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Touring chiefs call for live industry ‘reset’

The roadmap to rebuilding the live industry back to pre-pandemic levels was up for debate during ILMC’s annual health check on the venue sector.

Co-chaired by ASM Global SVP Marie Lindqvist and Rockhal Luxembourg CEO Olivier Toth, The Venue’s Venue: Reconnect and reopen panel pored over the remaining challenges for venues around the world as they reopen from close to two years of inaction.

Production manager and 2022 Gaffer Award winner Phay Mac Mahon discussed the staffing issues he had experienced when returning to the road for a US tour last September.

“On the production side, we reckoned we were about 30% down on staff, so I think it’s going to be a tough year,” he said. “But let’s face it, we built this industry from nothing. We’re now going to have to redo it. We did it once, we can do it again.”

“They’re are not enough trucks or buses out there. Smaller acts are cancelling festival slots because they can’t afford to fly”

He added: “The biggest problem is that nobody has toured for two years, so everything got put back. The stuff that didn’t tour in 2020 got put back to this year. And then the stuff that didn’t tour in 2021 has been put back to this year, so we have a supply situation – there are not enough companies out there with equipment.

“There are not enough trucks out there, there’s not enough buses. Smaller acts that can’t get buses and can’t get trucks have to fly and their schedule is too tight. So they’re actually cancelling because they can’t afford to fly to festivals, etc, and that’s becoming a bigger issue. The bigger acts  booked a long time ago, so they have the stuff.”

ATC Live agent Alex Bruford said the overwhelmingly positive response to the return of concerts had demonstrated how important live music was to people, but warned the anticipated boom in ticket sales was yet to materialise.

“There is a lot of talk about the ‘roaring ’20s’ and how, when we reopened, we’d all get back to business super-quickly and other things would be great again immediately. And, as we all have found out, that has not been the case so far,” he said. “There have been some hot shows that have sold a lot of tickets and some festivals that have gone up at the right time and sold a lot of tickets. But on the whole, it’s definitely a mixed bag out there in terms of ticket sales. A lot of shows are underperforming and a lot of artists are wondering why they’re not where they were two or three years ago.

“Chatting to a few other agents about this, it does feel like there’s been a bit of a reset button pushed in the whole touring industry and people are having to be very careful. None of us know exactly how the autumn is going to play out yet… It’s super-busy and it’s great to have people back, but there are definitely a lot of challenges ahead before we rebalance.”

“I feel there is a limit on ticket prices. Don’t push your luck with audiences”

On whether ticket prices would need to increase, Rock Werchter promoter Herman Schueremans, CEO of Live Nation Belgium, expressed caution.

“I feel that there is a limit on ticket prices,” he said. “Don’t push your luck with the audience. They were very loyal to us in the previous two, three years. People stayed extremely loyal by keeping their tickets and those people will say, ‘Look, we’ve already bought X amount of tickets… And we have to pay all of our bills,’ so they will make a choice.

“We have to solve the problems together. I don’t see any other solution. We need to get as strong and be creative and rethink things, instead of just repeating ourselves. But I think it’s a creative process. And it should not only come from the artists, but it should come from all of us.”

Rotterdam Ahoy CEO Jolanda Jansen shared similar sentiments.

“There is no easy solution and there’s also not one solution,” she said. “We survived the crisis together, so we need also to [overcome] these challenges together.”

“I’d like to see transparent costs across the board”

Mac Mahon warned that artists and management were in for a “wake up call”, due to many still working off budgets from 2020.

“All the costs have gone up,” he said. “There was a time that you a trucking float included fuel; there was a time you got a shipping quote, and it included fuel; if you were chartering an aircraft it was included… So all these things are going to make a huge difference to the bottom line for the artist.

“It’s going to be very interesting when the manager has to sit down with that artist and tells them there was a time that we could ship a sea container from London to Los Angeles door to door for £7,000 but now it’s £20,000.”

