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Live Nation resumes acquisition of Ocesa for $444m

Live Nation has resumed its acquisition of Ocesa, the third-largest promoter in the world and the parent company of Ticketmaster Mexico.

The US$444 million deal, if completed, would give the world’s largest live entertainment company a 51% stake in one of its largest competitors, which dominates the Latin American market.

The acquisition, which was paused due to the pandemic, is now expected to close by late 2021 or early 2022, subject to regulatory approval.

Live Nation originally agreed to buy 51% of Ocesa for over $400m in summer 2019 but pulled out of the deal in May last year, just a month after Mexican competition regulators approved the deal.

Following the termination of the deal, Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino said that he was “long term, still bullish on [Ocesa’s] business and ours” but that Live Nation was “not looking to take on any losses from Mexico while they’re going through their six or eight months of business downturn”.

“Ocesa will play a pivotal role in putting together many incredible shows in Mexico and the rest of Latin America”

The joint sellers of the stake are the Inter-American Entertainment Corporation (Corporación Interamericana de Entretenimiento, or CIE) and Grupo Televisa, a media giant in the Spanish-speaking world.

Live Nation is reportedly buying a 40% stake in Ocesa from Grupo Televisa, and 11% of the concert promoter from CIE.

CIE will hold on to the remaining 49% minority stake in Ocesa. Live Nation is expected to hold back 7% of the closing price to cover any potential operating losses for several quarters.

“After serving as Live Nation’s touring, festival, and ticketing partner in Mexico for years, we know Ocesa is a stellar business with deep roots in live entertainment in Mexico,” says Michael Rapino, president and CEO, Live Nation Entertainment.

“Alex has built a remarkable company and as we continue to build on the return to live, Ocesa will play a pivotal role in putting together many incredible shows in Mexico and the rest of Latin America.”

“This deal gives us a unique opportunity to continue Ocesa’s 30-year contribution to the development of the Mexican live sector”

Alejandro Soberón Kuri, president and CEO of CIE, added: “We are extremely proud to finally join Live Nation. This is a natural evolution of our long-standing relationship and it gives us a unique opportunity to continue Ocesa’s 30-year contribution to the development of the Mexican live entertainment industry. Additionally, it will help us foster CIE’s commitment to the promotion of Mexican artistic talent abroad.”

Soberón Kuri will serve as CEO and sit on the board of the newly-formed joint venture. Rapino will become chairman of the venture’s board of directors.

Ocesa promotes more than 3,100 events for nearly six million fans annually across Mexico and Colombia and has a robust business portfolio in ticketing, sponsorship, food & beverage, merchandise, and venue operation – including 13 premier venues across Mexico with a collective capacity of nearly 250,000 seats.

Ocesa’s primary ticketing business, Ticketmaster Mexico, is a leading ticket company in Mexico.

 


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Live Nation allows artists to choose entry restrictions

Live Nation is allowing artists performing at its US venues to require all attendees and staff to be fully vaccinated or to show a negative test result to gain entry, where permitted by law.

This is according to a document obtained by Variety, in which the global entertainment giant outlined standard practices for its US events in response to the varying Covid protocols in each state.

The company says the model has already been successfully implemented at many major shows in the US, including Lollapalooza which took place at Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois, between 29 July–1 August.

Live Nation will also require that, as of 4 October, all employees in the US be vaccinated to enter the company’s events, venues or offices – with limited exceptions as may be required by law.

“Our business and our industry are about uniting people and vaccines are one of the greatest tools for making sure that everyone can continue to enjoy live music together,” reads the note, signed by CEO Michael Rapino.

“Vaccines are one of the greatest tools for making sure that everyone can continue to enjoy live music together”

Rapino initially mentioned the vaccination mandates during the company’s Q2 earnings call, explaining that it would help protect employees – whichever state they’re in.

“I think that the biggest challenge we’ve had is just scrambling on a day-to-day basis with part-time employees back, and abiding by different local Covid laws; mask, no mask, now test, no test. I think that’s been our only real challenge from HR and communication,” he said.

“So, hats off to my frontline. They’re doing an incredible job trying to adjust, and we’re going to move to more central protocols now on mandating the vaccine and making sure they’re all safe, too.”

