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Managers peg October as earliest return for live

The latest IQ Focus session saw a line-up of international artist managers discuss the timeline for reopening, potential changes to artists’ contracts post-Covid-19 and monetisation of live streams.

The session, presented in partnership with the Music Managers Forum (MMF) and hosted by MMF chair Paul Craig, featured Kaiya Milan (Off Balance Group/The Sorority House & Co.), Marc Thomas (Red Light Management/Go Artist Management), Meg Symsyk (eOne Management/MMF Canada) and Per Kviman (Versity Music/MMF Sweden/EMMA).

Thomas compared the constant cancelling and rescheduling of shows in recent weeks to “rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic”, adding that he has been “targeting markets” such as Australia and certain parts of the US, which are likely “to get back to live more quickly”.

Thomas said he has accepted two offers for artists to play in the US in October – the earliest dates he’s looking at – including at “a leading festival”. A caveat in the contract allows the team to reassess 28 days out, in case there is a second spike.

Artists will also need to weigh up whether to take the hit of losing a couple of weeks in quarantine in order to do four weeks of solid touring in countries such as Australia, he said, highlighting the obstacles of a post-coronavirus world.

“I’m not optimistic that these things are going to run smoothly”

“I’m not optimistic that these things are going to run smoothly,” said Milan, referring to events scheduled for the autumn. Managers have been receiving offers with clauses allowing the promoter to cancel at any point, she said, which works out ok for “more established artists” but is a big risk for lesser known acts.

“I’m in a space where I know anything can happen.”

Versity Music manager Kviman agreed that things remain too uncertain for now, saying he is not putting new tours out until September 2021 as “people aren’t ready to buy tickets at this point”. Tours that had already sold lots of tickets prior to the Covid-19 crisis are being rescheduled for May 2021.

Craig asked whether any new opportunities had come out of the crisis for managers and artists, with panellists agreeing that livestreaming had presented a variety of options, if not always significant from a financial point of view.

Symsyk said live streams had, in general, worked more effectively for electronic or hip-hop acts. Bands have tended to face more technical difficulties and have often not been satisfied with the quality of streams. “[For bands, livestreaming] has worked ok for charity events, but hasn’t been worth it from a financial point of view”, she said.

Thomas, who works predominantly with electronic acts, said he has “leant into livestreaming a lot”. One act sold $15,000 in merchandise while playing in a virtual edition of Insomniac’s Electric Daisy Carnival festival.

“You can’t ask fans to pay for a ticket as a live stream doesn’t replace the experience of going to a festival, but you can sell off the back of it”

“You can’t ask fans to pay for a ticket as a live stream doesn’t replace the experience of going to a festival,” he said, “but you can sell off the back of it.”

Milan said there was more opportunity for grassroots artists to make money from paid live streams as audiences want to support them. “Livestreaming is the way people can see to help out and get something in return at the moment”, she said, which “works for a certain level of artist”.

Although the grassroots sector is one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus shutdown, Symsyk noted that the current situation is giving “a window of opportunity to focus on local talent” in Canada.

Turning to when live does return, Thomas stressed the need for “everyone to have a bit more give”.

“The reality is, in this situation, everyone needs to win, and I don’t win by getting the agent to squeeze the promoter so hard he has to pay me half the fee if the show cancels […] and he loses a load of money.

“We need everyone in this system for the system to function.”

Thomas said he accepted, to a certain extent, Live Nation’s recently expressed intention to adjust artists guarantees down for shows in the future.

“We need everyone in this system for the system to function”

“Promoters are the most exposed out of everybody and they’re not going to put these big guarantees out anymore,” he said, “it’s going to go on the backend.” This kind of “give and take” will be essential from all sides when rebuilding the business.

From a practical point of view, we can expect to see social distancing and other measures in place for a while as “not doing anything is not an option, however unpalatable the measures may be”, said Craig.

Outdoor shows seem to be a much better option than indoor shows, and a lot more scalable too in terms of keeping to distancing rules, said Thomas. Targeting the right age range is also important, as “kids think they’re invincible”.

For Milan, the deciding factor is whether people felt ready to go back into social situations as, “if they are, they will do whatever they have to” to get back to gigs or festivals, no matter how inconvenient the measures are.

Craig agreed, pointing out that we have all become accustomed to things that would have seemed unthinkable six months ago.

“If people want to go to a show, they will do whatever is necessary to go.”

IQ Focus & The MMF: Managing the Crisis is available to watch back on YouTube or Facebook now.

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