Summing up, Bruford made an impassioned plea for the “reset button” to be pressed on transparency across the industry.

“I’d like to see transparent costs across the board,” he said. “I’d like to be having conversations with people where when we’re discussing a show deal, every aspect of the income of that show is discussed and then split fairly between all the stakeholders in that show. I’d like to see no more rebates. I’d like to see ticketing fees kept under control, I’d like to see merch costs kept under control…

“All of these things are taking slices out of the revenue pot, making it harder to make the show actually financially viable, and then pushing up the ticket price. And as the ticket price gets pushed higher and higher, we all collectively sell less tickets, so we’re actually eating our own lunch by doing that.

“I’d like to be in a situation where we can have these open conversations and have all those costs on the table upfront and go, ‘Okay, how are we fairly splitting this?’ I’ve done a couple of tours recently where it has been like that and it is so refreshing. And I think that’s needs to be the way forward.”

 


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EAA’s Olivier Toth warns of ‘another tough year’

European Arenas Association (EAA) president Olivier Toth says 2022 is shaping up to be another tricky year for the touring industry as it navigates its way through the Covid crisis.

The Rockhal Luxembourg CEO, who succeeded AEG’s John Langford in the EAA role last September, tells IQ that, despite some positive signs, it will likely take another 12 months for the market to get back to near full strength.

“We are taking a lot of bookings, but we are also expecting to see many postponements as we face new threats such as new variants and spikes in new cases,” he says. “2022 is going to be another tough year, and we are not expecting to see significant recovery until 2023.

“In order for our industry to recover, we are going to need a coordinated reopening effort that is adopted by all member states across Europe and applied to all those venues wanting to attract international tours and get back to hosting a wide mix of high-quality, full-capacity, safe live events.”

The next scheduled concert at the 6,500-capacity Rockhal, based in Esch-sur-Alzette, is by French singer Dadju on 3 February. Other acts lined up to play the venue this year include Maneskin, Biffy Clyro, Rag’N’Bone Man, Sting, Texas and Bryan Adams.

“The pandemic has highlighted the need for very visible and heightened safety measures”

Toth suggests a number of protocols developed because of Covid are here to stay post-pandemic.

“Arenas are all about safety – we cannot host the events we do without putting safety at the core of all our operations,” he says. “However, the pandemic has highlighted the need for very visible and heightened safety measures, which has led to a new set of safety protocols. Some of these protocols are now legal requirements and some are expected by stakeholders – we call these Mandatory Expectation or MX.

“Throughout the pandemic, our arenas have been incorporating MX into their digital journeys, not only to comply with legal requirements, which are ever-changing, but also to enhance the live event journey and create confidence with all stakeholders – artists, players, staff, partners, fans, and visitors.

“I think we must accept Covid-19 is not going to go away, and as we learn to live with the virus so must we continue to adopt and integrate extra safety measures into the live event journey as seamlessly and painlessly as possible.”

The EAA’s membership comprises 34 arenas in 20 European countries. According to the association, which was founded in 1991, its member arenas host over 2,900 annual events attracting a total audience of 19 million people.

Toth, an EAA board member, is a co-founder of the EAA EU Subgroup which morphed into the Arena Resilience Alliance (ARA) during the Covid-19 pandemic to open dialogue with EU governing bodies.

“The lack of unified operating protocols, and the existence of border controls affecting freedom of movement across Europe and beyond is making it very difficult for international tours, big and small, to take place,” he adds. “As a result, we are seeing a rise in bookings of domestic artists as well as cross-border activity.

“The current situation is at least allowing both established and new domestic talent to get out and perform, and we would hope that these domestic acts will eventually get a chance to travel at least across their closest borders in the near future as we work together to create shared protocols and travel requirements.”

The full interview with Toth will appear in the new issue of IQ, out next week.

 


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Leading execs to discuss arenas in Recovery Sessions

The line-up has been finalised for the next must-see Recovery Sessions event, which takes place tomorrow (21 October) at 16.00 BST and is free to watch.

