German industry frustrated by government silence
The German Event Management Forum has expressed its frustration over the lack of dialogue from the government over the pandemic-related challenges facing the live industry.
It was revealed earlier this month that the business could face fresh Covid restrictions this autumn and winter as health chiefs bid to prevent another seasonal spike in infections.
A proposed amendment to the Infection Protection Act would make masks mandatory on public transport and care facilities from 1 October to 7 April, while giving individual states the power to introduce additional regulations – potentially impacting the live music business and raising concerns among promoters.
“The associations considered it irresponsible for organisers to sell tickets again without knowing whether their events could actually go ahead as planned,” says the Forum.
“While there is no safety net at all for the B2B sector in the event of a necessary cancellation of events, the cultural organisers run the risk of not being allowed to grant admission to some of the ticket buyers. This would be expected even if only a mask requirement was prescribed.
“If this did not already exist at the time the ticket was purchased, the obligation to wear a mask would already entitle you to withdraw from the purchase contract.”
“The Forum points out that another aid programme for the events industry is inevitable if the present draft is not optimised accordingly”
The coalition – which includes the BDKV (Federal Association of the Concert and Event Industry) and venue association LiveKomm (LiveMusikKommission) – has complained it has still not been given a contact within the government to discuss the ongoing issues with, despite repeated requests.
In a letter to the Parliamentary State Secretary and SME Commissioner of the Federal Government, the association says its current priority is to talk through its concerns over the draft of the Infection Protection Act.
“From the point of view of the associations, the implementation of infection protection measures must follow clear and binding criteria. These were missing in the draft,” it states. “The Forum points out that another aid programme for the events industry is inevitable if the present draft is not optimised accordingly.
“On the present basis, the draft law is already leading to considerable uncertainty in all areas of the economy. This will again result in event cancellations in the area of cultural events as well as in the area of B2B events.”
Earlier this summer, live event organisers issued a preemptive warning to the government against potential further restrictions.
The Forum said it was “imperative” any future containment measures did not include capacity limits or social distancing requirements for concerts.
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One of a kinder: Roskilde at 50
It’s a fair bet to assume that, back in 1971, when Mogens Sandfær and Jesper Switzer Møller – two high-school students – decided to put on a festival, they had no idea how momentous an event it would eventually become. Sound Festival, as it was called, was a cultural success but a financial disaster – “10,000 people turned up, but less than half of them paid to get in,” remembers Leif Skov, the event’s former director and head of booking.
But the seed was sown and, slowly and organically, it grew in size and reputation. For 50 years now, music fans across the globe have flocked to Roskilde, its golden anniversary a fitting milestone for a festival that means so much to so many and has retained its unique character and vibe.
The event started out with a noble goal. “The idea was to bring people together,” says Skov, who notes that that remains the main ethos today. Inspired by Woodstock and the Isle of Wight, and based on their experience from a concert they had organised to support jailed Black civil rights activist Angela Davis, Sandfær and Møller were encouraged by a local Copenhagen agent, Karl Fischer, to do something that was unusual at that time – an outdoor event.
Twenty bands – mostly Danish but including US and UK acts like Stefan Grossman, Mick Softley, and The Grease Band – graced the single stage, with those fans who did pay coughing up just 30 Danish Kroner (approximately €4 euros, equivalent to €29 today) for the privilege.
That theme continued in the event’s early years – acts were mainly Danish and drawn from the world of folk, rock and pop. But behind the scenes, things changed. “In 1972, none of the 1971 organisers were involved,” says Skov. “Instead, it was organised jointly between American folk singer Tony Bush’s Kaunos Ltd, and the Roskilde Charity Society – about 16,000 people turned up. And from 1973 onwards, the Roskilde Charity Society became the main organiser under the name Roskilde Festival.”
The festival’s primary icon, the stage, had previously belonged to the Rolling Stones
By 1975, the festival had grown to three stages and a capacity of around 25,000. Bigger names began to appear on the bill, too – the likes of The Kinks, Canned Heat, Fairport Convention, Status Quo, and Procol Harum all played prior to 1978, with the festival’s booking committee looking to entice the most popular bands of the day. But that year also saw another important development, one that came to shape the festival’s image for years to come – they introduced the Canopy Stage, better known as the Orange Stage.
The festival’s primary icon, the stage, had previously belonged to the Rolling Stones. But a chance encounter with a photograph set Leif Skov on a hunt to track it down. “In 1977, I saw a photo of the orange canopy roof in Hyde Park, in NME – it had been used by Queen, I think. This was long before the fax, web, and mobile phones, so I wrote a letter to NME: ‘Who owns this stage?’ Early in 1978, Roskilde bought the roof from a company in liquidation, and since then it’s been the main stage and the logo for the festival.”
That year “started a new era for Roskilde” says Skov. Bob Marley and the Wailers and Elvis Costello entertained 36,500 fans, who had started to come from further afield – Sweden, Norway, and Germany among other countries. The festival also started to invite more NGOs and intensified its charity work; Skov started seeing Michael Eavis off-season to “exchange ideas and experiences.” In 1982, U2 headlined, with 49,000 in attendance; the following year, it was Simple Minds and Echo & The Bunnymen, with over 60,000 fans. Roskilde was starting to come of age.
