Solving the supply chain crisis
Experts from the production and touring industries have been getting together to find solutions to the current supply chain problems that threaten to dampen the excitement after two years of no concerts. James Drury finds out more.
“We’re going to see a return to the roaring ’20s” was the refrain from the live industry last year as the global lockdowns eased and audiences seemed to be straining at the leash to get back to the concerts they’d missed so dearly. Promoters, agents and artists, keen to make up for two years or more of lost touring business, were just as eager to get back on the road. Although it was online only, the fizzing optimism of ILMC 33 could be felt through the screen.
But just as confidence grew among audiences, the knock-on effects of Covid, Brexit – and many would argue longstanding problems of low pay and long hours – are hitting the industry. There’s simply not enough crew, security, drivers, trucks, equipment, staging and everything else needed to fulfil all these shows. So what’s going on, and what can be done to solve what’s being dubbed “the supply chain crisis”?
“The live events supply chain problem is a term that is being used frequently at the moment. It’s being suggested that it has been caused by the pandemic. But that’s not necessarily true”
Production experts worldwide have teamed up across three conferences to share information about supply chain problems. They got together at ILMC in London, Pollstar Live! In Los Angeles, and EPIC at Eurosonic Noorderslag in the Netherlands to find solutions to this ongoing issue and share them with the industry through this report.
In many ways, the problems we’re facing are nothing new, as industry veteran Carl AH Martin points out: “The live events supply chain problem is a term that is being (ab)used frequently at the moment. It’s being suggested that it has been caused by the pandemic. But that’s not necessarily true. At the Event Safety & Security Summit (E3S) in 2017, a panel discussed the lack of security personnel throughout Europe due to a lack of money to pay sensible rates. In 2018/19, at both the IPM and Event Production Forum East (EPFE) conferences, there was discussion about the lack of personnel and materials.”
What challenges are we facing, and what’s causing them?
That noted, discussions on this current situation heated up in January. At EPIC, Okan Tombulca, CEO of global touring logistics specialists eps, raised alarm bells about what he saw were promoters’ intentions to squeeze two years of shows into eight months. He told the panel that we’re in a rare situation where a lack of equipment was now the deciding factor whether a gig could happen or not: “no stage, no gig,” he pointed out.
Equipment is in short supply for a variety of reasons. Tower lights are hard to get hold of because they have gone out to the construction and road-building industries; marquee and tent companies have found different markets, such as, the new £19bn (€22bn) east-west London railway, Crossrail, and use in Covid testing centres. Temporary buildings are being used as vaccination centres and temporary medical units. LED lighting is reportedly 25% more expensive than pre-pandemic, and prices for most equipment have skyrocketed. However, at Pollstar Live!, Jeroen Hallaert of PRG rightly pointed out that equipment from 2020 is still perfectly good to use. He challenged designers to use existing inventory rather than create productions using the latest tech.
In addition to not having enough production equipment to go around, there’s a severe staffing shortage. At Eurosonic’s EPIC, Oliver Gardiner from Vespasian Security in the UK, said staff have been lost during the pandemic to Covid vaccination centres. And many have left the industry – choosing instead to take full-time work in sectors that enable them to be at home more with their families or to have a better work-life balance than is offered by the music industry.
Illustrating this crisis, Martina Pogacic, who runs production company Show Production Ltd in Croatia and the Balkans, told EPIC that over 300,000 people had left the region, mainly to Germany and Ireland, while others have left the industry or died. As a result, locally promoted events are suffering. The knock-on effect is that newcomers to the industry can’t get the experience and skills they need to get fully trained.
“Not only must the show go on, it will”
Maarten Arkenbout from trucking company Pieter Smit said the increase in fuel costs and the loss of drivers to other industries means, like many firms, they are no longer able to guarantee their prices until the client confirms the work.
However, Michael Strickland, co-chair and founder of Bandit Lites, told Pollstar Live! “not only must the show go on, it will.”
But at what price? There are very real concerns that overstretched and understaffed production teams could lead to a serious accident. Even if the staffing issues are solved, production costs are skyrocketing at a time when many countries around the world are feeling the pinch of inflationary pressures. Will audiences swallow significant ticket price hikes, or will they choose to go to fewer concerts? Promoters could well be about to take some serious financial hits.
