The Associates: NAA, Plasa, Prodiss
Covid-19 has impacted every business sector around the world, but with live entertainment likely to be one of the last industries to return, given social distancing regulations, the associations that represent its millions of employees have never been more important.
As restrictions in many countries enter yet another month, for issue 91 IQ found out more about some of our association partners and discovered just what they are doing to help their members navigate and survive.
Following the last instalment with Liveurope, Music Managers Forum and Music Venue Trust, this time we check in with the National Arenas Association, Plasa and Prodiss.
The National Arenas Association (UK & Ireland)
The National Arenas Association (NAA) represents 23 UK- and Republic of Ireland-based arenas, all of which have a capacity of 5,000 or more.
The organisation focuses on best practice, networking, and achieving consistency across the arena network.
The NAA also offers comprehensive training courses with a variety of modules for those working in the industry.
Membership fees are £1,400 (€1,570) per year, plus a contribution to the NAA training programme.
Throughout the pandemic situation, the NAA has been engaging with its members as much as possible through email, video meetings and regular steering committee meetings.
The chair of the NAA also sits on the board of the UK Live Music Group, which has been instrumental during this period, allowing arena operators to provide input to UK Music as a whole, which is continuously lobbying government on pertinent issues regarding venues and the live entertainment sector.
Along with the Concert Promoters Association and the British Association of Concert Halls, the NAA has also formed a working group to focus on the reopening of venues.
The chair of the association is there to answer questions from any members of the NAA.
The NAA offers comprehensive training courses with a variety of modules for those working in the industry
Plasa is the lead membership body for those who supply technologies and services to the event and entertainment industries.
Its members represent global manufacturers and distributors; production specialists; iconic venues; regional rental houses; and freelancers.
Plasa members work across the complete spectrum of events and entertainment, with involvement in concerts and touring; festivals; performing arts; film and TV; and major sporting projects.
It’s all about pro-audio, all kinds of lighting, pyrotechnics, lasers, smoke machines, massive screens, special effects, set and staging, and most importantly, creative people who love what they do.
Plasa currently has 425 company and individual members from all sectors of the industry. Business membership costs £350-1,100 (€390-1240).
Organisations such as industry bodies and education institutes can join for £200 (€225), and individuals can join for only £95 (€106).
As the Covid-19 pandemic unfolded, Plasa stepped up, lobbying the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport and the Department for International Trade, to secure the same valuable support available to other sectors.
Recently, Plasa collaborated with like-minded associations in the entertainment sector to launch the #EventsForTheFuture initiative with the collective aim of amplifying that voice.
The association has conducted two member surveys looking at the short-term and predicted long-term impacts of the pandemic, and experiences of accessing government support.
The results of both have since been published and shared with government.
Plasa members work across the complete spectrum of events and entertainment
Prodiss is the principal organisation representing the live music industry (promoters, festivals and venues) in France.
Its 400 member companies account for 80% of the turnover of the French live sector.
Prodiss acts as an ambassador for its members, providing a united voice when dealing with public, national and European institutions, in order to defend their interests and lobby for a legislative and regulatory framework that is favourable to live industry development.
The organisation encompasses complementary activities that provide its members with practical and essential services (such as legal, economical, etc.) that accelerate and strengthen their competitiveness.
Prodiss is managed by Malika Séguineau, and its board of directors is chaired by Corida promoter Olivier Darbois.
Prodiss has estimated that the loss of revenue for its member companies throughout the coronavirus pandemic is around €1.8billion.
At the start of the crisis, they set up a strategic action unit, both for its members and to form the communication chain with the government.
Crisis management has included daily individual legal support for members; monitoring of legislative and economical developments related to Covid-19; situation analysis at economical level; and crisis exit scenarios.
The trade body has also organised numerous working groups related to the issues of ticketing, insurance, health protocols, and economic support.
This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.
DCMS criticises “failure” of UK govt to support live
The UK’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee has stated that the government’s support package for cultural industries came “too late for many”, and has called for further urgent sector-specific measures.