Live Nation’s memorandum comes shortly after New York became the first major city to require proof of being vaccinated for anyone who wants to attend an indoor live show – reinforcing similar requirements already set by venues such as Madison Square Garden.

 


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Live Nation returns to profitability in Q2 2021

Live Nation beat its own earnings expectations in the second financial quarter of 2021, reporting a huge jump in year-on-year revenue and a return to profitability after the most difficult 16 months in the company’s history.

In the three months ending 30 June 2021, the concert giant grew its turnover from US$74.1 million to $575.9m – a more than 677% increase – posted adjusted operating income of $9.7m, or $12.4m on a constant-currency basis, reveals the company’s Q2 filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

The growth, says LN, was driven by “roaring demand” for ticket sales ahead of widespread reopenings this summer and autumn, with Ticketmaster North America having its fourth-best month ever as global ticketing revenues climbed to $244m (from -$87m in Q2 2020). Ticketmaster issued 11m cost-bearing tickets in the six months leading to 30 June.

The number of shows is also up in the double digits for 2022 compared to 2019, indicating the huge “pent-up demand” for live entertainment, says Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino, and with it the value of the company’s sponsorship commitments.

“As communities reopen, we’re seeing the pent-up demand for live events play out as artists and fans are eager to reconnect in person,” Rapino comments. “In the US and UK, we are seeing strong ticket sales and the restart of our concerts and festivals, highlighted over the past weekends by Lollapalooza and Rolling Loud in the US and Latitude in the UK hosting a combined three quarters of a million fans. With vaccine roll-outs increasing throughout Canada and Europe, we expect additional markets to open more broadly in the coming months.

“All our leading indicators continue to point to a roaring era for concerts and other live events”

“The momentum for the return to live events has been building every month, with ticket sales and concert attendance pacing faster than expected, underscoring the strength and resiliency of the concert business and live events in general.

“This progress, combined with our cost discipline, has enabled us to deliver positive adjusted operating income for the second quarter, well ahead of where we thought we would for this quarter. We expect to see further ramp-up accelerate through the rest of the year, with improving operating income and all segments returning to adjusted operating income profitability for the second half of the year, setting us up for a full-scale 2022.”

“Looking forward to 2022, and now also 2023, all our leading indicators continue to point to a roaring era for concerts and other live events. Starting with our concerts division, every major venue type – arenas, amphitheaters, and stadiums – have pipelines indicating double digit growth in show count and ticket sales relative to 2019 levels,” he adds.

Live Nation’s latest financials follow comments made by Rapino in a recent interview with podcaster Bob Lefsetz, in which he said the financial markets are also preparing for a boom time for live music in 2022 and beyond.

 


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Rapino: Live business going to boom post-Covid

The live music industry is gearing up for a huge 2022 as the concert market explodes post-Covid-19, Live Nation president and CEO Michael Rapino has said.

Speaking to writer Bob Lefsetz, Rapino said Live Nation’s stock – currently priced at US$80.72, above its pre-pandemic high of $75.54 – remains so valuable because financial analysts are expecting a live entertainment boom as the final coronavirus restrictions are lifted in the US and internationally.

“Wall Street’s buying the future, not the present,” Rapino explained. “So if you’re an investor looking at Live Nation, you’re probably saying, ‘Well, I think this live experience business in general is going to boom. We see that happening.’” Wall Street would have been particularly encouraged by the low rate of people returning their tickets for cash and Live Nation’s extensive programme of cost-cutting (estimated at $800 million as of this time last year), he continued: “If you’re an investor and you’ve already valued me at $75 going into the crisis, you’ll be sat there saying, ‘What do I think about the future? I think they’re going to be leaner than they were before they went in, so they’ll make a bit more money. I think there’s a boom happening. And [I think] this thing called live must be really, really valuable to customers, because there’s not even cashing it in in one of the greatest crises in history. So I want to bet on this category, and I want to bet on the market leader.”

Rapino was the guest on the latest episode of the Bob Lefsetz Podcast, where the wide-ranging conversation with Lefsetz also touched on topics including sponsorship, secondary ticketing, global touring, the festival market and the uniqueness of the live experience.

