Move Concerts partners with Brazil’s DC Set Group
Move Concerts, the largest independent promoter in Latin America, has partnered with DC Set Group, one of Brazil’s leading live entertainment companies, in a deal that sees DC Set partners and co-presidents Dody Sirena and Cicão Chies acquire a stake in Move Concerts Brazil.
The two companies have a history of collaborating on co-promoted tours in Brazil, including Faith No More in 1991 and Shakira in 2018. In the US, Miami-based Move Concerts USA has promoted stateside shows by Brazilian icon Roberto Carlos, who is managed by DC Set Group.
Led by company founder and CEO Phil Rodriguez, Miami-based Move Concerts has offices in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru and Puerto Rico. Commenting on the new partnership, Rodriguez says: “I have known Dody Sirena and Cicão Chies for a long time. Over the years we have worked together on some tours in Brazil and have been friends for decades. In 1991, I worked with Dody Sirena on Rock in Rio’s lineup.
“I am thrilled to welcome DC Set to the Move Concerts family”
“I have enormous respect for how they turned their company, DC Set, into a powerhouse that covers artist management, venue management, touring, publishing and esports. I am thrilled to welcome them to the Move Concerts family as they take a stake in Move Concerts Brazil, and look forward to growing our Brazilian operation together.”
Founded in 1979 by Sirena and Chies in Sao Paulo, DC Set Group has promoted numerous international superstars in Brazil, including Michael Jackson, Van Halen, Luciano Pavarotti, Julio Iglesias and Rod Stewart. Move and DC Set will produce concerts and international sporting events initiatives under the Move Concerts Brazil brand.
“The partnership with Move Concerts is the result of many years of partnership, friendship, and respect,” says Sirena. “For the group, it is a privilege to announce this partnership at such an important moment, when major live events are being resumed. There is no doubt that it will be a very successful path.”
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Phil Rodriguez: Reopening a “great opportunity” for new acts
As the worst year in the history of the live music business finally nears its end, IQ caught up with several industry leaders ahead of the new year, asking for their predictions for 2021, as well as the lessons they can take forward from 2020.
Here, Phil Rodriguez of Move Concerts, South America’s biggest independent promoter, speaks about the challenges that lie ahead, including the opportunities for emerging and local artists, and why cooperation will be important than ever on live music’s road to recovery…
IQ: This year has been difficult, to put it mildly, but have there been any positive aspects you are taking forward from this annus horribilis?
PR: Aside from spending more time with family… business-wise, it was a power kick in the ass that made us all look at costs, reinvent ourselves, etc. We got into the streaming business with LivePass Play and expanded our management roster.
When the “curtain opens” again, we will have more tools in our toolbox and run leaner and meaner.
How has coronavirus vaccine news changed the conversations you are having with colleagues, agents, artists, venues, etc.?
Everyone I have spoken with is more positive. The vaccine was the thing everyone was waiting for. Finally hope, and a better idea of timelines.
Livestreamed shows have shown that fans will pay to see their favourite acts remotely. How do you imagine this technology might develop when regular touring activity resumes?
The shut down of live events made the streaming business grow and become a new asset in our business. It will evolve and find its niche once live events come back – marketing, special launches, tour end (or start), streams, etc.
What advice or encouragement can you give to those who were hoping to break through in 2020, knowing that the market is going to be overcrowded with onsales when the industry gets back to work?
The upside for many artists is that they had over a year off the road to write, record, write, record. When they go out, in many cases, it will not be with just one or two singles out. It will be three-plus deep. That will help.
But be careful with dates/routings and be clever with what extra value your show offers to the punters. Is it priced right? Is the show a must-see? There will be a tsunami of tours!
“Moving forward with new routings and tours, we better be speaking with each other!”
Do you think Latin America’s return to business will be a different experience from that elsewhere?
The lockdowns in most of LatAm were very strict. Folks are inching to go out.
LatAm markets will open sooner – but with local artists. In fact, Brazil started having socially distanced concerts in Sao Paulo this month (50% of capacity up to a max of 2,000 with social distancing, seated). Rio, as of 1 November, can have up to 50% of capacity seated and socially distance, Buenos Aires has theatres opened with 30% capacity and socially distanced. Chile starts with socially distanced shows end of the month, and Uruguay never locked down and has live events at 30% of capacity. Only Peru, Colombia, Puerto Rico and Central America are still without live events.
The front end of the ‘opening’ of concerts around the world will be with local artists. A great opportunity for them to take advantage of and be front and centre.
