NZ’s new traffic-light system causes first disruptions
The fate of New Zealand’s upcoming festival season is to be determined by a new traffic-light system, which came into effect last night.
Under the new system, each region in the country has been assigned a colour (green, orange or red) based on vaccination rates and the spread of Covid-19 in the community, as well as a set of corresponding restrictions.
In regions assigned ‘red’, venues using vaccine certificates are limited to 100 people with 1-metre social distancing.
In ‘orange’ regions, these venues face no limits on gatherings at events, retail, hospitality.
Venues that don’t use vaccine certificates are not permitted indoor or outdoor events under red or orange.
“Getting vaccinated is how we can return to the shows and festivals we love”
Auckland is among a number of regions in the North Island that have been assigned ‘red’. Wellington, Waikato and all of the South Island are among the regions moving to orange. No region starts at green.
The traffic-light system is bad news for Live Nation-owned festival Rhythm and Vines, which was scheduled to take place on New Year’s Eve in Gisborne – currently ‘red’ on the system.
Organisers yesterday announced that, for the first time in the festival’s 19-year history, the event will be rescheduled to 15 April until 17 April 2022.
In a statement, the festival organisers said: “Rhythm and Vines’ mission has [been] and always will be a safe and secure festival for all involved, and [we] believe this decision will allow us to keep delivering the best festival experience that over 400,000 young Kiwis have enjoyed since 2003.
Northern Bass refuses to pull the plug yet, even though the event site in Mangawhai falls under a ‘red’ light
“Rhythm and Vines would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to everyone who has continued to support this year’s festival including all staff, contractors, artists and suppliers who will have been affected by this decision.
“Getting vaccinated is how we can return to the shows and festivals we love and we encourage everyone to #vaxforlive.”
Elsewhere, New Year’s Eve drum and bass festival Northern Bass refuses to pull the plug yet, even though the event site in Mangawhai has been assigned ‘red’.
The festival organisers say they are crossing their fingers for an orange light status after the next update from the government on 13 December.
“We won’t cancel [yet] – there’s no reason to cancel,” event organiser Gareth Popham told Stuff. “We’ve sold 11,500 tickets and currently have 10,000 kids on a waiting list wanting tickets.”
The sold-out event is set to be headlined by British DJ Andy C and electronic music duo Chase & Status.
Meanwhile, Auckland-born Lorde has postponed her Solar Power Tour until 2023, citing uncertainty around Covid and international touring.
Auckland’s Outerfields festival, originally scheduled for March 6th 2021, has been beset by Covid delays twice and is now tabled for 3 December 2022.
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Diversify the Stage launches inclusion initiative for live
Diversify the Stage has launched an “inclusion initiative” to help strengthen the live industry’s diversity practice.
The US-based organisation, which describes itself as a collective of industry professionals, working to build more diverse and inclusive hiring practices in concerts, events, and touring industries, notes in a statement:
“Black, Indigenous, Latin/Hispanic, Asian, and Pacific Islander Identifying persons, as well as Women of all backgrounds and identities, Gender Nonconforming and Non-Binary Individuals, LGBTQIA2+ and disabled persons are drastically underrepresented in the industry.”
The Diversity the Stage (DTS) inclusion initiative seeks to address this issue with guidance and recommendations geared towards specific objectives on diversity, inclusion, equity and access, as well as a range of readily-available resources.
“This collective push will encourage other artists to look at our touring businesses through a new lens”
Organisations including Live Nation, AEG, Wasserman, UTA, WME, CAA and ICM have already taken the DTS pledge which involves “creating and utilising a pipeline of professionals from these historically underrepresented groups”.
“The tremendous efforts of everyone involved in this process thus far has been incredibly inspiring,” says Noelle Scaggs, founder of Diversify The Stage and co-lead singer of Fitz & The Tantrums.