In the ‘Impact of Covid-19 on DCMS Sectors’ report, the committee states that the government’s recent £1.57 billion support package for the arts, while welcome, “will not be enough to stop mass redundancies and the permanent closure of our cultural infrastructure”.
In addition to the support package, which came after an intense day of lobbying from the UK live industry, the committee calls for an extension to the government’s furlough scheme – currently set to expire at the end of October – until mass gatherings are permitted; continued workforce support measures, including enhanced measures for freelancers and small companies; clear “if conditional” timelines for when events will be able to reopen, with a date for stage five of the government’s plan to reopen events set by 1 August at the latest; and “technological solutions”, such as app-based testing and tracking systems, to allow audiences to return without social distancing.
The committee also recommends the creation of a long-term pandemic reinsurance scheme, ensuring cultural industries are covered by “adequate insurance” in the future, as well as “long-term structural support” to rebuild audience figures, including sector-specific tax reliefs and a value-added tax (VAT) cut for the sector for the next three years. The British government has currently cut VAT on event tickets to 5% until the end of the year.
As for the previously announced funding, the committee demands the government “publish eligibility criteria and application guidance as soon as possible”, as well as “ensur[ing] that the funding reaches recipients no later than October 2020”.
“To reduce uncertainty, the government must publish eligibility criteria as soon as possible”
The DCMS committee is calling for “sector-specific versions” of the current job retention and self-employed income support schemes to be implemented by October 2020 “at the latest” and kept open until income returns to “sustainable levels”. The committee notes that existing support schemes, such as the self-employed income support scheme and coronavirus business interruption loan scheme, do not cover many working in the live industry.
The report also points out that a large number of festivals, outdoor events and city centre venues have also been unable to access grants earmarked for the retail, hospitality and leisure industries, as the scheme requires businesses to occupy properties with a certain rateable value.
Using data gathered from across the live industry, the committe highlights the threats posed to the UK’s venues and festivals, with over 90% of grassroot music venues in Britain currently face permanent closure, as estimated by the Music Venue Trust (MVT), and the 23 UK arenas making up the National Arenas Association set to lose almost £235m in ticket sales over a six-month period.
As for the festival sector, the report state that: “The seasonality of the industry means that cancellations over spring and summer mean a complete loss of income for the year ahead, which could have devastating consequences for the SMEs and self-employed workers in the live events supply chain.”
The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) has previously stated that 92% of its member festivals are facing permanent collapse.
“We are witnessing the biggest threat to our cultural landscape in a generation,” comments DCMS committee chair Julian Knight.
“We are witnessing the biggest threat to our cultural landscape in a generation”
“The failure of the government to act quickly has jeopardised the future of institutions that are part of our national life and the livelihoods of those who work for them. Our report points to a department that has been treated as a ‘Cinderella’ by government when it comes to spending, despite the enormous contribution that the DCMS sectors make to the economy and job creation.
“We can see the damaging effect that has had on the robustness and ability of these areas to recover from the Covid crisis. We urge the government to act on our recommendations, to recognise the value these sectors provide and imagine how much bleaker the outcome for all without their survival.”
Representatives from across the UK live industry have welcomed the DCMS recommendations. UK Music acting CEO Tom Kiehl has called the document a “watershed report in the fight for survival for many companies and individuals working across the music industry.”
“We fully support the conclusions of today’s important report and want to send out thanks to the committee for recognising the value in our industry,” comments Phil Bowdery, chairman of the Concert Promoters Association and executive president of Live Nation.
“This report demonstrates that a sector-specific deal to support the industry, conditional timelines for reopening without social distancing and long-term structural support are going to be vital in ensuring the survival of the live music in the UK.
“We look forward to continuing to work with the government to ensure that the entire sector can be supported through this time.”
“This report demonstrates that a sector-specific deal to support the industry is going to be vital in ensuring the survival of the live music in the UK”
Mark Davyd, CEO of MVT, commends the recognition of the “urgency of short-term measures to prevent the catastrophic loss of vital infrastructure”, as well as more long-term measures aimed at “restor[ing] the sector to health and to future proof it against threats”.