“The festival was founded and built by volunteers ever since the first edition”
One of a Kind
Many things stand out about Roskilde and make it somewhat unique in the festival world. There is, of course, the charity aspect – it has been a non-profit since the very beginning, donating its profits in full to initiatives that benefit children and young people. “All proceeds are donated to humanitarian, cultural, and social charities,” notes Skov. “Roskilde today is still not primarily a music industry event.” But there is also the famed army of volunteers – the current iteration sees 30,000 contribute every year.
“The festival was founded and built by volunteers ever since the first edition,” says Malte Vuorela, Roskilde’s head of press. “It wasn’t until 1986 that the festival began employing a selected few as paid administrators. Today, we have around 30,000 volunteers – some are active all year, others only during the festival. They come from all over Denmark, but a large group – around 5,500 volunteers – are from the local Roskilde area.”
The volunteers don’t just make the festival happen, however. According to Henrik Bondo Nielsen, head of division, service & safety, they shape the festival’s unique vibe and ethos, making it very special indeed. “What is characteristic of our volunteers is that a very large group of them are also participants in the festival – it’s just another way to participate. We don’t make a sharp distinction between volunteers and participants, so it is the co-creation between people that is the core of Roskilde Festival.”
This means that a large part of what happens in the first four days of Roskilde Festival is participant-created. Nielsen goes on. “A notable difference from, for example, Glastonbury, is that when you arrive there, you pitch a tent in an area where basically nothing happens. All the fun happens inside the festival site. Instead, we have chosen to spread out the party. If you want to be part of the community-based camping area, called Dream City, you can start up 100 days before the start of the festival and help build up a city. We don’t curate – we just facilitate. I don’t know many other places that give so much freedom to the participants – that, I think, is quite unique.”
“In those years, there was no upper limit for the number of participants, and more than 90,000 tickets were sold in 1996”
It’s a testament to the scheme’s effectiveness that many volunteers return year after year – and some, like Nielsen, end up working for the festival full-time. He started in 1980; Signe Lopdrup, the current CEO, first attended in 1985 as a regular fan. “I was fascinated by the organisation – the volunteering and the community,” she says. “And I was really impressed that you could create something that engaged so many people.”
Anders Wahrén first came as a 13-year-old fan in 1996; by 2001, he was volunteering as a stagehand at the Camping Stage and a few years later joined the booking team. He notes that in the 1990s, “It was very big and quite wild. In those years, there was no upper limit for the number of participants, and more than 90,000 tickets were sold in 1996. My first concert at the Orange Stage was the Sex Pistols. They had reunited – but apparently not everyone thought that was such a good idea. Some felt that as old punk rockers they had sold out by going back together, so bottles were thrown towards the stage; the band had to leave and return three times!”
By the mid-nineties, Roskilde was firmly established as one of Europe’s biggest and best festivals. For the 25th anniversary, in 1995, the event had grown to nine stages and accommodated 95,000 fans – with tickets selling out even faster. And it was more international than ever. “Two out of three visitors were not Danish,” says Skov, and the headliners were iconic names drawn from rock, pop, and indie – Bob Dylan, The Velvet Underground, David Bowie, Radiohead, Ray Charles, R.E.M., and Nirvana.
Live Nation’s chairman of international and the Nordics, Thomas Johansson, is one of the few people who has worked on all 50 editions of Roskilde Festival. “I booked the headliners for the very first festivals – acts like The Kinks, Status Quo, Fairport Convention – when the audience was 8-10,000 people, and I just kept booking the headliners ever since,” he tells IQ.
In addition to the previously listed talent, Johansson has also helped Roskilde secure the likes of U2, Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Neil Young, Roger Waters, The Clash, Bob Marley, Lou Reed, Metallica, Nirvana, Rammstein, Coldplay, Blur, Kendrick Lamar, Rage Against The Machine and many, many more.
LN’s chairman of international and the Nordics, Thomas Johansson, is one of the few people who has worked on all 50 editions
Less is More
Despite the success, Roskilde’s management team worried that the event had grown too unwieldy and that the fan experience was suffering as a result. In order to protect what they had, they did what almost no festival would do – they reduced the numbers, first to 85,000 in 1996, then down to 75,000 the following year. “We wanted to give the audience a greater experience,” says Skov; they also refocused their humanitarian and environmental work.
For Nielsen, such a move encapsulates what makes Roskilde so special. “What captured me was building something big – like Lego bricks, only on a larger scale,” he says. “Many other places you have to fight to make changes, but Roskilde Festival has a driving force that says that we must innovate all the time because we cannot offer our guests a copy of previous years.”
This feeling is echoed by those who work with the festival in a professional capacity, some of whom have been involved since the very early years – loyalty here runs very deep. “Soundforce first got involved in 1982,” says Vagn Olsen, the company’s CEO. “We rent them every imaginable piece of musical gear, instrument, and backline, and we’ve now worked together for 40 years this year. Which is absolutely crazy when you think about it.”