“This collective push will encourage other artists to look at our touring businesses through a new lens, to see where we may have greater impact; but also, by creating safe spaces for our fans, care for our crews and everyone who works behind the scenes to make these shows come to life. I look forward to seeing how the goals of this initiative will help move the needle towards a more inclusive, fair, and equitable live events and production industry.”
Take the Diversify the Stage inclusion initiative pledge here: https://www.diversifythestage.org/dtsinclusion-mission.
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Adele announces 2022 Las Vegas residency
Adele has announced her first-ever Las Vegas residency, slated to begin in January 2022.
The star, who is represented by Lucy Dickins and Kirk Sommer at WME, will perform on Friday and Saturday nights in the Colosseum theatre (cap. 4,300) at Caesars Palace Hotel from 21 January until 16 April 2022.
The concerts, dubbed Weekends With Adele, are promoted by Live Nation Las Vegas, which recently promoted Amanda Moore to lead the residency business.
Fans will have to register for pre-sale access before 3 December to be in with a chance of securing tickets for the residency. Tickets will then be available to purchase from 7 December.
The residency will see Adele follow in the footsteps of Celine Dion, Elton John, Madonna, Mariah Carey and Rod Stewart who have all performed in the famous Colosseum theatre.
Dion and John have each completed two residencies there, with Dion performing more than 1,000 times at the venue.
Usher is the current “resident” at The Colosseum and will wrap up his stint at the beginning of January.
Other notable Las Vegas residencies include Britney Spears at the Axis at Planet Hollywood (2013–2017) and Lady Gaga’s Enigma Show at Park MGM (2018–2020).
Adele’s residency announcement follows the release of her fourth studio album 30 and news of her headliner slot at “the biggest-ever” BST Hyde Park festival in London next year.
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Touring business on alert after Omicron warning
The global touring business is on high alert following the detection of the new Covid variant Omicron.
While it will take two weeks for definitive data to emerge, an interview with Moderna chief Stephane Bancel in today’s FT – in which he predicted existing vaccines would be “much less effective” at tackling Omicron than earlier strains of the virus – has raised alarm bells across the industry.
“There is no world, I think, where [the effectiveness] is the same level . . . we had with [the] Delta [variant],” said Bancel. “I think it’s going to be a material drop. I just don’t know how much because we need to wait for the data.”
Global stock markets have fallen following Bancel’s warning. Live Nation’s share price, which rocketed to an all-time high of $125.88 earlier this month on the back of the company’s glowing Q3 report, fell to $98.92 on Friday in the wake of Omicron’s discovery in South Africa. At the time of writing, it was down 1.26% for today to $106.77.
Elsewhere, shares in CTS Eventim have declined 1.5% (-6.28% over five days) to €57.64, Eventbrite was down 1.85% (-11.03%) to $14.84 and Madison Square Garden Entertainment dipped 4.8% (-1.51%) to $65.42.
It’s not looking good, but it’s still early to tell
Ozzy Osbourne rescheduled his long-delayed UK and European dates to 2023 earlier this week “due to the unprecedented and ever-changing situation”, but there have been no other reports of postponements.
Speaking to IQ, AEG Presents France head Arnaud Meersseman concedes the fresh developments have caused consternation among the live community and cast plans for at least the first quarter of 2022 into doubt.
“I think it’s not looking good, but it’s still early to tell,” he says. “We’re already seeing a lot of requests of acts in Q1 asking to move their shows – the problem is we have nowhere to move them.”
The UK government has re-introduced measures including wearing masks within shops and in public transport in England, coupled with more stringent border controls.
Michael Kill, boss of the UK’s Night-time Industries Association (NTIA) describes the new variant as “hugely concerning” but says he is “encouraged” by the government’s decision not to mitigate against hospitality and night time economy settings. All adults in England will be offered a booster jab by the end of January.
“Although somewhat tentative about the coming weeks, [we] need to be clear that the sector is still extremely fragile and will not survive further trade inhibiting restrictions or a potential lockdown,” says Kill.