From a production point of view, Andy Lenthall, general manager of the Production Services Association (PSA) says it is “hugely heartening” that the DCMS has recognised the “vital part” suppliers and technicians play in the cultural ecosystem.
AIF CEO Paul Reed similarly welcomes the findings of the report “which specifically acknowledges that the UK’s thriving festival and live events sector has been particularly badly hit by this crisis”.
“We’re particularly pleased to see that our recommendations for long-term relief, including extensions of existing employment support schemes and an extended VAT cut, have been taken onboard,” says Reed.
“We look forward to working further with DCMS to ensure that the festival sector, which generates £1.75bn for the UK economy and supports 85,000 jobs, can survive and continue to thrive into 2021 and beyond.”
The report is available to read in full here.
Photo: Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament (CC BY 3.0) (cropped)
This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.
A new reality: Arenas talk reopening challenges
Strict hygiene protocols, contactless technology and fewer queues are likely to form the future of Europe’s arenas, as venue operators shun social distancing but nonetheless prepare to open to a changed reality.
Venue owners and event organisers across the continent have been grappling with new restrictions as many major markets around Europe begin to reopen, striving to strike the balance between providing a safe environment, maintaining financial viability and keeping their business alive.
Strict capacity limits and social distancing regulations have meant many venues have kept their doors closed, even if they are technically allowed to reopen.
With a current upper limit of 30 people at indoor events in the Netherlands, there is really “no model” for shows, Jurgen Hoekstra, manager of entertainment and sports at Rotterdam Ahoy tells IQ.
Hoekstra calculates that the Rotterdam Ahoy team could make an “attractive venue” operating at 30% capacity, maintaining 1.5 metres between guests, with a seating plan on the floor. But, really, “in our field of business, the aim is to let people enjoy experiences with a lot of others – the more people there are, the more special it is.
“We’re really dying to go back to the old normal.”
AEG Europe COO and Europe Arenas Association (EAA) president John Langford agrees that socially distanced shows are “financially and practically challenging – and in many cases impossible – for both venues and promoters”, although the early phase of recovery offers little other possibility than hosting events with lower capacities.
“We’re really dying to go back to the old normal”
“This scenario is however not viable or sustainable beyond just a handful of events.”
In the UK, Lucy Noble, artistic and commercial director of the Royal Albert Hall and chair of the National Arenas Association (NAA), says none of the venues she works with “can viably reopen while social distancing measures remain in place.”
Two-metre distancing would require using only 15% of the Hall’s full 8,000-person capacity, with a capacity of around 85% needed to make events financially viable.
So, what is the answer for venues? And how can they reopen while both keeping staff, artists and audience safe, and generating enough money to keep going?
A focus on a contactless customer journey, the use of protective gear, air filtering and upgraded hygiene protocols are among options listed by AEG Germany COO and VP Uwe Frommhold.
The allocation of time slots will also be important for “avoiding unnecessary mingling”, says Frommhold, whereas “tools to track down infection chains” are vital in case infection does spread at an event.
“It will be a combination of a lot of measures that will bring us back in business. There won’t be the sole game changer – not even a vaccine will do it alone.”
“It will be a combination of a lot of measures that will bring us back in business. There won’t be the sole game changer”
The AEG Europe team has also been working closely with ASM Global in the development of the VenueShield programme, a toolkit comprising best practice solutions that can be employed in response to public health guidance.
For Noble, a permanent move towards contactless payments and ticket scanning, as well as pre-booked food and drinks, will characterise the gig of the future.
The NAA has put together a proposal for the UK government which would allow venues to reopen at full capacity, including procedures such as heightened entrance and exit controls, increased sanitisation, the use of protective equipment and contactless service processes.
Noble gives the example of a production of the Phantom of the Opera, which has been running in Seoul, South Korea, throughout the Covid-19 crisis. The theatre used disinfectant mists, temperature checks and questionnaires to ensure safety standards were met.