Joining chair Olivier Toth (chair of EAA) are Coralie Berael (Forest National Arena), Tony Goldring (William Morris Endeavour), Steve Homer, (AEG Presents) and Paul Twomey (Bio Security Systems), who will be exploring the recovery of the arena market.

Recovery Sessions: Arenas Working Together will look at how these principal touring grounds are working collectively to reignite the live music sector – from new developments in mitigation measures and strategies, to new and more collaborative actions across the venue space.

Beyond Covid-19, with sustainability now a must-tackle issue, and the ongoing race to provide the perfect customer experience, these industry heads will discuss what lies ahead for the arena sector.

The Recovery Sessions, supported by ASM Global and Goodtill, is a series of fortnightly webinars designed to keep the live music industry updated about the international roadmap to reopening. All Recovery Sessions events are free to access for IQ subscribers.

With sustainability now a must-tackle issue, these industry heads will discuss what lies ahead for the arena sector

The first Recovery Sessions event took place on 13 May, hosting high-level discussions on the issues around vaccine passports, the takeaways from this year’s major pilot events, and the road to recovery from the points of view of industry leaders.

The second edition took place on 17 June, hosting topical debates and discussions on the issues around insurancethe top mitigation measures and the importance of political relationships will be in a post-Covid world.

And the third took place on 22 July, quizzing HR heads about the various challenges they face as key markets reopen for business, as well as the opportunities to ‘build back better’ by spreading the recruitment net as wide as possible to help the industry become more diverse, equal and equitable.

To watch the Recovery Sessions: Arenas Working Together panel live on Thursday (21 October), simply head to the dedicated Recovery Sessions page on the website or IQ‘s Facebook page for 16.00 BST/17.00 CEST.

As with the first three events, the session will be available to watch back on demand for IQ subscribers.

To subscribe to IQ for just £5.99 a month, click here.

 


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EAA adds arenas in Poland and the UK to membership

The European Arenas Association (EAA) is welcoming two new venues, taking the total membership to 36 arenas across 20 European countries.

Arena Gliwice, one of the largest and most modern sports and entertainment venues in Poland, has joined the association.

The Gliwice-based arena (cap. 17,000) opened in May 2018 and has since hosted more than 460 events in the region.

The purpose-built arena comprises two separate venues, Arena Glowna and Mala Arena, which each boast “cutting edge technology”.

According to newly elected EAA president Olivier Toth, Eastern European members now total almost 20% of the total membership.

ASM Global’s AO Arena in Manchester, UK, is also joining the membership.

At 21,000-capacity, the AO Arena has the highest seating capacity of any indoor venue in the UK

At 21,000-capacity, the arena has the highest seating capacity of any indoor venue in the UK and the second-highest in Europe.

Toth says the arena will bring “extensive know-how and experience” to the association.

“Also we are looking forward to following their progress as they transform into one of Europe’s most sustainable venues as a result of their current development plans,” he added.

James Allen, GM, AO Arena Manchester, says: “The long period of separation during the global pandemic has highlighted the necessity of collaboration in a supportive manner across Europe, which the EAA champions.

“Our new headline sponsor, AO has strong links with mainland Europe so it is only right that their arena does too. It is a privilege to have our membership application accepted and we look forward to being active members.”

The addition of Arena Gliwice and AO Arena Manchester comes after Spain’s Navarra Arena joined the association last month.

 


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EAA appoints Rockhal’s Olivier Toth as president

The European Arenas Association (EAA) has named Olivier Toth, CEO Rockhal Luxembourg, as president.

Toth succeeds AEG Europe’s John Langford who is stepping down after completing his two-year tenure.

“I can think of no better person to lead the EAA,” says outgoing president, Langford.

“Since joining the association, Olivier has been working tirelessly on behalf of the members to deliver the association’s goal of strengthening ties with the European Union and boosting the advocacy impact of the EAA at EU level.”