“The current baseline mitigations within businesses across this industry have been extremely effective. Coupled with the vaccination programme we must remain confident that we are in a stronger position to deal with variants than many other countries across the world.”
Thousands of businesses, sole traders and artists are at the mercy of new strains
Down Under, Australian live music and entertainment industry bodies have responded to Omicron by reiterating calls for a government-backed insurance scheme.
“The emergence of this new variant on the heels of Delta and the rapid global response to limit its spread is a salutary reminder that this is not over yet,” says the alliance, which comprises AAM, AFA, ALMBC, AMIN, APRA AMCOS, ARIA, PPCA and Live Performance Australia.
“Thousands of businesses, sole traders and artists are at the mercy of new strains and the ongoing threat of more government lockdowns and reimposition of restrictions.”
Earlier this month, the Victorian government announced plans to launch a 12-month pilot scheme that will insure up to AUS$230 million (€148m) of events.
“For this scheme to truly work, however, the industry urged the prime minister to develop a national scheme that reflects the industry’s national economic and employment footprint,” the statement continues. “We again call on the federal government to step up and coordinate a co-contribution scheme shared with the states and territories.
“The Australian live music and entertainment sector has long argued that a government-backed insurance scheme is crucial to allowing the sector to rebuild, maintain employment and rapidly restore its critical economic and cultural contribution to the nation.
“The industry calls on all levels of government to come together and establish a partnership approach with industry, delivering a government-backed insurance scheme and ongoing support.”
Plans submitted for new Cardiff arena
A hybrid planning application has been submitted for the proposed new 17,000-capacity arena in Cardiff.
Operated by Live Nation and Oak View Group (OVG), the venue will form part of a wider multi-million-pound regeneration of Butetown, Cardiff. Determination of the planning decision is expected in spring 2022, with the arena set to open in 2025.
Set to create 1,000 jobs, the venue is being developed by Robertson Group with a view to cementing Cardiff Bay’s position as a “top-tier” visitor attraction and bring “the world’s best events” to the city. If planning is granted, it is anticipated that work will start in autumn 2022.
“As a leader in live entertainment, our aim is to deliver a new kind of arena in partnership with Cardiff City Council that will place the local community and the city at the heart of our ambition” says Live Nation UK venues chief operating officer Graham Walters.
“With a globally recognised arena as a focal point for entertainment and culture, we aspire to strengthen Cardiff’s position as a major touring destination, that is capable of hosting outstanding local, national and international events and continue Cardiff’s growth as a leading music city.”
We see a huge opportunity to bring a genuinely world-class arena to Cardiff
Live Nation already runs the existing 7,500-cap Motorpoint Arena Cardiff, as well as converted warehouse venue Titan Warehouse. OVG, meanwhile, is currently constructing the UK’s first all-electric arena, Co-op Live, in Manchester.
Jessica Koravos, chair, OVG International, adds: “We see a huge opportunity to bring a genuinely world-class arena to Cardiff – a venue that will host the best in live entertainment, creating thousands of jobs and attracting millions of visitors to the city.
“We look forward to working with the council and the community to deliver this exciting and ambitious scheme.”
The development of the arena and the wider masterplan takes into consideration the 2030 climate neutral aspirations of Cardiff Council, with the energy strategy designed to achieve an operational climate neutral position by 2030.
Rolling Loud goes 18+ following Astroworld tragedy
Rolling Loud organisers are introducing an 18+ age policy for its 2021 California leg in an apparent response to the Astroworld tragedy.
Kid Cudi, J. Cole and Future are due to headline the 55,000-capacity hip-hop festival at Nos Event Center, San Benardino, from 10-12 December.
All ticket-holders under the age of 18 will be given the option of rolling their tickets over the next year’s edition, or receive a refund. The Rolling Loud brand launched in Miami in 2015.