“The uniqueness of Roskilde is also the fact that no year is the same, and it feels like a new production each year”
“We have been lucky to work with almost the same people behind the scenes for around 28 years, so that makes a huge difference of where we are now. The uniqueness of Roskilde is also the fact that no year is the same, and it feels like a new production each year. So even though you have many years of experience, you never know quite what to expect.”
It’s a similar story for Meyer Sound, who have been providing sound reinforcement systems for Roskilde for years – and, since 2018, all stages have been powered by Meyer Sound. “In 2017, the Roskilde leadership team realised the best sounding stages were those with Meyer Sound,” says John McMahon, Meyer Sound senior vice president. “This inspired the festival to seek a sound partnership that would elevate the artist and fan experience at all stages, with a festival 100% powered by us.”
McMahon also believes that the partnerships the festival team foster, and the idea of equal collaboration, is what makes their working relationships so strong. “The Meyer Sound and Roskilde Festival teams are truly collaborative. The area where this is most apparent is on the technical side, where our team is embedded within the festival team to deliver the festival.”
He also notes that their actual festival work is just one aspect of their relationship. “We have partnered with the Roskilde Festival leadership on many levels, from the education of the audio teams to university research and development projects related to the impact of weather on festival sound and other scientific research, as well as creating the ‘Orange Feeling’ with our collaborative team approach.”
“That accident led to massive development of safety in general – not just for festivals but for all events”
While the festival went from strength to strength during the 1990s, tragedy struck in 2000. A crush developed during Pearl Jam’s headline set, with people falling close to the stage after a series of wave-like motions in the audience. Nine people died, with a further 26 injured – three of them seriously. It was a “total shock and a warning for youth culture in general,” remembers Skov; “a wake-up call for the entire industry,” adds Nielson.
“There had been other accidents elsewhere, but this one was so big it caused tremors all over Europe. People said that if it can happen at Roskilde Festival, it can happen anywhere.” The official investigation ruled it an accident and that there had been no criminal actions, but Roskilde took it as a spur to lead change – and to make every effort to prevent something similar from happening in the future.
“That accident led to massive development of safety in general – not just for festivals but for all events. Now, Roskilde Festival is present in all important networks in the industry,” says Lopdrup. “Before the accident, safety was not something that was discussed across the industry. It had the effect that we in Roskilde decided that it was a theme we should engage in – a legacy, and one way to move forward was to take responsibility for it being put on the agenda,” adds Nielsen.
“This means that today we have a very close collaboration across Europe. We have created a network of festival safety managers who are in close contact, and we have organised more than 35 seminars across Europe. We also try to keep up with developments in youth culture, to create as safe events as possible.”
“One achievement is that we have managed to move and stay relevant through five decades”
Since then, and with extra safety measures in place, the festival has continued to grow – Roskilde now welcomes 130,000 music fans every year and continues to draw the biggest names in music. Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, Eminem, Metallica, and Paul McCartney all headlined through the 2010s, and this year had a distinct pop flavour – Post Malone, Dua Lipa, and Tyler, the Creator sit atop the bill. It’s all part of what Skov says is a desire to “develop respectfully rather than grow – the world and its people need leadership based on values that you can feel but not buy.”
Celebrating Roskilde’s carefully curated evolution, Wahrén notes, “One achievement is that we have managed to move and stay relevant through five decades. We’ve gone from being a festival where you could not experience hard rock, to having it as the primary thing and to having electronic music, to being able to present the biggest acts in pop and hip-hop, which we also embraced early on.”
As a personal highlight, he mentions Eminem, someone they chased for many, many years. “We tried for 17 years before we managed to book him, and it was his first and only concert in Denmark. At the same time, it was the show with the largest audience ever on Danish soil. We don’t know exactly how many people attended but probably over 90,000 – it has been interesting to see the change from hip-hop being an underground genre at the festival to the fact that it is now the most unifying.”
“It has been a period of great uncertainty – we planned two festivals that were never brought to life”
And so to the 50th-anniversary celebrations, something that was postponed not once but twice due to Covid. Having such a special edition of the festival essentially “on hold” led to many challenges, but as ever, the Roskilde team rose to the occasion. 2022 will, they say, be the best yet.
“It has been a period of great uncertainty – we planned two festivals that were never brought to life, says Lopdrup. “But it also means that there are some things we have been working on for a long time – and that has given us great strength, too. So we are making a new, crisp festival this year.”
“We chose not to try to keep the whole line-up from 2020,” adds Wahrén. “Instead, we look at it as a new festival and evaluated everything again. It is difficult to assess what the right balance is because, on the one hand, we have to live up to what people bought tickets for two years ago so that we can keep the value. But we must also create what is Roskilde – there have to be surprises and progression. We have not moved away from our core, even if it is not exactly the same names as in 2020.”
That means doing things differently and thinking outside the box. As part of the celebrations, the festival published several books, including one about graffiti, which has been an important part of the festival for more than 20 years. They are also, says Wahrén, “being far-sighted and taking new paths through art and music.” For example, they presented a 2,000-square-meter, colourful dance floor, created by the internationally renowned visual artist Katharina Grosse. And the acclaimed German artist Tino Sehgal has co-created their brand-new venue, Platform, featuring both concerts and boundary-pushing hybrid art.