The way various rival firms have cooperated and collaborated for the common good during the pandemic has been impressive. What hopes do you have that closer industry bonds can continue, post-Covid?
It has always been the smart thing to do. I have always felt that there is a sense of community in our business – no matter how warped we may seem at times!
We just went through a storm like never before. No one in our business was immune. No one will forget this black swan and, also, who stood solid in the storm.
Plus, moving forward with new routings, tours, etc., we better be speaking with each other!
What do you think the biggest challenges are going to be for Live 2.0, and how do you think industry leaders can best guide the business as things reopen?
Everyone will come back wanting to make up for the time lost and costs incurred. This should not cloud our decisions.
Finally, are there any bad habits the industry had that you are hoping might disappear when normality returns?
Yes, high ticket prices! We better look at ticket prices carefully.
There are more reasons than ever before: many people lost their jobs or businesses, others burned through their cash reserves, many currencies devalued during the pandemic, and there will be a lot of options for the consumer – from tours, to sports, to travel, etc. All the things most folks gave up for over a year.
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Colombian promoters experiment with drive-in shows
Drive-in shows are becoming increasingly popular in Colombia, where promoters have been experimenting with the outdoor format.
Cúcuta, a Colombian city at the Venezuelan border, held its first drive-in concert last weekend (24 October) with a format that could cater to a maximum of 480 people.
The site, outside of Unicentro Shopping Center, was split into 60 ‘boxes’ to accommodate a maximum of eight people and one car.
Each box was equipped with its own sanitisation station and an individual bathroom and a waiter was designated to each one, ensuring that no party mixed with another.
Patrons were required to have their temperature taken and to sanitise upon arrival.
The event was supported by the Cúcuta Mayor’s Office which is promoting the safe restart of events to maintain employment and income in the sector. The event is said to have created a total of 300 jobs, directly and indirectly.
Caravana will comprise a total of 20 shows, featuring performances from Santiago Cruz and Lospetitfellas
The Cúcuta event was based on the drive-in cinema model, which has also become popular in Colombia, with theatres popping up in Medellín, Cali and Villavicencio.
Elsewhere, Colombian promoters Ocesa Colombia, Páramo Presenta and Live Nation are part-way through their drive-in concert series, Caravana.
The series launched on 7 October and will run until 28 November, taking place in the car park of the Salitre Mágico theme park in the capital, Bogota.
The 17,800 square-metre site comprises three locations (two exclusively for cars and one for trucks and vans) and can accommodate 280 vehicles each with up to four people.
The series will comprise a total of 20 shows, featuring performances from Santiago Cruz, Vincente Garcia and Lospetitfellas.
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Move Concerts allies with hip-hop platform Damn!
Move Concerts, the largest independent promoter in Latin America, has partnered with influential urban show Damn! to grow its digital footprint while concerts are on hold.
Damn!, described as the most important hip-hop programme in the Spanish-speaking world, has a strong and growing fan base in Argentina, Mexico and Spain, with more than 430,000 subscribers on YouTube. The show is broadcast on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 6–8pm Argentina time.
The partnership will see Damn! film its show from a new studio complex created by Move Concerts Argentina and the programme’s co-producer, MAD, which provided technical support. The new studio is located at Move Concerts’ Argentinian HQ in Buenos Aires.
According to Move, the partnership is “the first step by Move Concerts and Move Management to show the strong commitment they have made to urban artists”.
The collaboration with Damn! is the latest Covid-era initiative for Move Concerts, which also has offices in Miami, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Costa Rica. The company last month hosted Latin America’s first drive-in concerts, and was a partner on La Morada, an online entertainment venue that raised money for Colombian production crew.
Indie promoters talk challenges, post-corona recovery
The latest IQ Focus virtual panel, The State of Independence: Promoters, checked in with independent concert promoters in the UK, Europe, India and South America to discover how these entrepreneurs are preparing for the live industry’s return to normality.
Hosted by agent Emma Banks (CAA), yesterday’s session welcomed British promoters Anton Lockwood (DHP Family) and David Messer (DMP), Munbir Chawla from India’s The Wild City, Melanie Eselevsky from Argentina’s Move Concerts and Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion’s Roman Pitone to discuss the current difficulties unique to their sector, as well as the opportunities and challenges of a post-Covid-19 world .
Speaking about emerging concert formats such as drive-in shows, Pitone said Karsten Jahnke has done a number of drive-in events in Germany over the past few months. “Overall, they went well,” he said, but enthusiasm has declined over time as fans increasingly miss ‘real’ shows: “You could see when we started it that people were really eager to see shows [in some form] again, but it slowed down as time went on as people realised it’s just not the same.”