Toth, an EAA board member, is a co-founder of the EAA EU Subgroup which morphed into the Arena Resilience Alliance (ARA) during the Covid-19 pandemic to open dialogue with EU governing bodies.

“I am confident that the EAA and the ARA will work towards building a stronger and more unified European live sector”

“I am honoured to be appointed as the EAA’s next president and look forward to further developing and delivering the EAA’s realigned objectives and to continue to work closely with the EU on arena-related topics,” says Toth.

“Through the ARA, we have seen how arenas play a vital role as the hub of the live events ecosystem and how necessary it is to have a collective voice for our industry. I think we can all agree the world we are returning to is not the same one we left behind and I am confident that the EAA and its ARA subgroup will work towards building a stronger and more unified European live events sector.”

The EAA’s membership comprises 34 arenas in 20 European countries, including the 6,500-capacity Rockhal, based in Esch-sur-Alzette.

According to the association, which was founded in 1991, its member arenas host over 2,900 annual events attracting a total audience of 19 million people.

 


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ARA set to reveal manifesto for Europe’s return to live

The Arena Resilience Alliance (ARA), the purpose-driven initiative created by the European Arenas Association (EAA), is set to launch a manifesto detailing the essential next steps for a safe return to live music and sport across Europe.

The action plan will be revealed during the industry body’s second conference, ‘A Game of Two Halves: The Return Leg‘ in association with IQ, which will be streamed live on Thursday 18 February at 1 pm GMT on the EAA’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.

The free virtual event will feature contributions from a range of speakers including John Langford (AEG Europe COO and EAA president), Sam Tanson (minister of culture for Luxembourg) and Alex Jäger, (sport director at Champions Hockey League).

The free virtual event will feature contributions from speakers including John Langford, Sam Tanson and Alex Jäger

A Game of Two Halves: The Return Leg will also feature a keynote speech and presentation by Sam Tanson, minister of culture for Luxembourg, featuring behind the scenes footage and in-depth analysis from a series of test concerts taking place in Luxembourg at Rockhal arena’s club venue.

Alongside the Rockhal test events presentation and ARA manifesto launch, the event will also feature two panel discussions titled ‘Ready to Rock and Play’ and ‘Working out Way Back To You’ which will explore what support the live events sector needs from policymakers on both a national and EU level to enable long-term resilience and future growth.

Opening addresses will be delivered by Rita Brasil de Brito (chair of the Cultural Affairs Committee, Portuguese presidency of the council of the EU and Viviane Hoffmann (deputy director general at the European Commission Directorate-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture).

ARA’s first virtual conference, A Game of Two Halves, which streamed in December 2020 is available to watch online here.

 


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EAA works on recovery plan for live

The European Arenas Association (EAA) has opened discussion with its members to help build a post-Covid-19 recovery plan for the live events industry.

The EAA, which represents 33 arenas across Europe with an annual collective audience of over 20 million, is the latest industry body to develop guidelines for reopening, following the publication of guides produced by the Event Safety Alliance and Society of Independent Show Organizers in the US and Research Institute for Exhibition and Live Communication in Germany.

The EAA’s European Union subgroup, which is working with the European Commission to develop a recovery plan for the live industry, has created a document covering all the key areas that will need to be addressed before venues across Europe can safely reopen their doors.

The document looks at both the infrastructure and systems that must be implemented to meet required safety standards, and the messaging and communication that will be necessary to regain customer confidence.

“It is vital that all decisions regarding venue strategy are made on the basis of first-hand experience and knowledge from people working in the business”

The document is one part of the EAA’s strategy to support current European Commission initiatives designed to strengthen the European live industry and aid its recovery.

“There is no precedent to follow and decisions taken over the next few weeks will have a long-lasting impact on a key industry,” comments Olivier Toth, head of the EAA’s EU subgroup.