Comparing recorded to live music, Rapino said: “I think live is, is very, very unique. It’s the only unduplicatable asset that’s really survived this entertainment revolution. Everything else pretty much got duplicated and digitised. And that’s great, but those goosebumps you get when you watch the Eagles, [for example], you don’t get that on an iPad. So we have this very unique industry that is not duplicatable. And in a world where everything else has become duplicatable and commoditised, I think this category has a long life.”

He elaborated: “You know, when the when the crisis happened, there were people on Wall Street and elsewhere that were saying, ‘Oh my God, no one’s gonna ever gather again, we’re all going to be living in our houses forever, no one’s going to go to a movie theatre or concert.’ But I always remember it was the May long weekend [in 2020] and there was a CNN report from the Ozark lakes, where everyone was partying like crazy, and in the middle of this crisis with no vaccine. That moment showed that, no matter how dangerous it was, people still wanted to gather people, they wanted to get out.

“We have this very unique industry … in a world where everything else has become duplicatable and commoditised”

“And the market started to realise: Wow, this is really going be a pent-up demand situation when when we can gather. People are going to want to come back to shows, to go to Disneyland, do all the good things they do when when life’s normal.”

In addition to speaking about the market and live music’s recovery, Rapino returned to a favourite theme: The need to more effectively price shows in order to minimise the secondary market, something he discussed during his keynote at ILMC back in 2016.

“There’s still billions of dollars in secondary business out there, so we know we’re not pricing the house right,” he told Lefsetz, “so we have opportunity to at least get some of that front-of-the-house economics for the artist. [N]inety per cent of the shows I’m dealing with in life are not selling out, so I don’t ever have a problem selling the front part of the house. I do have a problem selling the back part. It’s about pricing, not awareness, so I’m always going to try and convince an artist to redistribute the pricing to see how low can we get the back end of the house – and probably subsidise the back of the house from the front of front of the house – so we can get that perfect sell-out.”

On festivals, Rapino discussed how the market has evolved to a place where niche formats have become more important, accelerated by the pandemic shutdown. “A little bit of a shake-up happened, and probably Covid did help – we’ve even shook out a few; I think we’ve shut down 12 that weren’t working that we didn’t love,” he explained. “And I think you’re seeing the bar getting higher to make a successful festival work.”

Now, he added, “I don’t think all of a sudden you can just launch a main line festival with three different genres of music over the weekend and expect 100,000 [people] anymore. I think they became like any industry: they went out wide, then the big ones survived and the niche ones started to create their own space. We see it happening now: a niche idea in a good location, against a certain genre of music or a certain theme. […] I like the super-served ideas where they’re hitting a certain target, or a certain location, and they’re less talent-reliant because they have more of a thematic soul to them. And those ones tend to work.”

Listen back to the full interview on the Bob Lefsetz Podcast.

 


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Michael Rapino: ‘Live Nation’s US biz is fully reopen’

Live Nation Entertainment’s US concert business is now “fully open,” according to CEO Michael Rapino.

“We’re very excited about the American market. Seventy per cent of our business is going to be in the US and the UK. Those two markets seem on track,” he told CNBC on Thursday (8 July).

In the States, Live Nation has already hit a major post-restrictions milestone with its full-capacity show at New York’s iconic Madison Square Garden (cap. 20,000), performed by the Foo Fighters, which was the venue’s first concert since March 2020.

Continuing on an upward trajectory, Live Nation will host 30 US-wide amphitheatre tours at full capacity beginning this week, according to the CEO.

Later in July, the live entertainment giant will host the Rolling Loud festival in Miami – expected to bring in around 200,000 people – and a further 10–15 more festivals this summer.

“We’re going to make sure that we don’t [put on] four shows in one week and you’ve got to pick one”

In the company’s Q1 2021 earnings call in May, it reported that US festivals including Bonnaroo, Electric Daisy and Rolling Loud festivals all sold out in record times at full capacity.

The company also reported an increasingly busy 2022, after the number of major tours for next year increased by double-digits from pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

Addressing concerns about whether the backlog of concerts caused by the pandemic will result in an oversaturated market, Rapino told CNBC that artists will not perform “unless they have the weekends, and the right cities and the right markets”.