He added that the company is only breaking even on its drive-in and other socially distanced events. “With the income, we’re just paying for what we’re doing,” he explained. “This is just to keep doing something that is our passion and our livelihood, until we can do something [else]…”
In India, where live music is still invariably sponsored, brands have realised the coronavirus crisis isn’t going away and are spending less on live events, creating a headache for promoters, said Chawla. “The brands have realised they’re in it for the long haul, and cultural marketing spend is now being put back into marketing the products” directly, he commented.
“I want to remain independent. It’s not all and gloom”
“Unlike a lot of other scenes, the Indian scene is pretty reliant on brands. So, with the brands spending less money, that will also affect shows and the scale at which they can happen.”
Giving an overview of the situation in countries where Move Concerts operates, Eselevsky brought panellists up to date on the latest developments in Latin America, from the furlough scheme in Argentina to ticket vouchers in Brazil and drive-in concerts in Puerto Rico.
She also touched on the challenge of organising concerts in Argentina when the value of the local currency fluctuates so often: “Three years ago, the exchange rate was 18 pesos [to the US dollar],” she said. “Now it’s 75 pesos.”
Banks described her own experience of playing Argentina, relaying how one of her acts once oversold a show in Buenos Aires and still didn’t break even. “Try explaining that to the manager!” she said.
Turning to 2021, Messer said he’s “finding that because so many things have been moved into next year, things are fully booked” for late 2021 already. “So it’s very hard to know what you can book – the dates are going very quickly, but you can’t book the artists” because the situation around international touring is still so unclear.
“People are talking a lot more to each other … We’re all in the same place”
Lockwood said he can understood why many artists, especially American ones, could be reluctant to travel internationally well into next year, even if it’s a “depressing” thought. “Imagine the nightmare of being a US band,” he explained, “you get to the border of Spain and Portugal, and your bus driver gets a cough and you have to quarantine for 14 days. So, your whole tour’s just gone.
“Whereas, at least if you’re a US band and you tour the US, you won’t get caught in that.”
While the crisis has thrown into sharp relief the vulnerability of the independent sector, none of the panellists responded in the affirmative when Banks asked, tongue in cheek, if they wish they’d sold to Live Nation before coronavirus hit.
“It’s not all and gloom,” said Chawla, highlighting the quality of the music being released and the increasingly global nature of the industry as among the bright spots, while Messer praised how “people have come together” to mitigate the impact of the concert shutdown.
“People are talking a lot more to each other – people from different sides of the industry,” he said, in a sentiment echoed by Banks. “We’re all in the same place, and luckily everyone’s helping each other, which we have to do. We all need each other – we’re not going survive unless we can all exist.”
Mexico embraces drive-in concerts
Promoters in Mexico are the latest to embrace drive-in concerts, with live shows planned for Mexico City and Toluca, following the adoption of the popular Covid-safe show format in Puerto Rico earlier this month.
Drive-in concerts, or autoconciertos as they are known in Spanish, have brought the live experience back to music-deprived fans across the world in recent months.
Move Concerts premiered the format in San Juan, Puerto Rico, at the start of the month, with Pedro Capó performing to 1,500 vehicle-bound fans.
Now, the format has made its way Mexico, with the first drive-in concerts set to take place at the beginning of August.
The Foro Pegaso (10,000-capacity), an open-air arena in Toluca, some 60km west of the Mexican capital, is hosting a series of 2,000-carpacity drive-in shows from 7 August, kicking off with Mexican rock band Moderatto.
Subsequent performances will come from rock band El Tri and Tejano group Intocable, who are also playing the first-ever drive-in concert in El Paso, Texas next month, on 14 and 15 August respectively.
Promoters in Mexico are the latest to embrace drive-in concerts, following the adoption of the popular Covid-safe show format in Puerto Rico earlier this month
The Foro Pegaso shows are promoted by Miami-based company MH Music Live. Tickets are available here, costing Mex$1,500 (€59) per car, with up to four people allowed in each.
The Mexico City Arena is also trialling drive-in concerts next month, with a show by blues-rock band Real de Catorce and rock group Salvador y los Eones on 8 August in its special open-air arena. Tickets will become available here on Thursday (16 July).
The arena has been hosting drive-in film screenings and family theatre events since the beginning of July.
PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Entertainment and Media Outlook Mexico 2016-2020 had estimated the Mexican live industry to be worth US$276 million in 2020, before Covid-19 wiped out much of the year’s event calendar.
