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Covid pandemic – once in a generation?

Just a few short years ago a global pandemic would have seemed to be something which could only happen in a Stephen King novel, or in science fiction – The Stand, or 28 Days perhaps. The ‘Spanish Flu’ epidemic of 1918/20 notwithstanding, the thought of a virus today bringing the world to a halt, resulting in the deaths of millions of people would have seemed incomprehensible, but the warning signs were already there…

There were some near misses, most recently SARS in 2002 and Avian Flu in 2013, but the effects of these outbreaks were relatively contained, and anyone warning of a global pandemic was largely seen as a conspiracy theorist or worse.

The smart money now is on another pandemic happening sooner, rather than later. Covid is not expected to be a once in a generation occurrence, but, and it is a very BIG but – no-one can predict when or how it is likely to occur, although some studies suggest that there is a 30% chance that another pandemic will hit within the next 10 years. This shouldn’t be taken that we have 10 years to prepare ourselves for the next one as it could occur at any time – in 2024 alone, although not widely reported, there have been outbreaks which could quite easily have escalated very quickly, particularly one outbreak of Avian Flu. Fortunately these were controlled.

The live entertainment business fell off a cliff for a period of time, and it is great testament to all of the people in that industry that the business has recovered incredibly well – pre-Covid annual global live music revenues were $28.56 billion, in 2023 revenues were $28.86 billion, with 2024 expected to be even stronger.

As a direct result of the pandemic, insurance losses are estimated to be $44 billion, which makes the pandemic the third largest insurance loss ever, after 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. Total losses, including uninsured, are calculated to be in the $trillions. It will come as no surprise that insurance companies, realising the sheer magnitude of their losses, retreated to lick their wounds, then applied huge rate hikes, and exclusions to coverage for almost anything Covid-related.

“If an insurance policy provides cover for the non-appearance of an artist due to illness, why should Covid continue to be excluded?”

Non-Appearance insurance and Event Cancellation insurance are essential for savvy promoters, managers, artists and almost every business involved in the staging of live events. So much investment, or potential revenue could be riding on a tour, or even one show – the values can be staggering – the Taylor Swift tour grossed over $1 billion. But since Covid, everyone has had to accept that insurance for this risk – the one that got up and punched the industry on the nose so badly that for some, it was a knock out blow – is one that they have to shoulder themselves. Should insurers now be doing more to offer protection for this?

Well, yes actually, and there are some extremely innovative solutions available now using parametrics, but these solutions really offer balance sheet protection for major corporations rather than for a show or a tour, and the cost is serious – minimum premiums are at least $100k, if not more.

Covid is now part of our lives – most of us consider it to be akin to flu, and if an insurance policy provides cover for the non-appearance of an artist due to illness, why should Covid continue to be excluded?

We’re making headway. Some of the insurers we work with have agreed tentatively to offer cover when an artist cancels a show because they’re suffering from Covid, but there are limitations – the number of shows which can be affected is limited, as is the monetary amount.

It’s not a total solution – that is a very long way off, but it’s a step forward, and every step forward is a step in the right direction for the industry.



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