Artists also haven’t realised costs are rising and that this will reduce their income. They’re going to have to accept that for a while, they might not make as much money from touring. And while that’s less of an issue for the top flight of acts, what’s going to happen to smaller bands that make up the vast majority of the live touring industry? This is a problem that hasn’t been fully borne out yet. What effects will either massively reduced income or a lack of touring opportunities have on acts that don’t fill arenas?
“We’ve got tougher times ahead, but we can do it”
Having said all this, one thing the production industry excels at is finding solutions. “The show must go on” is a cliché for a reason, and there’s a feeling of determination to resolve this pinch point.
Paul Sergeant from international venues giant ASM Global said Covid had galvanised the industry like nothing before. “We’ve got tougher times ahead,” he told IPM, “but we can do it.”
The 7 Ps – the old British Army adage “Proper Planning & Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance” – has never been truer in these constrained times.
“It’s all about talking with clients. We say ‘plan to be late and over budget'”
In an effort to lock in prices and maintain some sort of stability in their budgets, some companies are seeking to contract suppliers on a longer-term basis. While this has the advantage of providing revenue security to suppliers, there’s also a downside. Bonnie May, CEO of catering and hospitality giant Global Infusion Group, said volatility in costs means it’s a struggle to ensure that margins remain sufficient over the lifetime of the contract. “How do we ensure year three is as cost-effective for us as year one?” she asked IPM.
Group COO at EFM Global, Lisa Ryan, said communication is vital. “It’s all about talking with clients. We say ‘plan to be late and over budget.’”
Consolidation of equipment
Faced with massive price increases and scarcity of equipment, more and more promoters are choosing to buy their own kit, such as staging.
Eps CEO Okan Tombulca said his company is frequently approached by promoters seeking to create joint ventures to buy equipment together – particularly in the US. He says Live Nation, for example, recently bought production for 28 stadiums and is touring eight bands through the venues, using the same set-up at all shows – much like at a festival. The bands are being told they have to use the set-ups in situ rather than bring their own production.
In Australia, the five major promoters got together, shared their lists of scheduled major shows over the next three years, and then invited vendors to make the equipment, leaving it in each of the major cities for all shows. The concept of “make it once and leave it there” is an effort to prevent huge convoys of trucks constantly crisscrossing the continent, plus the huge transport costs of getting gear there.
In the UK, Kilimanjaro-owned festival organiser UK Live already owns the kit it requires, deciding a few years back to acquire everything needed. They have toilets, staging, sound and more and are considering hiring them out to others, renting the greenfield set-ups to other promoters, or adding show days.
All this is old news for John Lickrish of Flash Events in Abu Dhabi. His company owns all its own production and has done since it formed. “When we started in 2007, we wanted to start the events industry in the region. So we trained people and invested in equipment.” He says this inspires strong loyalty in the staff, who tend to stay with the firm.
“We’ve been underpaying everyone for so long, and that’s going to come home to roost”
Pay & conditions
Long hours, being away from home for weeks or more at a time, below-average pay: life in music can be glamorous, but it’s not always attractive for everyone. A key reason for the staffing crisis is the pandemic not only saw people leave for full-time positions in other industries rather than zero-hours freelance roles. Equally, being forced to spend more time at home made them realise they preferred not being away from family and friends. So how can we attract people back?
An obvious solution is to pay people more. As Kilimanjaro CEO Stuart Galbraith pointed out at ILMC: “We’ve been underpaying everyone for so long, and that’s going to come home to roost.
You can’t blame a truck driver for working for Amazon if they can get more money and be at home at the weekends.” He predicted shows would likely be lost, sharing that a tour manager he knows has 16 shows but not enough staff to fill them all.
During that ILMC panel, an audience member reported that in Denmark, stagehands had seen a 10% increase in their hourly rates. Staging manager Mark Hornbuckle from ES Global said some stagehands were being offered increased fees from £220-$300 (€257) a day to £300 (€346). And crew boss rates are £280-£350 (€323-€498) a day.
It’s not just pay. Keeping staff and freelancers happy while they’re at work is just as important
But it’s not just pay. Keeping staff and freelancers happy while they’re at work is just as important. Flexible hours and opportunities to train and progress are vital. José Faísca from Portugal’s Arena Altice says his company helps train security staff, even though they don’t own the company. “They’ve worked with me for more than 15 years. They see our company as their own.” He says training staff, giving them opportunities to grow, a fair salary, and rights, is fundamental to ensuring motivated staff. And motivated staff will not only stay with you but ensure the customer has a great time, too.