With 13 stages, this year’s festival was the biggest iteration yet – but the team are confident that Roskilde remains Roskilde
With 13 stages, this year’s festival was the biggest iteration yet – but the team are confident that Roskilde remains Roskilde. “The core values of all involved in putting on this festival represent the spirit of how festivals first came about in the late 1960s and early 1970s,” says John McMahon. “The Roskilde Festival team remains true to those values 50 years later.”
That, more than anything, is what keeps everyone – the volunteers, the fans, the bands, and all who participate – coming back. “For many of our volunteers, creating Roskilde Festival is a lifestyle,” says Nielsen. “And we manage to deliver experiences that people did not expect,” adds Wahrén. “You know you’ll miss something if you’re not here. People also come to cultivate friendships and the communities that exist at the festival.”
“With a non-profit event like ours, the strength lies in the local grounding,” says Lopdrup. “That there are people who support us and fight for us. We are greeted by this because our organisation extends beyond itself. We want to take the lead, but we also want to make a difference for [people other] than ourselves. That’s the secret – the community of volunteers, participants who held on to their tickets through the pandemic, and partners and suppliers who support us all the way.”
One person delighted to still be involved in the historic event is Live Nation chief Johansson. “The people at Roskilde are inspiring to work with because it’s not about someone who wants to buy a new Ferrari – they give all the money to charity, and the artists love that aspect, too, as they get to hand cheques to their favourite causes,” he says. “It’s the mother of festivals in Europe, and it has been a fantastic ride to be involved with it for 50 years: a true privilege.”
“We can become a community for even more people…where everyone can feel at home”
The future certainly looks bright, for 2022 and beyond. And with some of the seismic changes currently affecting the wider world, Roskilde’s focus is changing, too – sustainability looms large on the agenda, as does diversity and inclusion. Says Wahrén: “We can become a community for even more people – not in terms of capacity but in terms of becoming a more diverse community where everyone can feel at home. Some of it starts in the line-up, something else starts in the relationship with the participants – but those two things must fit together.”
“We must continue to be a fantastic eight-day event,” adds Lopdrup. “But our ambition is to expand the community to be more vibrant and present throughout the year. We need to develop within sustainability, and we are well underway. It is essential for an organisation like ours – no one is perfect, and we can always get better, but we want to inspire a more sustainable way of at- tending festivals in the future.”
So here’s to the next 50 years, then, and an even bigger celebration in 2072 for the 100th edition? Why not? “If there is one thing we have learned during the pandemic, it is that gathering around art, food, music – all the sensory experiences – cannot be replaced by anything else,” says Lopdrup. “We believe that this is what Roskilde Festival can and must do. And I bet that there will still be a need to make a difference together in the future – that won’t change.”
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Tomorrowland discusses approach to recouping €25m losses
Tomorrowland’s chief has discussed the festival’s attempts to recoup some of the €25 million it lost between 2020 and 2021.
As previously announced, the Belgian festival was granted a permit for a third festival weekend this year to “cushion the financial hangover” from six cancelled festival weekends, including four in Belgium (Tomorrowland 2020 and 2021) and two in France (Tomorrowland Winter 2020 and 2021).
This year’s extended edition will see a record 600,000 people descend on De Schorre park, Boom, between 15–17, 22–24 and 29–31 July.
The sold-out third weekend was priced 5% higher at €114.50 per day or €310 for the weekend, to help compensate for high inflation in Europe.
In addition to the extra weekend, Tomorrowland founder Michiel Beers successfully appealed to the festival’s headliners to discount their 2019-level fees by 10%.
Tomorrowland founder Michiel Beers successfully appealed to the festival’s headliners to discount their 2019-level fees by 10%
According to the handful of headliners Billboard spoke to, it wasn’t a tough sell. “We’re all sticking together because basically we’re kind of lost without each other in this game,” said Danish techno DJ Kölsch.
The extra weekend and lower artist fees won’t be enough, however, to make the company profitable again, according to Tomorrowland founder Michiel Beers.
“It’s an important part of a solution of being healthy again,” he says. “Does it cover a two-year loss? No.” What’s more, the festival must return to its two-weekend format from next year onwards.
In, perhaps, another bid to recoup losses, Tomorrowland teamed up with another of Belgium’s biggest festival organisers, Rock Werchter, for a new two-day festival in Brussels.
Core festival debuted between 27–28 May in Osseghem Park, with up to 25,000 visitors per day enjoying sets from the likes of Action Bronson, Caribou, Celeste, Cellini, DJ Harvey and Jamie xx.
This year also saw the return of Tomorrowland Winter at the Alpe d’Huez ski area between 19–26 March 2022. The festival’s other activities include a partnership with leading global cryptocurrency exchange FTX Europe and a link-up with Coca-Cola.
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Marc Geiger’s SaveLive reveals first venue partners
SaveLive, the “war chest” launched in 2020 by former WME music execs Marc Geiger and John Fogelman to “bail out” struggling US music venues, has announced its first round of venue partners.
The company yesterday (5 April) unveiled partnerships with some 20 mid-size venues including The Alibi in Palm Springs (California), The Golden State Theater in Monterey (California) and Hammerjacks in Baltimore (Maryland), with “many more to come.”