In the first quarter of 2020, CIE, one of two parent companies of leading Mexican promoter Ocesa Entertainment, reported a 6% fall in revenue compared to the same period of the previous year, due to over 200 coronavirus-related event cancellations.
CIE had been due to sell its 11% stake in Ocesa to Live Nation, but the deal was called off earlier this year, after the promoter was unable to agree revised terms with CIE and fellow Ocesa stakeholder Televisa Group.
Move Concerts hosts Latam’s first drive-in show
Move Concerts, the largest independent promoter in Latin America, has staged the first live event in the region since the Covid-19 shutdown, hosting a four-hour drive in concert in Puerto Rico on Saturday (4 July).
The Drive-in Summer Fest, which was organised by Move Concerts Puerto Rico in conjunction with No Limit Entertainment, saw Latin Grammy-winning Pedro Capó and local rock bands La Secta and Circo perform to 1,500 vehicle-bound guests.
The show was the first drive-in concert to take place in Latin America, following the format’s success in markets worldwide. Live Nation, the world’s biggest promoter, is currently preparing for a series of drive-in shows in the United States and the UK.
Temperature checks were performed on entry at the Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan and hand sanitiser distributed to fans. Social distancing was enforced as each party remained in designated areas marked around their cars.
“Thanks to Move Concerts PR and No Limit Entertainment for having the initiative at such a difficult time. Last night was truly special”
All tickets for the sell-out event were digital, with the show ending at 9 p.m. to ensure all guests adhered to the island’s coronavirus curfew of 10 p.m.
A drone show, consisting of 135 drones, was put on by the event’s main sponsor, telecommunications company AT&T – a first in Puerto Rico – to announce the launch of its 5G network.
“Thanks Puerto Rico for always supporting your own,” posted headliner Capó on Instagram. “I feel I can speak for all the colleagues, technicians and musicians when I say that you don’t know how much we missed being on stage.
“Thanks to Move Concerts PR and No Limit Entertainment for having the initiative at such a difficult time. Last night was truly special.”
This Saturday (11 July), Move Concerts will put on the first pay-per-view live stream concert in Puerto Rico, which will see Kany García. García will perform her new album Mesa para Dos (Table for Two), alongside guests including Camilo, Tommy Torres and Pedro Capó, live from the 5,000-capacity Coca-Cola Music Hall in San Juan.
Tickets for the concert are available here for fans all over the world.
La Morada: Top artists back Move CO aid for laid-off crew
Move Concerts has partnered with Spin Agency, an advertising and branding company, to launch La Morada, a new online entertainment hub designed to raise money for Colombia’s chinomatics, or production crews, during the coronavirus epidemic.
La Morada (which means both a home and the colour purple in Spanish) is a ‘virtual house’ made up of ‘rooms’ each containing specific content, such as live music, comedy, yoga, psychology, meditation, fitness classes, cooking and video games. Launched on 17 April, over 300 hours of free content has been created for the initial lifespan of the project, which was originally programmed to run for one month, until 17 May, but has been extended to 17 June.
Artists who appear in La Morada – which include Latin music stars such as J Balvin, Juanes, Fonseca and Carlos Vives – have donated their time for free, providing performance footage or exclusive interviews. Other content includes virtual PlayStation football matches (Colombia vs Peru is a recent highlight), and production masterclasses with Teo Echevarria and guests.
While all content is available for free, viewers have the option to donate money to provide a cesta basica (‘basic basket’) containing essential groceries for a family, including food and hygiene products, for the chinomatics and their loved ones.
Nicolas Martinez, marketing director for Move Concerts Colombia and director/partner at Spin Agency, recalls Covid-19 first hitting Colombia: “As the reality sunk in, fear was all that I felt. Twenty twenty was supposed to be our best year ever. We had a calendar filled with brand events and concerts. Our budget goals were already accomplished and then, out of the blue, our world froze.
“Then I started thinking about our office in Bogota, which operates with 32 people, plus hundreds of direct and indirect hires around events: producers, stagehands, roadies, security, sound and light engineers, riggers, tour managers, and other jobs that are the real foundation of our business – the chinomatics.”
While all content is available for free, viewers have the option to donate money to provide a ‘basic basket’ containing essential groceries
He continues: “I found out that Teo Echevarria, our head of production and Maluma’s production manager, was linked to an association, IPEE [Industria de Produccion de Eventos y Espectaculos, a union for production personnel), that was compiling a database of all the chinomatics who were going through a difficult time, and who were not even able to purchase basic food products for themselves and their families.
“To date, the database has a listing of more than 3,000 people.”