In light of recent events, we will be implementing an 18+ policy
“We welcome everyone to experience our festivals, however, in light of recent events, we will be implementing an 18+ policy specific only to our upcoming 2021 California festival,” says a statement on the festival’s website.
Live Nation promotes both Rolling Loud and Astroworld.
All 10 victims of the 5 November crowd crush during Travis Scott’s Astroworld set at Houston’s NRG Park were aged between nine and 27.
Hundreds of lawsuits totalling more than US$2 billion have been filed on behalf of concert-goers against Scott, Live Nation and its Austin-based Scoremore subsidiary, and other parties including Drake, who appeared as a special guest during Scott’s headline performance. Criminal investigations are also underway.
Nine-year-old boy becomes 10th Astroworld victim
A nine-year-old boy has become the 10th person to die from injuries sustained at Travis Scott’s Astroworld Festival.
Ezra Blount, from Dallas, who passed away yesterday (14 November), had been placed in a medically induced coma. He is the youngest victim of the 5 November tragedy in Houston, Texas.
“The Blount family tonight is grieving the incomprehensible loss of their precious young son,” said a statement from family lawyer Ben Crump. “This should not have been the outcome of taking their son to a concert, what should have been a joyful celebration.
“Ezra’s death is absolutely heartbreaking. We are committed to seeking answers and justice for the Blount family. But tonight we stand in solidarity with the family, in grief, and in prayer.”
Houston mayor Sylvester Turner tweeted his condolences.
More than 100 lawsuits have been filed on behalf of concert-goers
“I am saddened to learn of Ezra’s death this evening,” he said. “Our city tonight prays for his mom, dad, grandparents, other family members and classmates at this time. They will need all of our support in the months and years to come. May God give them strength.”
The news follows the death of 22-year-old Texas A&M University student Bharti Shahani last Wednesday (10 November), who became the ninth victim of the Astroworld crowd surge, five days on from the 50,000-capacity festival in NRG Park. All 10 victims were aged between nine and 27.
Criminal investigations are underway into the tragedy, while more than 100 lawsuits have been filed on behalf of concert-goers against Scott, promoter Live Nation and its Scoremore subsidiary, and other parties including Drake, who appeared as a special guest during Scott’s headline set.
In his first public statement since the incident, Live Nation chairman and CEO Michael Rapino wrote on Twitter that his “heart goes out” to all those affected.
“We are doing everything we can to get the families and fans the answers and support they deserve,” he said.
Safety taskforce formed after Astroworld tragedy
A taskforce on concert safety has been formed in the US in the wake of last weekend’s Astroworld Festival tragedy in Houston.
Announced by Texas governor Greg Abbott, the Texas Task Force On Concert Safety will be led by Texas Music Office director Brendon Anthony.
Roundtable discussions will be held to “analyse concert safety and develop ways to enhance security at live music events” in the state, which will then form the basis of a report of recommendations and strategies.
“Live music is a source of joy, entertainment, and community for so many Texans — and the last thing concertgoers should have to worry about is their safety and security,” says Abbott. “To ensure that the tragedy that occurred at the Astroworld Festival never happens again in the Lone Star State, I am forming the Texas Task Force on Concert Safety.
“From crowd control strategies to security measures to addressing controlled substances, this task force will develop meaningful solutions that will keep Texans safe while maximising the joy of live music events. I thank the members of this taskforce for coming together to work on this important issue.”
Alongside live music figures, the taskforce will consist of representatives from Texas Music Office, Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, Sheriffs’ Association of Texas, Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Municipal Police Association, Texas Police Chiefs Association, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and the Texas State Association of Fire Fighters.
Investigations are ongoing into the Live Nation and Scoremore-promoted event at NRG Park on 5 November. Eight people died and hundreds others were injured after a crowd surge during co-founder Travis Scott’s headline set. A nine-year-old boy is reportedly in a medically-induced coma due to injuries sustained, while a 22-year-old student has been declared brain dead.