SaveLive has also completed its first round of financing, raising US$135 million from investors including Breyer Capital, Deep Field Asset Management, Raptor Group, and Shamrock Capital.
At the time of the company’s launch in October of 2020, Geiger said the plan was to invest in small venues and build an indie touring network to revive the live scene, using funds secured during an initial investment round.
Initially, SaveLive intended to buy at least 51% of the equity in those clubs though a rep for the company says that is not the case for all of the partnerships and each one is bespoke.
“Getting involved with Marc, John, and SaveLive to re-launch the Golden State Theatre in Monterey, CA was a no brainer”
Geiger said: “When John and I started this mission in late 2020, the live business was feeling pretty hopeless as the pandemic was hitting the sector head on. All I did during this time was listen to music and obsess on ideas on how to help the independent live industry.
“It was clear streaming services plus the pandemic changed the concert industry for good and web 3.0 is going to change it even more. We used that downtime to raise capital of like-minded and long-term investors, build a music focused team of professionals, and ultimately build out version 1.0 of our partner network. 18 months later, the live business is rushing back to record levels…and it’s time to launch.”
The Alibi’s Liz Garo adds: “As an independent booker for Spaceland, The Echo, and 100 other places since the beginning of time, being able to partner with SaveLive is a dream come true. [Alibi co-owner] Melanie Tusquellas and I can stay true to our roots knowing we have their full support, whether it’s finance, booking, marketing, sponsorship, questions about the bar or just bouncing ideas off the team. It doesn’t hurt that we’ve known some of the people at SaveLive for years – we all came up through the business together.”
Golden State Theatre owner and Ineffable Music president Thomas Cussins comments: “As Ineffable Music continues to focus on bringing top notch national acts to secondary and tertiary markets, getting involved with Marc, John, and SaveLive to re-launch the Golden State Theatre in Monterey, CA was a no brainer.
“At Ineffable, we open new outlets for touring acts, creating a more vibrant live music scene–both for the artists and for the fans who deserve to have great music in their backyard. Having SaveLive in our corner gives us even more confidence to keep growing our business.”
See SaveLive’s first round of partner venues below:
The Alibi, Palm Springs, CA
The Golden State Theater, Monterey, CA
Hammerjacks, Baltimore, MD
The Marquis (formerly Harry O’s and Park City Live), Park City, UT
The Criterion Ballroom, Oklahoma City, OK
Tower Theatre, Oklahoma City, OK
Beer City Music Hall, Oklahoma City, OK
Ponyboy, Oklahoma City, OK
Tech Port Arena, San Antonio, TX
Tobin Center, San Antonio, TX
Elektricity, Pontiac, MI
Deuterman Productions, Various, FL
Patchwork Presents, National
IQ 109 out now: 60 years of Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion
IQ 109, the latest issue of the international live music industry’s favourite monthly magazine, is available to read online now.
In the March 2022 edition, IQ editor Gordon Masson reports on 60 years of Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion, tracking the company’s journey from humble beginnings to a European cultural powerhouse.
Elsewhere, details of events and social gatherings that await attendees of ILMC 34‘s in-person comeback are revealed, and family show producers provide a health check on the sector.
This issue also sees IQ news editor James Hanley examine international ticket refund policies in a Covid-hit business.
For this edition’s columns and comments, Craig Stanley reflects on the ramifications of Brexit, and Lina Ugrinovska suggests ways in which we can heal and grow from the turmoil and mental anguish of the pandemic.
In this month’s Your Shout, execs including Michal Kaščák (Pohoda Festival/VBPS), Sergii Maletskyi (H2D) and John Giddings (Solo) reveal the weirdest place they’ve watched a gig.
As always, the majority of the magazine’s content will appear online in some form in the next four weeks.
However, if you can’t wait for your fix of essential live music industry features, opinion and analysis, click here to subscribe to IQ for just £5.99 a month – or check out what you’re missing out on with the limited preview below:
Pandemic lessons learned by live: #6-10
The Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly been the biggest challenge that the live entertainment industry has ever had to deal with. Thankfully, thousands of businesses around the world have survived two years of unprecedented hardship, proving that the ability of this sector to come up with creative solutions has been underscored. But just what are the main lessons we should be taking from the Covid experience? IQ talked to a number of business leaders to identify the 10 key lessons that the pandemic has taught us (read part one here). Here, we present the final five…
6. Global consensus is vital for international touring
Michael Hosking, founder of Singapore-based Midas Promotions, notes that there is very little in the way of joined-up thinking, internationally, which has created significant obstacles for touring acts and productions.
“The world remains polarised on this and so many other significant issues – zero grey areas in which to compromise and an understanding that no two cities, states, or countries will ever share the same opinion on anything these days,” Hosking tells IQ. “So just because an artist can perform to full-capacity venues with quarantine in some markets doesn’t mean the neighbouring market will be the same […] A worldwide consensus needs to be reached before we can go headlong into worldwide touring or there will be even more financial casualties along the way.”
7. Sustainability needs to be at the heart of everything
Alongside equality and mental health, environmental protection has become one of the key issues that the industry is
pledging as a priority, going forward.