The opportunity to work from home is also key to ensuring staff have a good work-life balance. But it’s important for people to come to the office to get the collaborative working skills and pick up and learn from others. An upside of having a flexible work-from-home set-up is you can tap into people who live far from your offices, enabling you to have even greater diversity of workforce. Global Infusion’s May said her company offers people as much unpaid leave as they want during the quieter months of January and February.
Some venues are discussing with the rigging crew about having static equipment in venues, leaving it there but providing a “guarantee of work” for riggers, so they know they’ll get paid.
There’s certainly an appetite to help recruit more young blood and train up the staff of the future
Many in the industry are calling for more production courses at universities. Plenty of people said that when they left school they had no idea about the career they’ve pursued and feel if more school-leavers knew this is a viable career, they would choose to
take it up. There’s certainly an appetite to help recruit more young blood and train up the staff of the future.
Bryan Grant from production company Britannia Row said his firm started its own training scheme as a way of making a difference and ensuring people are taught everything they need to know to start in the business. He added that they get great feedback about their trained crew, whether or not they stay with his company or go on to other things.
ASM Global’s Sergeant says Australia has a Venue Management School for venue staff that offers diplomas following successful completion of courses. “This is a career option just as much as being a doctor or truck driver or lawyer,” he says, adding the Venue Management Association-run school is very active in recruiting people from other industries, as well as people who have retired and want to try something different, such as being a steward.
“The current supply chain model is not the one we should be having for the next ten years”
While production costs increase but consumers face inflationary pressure, there’s going to be little room for passing on the cost increases to ticket holders. One solution could be to take smaller productions out. That’s not just good from a bottom-line perspective but also will be vital in the future from a sustainability point of view.
“Ultimately, all of us have to say to the artist ‘the current supply chain model is not the one we should be having for the next ten years. We can’t be driving 30 trucks around Europe and saying this is how it’s going to be on the stage every time,” said Galbraith.
Flash Entertainment’s Lickrish said the Middle East doesn’t usually get the full production – and he doesn’t miss it at all. “It’s all about the crowd experience. Them having a good time is the most important thing,” he said.
“Cutting back on these productions will benefit the artist, too – because they spend less. The audience won’t notice. While bells and whistles are great, it’s about having a wonderful time.”
Not only this but audiences will increasingly be looking to artists to think about sustainability when touring. It won’t be socially acceptable for touring to have a huge impact on the environment.
“The solution to supply chain issues is cooperation and sharing of information because together we’re more efficient
Collaboration is key
One of the best things to come out of Covid was the level of cooperation happening in the industry. Competitors talked to each other, and the whole industry came together to support each other, find solutions, and work as one.
Says Galbraith: “If there’s one conclusion, the solution to supply chain issues is cooperation and sharing of information because together we’re more efficient. We’re going to see this level of cooperation for the next decade for sustainability reasons and more.”
It might sound ambitious, but we’re facing unprecedented times. The immediate health impacts of Covid may be lessening for now, but the knock-on effects are just as challenging and will require an equally collaborative approach to resolve them.
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The latest on live music’s supply chain crisis
The perfect storm impacting touring’s supply chain ahead of the industry’s biggest summer in years took centre stage at ILMC.
Chaired by Kilimanjaro Live CEO Stuart Galbraith, The Supply Chain: Restock, repair and recruit panel focused on the ongoing issues caused by the sector’s staffing exodus since the onset of Covid-19.
Galbraith noted that, with tens of thousands of freelance workers – and full-time staff – having left the industry over the past 24 months to find jobs elsewhere, shortages remained across the board.
“One of the key problems at the moment – and that’s been the case from last August, September and then through Christmas and now, as we head into what will be undoubtedly the busiest festival season ever in the UK and many other territories – is actually there just aren’t enough staff,” said Galbraith. “So many people have left our industry, whether it be riggers, bar staff, security, truck drivers, etc.”
It’s the task of everybody to bring in new talents and teach them”
Okan Tombulca of eps said that the uncertainty around the restart had deterred a significant section of the workforce from returning.