Using IPEE’s data, the Move and Spin teams came up with a project that would keep staff busy while generating some basic assistance for crew and their families.
Fernando Escobar, talent director for Move Concerts Colombia, who is also general manager for La Morada, adds: “We are essentially running a TV station that airs on a digital platform and social media with a programming grid that extends 7am to 11pm daily. This is non-stop.”
To date, La Morada, which is sponsored by Aval Group, has donated over 900 food baskets (out of a goal of 1,500 before the project ends) and been viewed by 600,000 viewers across all platforms (web plus Instagram and social media).
Covid 2020: The recovery position
Aside from parts of China, that are gradually reopening, and countries like Sweden, which has apparently adopted a herd immunity approach to the pandemic, almost everywhere else has seen live entertainment sectors shut down, with losses estimated as high as $9 billion until the end of the year, according to Pollstar.
Despite the uncertainty and lack of deals being agreed between the likes of agents and promoters, those at the sharp end of the business are working constantly to ensure that when business does resume, they are ready to act and kick-start the industry back into gear.
However, with teams of support staff either furloughed, redundant, or placed on indefinite leave, and production crews in similar situations, the live music sector is going to require a period to rebuild before any touring activity can realistically happen.
“The recovery is going to be slow and long; I don’t think the business is just going to bounce back,” says Paradigm Talent Agency’s Alex Hardee. “We had 15 years of straight growth and I thought we were peaking anyway. For a while now, breakthrough acts and those at the top have been doing well, while the middle tier was suffering, so maybe we can have some kind of correction there.”
“The recovery is going to be slow and long; I don’t think the business is just going to bounce back”
Obi Asika, who heads up London-based agency Echo Location also believes the pandemic may allow the business to reset itself. “There’s been too much money and domination in every sector of the music business,” says Asika. “The money and size of everything was getting outrageous. I think this will set us back in terms of 10-15 years, but this is maybe not a bad thing. It will be painful at first but exciting too. We can get back to business and be successful.”
For her part, CAA’s Emma Banks comments, “We must all accept that everybody is going to be away from the office and working from home for a really long time. We’ve just all got to stay a part of the music and touring business ecosystem, and we have got to be patient and understanding. We really must look after each other, and get enough sleep.”
And on the promoting side of the business, Live Nation’s Phil Bowdery says, “As chairman of the Concert Promoters Association, I am seeing that everybody is coming together at this time. Not only the promoters, but the artists rely on a huge workforce of production services; lighting and sound engineers; crew; security and hospitality staff ; musicians – I could go on.” He adds, “We will get through this together.”
“I am seeing that everybody is coming together at this time – we will get through this together”
Picking up on Hardee’s observation about what the rebooted international live music business is going to look like once the pandemic situation ends, it’s a fair assumption that the challenges will outweigh the opportunities as companies, big and small, and individuals try to figure out how best to ramp up their activities to pre-corona levels. So, what might the industry look like when it gets up and running again?
With scientists and government advisors forecasting that a vaccine for the virus realistically could take 12-18 months to develop, test in clinical trials, manufacture and distribute on a mass scale, even a partial lifting of isolation and social distancing guidelines will not appease everyone who used to enjoy the carefree joy of attending concerts and festivals, meaning that the pool of fans that artists and their promoter partners are targeting will be a fraction of their previous volume.
Looking at the agency business overall, Asika opines, “We will definitely see fewer people working in every company. I believe there will still be lots of business to do but the people might change.” And he hints that, for those independent promoters whose businesses survive, the future could be bright.
“The whole world and industry had gone a bit crazy – I booked 90% of shows with indie promoters back when I tarted, now that takes up 10%, and then it’s fighting for festival slots. This [situation] will take us back to basics a bit,” he contends. “A lot of good things and opportunities could come from this, and it will give a chance to new players – everyone will have to show their value.”
“A lot of good things and opportunities could come from this, and it will give a chance to new players – everyone will have to show their value”
Noting a more collaborative, less aggressive business environment, Hardee also believes that the crisis might oust some of the more unscrupulous players from the industry. “People who do not act responsibly will be exposed quickly,” he says.
Kilimanjaro Live boss Stuart Galbriath agrees, noting that cooperation has never been as prevalent. “There’s no such thing now as normality or precedent. We’ve been having conversations that cut across any normal relationship – whether it’s with a manager, an agent, an ad agency, venues – and asked to do things way outside of what the contracts say, because needs must.”