Those who need to be held accountable will be held accountable
Houston police chief Troy Finner gave an update on proceedings at a news conference held yesterday (10 November).
“Our department owe it to those families to look at every aspect – how [and] why it happened,” he said. “We owe it to our city, we owe it to our nation and we have to learn lessons from this. Those who need to be held accountable will be held accountable.”
On whether he expected the inquiries to result in criminal charges, Finner replied: “I’m not sure and I’m not comfortable with saying that. I will tell you that we’re not going to leave any stones unturned.”
Finner confirmed he met with Scott prior to the festival began to discuss safety concerns, but said he had “no reason to believe it wasn’t going to be safe”.
“I’m the kind of chief that I meet with people whenever I can and that includes him,” he added. “We had a very respectful few minute conversation on my concerns.”
While a “mass casualty incident” was triggered at 9.38pm, Scott continued performing until completing his headline set at around 10.15pm. Asked who had the “ultimate jurisdiction” to shut down the festival, Finner replied it had to be a group decision.
“Ultimate authority to end the show is with production and the entertainer and that should be through communication with public safety officials,” he elaborated.
Investigations should start proceeding over finger-pointing
Some fans had stormed the entrance gates on the morning of the event, which Trigger suggested was triggered by a rush for the “very sought after merchandise” from the merch stands. “That’s what caused some of the kids rushing towards that and breaking down barriers,” he said. “Once they breached, we quickly got that under control and we didn’t have any major injuries so we went on with the show.”
Finner also corrected earlier claims that a security guard had been rendered unconscious after being injected with drugs by a festival-goer.
“We did locate that security guard, his story’s not consistent with that,” clarified Finner. “He says he was struck in his head, he went unconscious, he woke up in the security tent. He says that no one injected drugs in him so we want to clear that part up.”
Meanwhile, Scott’s lawyer Edwin F McPherson has accused the authorities of putting out “inconsistent messages” in relation to the tragedy.
“Houston Police chief Troy Finner was quoted in the New York Times as saying ‘You cannot just close when you got 50,000 and over 50,000 individuals. We have to worry about rioting, riots, when you have a group that’s that young,’ ” McPherson told People. “Yet, just a short time later, Chief Finner states the responsibility to stop the show falls on Travis.
“It was reported that the operations plan designated that only the festival director and executive producers have authority to stop the show, neither of which is part of Travis’s crew. This also runs afoul of HPD’s own previous actions when it shut down the power and sound at this very festival when the performance ran over five minutes back in 2019.
“Investigations should start proceeding over finger-pointing so that together, we can identify exactly what transpired and how we can prevent anything like this from happening again.”
Live Nation initiates Astroworld health fund
Live Nation and subsidiary Scoremore have announced they are setting up a health fund to cover the medical expenses of Astroworld Festival attendees.
In a social media post, the companies provided an update on the steps taken since the 5 November tragedy at NRG Park in Houston, Texas, in which eight people died and hundreds were injured. Multiple lawsuits have already been filed by Astroworld attendees in relation to the Travis Scott-headlined event.
“Throughout the weekend, we have been working to provide local authorities with everything they need from us in order to complete their investigation and get everyone the answers they are looking for,” says the statement.
“Our staff has met with local authorities to provide information, and we have also provided them with all the footage from our CCTV cameras. Load out of the site and equipment is currently paused to give investigators the time they requested to walk and document the grounds. Full refunds are being offered for all those who purchased tickets.
“And most importantly we are working on ways to support attendees, the families of victims and staff, from providing mental health counselling to setting up a health fund to help with costs for medical expenses. Our entire team is mourning alongside the community.”
Many families are dealing with the unimaginable right now and my heart goes out to them
Live Nation chairman and CEO Michael Rapino has also paid tribute to the victims on Twitter.