“If we are to find a solution, it is going to be a combination of numerous measures, from increased access points to hand sanitisers, Perspex screens and PPE for staff,” says Noble.
Rotterdam Ahoy’s Hoekstra speaks of the possibility of repurposing space to allow for a wider variety of events in the short term.
With a variety of spaces at their disposal, including a 16,500-cap. arena, conference centre and exhibition halls, there is the possibility to host trade fairs and exhibitions at the venue, event formats which have seen some success in reopening so far.
“One thing we have to work really hard to preserve is the electric atmosphere when thousands of people experience live music together”
Even though restrictions in the Netherlands remain stringent – capacity limits are set at 30 until July, when they may be increased to 100 – Hoekstra hopes that signs of success in other markets, such as Switzerland, Denmark and Finland, may lead to a further lifting of measures.
“I am convinced that in the end that people will enjoy a show in a full arena again, as long as we can guarantee a safe place, and I really think this will be the case.”
For Noble, reassuring staff, artists, crew and audiences that it is safe to attend events will be “the biggest challenge” for venues wishing to reopen fully.
“People will understandably be nervous, and it’s our job to not only find a way for events to take place safely, but also to instil confidence that we’ve done so. That’s going to be a question of transparency and communication.”
Safety is, of course, at the forefront of everybody’s minds at the moment, and will continue to be for a long time in the future. However, it is important to remember that the very essence of the live show is also at risk, and this is something that has to be factored in while considering the best ways to reopen.
“One thing we have to work really hard to preserve is the electric atmosphere when thousands of people experience live music together,” says Noble.
“We are all missing that.”
Social distancing key issue as UK working group meets
The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) is the latest industry association to raise concerns over the impact of social distancing on the events industry, ahead of the first meeting of a newly formed UK events and entertainment working group tomorrow (28 May).
The working group, part of a series of sectoral subgroups convened by the UK’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) about recreation and leisure, is comprised of industry organisations including the NTIA, the Concert Promoters Association (CPA), the National Arenas Association (NAA) and the Music Venue Trust (MVT).
The group will be tasked with developing guidance for the sector and acting as a conduit between industry and ministers.
The NTIA’s particular concern is around the financial viability of venues reopening under strict social distancing measures. The organisation calls for a “more pragmatic approach” that would allow businesses to generate their own guidelines for reopening and mitigate risk on a case by case basis.
The group will be tasked with developing guidance for the sector and acting as a conduit between industry and ministers
The statement comes as the Southbank Centre, a multi-venue arts and cultural centre in London, warns that it will be forced to close until April 2021 without further government support.
The centre forecasts a best-case scenario of facing losses of £5.1 million by the end of the 2020/2021 financial year.
The viability of socially distanced shows divided panellists on the recent IQ Focus The Venue’s Venue: Building Back panel. Lucy Noble, chair of the NAA and director of the Royal Albert Hall said that social distancing was not part of the plan for reopening, with measures such as temperature checks, contact tracings and disinfectant misting more likely to be employed.
“We are suggesting to the [UK government] how we can operate,” said Noble. “If they are not giving us clarity, then we need to give them clarity.”
Venue leaders optimistic for 2020 reopening
Venue professionals expressed confidence that doors will reopen before the end of the year, but shared doubts as to whether social distancing is the answer, in the latest IQ Focus panel.
Available to watch back now on the IQ website, as well as on Facebook and Youtube, the session saw John Langford (AEG Europe), Lucy Noble (Royal Albert Hall/NAA), Olivier Toth (Rockhal/EAA), Oliver Hoppe (Wizard Promotions), Tom Lynch (ASM Global) and Lotta Nibell (GOT Event) reflect on when they will return to business and the tactics that venues will use to ensure the show goes on.
All panellists were optimistic that some shows will return before the end of 2020, although next year will see the true restart of indoor live events, with many speaking of “packed 2021 calendars”.