“A lot of people from the industry had other jobs and they said, ‘Listen, I’m happy to come back. But not only for two or three months, because then I’ll lose my other job,'” he said. “A lot of promoters brought in a lot of young people without any experience and the workload was really high. We saw many people burned out after the three months… It was just too much.”
Tombulca said that training the next generation of backstage talent was of paramount importance.
“It’s the task of everybody: promoters, service companies, that we bring in new talents and teach them,” he said. “We, as eps, were fortunate that we didn’t lose too many people. Nevertheless, we are very, very concerned about staffing.”
“We were trying to do eight months’ work in three months, with probably half the number of people”
Festival Republic’s Becky Grundy, event manager for festivals such as Reading and Creamfields South, described last summer’s season as the most challenging of her 25-year career.
“We were trying to do eight months’ work in three months, with probably half the number of people,” she said. “There was the uncertainty about when things would open up and the availability of equipment, because most of it was tied up on government testing sites. Working under those circumstances, you’re making 1,000 phone calls when you could be normally making 10. But it increased the dialogue between everyone in the industry. We couldn’t have got through it without the support of the suppliers.
“We did seven or eight full capacity events from July through to September and we didn’t really start bringing people back to work on those until May, so it was a lot of work to achieve in a very short space of time.”
ASM Global’s Ailsa Oliver, general manager of Utilita Arena Newcastle, called the circumstances around last year’s restart in the UK as a “nightmare” and said the situation was still some way from returning to normal.
“I’d like to say it’s fine [but] it’s not fine,” she said. “I think we’re possibly getting used to it. Our resilience plans are working. We’re working very collaboratively with our providers locally and really thinking about how we value our workforce and how we encourage people to come back to the industry, or just to join the industry. Because there’s been two years where they didn’t even know there was an industry to come back to.”
Oliver added that staffing costs were up “25 to 50%” in some cases. “Some of that is linked to Covid and hygiene protocols, and additional work is required from that,” she said. “But yeah, it is up to 50%-plus in certain roles.”
“There are no restrictions, but we have a lot of artists coming in who are still very much aware of Covid and want the safety procedures”
CEO of UAE-based Flash Entertainment John Lickrish said the company’s biggest challenge related to content.
“Getting content in a six-hour minimum flight, logistics and operations was really challenging during the Formula One [Abu Dhabi Grand Prix of December 2021] where we had four big concerts and Foo Fighters cancelled at the last minute,” he said. “Trying to get a backup artist, or anyone to come and perform, was next to impossible.
“We were working directly with the airlines and with the authorities to make concessions about Covid, but we couldn’t get the equipment in. We ended up sourcing two people who happened to be in the UAE: one was in Dubai and one was in Abu Dhabi for F1, so it was a bit of a challenge. We used to be able to snap our fingers.”
Xenia Grigat of Copenhagen-based promoter and booking agency Smash!Bang!Pow, brought the session up to speed on the state of play in Denmark.
“We didn’t have a festival season last year, but we did some headline shows,” she said. “Of course, the majority was with local artists – it’s just recently that we have had international artists coming in, with all the challenges that that brings with it.
“There are no restrictions, but we have a lot of artists coming in who are still very much aware of Covid and want the safety procedures that we cannot uphold because we can’t enforce that on the audience any longer. We get it that they want to have the audience wearing face masks and want crew to be tested, which we can do to some extent. But backstage, it’s still taking up resources.”
“Every change is also an opportunity to get to the next level”
Galbraith said that while Covid was “pretty much done” in the UK, there were still knock-on effects relating to neighbouring markets.
“It’s certainly done in the public areas of concerts and backstage pretty much too, but we’ve got artists that are coming in to the UK and touring who are still working on protocols based on what’s happening in Europe,” he said. “And they’ve got to, because they’ve got to go back there – and they can’t go back there with Covid because they have to quarantine there and they’ll lose the shows.”
Ending on an upbeat note, Tombulca suggested how the business could use the crisis to improve its inner workings.
“Every change is also an opportunity to get to the next level,” he said. “This situation is also bringing a lot of new ideas. From the vendors to the service companies, we’re developing a lot of new products, which are more sustainable and need less labour and transport capacities.
“We are forced to do that because we all know at the moment, we might be in a good position, because the demand is higher than the offer. But we all know in two years time, you guys will squeeze us again. So we have to be prepared for it, without doubt.”