“It is vital that all decisions regarding venue strategy are made on the basis of first-hand experience and knowledge from people working in the business who are best placed to ensure delivery.”

Toth will be speaking alongside John Langford (AEG Europe), Lucy Noble (Royal Albert Hall/NAA), Oliver Hoppe (Wizard Promotions), Tom Lynch (ASM Global) and Lotta Nibell (GOT Event) in next IQ Focus panel, The Venue’s Venue: Building Back, tomorrow (21 May) at 3.30 (BST)/4.30 (CET).

Get an automatic reminder when the live stream starts via Facebook Live or YouTube Live.

 


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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.

The session is taking place on Thursday 21 May at 3.30 (BST)/4.30 (CET). Get an automatic reminder when the live stream starts via Facebook Live or YouTube Live.


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Industry calls for sharing of security burden at first E3S

Some of the biggest names in concert promotion, venue management and event security have called for closer collaboration between industry stakeholders, as event organisers look towards a future where audience expectations demand increasingly stringent – and expensive – security measures at live events.

The theme of the need for increased cooperation between promoters, venues and other event stakeholders ran throughout the inaugural Event Safety & Security Summit (E3S), which debuted in London last Tuesday.

Speaking on the final panel of the day, The Show Goes On… Moving forward together, Live Nation executive president of touring Phil Bowdery said there is a “huge expectation” from artists about the level of security at venues, with “most international acts bringing a bigger security detail. [They] are quite detailed on what they want and how they want it, which we haven’t really seen before”.

While Paléo Festival’s Pascal Viot said in the earlier Rings of Steel panel that he believes people are ready to pay an extra euro per ticket to cover the costs of security, Bowdery stressed he “doesn’t want the cost passed on to consumers”. However, he also said the current model – where venues bear the sole responsibility for those costs – is no longer realistic.

“We need to come up with a model that works,” he explained, “because it’s not a sole venue cost.”

Bowdery added that he believes most promoters would be willing to contribute, “but we need some time to make sure we’re prepared for it. We have certain hurdles to get over – artists would be concerned we’re just taking more money out of their pockets – so we have to make them aware of what we’re all doing [on the security front].”

John Sharkey said SMG Europe is focusing on a new increased security environment while getting people into their venues earlier, which both “flattens out the arrival pattern and has the benefit of guests spending more money inside the building instead of nearby bars”. This, he said, will “help fund some of what we’re doing [security-wise] over the longer term”.

“We need to come up with a model that works, because it’s not a sole venue cost”

One measure that shouldn’t cost the earth – albeit it one difficult to implement – is a universal set of security standards across the world’s major events venues. MOM Consulting’s Chris Kemp used the example of the NAA’s A-Guide, which allows bands to “come into the country to play knowing the venue should be set up the same way wherever they’re going”.

Kemp called for the creation of one unified document bringing together all the existing security and safety guides – while Sharkey suggested venues could have a star rating, like hotels, so touring artists would know what level of facilities to expect.

Other key topics of discussion included an industry wide lack of qualified security staff, with delegates from the UK, Belgium and Germany all reporting a shortage in their own countries, and the importance of increased security not coming at the expense of crowd and general event safety.

“This summer focused so much on security that I’m worried the safety aspect – crowd management, stopping drugs being brought on site and even weather planning– is going to fall away,” said Gentian Events’ Eric Stuart. “That focus on security has been a direct contributor to lots of unnecessary accidents at events this summer where people were hurt.”

Also on the agenda was the problem of queues – and whether a group of people confined in a small area outside an event present an easier target than the event itself. A security adviser for the British government warned that individual new security measures can “interfere with each other” and called for a “holistic view” that includes the entire property, including its perimeter. “If your security policy is causing queues outside the venue, you’ve got your screening process wrong,” he said.

The inaugural E3S, produced by ILMC in close collaboration with the European Arenas Association (EAA) and the UK’s National Arenas Association (NAA), took place at the Intercontinental London hotel at The O2 on 10 October.

 


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