But, like Asika, Hardee believes that the number of shows and events will take a severe hit. “If we can come back to 50, 60, 70% in terms of business volume, I think we’ll be doing well, but we have to work together to not turn the tap on full, all at once,” he says. “I think it will take at least a couple of years to return to the same level of business we were doing before the virus shut things down.”
On the other side of the planet, veteran Australian promoter, Michael Chugg, has similar concerns about the industry flooding the market with events, once restrictions are lifted.
“We are very worried about the long-term effect on the hundreds of companies involved in the production, presentation and running of the tours, festivals and events, as well as the thousands and thousands of contractors, crew, security and other workers, who lost all income immediately when the public gatherings were banned,” Chugg tells IQ. “The doubt about when or if live entertainment can recommence is causing a lot of stress and depression worldwide, and I’m sure the industry will be a lot more cautious and careful about saturating the marketplace.”
“We’ve been having conversations that cut across any normal relationship and asked to do things way outside of what the contracts say, because needs must”
Despite such concerns, Live Nation Belgium’s Herman Schueremans is trying to remain upbeat and believes that pent-up demand for live entertainment will ensure positive results once venues reopen their doors. “We’ve seen demand for the on-sales for shows being scheduled the other side of the ban,” he says.
Christof Huber, who heads up European festival association Yourope, contends that the number of tickets in irculation from postponed tours and shows will help reignite interest among fans. “There will undoubtedly be a period of recovery before people want to spend money on going to see concerts; young people will be quicker because they are all desperate to go out and enjoy themselves,” says Huber. “But there are a lot of postponed shows, so people already have the tickets for those. The big question is over the new shows that go on sale.”
On that note, Ticketmaster UK chief, Andrew Parsons reports that on-sales during the pandemic lockdown have been encouraging. “Live events have always been incredibly resilient,” he says. “We’re still seeing demand for the shows that have been on sale during this time, which only tells us that the power of live entertainment and its innate human connection always endures. Artists will want to get back out on the road and fans will want to be there to see them.”
In the meantime, Parsons says the Ticketmaster team is working hard behind the scenes to prepare for a return to normality. “We’re making the most of the situation and have focused our technology teams on creating and rolling out more features across the board at a faster rate than ever before – ready to hit the ground running when the time comes,” he says. “While we are certainly living in extraordinary times, it has been incredible to see the industry come together to ensure that we are all working for the benefit of one another, artists and fans. Personally, it’s been a proud moment to see how the Ticketmaster team has responded – as resilient and positive as ever.”
“We’re still seeing demand for the shows that have been on sale during this time”
It’s the multibillion-dollar/euro/pound/peso/ruble etc question that everyone is desperately seeking an answer to, and, at press time, there were ‘green shoots’ (to quote government parlance) of hope that some countries are cautiously looking to relax lockdown rules for certain citizens.
With China already phasing out restrictions, on 13 April scientists observed the rate of new infections slowing down in Spain, prompting the country’s politicians to ease lockdown measures by allowing some construction and manufacturing workers to return to their jobs. The same day, French president Emmanuel Macron told the country’s citizens that restrictions would last until 11 May, and further added that festivals would be banned until mid-July, giving hope to organisers whose events are due to take place later in the summer.
Such steps are heartening, but balanced by bans on large gatherings until 2021 in cities like Los Angeles, and a number of predictions by health officials that concerts and festivals won’t return in full until well into next year.
“Our business will be last in line,” states Huber. “First they will allow shops, small bars and restaurants to reopen, probably under strict hygiene rules, but music events, and festivals, in particular, will be last in the chain.”
Turning to the crucial question of exactly when the live entertainment business may be able to resume, Switzerland-based Huber states, “I personally still have hope that we will see shows in the autumn, but others I have been speaking to think there will be nothing for the remainder of 2020. At the same time, a few believe we’ll see live music in June. So, nobody really knows.”
“Our business will be last in line. First they will allow shops, small bars and restaurants to reopen, but music events, and festivals, in particular, will be last”
That June deadline seems very optimistic, but it’s certain that domestic acts in small venues will be the first to benefit as guidelines are eased. The question of a timeline for international tours is much more complex. “How do you route a European tour if the countries don’t all open their borders at the same time?” asks Hardee.
Promoter Galbraith says, “Realistically, we’re going to lose everything we have through June to August. And because the [spring/summer] sales window has completely gone, I think you’re going to see a lot of shows that postpone until next year.”