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IPM 13: Don’t Stop Me Now: The consequences of show cancellations
Eps managing director Okan Tombulca introduced the session explaining that, although production-related cancellations were to form the bulk of the panel, the issues thrown up by the coronavirus (Covid-19) were now impossible to ignore.
Two of the panellists were forced to drop out for coronavirus-related reasons, as GMC Events’ Graham MacVoy was called to an emergency meeting and Benjamin Hetzer of FKP Scorpio joined by Skype due to a travel ban.
ASM Global’s Tim Worton said he was “blown away” by the number of reasons for event cancellations nowadays. Worton referred to the “fairly significant” bushfire crisis that gripped Australia until only a few weeks ago. Events including Lost Paradise, Day on the Green and Secret Sounds’ Fall Festival were cancelled due to poor air quality as a result of the fires.
Although not much can be done to prepare for this kind of natural disaster, said Worton, promoters and others have to be aware that cancelling may be the only option.
Hetzer spoke about different kinds of weather-related cancellations, referencing the storms that lead to the axing of Scorpio festival in 2016 and 2017. Hetzer stressed the importance of cooperation between organisers and the authorities in these situations to ensure the safe evacuation of any site.
“We want to work out how to sort things out before getting to that point”
In terms of deciding to call off an event, Martin Goebbels of Miller Insurance Services said insurers have to trust the judgement of production crews, promoters and local authorities. “I would always advise getting insurance as early as possible,” said Goebbels, emphasising that insurance should be used as a backstop, and not relied upon too much. “This is not an insurance panel, but an anti-insurance panel,” said Goebbels. “We want to work out how to sort things out before getting to that point.”
Worton said there is much more emphasis on verifying who goes in through the back door nowadays, as well as security and safety measures in general. “Productions are getting so big and complex, that the potential for problems increases exponentially,” he said.
Delegates from countries in Eastern Europe discussed the variations with health and safety practices in different countries, with issues such as corruption, market size and local regulations affecting events of all sizes.
Talk then turned to coronavirus, which has caused recent show cancellations in Asia, as well as in France, Switzerland and Italy. Tombulca stated the virus is throwing up lots of questions but no answers at the moment.
“It’s such a nuanced subject,” said Worton, referring to the different restrictions on mass gatherings and cancealltions of some shows. The on sales for a number of tours are being pushed back, said Worton, which “looks like it is going to be a recurring theme.”
Tour accountant Mike Donovan spoke from the floor saying that even losing a fraction of shows in a tour has a massive impact on profits. “It’s impossible to say what’s going to happen, but we will likely have a very serious downturn,” he said.
“As an industry, we should set a positive example and not overreact”
ITB agent Steve Zapp said it is very much about approaching the situation on a daily, or even hourly, basis at the moment.
Tombulca asked that if it came to a worst case scenario of shows being stopped for the next six months, who would be prepared? A resounding no came from the room, as different delegates explained that although board-level meetings, new procedures and hygiene standards were being put in place, uncertainty remained high.
“This is an unprecedented worldwide situation,” added Goebbels. Asked how the insurance industry is reacting to coronavirus, Goebbels explained that most UK insurers are excluding coronavirus from cancellation insurance cover from now on, saying that he imagined it would be the same for a lot of insurers elsewhere.
Tombulca wrapped up summarising the effects that coronavirus is having across different sectors of the industry, but shared information from a senior UK medical advisor saying there is “no clear rationale” for closing events to prevent the spread of the virus.
“As an industry, we should set a positive example and not overreact,” said Tombulca, stressing that currently in most countries, such as the UK, Germany and the Netherlands, no cancellations are being made because of Covid-19. “Let’s hope we can resume normal business soon.”
Tombulca added, “we need to prepare ourselves as much as possible for all potential scenarios, but at the end of the day, people need us and we are a very positive industry – we are working in the best industry of the world and make a lot of people happy every day.”
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Eps appoints new CEO of Scandinavian arm
Event infrastructure supplier eps has expanded its management team, appointing Fredrik Zetterberg as CEO of its Scandinavian division.
Zetterberg joins eps from esports promoter Dreamhack, where he headed up the event operations and logistics department. He previously worked as head of production event technologies and sales at Swedish trade fair organiser Stockholmsmässan.