“When we exploit the natural environment, it shuts us down,” states Claire O’Neill, organiser of the Green Events & Innovations conference. “Our wellbeing is the most valuable thing we have. When we have space to rest, we have the capacity to care for others and our environment, and to achieve great things.”
8. There is strength in numbers
CAA’s Banks applauds industry leaders for the way in which they put rivalries aside to join forces during the pandemic.
“This has been a time where we, the live music industry, have worked together really well,” she says. “Joint campaigning across every sector has achieved results – be that the reduction of VAT, the formation of the Culture
Recovery Fund [in the UK], or moving forward, some of the Brexit issues that we have all worked on, a joint approach has reaped rewards that would never have been achieved individually.”
Olivier Toth, president of the European Arenas Association (EAA), says, “We have recognised the importance of coming together and speaking and acting as one voice. Arenas lie at the centre of a very complex ecosystem made up of a very wide variety of dedicated and talented professionals, who, at the start of the pandemic, lacked a common voice. Never has the phrase ‘strength in numbers’ been so significant.
“Throughout the pandemic, we have come together to raise awareness of the situation of everyone involved in our industry, to reach out to policymakers and health authorities, and to provide them with relevant real-time data from live test events and surveys to help shape solutions.”
He continues, “We have also come together with our local communities to provide vaccination and testing centres, as well as auxiliary hospitals and food banks. Working together as an industry and working even more closely with our communities makes us better and stronger and is something we should carry on doing to help our short term recovery and build strength for the future.”
Jim King, CEO of European festivals for AEG Presents, comments, “Investing in and having strong industry representation is a key lesson for me. When compared to other industries, our pre-pandemic industry coordination was not seen as a priority by many and so we struggled to be heard when the crisis hit. This undoubtedly increased the impact of the pandemic, as it created an environment where the UK government and their advisors had a lack of understanding of many of the key mechanics of our industry and thus how to react.”
Live Nation’s Bowdery agrees. “The LIVE trade body [in the UK] was born out of the need for one voice to represent the live sector, and the successes that the industry has had with government would never have happened if we’d all just been getting on with our own jobs and not thinking of the whole,” he says.
King adds, “A positive lesson to take away and that I hope connects, is when faced with the ‘go/no go’ opportunity for festivals in summer 2021, UK agencies and UK promoters worked collaboratively and with great speed, demonstrating that taking a simple and fair pathway delivers great results for everyone.”
9. Enforced lockdowns create extra ‘thinking time’
ASM Global president and CEO Ron Bension explains, “At ASM, we quickly pivoted; and rather than focus on managing through the pandemic and a closed industry, we immediately went about looking at what we want to look like when we come out of the pandemic, with a focus on content, marketing and technology that will provide added value and meet the needs of our clients and community once things return to normal.”
Embracing technology and innovation gave birth to companies such as livestreaming operation Driift, whose CEO, Ric Salmon, comments, “Aside from realising that I should have spent less time travelling or commuting and more time with my wife and kids, long before the pandemic kicked in (what were we all thinking?!), professionally it’s driven home how important innovation is, and how fragile our world and the very fabric of our industry is.”
10. Nothing can replace live entertainment
EAA president Toth believes the pent-up demand for concerts, shows and festivals proves that the live experience is unique and cannot be replicated by other forms of entertainment.
“Although digital technology has helped us through some very difficult times since the onset of the pandemic, and although we continue to embrace digital to enhance all parts of the live event customer journey, I think we have fully acknowledged that virtual can never take the place of the real thing,” he says.
“There is no replacing the raw emotion felt by attending live events and the buzz you get from hearing your favourite track played live or seeing your team score goals. The same applies to the artist or player experience, where nothing replaces the applause and the cheering.”
But ASM’s Bension warns, “[We need to] excel at quickly understanding a rapidly and ever-changing fan live entertainment landscape. For the foreseeable future, it’s more complex until we fully emerge from the pandemic. However, if we’re sensitive to the needs of our guests, who deeply desire the community of the live experience, that key pillar of the industry will remain firm.”
And UTA’s global head of touring, Neil Warnock, suggests that everyone in the business, “finds the positive for our managers and our artists.” Adding, “It’s easy to be negative in these trying times but positivity [for] everyone is badly
needed and helps to give confidence.”
Koravos concludes, “Putting on shows in a pandemic is a thankless task. We are now amid the third round of devastation for the live entertainment industry, with waves of shows being cancelled every single day. With the protection of insurance still not an option, this wave has been made worse by the lack of government support and the lack of alternative dates to postpone to. This is partly due to rapidly rising rates of infection, but much of this is also caused by collapsing consumer confidence in the face of dire warnings from our government and media.”
Pandemic lessons learned by live: #1-5
The Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly been the biggest challenge that the live entertainment industry has ever had to deal with. Thankfully, thousands of businesses around the world have survived two years of unprecedented hardship, proving that the ability of this sector to come up with creative solutions has been underscored. But just what are the main lessons we should be taking from the Covid experience? IQ talked to a number of business leaders to identify the 10 key lessons that the pandemic has taught us. Here, we present the first five…
1. Don’t trust declarations that we’ve won the war against Covid-19
“It’s not over (the pandemic) until it’s over, much as we wish it were,” says Teresa Moore, director of A Greener Festival. “We need to be innovative, flexible and adaptive as things change. Connected to this, we need to be able to diversify using the skills we have in the industry to create new experiences, new businesses, and more sustainable business models. These need to include environmental and social impacts, not just the economic ones.”
