for their favourite acts, Paradigm’s Hardee has a plan to get bands back on stage that will both mark the return to normality, as well as reward fans for their patience and loyalty.

“I’m talking to my bigger acts about playing small venues – often their favourite venues – to celebrate the return of live music and people being able to go out and socialise,” Hardee reveals. And he divulges some of the details he is using to persuade his clients to buy into the idea. “I’m telling bands that we have to cut their production and cut costs down and by playing smaller venues we can work to keep the ecosystem alive.”

“Music fans are extremely social creatures and they will respond to the return of live music as they have done for hundreds of years, with high energy”

Hardee’s plan takes into account the reticence some people may have about voluntarily placing themselves in crowded situations. “Veteran acts might suffer in terms of their audience being reluctant to come out to concerts, but young people think they are indestructible and robust, so the younger acts should be ok,” he says.

Johansson warns that it’s not just companies who will have cashflow issues. “We’ll need to bear disposable income in mind,” he says, “but we also need to remember that live music is a major tonic and the whole world needs that. I have immense faith in the fans.”

Like Hardee, Asika is musing similar low-key relaunch strategies. “If we can only do 500-capacity shows for a bit, that’s fine, you can adapt and it will grow again. We’re going to face a recession on steroids after this, but everyone is going through it at the same time, so this could push us back on an even keel. Emerging with your health is the most important thing right now.”

Indeed, the pandemic’s devastating effect on society has many people re-evaluating more than just their careers. “I will make changes and make sure I don’t work too much, as this has shown that we need to focus on other things too,” says Asika.

Noting that the pandemic could spell the demise of companies at all levels of the business, he adds, “With my small-to-mid-sized company, I can make decisions quickly and adapt. My risk is spread out and I am making it effective, even if I have lost a lot of future earnings. It’s the bigger companies I feel worried for, with huge offices, workforces and debt. It is going to be a scary time.”

Far from rubbing his hands at the thought of his multinational rivals faltering, Asika admits, “It’s frightening, as we are all connected – we are part of the same system and we want everyone to make it through.”

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