Bo Teichert, who co-founded eps Scandinavia, will focus on operations and existing customer relationships.
“I am delighted to welcome Fredrik Zetterberg to our eps family,” comments Okan Tombulca, managing director of the eps group, who is among those speaking at the ILMC Production Meeting (IPM) on Tuesday 3 March.
“He brings a wealth of experience, in-depth knowledge, and an understanding of all aspects of our industry. With Zetterberg in our team, we will be able to better meet the needs of our customers in the growing Scandinavian market. By taking this step, we as the eps group are also consistently proceeding our path of steady growth.”
“With Zetterberg in our team, we will be able to better meet the needs of our customers in the growing Scandinavian market”
“We look back on ten successful years and great projects, including Way Out West, Sweden Rock Festival, Bravalla, Lollapalooza Stockholm, Eurovision Song Contest and Ed Sheeran’s concert in Reykjavik,” adds Teichert. “I am pleased to welcome Fredrik Zetterberg as CEO to continue this success story of eps scandinavia.”
Founded in 2010, eps Scandinavia has offices in Stockholm, Sweden, as well as its head offices in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Headquartered in Germany, eps now operates in ten subsidiaries worldwide, including a recently launched Candian division.
Representatives from over 25 countries are attending this year’s IPM, which takes place on the first day of the International Live Music Conference in London. Key issues to be discussed at IPM include event cancellation, the evolution of stage production and expanding markets.
IPM gears up for 13th year
The 2020 edition of the ILMC Production Meeting (IPM) is taking place in a week’s time in London, hosted by Rod Laver Arena’s Meagan Walker and featuring representatives from 25 different countries.
Now in its thirteenth year, IPM has established itself as a leading gathering for international production professionals, hosting over 200 of the world’s top production managers; health, safety and security specialists; crewing companies and production suppliers over the years.
Eps CEO Okan Tombulca is heading up a panel on show cancellations, along with panellists Tim Worton (ASM Global), Benjamin Hetzer (FKP Scorpio), Martin Goebbels (Miller Insurance) and Graham MacVoy (GMC Events). The session will look at the many reasons for cancellations of both indoor and outdoor events and the best ways to manage them, using case studies from some recent “successful” event cancellations.
The changing nature of stage production and design will form the focus of a panel chaired by Sportpaleis Group’s Coralie Berael, which will look in particular at how technology has changed show production in recent years. Mark Ager from Tait and Constantin Covaliu from Emagic will join Berael on the panel, along with international production manager Wob Roberts, who is currently working with Sam Smith, having previously served as Robbie Williams’ production manager.
“There is going to be an amazing amount of experience in the room”
IPM delegates will also hear about the challenges of working in expanding markets in a session led by Star Live’s Roger Barrett and featuring Brigitte Fuss of Megaforce, Sanjin Corovic from Production Pool and Helen Smith from Helsprod Ltd.
Grassroots venues will be in the spotlight for the Small Venues: Does size really matter? panel, featuring speakers from the Small Venues Network, Forum Karlin, DDW Music and Eventim Apollo.
Elsewhere in the IPM programme, Carl A H Martin will lead a discussion on the topical Martyn’s Law, representatives from transport company Pieter Smit will broach the issue of sustainable trucking and a yoga session will help delegates to relax.
“The IPM allows us all to talk about what involves the production of live music today,” comments Carl A H Martin, chairman of the IPM Advisory Group.
“We can talk sensibly, safely, internationally and, as always, be ahead of the ‘trends’. Truth is, most of the time we set them…
“If you are not amongst those from 25 countries that have already signed up, visit the website and get to it.”
“Although it is an honour to be producing this event, I wish I could attend as a delegate,” adds IPM producer, Sytske Kamstra. “There is going to be an amazing amount of experience in the room.”
IPM is taking place at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington, London on Tuesday 3 March, the opening day of the International Live Music Conference.
The Crystal Ball: Predictions for 2019
IQ: Panellists, what do you anticipate being next year’s greatest challenges, both for you and for the wider industry?
Emma Bownes, vice-president of programming, AEG Europe: I think most of the industry is concerned about the impact of Brexit on the music industry – will it lead to restrictions on travel for British acts?