For Toth, CEO of the 6,500-capacity Rockhal in Luxembourg, smaller capacity shows with strict social distancing measures will be the most likely to restart before the new year. Rockhal’s intimate club venue, which typically has a capacity of 1,100, can hold 90 people with two metre distancing measures in place, but “we can increase capacity as we go”, said Toth.
“For shows of a bigger scale, I am optimistically hoping for the end of this year, but it is more likely to be 2021,” said Toth.
Rockhal is one of a number of venues in Luxembourg acting as a temporary medical facility.
For GOT Event, which operates nine venues in Sweden, sports fixtures are the most likely to return in 2020, with all matches played behind closed doors. “For music and other shows, I think it’ll be next year,” said Nibell.
Even though Sweden has not entered a full lockdown unlike many of its European counterparts, a ban on shows over 50 people has left the Swedish live industry in much the same position as elsewhere.
“For shows of a bigger scale, I am optimistically hoping for the end of this year, but it is more likely to be 2021”
ASM Global has already seen some success with the return of sporting events, hosting Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) events behind closed doors at venues in the United States.
Lynch said ASM Global’s VenueShield, a post-coronavirus reopening programme, has played a big part in allowing the sports powerhouse to get back up and running. “Next I’d like to see how, or if, we can introduce fans with social distancing and in a safe and clean environment.”
Social distancing has been a “hot topic” of late for the events industry, said Langford, asking Wizard Promotions’ Hoppe if it is a viable solution for event organisers.
While it may work for some kinds of shows and events, “I don’t think social distancing will be a part of what we will be looking at,” said Hoppe. Drive-in concerts offer an example of social distancing success, added Hoppe, but “are horrible for an artist in my opinion”.
Noble, artistic and commercial director at London’s (5,272-cap.) Royal Albert Hall and chair of the UK’s National Arenas Association (NAA), agreed that social distancing is not part of the plan for reopening as “it just doesn’t work financially”.
“We do know we can run our venues in world class ways to facilitate shows going on, be it by contact tracing, temperature checks, questionnaires, disinfectant mists etc.”
Noble noted the lack of clarity given to the live industry by the UK government, which is yet to give a date for when events of any size will be permitted again. “If they don’t give us clarity, then we need to give them clarity,” said Noble. “We are suggesting to them how we can operate.”
“I am really positive about the future of live events, but we just need to find a way of operating in this situation, if it recurs”
The EAA has also taken up a lobbying position, working with the European Commission to develop a reopening plan for the live industry.
“We’ll be facing very different requirements and expectations from our customers,” said Toth. “Scenarios will be very different, from artist hospitality to audience experience, not even mentioning social distancing, so the ambition was to put major concerns out there and open up the discussion.”
Consumer demand has been another worry for the live industry, with surveys indicating a potential cautiousness on behalf of some about returning to public events. However, Toth pointed out that the majority of fans are holding on to tickets for postponed events, indicating that “people are looking forward to coming back”.
Noble said that the Royal Albert Hall is expecting confidence will take a while to return and is modelling accordingly.
“We certainly won’t be selling to full houses when we reopen,” said Noble. The venue is adjusting its programming to focus on shows that attract younger audiences first, the demographic most likely to make a quick return to events.
“I am really positive about the future of live events,” said Noble, “but we just need to find a way of operating in this situation, and for if it recurs.”
The next IQ Focus session, The Innovation Session, is taking place on Thursday 28 May at 4 p.m. BST/5 p.m. CET, chaired by Mike Malak (Paradigm), and featuring speakers Sheri Bryant (Sansar), Tommas Arnby (Locomotion Ent.), Amy Oldham (Dice), Ben Samuels (MelodyVR) and Prajit Gopal (Looped).
Venues in the spotlight for next IQ Focus panel
Following on from last week’s popular Festival Forum session, this week’s IQ Focus virtual panel will turn the attention to venues, discussing how the world’s many shuttered music venues can weather the Covid-19 storm, and emerge from life under lockdown.
Chaired by John Langford (AEG Europe), The Venue’s Venue: Building Back, will feature speakers Lucy Noble (Royal Albert Hall/NAA), Olivier Toth (Rockhal/EAA), Oliver Hoppe (Wizard Promotions), Tom Lynch (ASM Global) and Lotta Nibell (GOT Event).