WME co-head of live music Lucy Dickins underlines the need to be flexible. “Be prepared for the unexpected,” she says. “Make sure you have multiple outcomes and have several backup plans.”
Moore adds, “Tough as things are, if any industry can do it and move forward into this new era, it’s the live industry, where innovation and flexibility are its bread and butter.”
2. Politicians neither understand nor value live music…
With a remit that includes overseeing theatres and arenas, as well as all the content and shows that fill the seats in those venues, Jessica Koravos, co-chair of Oak View Group and president of The Really Useful Group, has spent much of the pandemic period talking to policy makers.
“Our industry is in the hands of government and public health decision-makers who still fail to understand how our business operates and the enormously positive impact we make on local economies and the general happiness of the nation,” she says. “We must make sure that, going forward, we have more seats at the decision-making table.”
3….But fans do!
“While some politicians may still not grasp the importance of culture, the general population has shown us how much they value it,” states Beverley Whitrick of the Music Venue Trust (MVT).
“During the pandemic, music, films, TV, books, art – making things and appreciating the things others make – became a focus for many people’s mental wellbeing. We saw amazing public support for fundraising initiatives such as #SaveOurVenues and #ILoveLive; and pure joy when people could return to live music, festivals, theatres, etc.”
4. Everyone in the supply chain needs and deserves protection
“Huge swathes of the working population in live music earn very little money, and so when a pandemic or similar event that prevents working occurs, they have no savings or money to fall back on,” observes Emma Banks, co-head of CAA’s London headquarters.
“We are seeing costs for the ‘show workers’ – crew, security, etc – going up as they can dictate higher wages, and we need to embrace that and make sure that this is an industry that properly looks after all its people, not just the people at the top of the tree.”
“Encourage a healthy workspace,” urges WME’s Dickins. “The uncertainty around us and learning to adapt to working from home and then back to the office can take its toll. It’s important to look out for one another and make sure that at all times, people feel safe whilst still being able to brainstorm ideas,” she adds.
On a related note, Live Nation’s executive president of touring, Phil Bowdery, lauds the industry’s ability to embrace the concept of staff working remotely. “The value of flexible working – I think even the harshest sceptic of home working had their minds changed pretty quickly in 2020,” he says.
And MVT’s Whitrick adds, “We need to find a way to support activity that makes people’s lives better rather than just makes money. It is heartbreaking that so many people have had to leave the creative industries to work in more secure but less fulfilling sectors.”
5. Complacency should be confined to history
The live entertainment industry had been expecting a record-breaking year in 2020 but, like the rest of the world, was caught unprepared when the pandemic shut down touring and festivals.
“The pandemic has taught us that, overnight, we can lose many of the things we hold dear,” says Phil Rodriguez, founder of Move Concerts. “We’ve also learned how easy it is to control all of us. I’m a history buff; what we’ve been through and are still going through takes the cake!”
Top agents call for action on diversity
Top agents called for a more diverse, inclusive and equitable industry during last week’s ESNS (Eurosonic Noorderslag).
Hannah Shogbola (UTA), Natasha Gregory (Mother Artists), Sally Dunstone (Primary Talent International) and Whitney Boateng (WME) came together for the all-female Agents Panel – hailed as “a long-overdue milestone” by moderator Maria May (CAA).
“We are representing the change we want to see,” said May during her opening gambit for the digital session. “I believe the music industry has a duty to continue to strive forward post-pandemic be even more progressive, more inclusive, and representative of the world that we live in.”
However, WME’s Boateng says there’s a “lot more work that needs to be done in the industry”. “It is still predominantly old white male and it has been for years,” she added. “Change has to come from the top-down and it has to be more than black squares.”
UTA’s Shogbola agreed: “If you are looking around your office and it does not reflect the society that you live in and the roster that you look after, then there is something categorically wrong.”
Black squares were posted on social media as part of the music industry’s Blackout Tuesday movement, a protest against racism and police brutality in response to the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor.
“As a black woman within this industry, it’s frustrating that even 15-20 years into my career, it takes the death of somebody like George Floyd for our industry to finally open its eyes,” said Shogbola.
“The industry has a duty to be even more progressive, more inclusive, and representative of the world that we live in”
Boateng pointed out that it’s not just racial inequalities that the industry needs to fix but also disparities around sexuality and gender, with the panel unanimously agreeing that diversity on line-ups is still “not good enough”.
“It’s so important that when anybody is going to a show, they feel like it’s a safe and inclusive space for them,” said Dunstone.
Elsewhere during the panel, Mother Artists’ Gregory says that flexibility towards employees’ work hours will also be a key feature in a more equitable post-pandemic industry.
“Working 9–5 is not equality because everybody has a different situation, a different experience and different needs,” argued Gregory. “Being an agent is not a 9–5 anyway so just put trust in your team – working hard is a given in this industry.”