The government have to make sure that musicians, particularly smaller ones, can continue to tour the EU easily without the need for visas – and similarly for European artists – while they develop as artists and build their fan-bases and careers.
Beverley Whitrick, strategic director, Music Venue Trust: So much attention is being focused on Brexit that it makes it even more difficult to advance with the changes needed to protect the grassroots of the music industry. Not surprisingly, enormous and necessary energy is being spent trying to safeguard international touring and ensuring that the UK continues to be a leader in music.
Trying to reconcile what is needed at home with these global concerns poses the greatest challenge for 2019.
Stephan Thanscheidt, managing director, FKP Scorpio: A challenge faced by both the touring and festival sectors is the rising costs in all areas, such as personnel, production, administrative expenses and, especially, artist fees. Of course, ticket prices cannot – and should not – be scaled limitlessly, so we need to find ways to optimise and allocate these expenses.
Okan Tombulca, managing director, eps: I think our biggest challenge will be the same as for the rest of the industry: labour. Europe-wide, there is a huge problem with the availability of staff – security, stagehands, event co-ordinators – as well as equipment.
“Europe-wide, there is a huge problem with the availability of staff”
Kim Bloem, vice-head promoter, Mojo Concerts: The biggest issue over the last two years is the lack of personnel and materials for the number of events taking place from May to September. The number of shows, festivals and special events is rapidly increasing in this period, and therefore building crew, technicians, riggers, security personnel, etc., get exhausted because they’re working crazy hours.
We need to make sure live music remains a safe working place for everybody, but getting the number of people needed is very challenging.
Okan Tombulca: I think 2019 will be the biggest year in 20 years in terms of the number of events going on.
Jules de Lattre, senior agent, United Talent Agency: The issue of ticket pricing, both on the primary and secondary markets. Although significant progress was made in 2018, how to combat illicit secondary-ticketing practices will continue to be an issue we deal with on a daily basis.
As the secondary market becomes more regulated but not fully eradicated, will a more widely used and accepted model of dynamic pricing on the primary market emerge?
IQ: How about the biggest opportunities?
Jules de Lattre: As music consumption on ISPs explodes, there will be increasing opportunities for fans to fully connect with artists in the live space.
Mark Yovich, president, Ticketmaster International: There are more opportunities than ever before to empower artists to connect with their fans and harness their live experience. Whether that’s through digital tickets or facial recognition, we are continuing to innovate in a wide range of products that are changing the landscape of the live business.
“Hopefully, 2019 will see further action to ensure that live music is accessible to the widest possible audience”
Emma Bownes: This year saw a great deal of progress made in terms of restricting the ability of professional ticket resellers to acquire and resell large amounts of tickets with a huge mark-up. The British government introduced new legislation to ban resellers from using bots to purchase tickets in bulk, secondary ticketing sites Get Me In! and Seatwave are closing down, and the O2 and the SSE Arena, Wembley, both introduced a digital ticketing system featuring a dynamically changing barcode system that ensures tickets cannot be copied or shared on secondary sites.
Hopefully, 2019 will see further action to ensure that live music is accessible to the widest possible audience.
IQ: Can you identify any key market trends you expect to see emerging next year?
Stephan Thanscheidt: Concentration of power. Next to the continuously evolving activities of FKP Scorpio in Germany and abroad, as well as the strategic partnership with AEG, the live sector of [FKP majority owner] CTS Eventim is growing further due to purchases in Italy and Spain. The same can, of course, be observed at Live Nation and other international companies.
Beverley Whitrick: More grassroots music venues will close unless people who claim to be supportive actually start demonstrating that support through their actions.
Stephan Thanscheidt: Another observation is the formation of investors and investment groups who don’t have a background as a promoter buying up festivals all over Europe.
“Apart from music and comedy, we see the market for speaking events growing”
Mark Yovich: One word: mobile. We’ve been saying it for years, but 2018 saw a huge spike in the percentage of mobile traffic and, more importantly, mobile ticket sales. We think mobile-first with everything we do, from how fans discover events through to digital methods of entry.
Beverley Whitrick: Local activism and campaigns to support music will grow. Both artists and audiences are getting more vocal about the value of live music to communities, local economies, and health and wellbeing.