The touring world has changed dramatically since venue professionals came together for the Venue Summit at the International Live Music Conference (ILMC) in March, as doors have been shuttered, countless concerts cancelled and many venues repurposed to help in the fight against the disease.
Panellists will share their strategies on getting through the current crisis, as well as discussing the main lessons they have learned so far
Panellists will share their strategies on getting through the current crisis, as well as discussing the main lessons they have learned so far.
Looking to the future, the venue experts will also reflect on what the recovery process may look like and what will need to be done to keeps fans, staff and artists safe and get business back up and running in the crucial months ahead.
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.
EU arenas report bumper year for live music
Increased venue construction and sweeping market consolidation are the major themes emerging from IQ’s latest European Arena Yearbook (EAY), as live music further strengthens its position as the driver of European arena success.
The third edition of EAY shows that boom time for Europe’s arena business is far from slowing down, with many venues surpassing the record-breaking results exhibited in EAY 2018 thanks to an increasingly diversified entertainment space and growing demand for live music events in particular.
EAY – a standalone publication replacing IQ’s traditional European Arena Report – is produced by ILMC in partnership with the European Arenas Association (EAA) and the UK’s National Arena Association (NAA). Sixty-one European arenas, which collectively sold 37 million tickets to almost 6,000 events, contributed to latest edition.
A major theme of EAY 2019 is the increasing trend towards consolidation
Live music remains on top, making up 44% of all events taking place at the European arenas surveyed – up from 37% the year before. Concerts also attracted much larger audiences than other events, with an average of 8,116 fans per show, compared to a Europe-wide event average of 6,395.
A major theme of EAY 2019 is the increasing trend towards consolidation. “The merger of AEG Facilities and SMG to form ASM Global is the most significant example of this [consolidation] in the industry since Live Nation predecessor SFX Entertainment started rolling up promoters and venues in the late 90s,” writes IQ/EAY editor Gordon Masson.
Indeed, market consolidation was deemed “very concerning” for some respondents whose venues do not belong to one of the major global players.
As always, this year’s EAY includes six in-depth regional profiles – central and eastern Europe; France and Benelux; Germany, Switzerland and Austria (GSA); the Nordics; southern Europe; and the UK and Ireland.
“Evolution in the business has been astounding”
The south of Europe retains its crown as the busiest market, attracting an average of 10,869 fans per event – up from 8,555 last year and far higher than its closest competitor, central and eastern Europe (7,903). A record year for the Spanish live music business and plans for a mega new arena in Valencia reflect the region’s sense of buoyancy.
New venue developments are taking place all over Europe, in fact, with major new complexes set to break ground in Germany, Russia, Finland, the UK and Italy in coming years. Masson notes that “evolution in the business has been astounding, with each new year seemingly generating more venue construction than the year before.”
Major takeaways from EAY 2019 in numbers:
Stars of the future
In terms of future growth, the Nordics lead the way, with a predicted growth rate of >1% for 2021. The UK and Ireland are the only other region expecting growth, with a drop for all others, not least for central and eastern Europe, with predictions of a decline of almost 4%.
An overriding sense of positivity emerges from the arenas surveyed, but some concerns do creep in. Ticket prices, increasing production costs and the threat from competition are among the top worries for respondents, with the state of the economy and industry consolidation not far behind.
Ticket prices: the eternal bugbear?
Although ticket prices remain at the top of industry concerns for 2018, deemed as ‘worrying’ or ‘extremely worrying’ by 22% of respondents, the average ticket price across all events fell slightly compared to the previous year (from €44.34 to €43.49). Music events, which continue to be the most expensive, also experienced a dip, from €54.88 to €53.23.
For more insights, read IQ’s European Arena Yearbook 2019 here.
Royal Albert Hall’s Lucy Noble elected NAA chair
Lucy Noble, artistic and commercial director of the Royal Albert Hall, has been elected chair of the UK’s National Arenas Association (NAA).