The Royal Albert Hall is currently dark for the first time since World War II, with many staff furloughed. Artistic and commercial director, Lucy Noble, who also chairs the UK’s National Arenas Association, ddresses some of the trials that venue operators may have to confront: “Every venue is different, and some will be able to withstand this crisis more easily than others,” she says. “The biggest challenge may well be getting audiences to come along. The public will still be nervous about venturing out, and it may take time to build their confidence.”
Addressing some of the trials that venue operators may have to confront, Noble continues, “Every venue is different, and some will be able to withstand this crisis more easily than others. The biggest challenge may well be getting audiences to come along. The public will still be nervous about venturing out, and it may take time to build their confidence. This is going to impact on concert attendance and ticket sales.”
“How do you route a European tour if the countries don’t all open their borders at the same time?”
Highlighting some of the angst that billions of people around the world are enduring because of the uncertainty surrounding the length of the lockdown period, CAA’s Banks says, “We have no idea what timeframe we are on and this is impactful on so many people’s lives – especially those working on zero-hours contracts and freelancers, they are really going to be hit hard.”
Northern hemisphere markets that share the same summer months have been hardest hit, but nowhere is so far unscathed. With a business that concentrates on Latin American events, Move Concerts founder, Phil Rodriguez, says, “We are much luckier because our touring cycles are at the beginning and end of the year, so we did not get hit hard with cancellations or postponements in April/May/June.”
“It’s way too soon to project the future of our business,” he continues. “When will shows return? How will they return? Well, just like there was a before and after for 9/11, there will be the same with Covid-19, unfortunately.”
In Australia, Michael Chugg finds himself in a similar position. “We are optimistic that Australian live music and public gatherings could get back as early as October/November, but it could be January,” he concedes. However, he adds a significant caveat. “International acts touring here could be a lot later: the government would be reluctant to take the risk of international visitors bringing the virus back to us.”
In addition to such political hurdles, those working in the planning side of the live music industry acknowledge that many artists either won’t want to travel, won’t be allowed to travel because of border control policies, or, in a bestcase scenario, might be otherwise engaged fulfilling commitments on rescheduled tour dates.
“The public will still be nervous about venturing out, and it may take time to build their confidence”
“We are all postponing shows to a point at which we think it will all be ok,” says Banks. “There is no point just pushing things back by a couple of months, but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be anything in the interim.
“We are taking the worst-case scenario until we all get to grips with it. The most important thing is to pay attention to government advice, because it’s the scientists that are behind it. Let’s all be sensible, and we’ll wait and see.”
In Germany, Deutsche Entertainment AG (DEAG) boss Peter Schwenkow is optimistic that we will see concerts before the end of the summer, if steps can be taken to allay people’s fear of catching the virus. Speculating that medical testing is about to become more efficient, he says, “By taking the fear away, we might be able to reintroduce shows for up to 1,000 people.” He believes the UK will lag some weeks behind Germany reopening for concerts, while the Americas will be “much later.”
On a macro scale, however, he is painfully realistic. “The open-air season is destroyed,” he says. “We have been postponing about 85% of our events for next year.” And for those businesses that find themselves in financial trouble, he offers a lifeline: “In-between there is a window of opportunity for those who have willing investors.”
With a comprehensive insurance policy that covers DEAG for costs incurred during the coronavirus pandemic, Schwenkow finds the company in a privileged position to help others. “We work in a people business and our company, like many others, depends on people and other small companies. But at the moment, many of those smaller businesses and operators are in danger of going bust, so while we’re not involved in putting on shows, we’re looking at this as a time to buy other companies, both so we can save them, but also so that [DEAG] can expand and put us in a stronger position for the future.”
“We are taking the worst-case scenario until we all get to grips with it”
While everyone that IQ spoke to for this article agrees that international touring cannot practically resume until social distancing guidelines are lifted across multiple countries – perhaps continents – there are numerous plans afoot to reintroduce live music into people’s lives as soon as possible.
Live Nation chief Thomas Johansson says, “It looks likely that the recovery will follow the pattern of the spread of the virus, with Asia opening up first, Europe next, hopefully over the summer. Of course we are planning for the other side. I’ve every faith in our business. It’s resilient and adaptable. I’m pretty sure that demand for live music will be stronger than ever when we get there.
Live Nation colleague, Bowdery comments, “I really believe that as each territory comes through this, all genres will be eager to get out and enjoy the live music scene, including concerts and festivals. Music fans are extremely social creatures and they will respond to the return of live music as they have done for hundreds of years, with high energy.”
Indeed, tapping into the connection that fans have for their favourite acts, Paradigm’s Hardee has a plan to get bands back on stage that will both mark the return to normality, as well as reward fans for their patience and loyalty.