Emma Bownes: Alongside the music programming you’d expect to see at both venues, we’re seeing a lot of shows coming through the O2 and The SSE Arena, Wembley, that are aimed at more of a family audience: Hugh Jackman, Cirque du Soleil, NBA, Harlem Globetrotters, Strictly Come Dancing, WWE…
We’re also hosting Superstars of Gymnastics at the O2 – a major new showcase of the sport, featuring Simone Biles and Max Whitlock.
Kim Bloem: My colleague Gideon Karting promoted a show with K-pop band BTS this year, which was huge, so that is definitely something that we expect to see emerging in the market in the next few years.
Also, apart from music and comedy – the latter of which is a genre that sees massive audience interest – we see the market for speaking events growing. This year, Barack Obama did a couple of events, and I hope we can have his wife Michelle come to the Netherlands at some point. We can hopefully embrace this kind of role model and learn from them how we can all contribute to a better world.
“I’d like to see much better communication between all sectors of our industry”
IQ: What are you most looking forward to in 2019?
Mark Yovich: The Sunday night at Reading Festival for Foo Fighters. Their London Stadium gig was amazing and I can’t wait to see them again.
Emma Bownes: Sheffield Wednesday turning things around and making it to the play-offs.
Jules de Lattre: We have a very exciting summer of major international festivals planned for Christine and the Queens in 2019. Considering how strong and unique her live show is, I expect the summer will have a significant impact on this campaign. I’m excited for festivalgoers to see and experience this incredible show.
Mark Yovich: Muse and Fleetwood Mac are some other great stadium shows I’m looking forward to, as well as Billie Eilish at Shepherd’s Bush Empire in early 2019.
Beverley Whitrick: Continuing to meet amazing people whose passion for music makes the work we do worthwhile.
IQ: Finally, what, if anything, could the industry do better together in 2019?
Okan Tombulca: In Germany, we have a twice-yearly meeting of all festival promoters and service companies, to share information about health and safety and develop one set of rules for the whole country. I’d like to see much better communication between all sectors of our industry, to share knowledge, help each other and work better together.
“Anyone in the business should do whatever they can to provide support to those in need”
Kim Bloem: Be a bit nicer to each other, work more closely together, and try to reduce the amount of paperwork and covering our own asses all the time. If we work hard and well, we should be able to trust each other’s judgment.
Jules de Lattre: Conversations about mental health are becoming more commonplace and I hope will continue to do so. Anyone in the business should look around them and do whatever they can to provide reliable health and wellness support to those in need.
Gender diversity and equality in the music industry as a whole – from the presence of female-fronted acts at festivals to gender pay gaps and fairer access to leadership roles in the music industry – will also remain a major talking point in the year to come.
Mark Yovich: Accessibility is a huge issue in our industry and we’re working closely with Attitude is Everything on their Ticketing Without Barriers campaign to make sure more is being done.
There seems to be some great momentum, and now is the time for us all to come together to find solutions to ensure equal access to live entertainment.
Stephan Thanscheidt: We need to stand united against political and societal injustice.
Music is being used by groups who are against democratic values and human rights – so why shouldn’t we do the same for freedom and peace?
eps launches UK business
eps, the German-headquartered, multinational event infrastructure supplier, is to open its first branch in the UK.
Led by managing director Okan Tombulca, eps supplies infrastructure and planning for numerous tours and festivals, including Beyoncé, Coldplay, Rihanna, Rock am Ring, Lollapalooza and Coachella, from its offices in Germany, Denmark, Italy, Poland, Switzerland, Australia, Brazil and the US.
Tombulca explains: “We have not entered the UK market in the past as we had a very successful partnership arrangement with Eve Trakway in the days when it was owned by Rick Barnett and Chris Lowton. We have now joined with them again to form our UK operation.
“We have worked with many UK promoters and organisations worldwide and I am delighted that we can now provide those same services direct”
“We have worked with many UK promoters and organisations worldwide and I am delighted that we can now provide those same services direct.”
eps UK team, based in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, will offer a range of roadway, fencing and barrier systems, including heavy-duty trackway, stage barriers, pedestrian pathways, security fencing systems, temporary lighting and pitch coverings.
eps UK managing director Anthony Sinclair adds: “There are many equipment providers in the UK, but we understand that it is service that is the most important element of any project – and to ensure we always delight our customers is critical. We promise, we deliver. It’s how the eps group was built.”