Noble, whose three-year term commenced on 1 January 2019, succeeds Martin Ingham, CEO of Nottingham’s Motorpoint Arena.
The NAA, which represents 23 arenas in the British Isles, is due to publish its 2018 statistics during the Venue’s Venue panel at this week’s International Live Music Conference (ILMC). The association is also a partner to ILMC on the Event Safety and Security Summit (E3S), as well as IQ for its annual European Arena Yearbook.
Noble says: “It’s an honour and a privilege to have been elected to chair this body, which represents such a wide range of colleagues in such an exciting industry.
“Although the Hall is the smallest of these arenas, it’s also the oldest and has paved the way in terms of large capacity spaces and what they’re capable of. We’ve been a proud member of the NAA for over 15 years and find it extremely useful in developing our approach, sharing with the industry and identifying new collaborative areas.
“It’s an honour and a privilege to have been elected to chair this body”
“I’m especially looking forward to lead on discussion around women in the industry, accessibility and diversity, and how we can keep ahead of changes in technology – and I’m thrilled to be the first female chair in over 15 years.”
Ingham adds: “It has been a great privilege to chair the NAA for the past three years during a period of growth in the live music industry, but also at a time of huge challenges for our arenas’ management teams. Operational security for venues is continually developing, while there are never-ending financial pressures from increases to our cost base that require constant innovation to mitigate.”
“Aside from the day-to-day challenges, I am also proud of the work that the NAA has undertaken during the past three years to support industry initiatives ranging from secondary ticketing to PRS, accessibility to agent of change and sustainability to safety.”
“I’m delighted to be handing the reins over to Lucy, who is experienced in so many facets of the industry and who will be an excellent champion for the NAA.”
The Royal Albert Hall had its busiest year to date in 2018, with 401 auditorium events. It also recently launched a 150th anniversary committee chaired by UTA’s Neil Warnock, in preparation for its birthday plans in 2021.
EAY 2017: CEE arenas shrug off post-crash gloom
A majority of central and eastern European (CEE) arenas reported strong growth in 2016, boosted by growing demand and increased consumer confidence, IQ’s European Arena Yearbook 2017 reveals.
Almost all the arenas surveyed in eight CEE countries – Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Serbia – recorded positive results last year, with some even recording their most successful year to date, as they shrugged off the last remnants of the global financial crisis, which hit central and eastern Europe particularly hard.
While GDP is still not as high as in western Europe, demand is strong, consumer confidence has returned to the market and average audience figures are higher than some of the more affluent nations: the arenas surveyed sold 4,368,253 tickets to 882 events, generating €130.5 million.
Sport dominates the calendars at arenas across the region, accounting for 56% of programmes. Music makes up 26%, while family shows and miscellaneous events make-up 9% and 6%, respectively. Only 11 comedy shows took place in these arenas last year, an average of one per arena.
The largest attraction for people is clearly music events, which draw the highest average attendance: 7,761 (survey average attendance: 4,953).
“They used to regard it as very important to be seen as having significant and cool cultural festivals, but that’s changing”
‘Miscellaneous events’ are the next biggest draw, pulling an average crowd of 6,946 to corporate events and exhibitions.
Family and sports events attract average audiences of 4,300 (survey average: 5,157) and 3,610 (4,662) each.
Promoter Nick Hobbs, who books acts at all levels across central and eastern Europe, the Balkans and Turkey, says there’s starting to be a trend of people moving away from festivals and towards arena shows. “The festival market doesn’t seem to be doing as well as it was, but arenas are doing better,” he says. “That’s because sponsorship – which is essential for festivals, but not usually part of the P&L [profit and loss] of an arena show – is struggling, as companies shift their focus away from music.
“In some countries, such as Poland, municipalities are shifting their marketing spend away from cultural events due to the political climate. They used to regard it as very important to be seen as having significant and cool cultural festivals, but that’s changing due to a much more culturally conservative government.”
With the economic situation in many countries improving, arenas are seeing steady growth.