“I’m talking to my bigger acts about playing small venues – often their favourite venues – to celebrate the return of live music and people being able to go out and socialise,” Hardee reveals. And he divulges some of the details he is using to persuade his clients to buy into the idea. “I’m telling bands that we have to cut their production and cut costs down and by playing smaller venues we can work to keep the ecosystem alive.”
“Music fans are extremely social creatures and they will respond to the return of live music as they have done for hundreds of years, with high energy”
Hardee’s plan takes into account the reticence some people may have about voluntarily placing themselves in crowded situations. “Veteran acts might suffer in terms of their audience being reluctant to come out to concerts, but young people think they are indestructible and robust, so the younger acts should be ok,” he says.
Johansson warns that it’s not just companies who will have cashflow issues. “We’ll need to bear disposable income in mind,” he says, “but we also need to remember that live music is a major tonic and the whole world needs that. I have immense faith in the fans.”
Like Hardee, Asika is musing similar low-key relaunch strategies. “If we can only do 500-capacity shows for a bit, that’s fine, you can adapt and it will grow again. We’re going to face a recession on steroids after this, but everyone is going through it at the same time, so this could push us back on an even keel. Emerging with your health is the most important thing right now.”
Indeed, the pandemic’s devastating effect on society has many people re-evaluating more than just their careers. “I will make changes and make sure I don’t work too much, as this has shown that we need to focus on other things too,” says Asika.
Noting that the pandemic could spell the demise of companies at all levels of the business, he adds, “With my small-to-mid-sized company, I can make decisions quickly and adapt. My risk is spread out and I am making it effective, even if I have lost a lot of future earnings. It’s the bigger companies I feel worried for, with huge offices, workforces and debt. It is going to be a scary time.”
Far from rubbing his hands at the thought of his multinational rivals faltering, Asika admits, “It’s frightening, as we are all connected – we are part of the same system and we want everyone to make it through.”
Read more expert coronavirus coverage in the latest edition of IQ Magazine below, or subscribe here.
The recovery starts here: IQ 89 out now
IQ 89, the latest edition of IQ Magazine, comes packed full of expert commentary, insight and analysis on the pressure the Covid-19 pandemic is exerting on the live business, as the industry braces for the uncertainty of the coming weeks and months.
In the midst of unprecedented times, IQ 89 includes a bumper coronavirus special report, delving into the lessons learned from the crisis, different governments’ responses to the pandemic and the plan for the live business going forward.
Leading industry figures have contributed to the report, which includes comments and predictions from Live Nation’s Phil Bowdery, CAA’s Emma Banks, DEAG’s Peter Schwenkow, Rock Werchter’s Herman Schueremans, Paradigm’s Alex Hardee, Yourope’s Christof Huber, Move Concerts’ Phil Rodriguez, the Royal Albert Hall’s Lucy Noble and more.
Long-form versions of these interviews, as well as the full coronavirus report, will appear online over the coming days.
As well as analysing what the recovery of the industry may look like, the latest edition of IQ Magazine also looks at some of the ‘good news’ stories that have emerged from the global shutdown, as many in the live events sector pivot to assist the medical sector, dedicate talent to boosting morale or use their platform to raise funds and awareness.
Continuing the coronavirus theme, the rise of livestreaming is also explored, as writer Derek Robertson turns to those enabling live performance to endure the shutdown across a variety of digital platforms.
As well as analysing what the recovery of the industry may look like, IQ 89 looks at the ‘good news’ stories that have emerged from the global shutdown
Casting the mind back to what now seem like distant times, highlights from the 32nd edition of the International Live Music Conference (ILMC) and Arthur Awards also appear in the magazine. Taking place just as the global impact of the virus was beginning to be events, this year’s conference was characterised by a heightened sense of industry camaraderie and solidarity.
Elsewhere, IQ 89 celebrates the life and career of veteran promoter Ossy Hoppe, who turns 70 later this month, recalling his early days as part of his family’s touring circus troupe, to his founding and running of Wizard Promotions, now in the hands of Hoppe’s son, Oliver.
The emergence of the Gulf States as a major touring market – put on hold temporarily by the global pandemic – is also examined, with promoters in the region optimistic for what the future may hold.
The coronavirus special also comes filled with some regular features, such as the newly established Readers’ Lives page featuring the favourite hobbies of top industry figures, and the Your Shout page, with live event professionals sharing their most unusual lockdown pastimes.
As always, most content from the magazine will appear online in some form over the next few months. However, if you can’t wait for your fix of essential live music industry features, opinion and analysis, click here to subscribe now.