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A long road to recovery: Promoters in Asia talk Covid-19

As some residents in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the disease now known as Covid-19 originated in November, leave their houses for the first time in months, IQ turns to promoters in China and the wider Asia-Pacific region to find out if this means a return to business as usual any time soon.

“People are cautiously optimistic,” Archie Hamilton, managing director of Shanghai-based promoter Split Works tells IQ, noting that some clubs – but no live venues – in Shanghai opened their doors for the first time in months last weekend. “We have a while longer until things open up properly.”

Although Split Works has projects ongoing in its brand business, which has been active in China for around 15 years, and is looking into moving into the livestreaming sector, Hamilton states that the core part of his business – live events – “is not coming back any time soon”.

Zhang Ran, director of international business at Modern Sky, echoes this sentiment, saying that “nothing has changed here yet for the music industry” and adding that “some venues likely won’t survive”.

Although the situation “is getting better” with regards to the virus, Zhang believes it will be a month or two until Modern Sky will be able to hold shows again and “probably longer for [shows by] international bands, given the virus situation elsewhere.”

Zhang says that Modern Sky is currently looking to book shows for November.

Elsewhere in Asia, Tommy Jinho Yoon, president of Korea’s International Creative Agency (ICA), says that everything “is calming down” in comparison to a lot of places around the world.

“We just need to band together as an industry and try to make things work, and be good humans at the same time”

Yesterday (23 March), South Korea reported the lowest number of new coronavirus cases since infection rates hit their peak four weeks ago. Although the virus has led to the shuttering of many events and venues in Korea, some popular musical theatre productions have continued to enjoy successful runs over the past few months.

“The Covid-19 madness is not completely over yet, but we are anticipating and hoping that the majority of this gets settled down by May or June,” Jinho Yoon tells IQ.

Matthew Lazarus-Hall, senior vice-president for AEG Presents’ Asia-Pacific division, states that, although China and other countries in Asia appear to be over the curve of the pandemic, the situation in many other parts of the world continues to put the brakes on international touring.

“The challenge is that a lot of artists can’t tour due to quarantine measures,” says Lazarus-Hall. “I anticipate that this situation will continue for many months, with everyone rescheduling tours until the back half of the year, and then maybe longer.”

With government restrictions on events and other public gatherings still in place across much of Asia, domestic touring remains difficult too.

China still has a complete event ban in place, whereas a surge in new cases of the virus led to a ban on gatherings of more than 250 people over the weekend in Singapore and a resumption of social distancing measures in Hong Kong.

“At AEG Presents, the plan is evolving every day based on government regulations, the industry and doing the right thing by our artists and staff, and we are reacting, and modifying our plans in real time,” says Lazarus-Hall.

“There’s no rulebook here, we just need to band together as an industry and try to make things work, and be good humans at the same time.”


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Matthew Lazarus-Hall joins AEG Presents Asia

AEG Presents has hired former Chugg Entertainment CEO Matthew Lazarus-Hall as senior vice-president for the Asia-Pacific region.

Lazarus-Hall – who left Australia’s Chugg in March 2016 to set up a consulting firm, Uncommon Cord – will oversee all touring, festivals and sports “across the pan-Asian region”, according to the company, reporting to AEG Asia CEO Adam Wilkes. Prior to joining Chugg Entertainment, where he was also instrumental in setting up country music festival CMC Rocks, Lazarus-Hall, 48, worked at Ticketek, Australia’s leading ticket agency.

Lazarus-Hall tells IQ Uncommon Cord will still operate with Kuseah Lawton as general manager (GM) and director of the business. “There are some good projects that are in the works,” he says.

“My role on CMC [GM] stays the same for 2020,” he adds. (As an aside, Chugg Entertainment, meanwhile, has since joined forces with AEG-allied Frontier Touring.)

“My role on CMC stays the same for 2020”

Wilkes tells Billboard he has recently moved to Singapore to head up AEG Asia’s new head office, after nearly 18 years living in China. He says the new office, which replaces one in Shanghai, is expected to employ some two dozen people, including the Asia-Pacific business development team.

Also added to the new Singapore regional headquarters are VP of business development Taylor Agisim, who rejoins AEG from Abu Dhabi’s Flash Entertainment, and VP of global partnerships Ryan Sandilands, latterly of Cirque du Soleil.

The Shanghai office will remain a core part of the AEG’s Asia operations, Wilkes tells Billboard. AEG operates the city’s Mercedes-Benz Arena, and is currently developing two venues in Bangkok, Thailand, and a 20,000-seat arena in Seoul, South Korea.


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