“We’re going to make sure that we don’t [put on] four shows in one week and you’ve got to pick one,” the CEO said. “We’ll spread those over a couple of years and a couple of markets. So we look at the pent-up demand as lots of availability, but we’re also going to make sure the consumer has time to buy it.”

While the US surges ahead, Rapino expects Live Nation’s European market to reopen by the autumn, and the Asian market to return in 2022 due to a delay in Covid vaccinations. “It’ll be a record 2022 and 2023,” he said.

 


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Live Nation earnings show uptick in concert revenue

The gradual return of live music in key markets is cause for optimism for Live Nation which has reported a 34.2% increase in concert revenue from the fourth quarter of 2020.

In the company’s Q1 2021 earnings call, CEO Michael Rapino said Live Nation is experiencing the effects of ‘significant pent-up demand’ for live events.

“In the US, Bonnaroo, Electric Daisy and Rolling Loud festivals all sold out in record times at full capacity,” he said.

“In the UK, we have 11 festivals planned this summer, including our largest ones Reading, Leeds and Parklife where tickets are already sold out. New Zealand, the country’s largest festival, Rhythm and Vines quickly sold out.

“And as we get further clarity on reopening timelines, we are announcing more tours for late this summer, including Dave Matthews, Luke Bryan, Maroon 5 and others to come, showing artists’ increasing confidence in performing this summer.”

Next year is also looking increasingly busy for Live Nation after the number of major tours for 2022 increased by double-digits from pre-pandemic levels in 2019, according to the company.

Live Nation is confident that Q2 2021 will be its first year-on-year improvement since Q4 of 2019

In further encouraging news, the earnings also show that all key cost and cash numbers improved relative to Q4 2020 with revenue up 22% at $290.6 million. Operating loss is down 22% to $303.2m and net loss is down 53% to $322.7m.

While the year-on-year comparisons are not as positive, Live Nation president Joe Berchtold is confident that Q2 2021 will be the company’s first year-on-year improvement since Q4 of 2019.

At the end of Q1 2021, the company had total cash and cash equivalents of $3bn, which includes $1.1bn of free cash.

This free cash, along with $964m of available debt capacity, gives the company $2.1bn of available liquidity.

The company believes this level of liquidity allows it to fund operations until the expected return of concerts beginning in the summer of 2021, preceded by ticket sales earlier in the year.

 


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LN and Veeps add turnkey livestreaming to US venues

Live Nation and Veeps, the ticketed livestreaming platform developed by Joel and Benji Madden, are equipping more than 60 venues around the US with a permanent livestreaming setup.

The Fillmore in San Francisco and Philadelphia, House of Blues in Chicago and New Orleans, The Wiltern in Los Angeles, and a raft of amphitheatres including Shoreline Amphitheater in California and The Gorge in Washington will be the first to go live with the turnkey livestreaming.

The Wiltern has already announced a livestream series, From the Wiltern, which will kick off on 7 May.

Artists who perform at one of the 60+ venues that are being kitted out will have the opportunity to add the element of livestreaming to their concert and ‘double down on revenue’, says Live Nation.

“Amongst artists, it’s often said that the one side of our careers that truly belongs to us is touring,” says Joel Madden, cofounder, Veeps.

“Now, with the flip of a switch, every artist playing in these venues can make their show a global event”

“To help an entirely new touring vertical become readily available to artists is such a huge win for our community and we couldn’t be happier. It’s the exact type of thing that shows what our partnership with Live Nation can really mean for artists.”

“Now, with the flip of a switch, every artist playing in these venues can make their show a global event. We’ve already seen how livestream shows drive engagement across every other area of an artist’s business and the added ticket revenue will allow them to re-invest in their art and make what they’re offering their fans even better. It’s a real dream come true for us at Veeps and our mission to help empower artists in their careers.”

Michael Rapino, president and CEO, Live Nation Entertainment says: “Artists and fans are eager to get back to shows, and livestreams will continue to unlock opportunities for them to connect more than ever before.

“Veeps is the best at what they do, with Benji and Joel tapping into their own experience as artists to help other artists thrive, and we look forward to bringing this innovative idea to life in these iconic venues.”