Dunstone agreed: “Adaptability and flexibility are massive takeaways from the last two years. Hopefully, we’ll pick and choose the bits of [pandemic life] that worked for us.”
The 36th edition of ESNS took place under the banner ‘Building Back Better, Together’ and focussed on getting the industry back on its feet after two years of the pandemic.
The hybrid conference and festival wrapped on Friday (21 January) and Dago Houben, director of ESNS said that “despite the fact that there is definitely screen fatigue, we were able to perform our platform function for the national and international music industry.
Australia’s live event industry lost $1.4bn in 2020
Covid-19 stripped Australia’s live entertainment industry of AUS$1.4 billion in revenue during 2020, a new report has found.
Following record years in 2018 and 2019, the pandemic had a “devastating impact” on the live sector, according to Live Performance Australia’s Ticket Attendance and Revenue Report.
The ticketing data shows close to 70% of revenue and attendance was obliterated after the industry was shut down in March last year.
In 2020, the number of tickets issued to live performance events fell by 68% to under eight million, ticket sales revenue fell by 69% to $600m, and the average ticket price fell from $92.89 to $87.14.
Live Performance Australia’s chief executive, Evelyn Richardson, says: “EY’s analysis of 2019 and 2020 data clearly shows the massive hit the live entertainment industry took in 2020.
“Ongoing restrictions, lockdowns and border closures caused significant disruption to an industry heavily reliant on national touring. These are stark numbers.”
“Ongoing restrictions, lockdowns and border closures caused disruption to an industry heavily reliant on national touring”
The report breaks down live entertainment into categories: contemporary music, music theatre, festivals (contemporary music), theatre, festivals (multi-category), circus and physical theatre, comedy, classical music, opera, children’s/family, ballet and dance, and special events.
Contemporary Music, a category that includes rock, pop and hip-hop concerts, remained the biggest category, accounting for over 50% total revenue of live performance at $309m and 37% of attendances (nearly 3 million).
However, the sector experienced an overall decline of 63% in revenue and 65% in attendance between 2019 and 2020.
Contemporary music festivals drew nearly 437,500 people in 2020, generating over $54.2m from ticket sales.
However, the category suffered a staggering 70% loss in both attendance and revenue compared to 2019, due to bans on mass gatherings, border closures and density limits introduced as part of Covid-19.
Major festivals in this category in 2020 were Falls Downtown, WOMADelaide and St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival.
Contemporary music festivals suffered a staggering 70% loss in both attendance and revenue compared to 2019
According to Richardson, Australia’s live entertainment business has a long road to recovery: “The forecast for the next 12 months indicates industry viability is seriously threatened with reactivation and recovery now delayed. The lag time required to plan and deliver events sees companies trying to retain staff to work on pipeline events through Q4 and well into the middle of next year.”
Richardson reiterated calls for an insurance scheme for the business, echoing sentiments previously shared by not only LPA but other industry bodies.
“We expect the impacts of Covid-19 in 2021 maybe even greater given our two major markets [NSW, VIC] have been closed for extended periods,” she said, “and these impacts have seen business confidence collapse and the industry needs an insurance scheme to underwrite investment risk in 2022/23.
“The live music and entertainment industry also urgently requires a targeted, Business Reactivation package to ensure we retain capacity to operate when border, venue capacity and operational restrictions are eased. While much of the economy will be returning to pre-Covid activity, the live music and entertainment industry will be constrained by venue capacity and border restrictions for some months.”
Read the LPA’s full report here.
German alliance demands December 1 ‘Freedom Day’
German event companies have called for all remaining Covid restrictions to be lifted by 1 December at the latest.
The Event Management Forum (EMF) alliance, which consists of five major organisations including live music associations BDKV and LiveKomm, said that while large-scale events can now take place again in numerous federal states, the various regulations in others meant tours “can only still be planned with considerable obstacles”.
The federal minister of health, Jens Spahn, has said he does not expect the pandemic to end in Germany until spring 2022, therefore it was currently considered “too early to return to normal”. However, citing the country’s high vaccination rate and “moderate” hospital occupancy, the EMF has claimed it is now time for the country to learn to live with the virus.
“Many European countries have long since come to terms with this and lifted all restrictions,” it said. “In Germany, the occupancy of the hospital wards is moderate, the incidence figures are largely constant, the vaccination rate is increasing daily. The persistence of restrictions therefore appears increasingly inappropriate.
The industry is demanding that all restrictions on holding public events be lifted by 1 December
The industry is demanding that all restrictions on holding public events be lifted by 1 December.
“The event industry has always supported meaningful measures by the federal and state governments, insofar as these were proportionate. Maintaining the restrictions on event operations is not.”
Warning that further inaction would lead event specialists to continue to defect to other industries, the EMF said the sector was the “last branch of the economy that is still in a corona coma”.
“The industry is… demanding that all restrictions on holding public events be lifted by 1 December, thus making it possible for cultural and other events to take place again as early as the Christmas season,” it concluded.
Back in January, the EMF presented a proposal titled ‘Manifest Restart’, which detailed a uniform approach to the gradual and safe reopening of events in Germany.
“This would have ensured the highest possible level of security for all event visitors as early as the spring,” it said.