“Many families are dealing with the unimaginable right now and my heart goes out to them and the entire Astroworld community,” he wrote. “We are dedicated to doing everything we can to get the families and fans the answers and support they deserve.”
Live Nation acquired a majority stake in Austin-based Scoremore Shows, the largest promoter in Texas, in 2018. Scoremore was co-founded in 2010 by Sascha Stone Guttfreund and Claire Bogle.
Meanwhile, Houston police chief Troy Finner has issued an update regarding the ongoing crinimal investigation.
“I met with Travis Scott and his head of security for a few moments last Friday prior to the main event,” says Fenner in the statement, published on Twitter. “I expressed my concerns regarding public safety and that in my 31 years of law enforcement experience I have never seen a time with more challenges facing citizens of all ages, to include a global pandemic and social tension throughout the nation.
“I asked Travis Scott and his team to work with HPD (Houston police department) for all events over the weekend and to be mindful of the team’s social media messaging on any unscheduled events. The meeting was brief and respectful, and a chance for me to share my public safety concerns as chief of police.
“As I have previously stated, our criminal investigation continues. We are asking everyone to be considerate of the grieving families during this incredibly difficult time.”
Astroworld investigation: ‘This is about learning’
Crowded space expert Professor Chris Kemp has spoken to IQ about concert safety following the deadly crowd surge at Travis Scott’s Astroworld Festival in Houston, Texas.
Police have opened a criminal investigation after at least eight people, aged between 14-27, died and hundreds others were injured at the 50,000-capacity event at NRG Park on Friday (5 November). Multiple lawsuits have already been filed by Astroworld attendees.
Inquiries are expected to take “weeks if not months” to complete, and Kemp, of Mind Over Matter Consultancy, hopes the findings will go towards preventing similar tragedies in the future.
“These reports sometimes contain less than is actually needed because they tend to focus on blame, rather than support in delivery and development,” he tells IQ. “But what needs to be looked at is both the distal and proximate causations – those elements are so important for the industry to learn from – because this is about learning.”
He adds: “There are a lot of things going on at an event of that size and you have to make sure you’re mitigating risks as much as you possibly can. But I can’t cast aspersions about anything that happened to that event, because I don’t know and we don’t know. All we’re getting is snippets from the press, newspapers, TV, and remember, people like sensationalising things. We need to know the underpinning facts. And as those come out, to learn from them and take that on board.”
Kemp explains the key areas likely to be scrutinised by the authorities.
“It’s most likely going to focus on the planning of the event, the management of the event, the artist’s behaviour, the crowd behaviour,” he says. “It will focus on a range of things with those as major blocks, but also the interoperability between all the services that were there.
“We haven’t yet really got a full view from anybody about what happened. We know what the main elements are, but the overall timeline hasn’t been released yet.”
It’s about three key elements: security, safety and service
Such concert tragedies are infrequent, but not unprecedented. Eleven people died in a crush at a gig by The Who at Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1979, while two people were killed at a Guns N’ Roses performance at the UK’s Monsters of Rock festival in 1988 and three people died at an AC/DC concert at The Salt Palace in Salt Lake City in 1991.
Since the turn of the century, nine people died at Pearl Jam’s 2000 headline show at Denmark’s Roskilde Festival and 21 people died and more than 650 were injured in a July 2010 crush in a tunnel that served as the sole entrance to the Love Parade festival in Duisburg, Germany.
“The occurrences themselves are fairly rare,” says Kemp. “But there are thousands of near misses. And it’s about three key elements: security, safety and service, which are things that you balance to make the event work.
“Planning, communication and management, of course, are absolutely essential in ensuring the event is fit for purpose before people come into it.”
Kemp also addressed reports that a concert-goer was going around injecting people with drugs at the Astroworld event.
“Although that was probably not a contributing factor to the disaster, I think it’s something that we need to keep our eye on because it’s been brought up from all sorts of different events, starting in UK nightclubs,” he says. “So it’s very difficult to get a handle on.”