Earlier this year, Live Nation acquired a majority stake in Veeps, which in 2020 alone hosted around 1,000 paid livestreamed shows by artists including Liam Payne, Pete Yorn, Brandi Carlile, Louis Tomlinson, Architects and Rufus Wainwright.

 


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LN 2020 results: Michael Rapino predicts huge 2022

Live Nation’s share price broke the US$90 mark for the first time yesterday ahead of the company’s Q4 2020 earnings call, buoyed by the roll-out of coronavirus vaccines globally and unprecedented fan demand for its shows, illustrated by rapid sell-outs for both Reading Festival and Creamfields in the UK.

Shares in Live Nation Entertainment reached an all-time high of $91.18 – some $15 higher than they were pre-pandemic – on 25 February, with Wall Street untroubled by the headline figures in the company’s most recent financial report, which show a 92% drop in revenue (to $237.3 million) for the fourth quarter (Q4) and 84% slump (to $1.86 billion) for the entire year.

In total, the company lost over $1bn in 2020, with its sponsorship and advertising division the only part of the business to make a profit: It earnt $82m, compared to a $639m loss for Live Nation Concerts and $375m loss for Ticketmaster.

Despite this, investor confidence in Live Nation’s long-term potential remains strong, and CEO Michael Rapino was bullish when taking questions from analysts, also highlighting the company’s cost savings and investment in new technology in 2020 and looking forward to the light at the end of the tunnel. “It appears that the timing to release [fans’s] pent-up supply and demand is now approaching,” he explained. “Vaccine distribution is accelerating, and declines in Covid cases throughout most of the world gives us even more confidence that a safe and meaningful return to shows will soon be possible.”

“I have never been more excited about the opportunities in front of us”

To illustrate that pent-up demand for tickets, Rapino (pictured) used the example of the aforementioned UK festivals. “Just to show you when we keep talking about pent-up demand, Reading and Leeds went on sale, thanks to the government-outlined new plan for the summer, and sold 100,000 tickets in 72 hours,” he told LightShed Partners’ Brandon Ross. “Creamfields went on sale and sold out in 48 hours, over 70,000 [tickets]. So we are seeing the fan and [this is] what we’ve been talking about; they are excited to get back to the show as soon as we get the green lights in these markets to open up.”

Addressing the financials, Live Nation president Joe Berchtold revealed that the company ended with 2020 with $950m in cost savings compared to 2019. Its $500m debt raise in January, he added, gives LN $2bn in available liquidity and $1.1bn in free cash.

Looking to this summer, Rapino said he sees shows returning on a region-by-region basis (a “module model”) in 2021, with 2022 set to be a huge year for major international tours, depending on the vaccination status locally. “Given the limited touring activity in 2020 and ’21, the pipeline for 2022 is much stronger than usual, with almost twice as many major touring artists on cycle in 2022 [as] in a typical year – about 45 artists versus the usual 25,” he said.

Rapino added: “For both the US and UK, projections indicate that everyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one by May or June, with Europe and most other markets following a few months later. Given the mass social and economic toll the lockdown has put on the public, we believe there will be strong momentum to reopen society swiftly as soon as vaccines are readily available, and we believe outdoor activity will be the first to happen.

“The pipeline for 2022 is much stronger than usual, with almost twice as many major touring artists on cycle”

“So, while the timing of return to live will continue to vary across global markets, every sign points to beginning safely in many countries sometime this summer and scaling further from there.”

In a statement released with the earnings report, Rapino praises Live Nation staff for their resilience during a “challenging” year and highlights the strides the company has made towards securing its post-Covid-19 future.

“Over the last year, leaders across all our business lines of concerts, ticketing and sponsorship have been analysing ways to improve their businesses,” he says. “Some of our key initiatives include re-organising to become more nimble while also reducing our cost structure by $200 million; building concert streaming and direct-to-consumer businesses to expand our revenue streams; advancing our technology initiatives globally while accelerating the shift to digital tickets to meet changing needs of fans, venues and artists; and reinforcing our balance sheet to endure this period, while maintaining a strong position to build our business for the future and act on opportunities as we identify them, such as our recent acquisition of the streaming platform Veeps and a continued pipeline of bolt-on acquisitions throughout the globe.

“So while this past year has been challenging for the company, our employees, fans, artists and so many others globally impacted by Covid, I have never been more excited about the opportunities in front of us.”

 


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Live Nation’s share price reaches all-time high

The share price of live entertainment behemoth Live Nation has scaled new heights this week, despite the fact the vast majority of live shows have not been able to take place for the past 10 months.

On Tuesday (19 January), Live Nation’s share price hit an all-time high of US$76.54 – which has more than doubled since its slump to $29.50 in March last year, amid the cancellations and postponements of live shows.

The record-high share price comes after the company acquired a majority stake in Veeps, a ticketed livestreaming platform developed by Good Charlotte’s Joel and Benji Madden.

Veeps is Live Nation’s first major acquisition since the pre-Covid-19 era and a strong indication that livestreamed concerts are here to stay.

Live Nation’s share price hit an all-time high of $76.54 after the live entertainment giant acquired a majority stake in Veeps

“Livestreaming is a great complement to our core business, and essentially gives any show an unlimited capacity,” said Live Nation CEO, Michael Rapino.

“Looking to the future, live streams will continue to unlock access for fans – whether they are tuning into a sold-out show in their hometown, or watching their favourite artist play in a city halfway around the world. The most critical element of live streaming is the artist on stage, and with Live Nation’s unmatched inventory feeding into Veeps, together we will help fans enjoy more live music than ever before.”

Live Nation’s stock has steadily climbed after its 52-week low in March 2020, with the company offering drive-in shows, live streams, and new content through its Live From Home virtual music hub throughout the pandemic.

In November last year, following early results from the world’s first effective coronavirus vaccine, Live Nation share price soared by 22%.

Prior to that, Live Nation-owned Ticketmaster unveiled SmartEvent, a new suite of technology will equip event organisers to meet the evolving needs of capacity, distancing and other logistics.

Live Nation’s share price stood at $74.59 yesterday (21 January).

 


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Ticketmaster clarifies confusion around digital health pass

Live Nation-owned ticketing giant Ticketmaster has addressed confusion around reported plans to check fans’ vaccine or test status for concerts.

Following early results shared on Monday of the world’s first effective coronavirus vaccine which could prevent more than 90% of people from getting Covid, the ticketing platform is exploring the potential of syncing with third-party healthcare providers to link covid vaccine status and/or test results to fans’ digital tickets.

However, the company has clarified that there is “absolutely no requirement from Ticketmaster mandating vaccines/testing for future events” and that it “does not have the power” to set policies around such safety/entry requirements – which are up to the discretion of the event organiser.

Should the company progress with plans for a digital health pass, all health information would legally have to be stored with a 3rd party health care provider with HIPAA compliance, not with Ticketmaster.

“We imagine there will be many third-party health care providers handling vetting – whether that is getting a vaccine, taking a test, or other methods of review and approval – which could then be linked via a digital ticket so everyone entering the event is verified,” says Ticketmaster president Mark Yovich.

“Ticketmaster’s goal is to provide enough flexibility and options that venues and fans have multiple paths to return to events, and is working to create integrations to our API and leading digital ticketing technology as we will look to tap into the top solutions based on what’s green-lit by officials and desired by clients.”

“We imagine there will be many third-party health care providers handling vetting which could then be linked via a digital ticket”

While Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino recently said in the company’s Q3 earnings call: “We are working on a roadmap to get back to live safely. We are encouraged by progress on testing technology treatments and vaccines which will help us build our plans.”

Meanwhile, the ticketing giant has been developing SmartEvent, a new suite of technology to help event organisers adapt to Covid-19 protocols and safely welcome fans back to events.

While Ticketmaster says it’s merely exploring the idea of a digital health passport of sorts, the UK’s Premier League is close to agreeing a blueprint with the government for a similar premise, according to The Telegraph.

Chief executive Richard Masters has apparently told Whitehall the league wants to be at the forefront of a road map for sports, concert halls and festivals and has repeatedly suggested digital passports.

The UK has already ordered 40 million doses – enough to vaccinate up to 20 million people as each person will need two doses for it to work effectively.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, earlier this week, health secretary Matt Hancock said it is “absolutely a possibility” that the vaccine would become available before Christmas but he expects a mass roll-out “in the first part of next year”.

 


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