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Metallica’s Covid insurance lawsuit rejected

California’s court of appeals has dismissed Metallica’s lawsuit demanding more than $3 million (€2.75m) in losses for concerts cancelled due to the pandemic.

The band sued Lloyd’s of London over six axed South American dates in 2020, saying they had acquired a standard cancellation, abandonment and non-appearance insurance policy to cover their losses if any of the tour was postponed or cancelled.

But Justice Maria Stratton ruled the shows were not covered by Metallica’s insurance policy because of an exclusion in the contract for any losses stemming from “communicable diseases”, reports Billboard.

The group had argued the case should have gone to trial, as a jury could have decided the gigs were cancelled for non-Covid reasons. But Stratton, who bizarrely quoted Taylor Swift in her ruling, said it was “absurd to think that government closures were not the result of Covid-19″.

“To paraphrase Taylor Swift, ‘We were there. We remember it all too well’”

“To paraphrase Taylor Swift, ‘We were there. We remember it all too well,’” she wrote. “There was no vaccine against Covid-19 in March 2020 and no drugs to treat it. Ventilators were in short supply. N-95 masks were all but non-existent. Patients were being treated in tents in hospital parking lots.

“The mortality rate of Covid-19 was unknown, but to give just one example of the potential fatality rate, by late March, 2020, New York City was using refrigerated trucks as temporary morgues. People were terrified.”

Lloyd’s has not commented on the lawsuit, except to point out that it is not an insurance company, but rather oversees and regulates a market of independent insurers.

Meanwhile, a lawsuit filed by Live Nation in 2021 against insurer Factory Mutual for failing to cover its “unprecedented” losses as a result of the concert business shutdown, is still pending.

 


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Travel and accommodation

The rush back to business in 2022 highlighted the need for touring productions to have specialist travel experts on the team, as the scramble to find hotel accommodation and travel solutions became an ever more crucial aspect of life on the road.

Fast-forward 12 months and that situation shows no sign of abating, with many businesses predicting that 2023 will be another record-breaking year as countless acts and their crews pack their cases to fulfil international tour obligations.

“2022 was incredibly busy with both new business and business that had been postponed during the pandemic,” says The Tour Company’s managing director Tina Waters who has more than forty years’ experience booking travel and accommodation for artists on tour.

“On the touring travel front, many hotels, airlines, airports, etc, struggled to provide pre-pandemic levels of service, and although things have improved a lot, some of those issues are still present in 2023.”

In Germany, Dominik Aurich, managing director of IBERO Tour Service – a travel partner of Lufthansa – notes, “The amount of business is comparable to 2022, but [the difference in 2023 is that] our clients had much more time to prepare themselves, [so] business is not as last-minute as it was last year.”

“Lots of bands are now hitting the road without tour insurance, which is really risky”

York, UK-based Travel4Tours is run by husband-and-wife duo Ade and Claire Robinson who disclose that while a lot of work during the pandemic involved trying to get clients refunds on flights, etc, that unpaid labour strengthened certain relationships.

“It generated a lot of loyalty with our buyers because sometimes it took a few months to get the money back,” says Claire Robinson. “When the refunds dropped in our clients’ accounts, I think they were appreciative of the effort that we’d been putting in to get the money back for them.”

Indeed, she reveals that Travel4Tours has never been so hectic. “Last year was our second busiest year since we formed, and this year is on track to be even busier,” she says, citing a client pool that includes DJs, orchestras, and numerous heritage acts.

“We look after bands that we used to follow when we were in our 20s and younger. We also have quite a lot of American and Canadian clients – probably about 90% of our clients come from outside the UK.”

Challenges
As with many sectors, the travel agency landscape endured an enforced period of transition in the wake of the pandemic. With airline fleets grounded for months on end and entire hotel chains shuttered, Covid decimated the travel industry globally.

Coming out of that dire situation, many specialists decided to launch their own operations resulting in a crowded marketplace but one where the companies IQ spoke to for this report agree that there is more than enough business for everyone.

“Industrial action worldwide is causing disruption and cancellations, which can put the whole itinerary for a tour out of sync”

That scenario is primarily because so many bands are desperate to be back out on the road, piling on the pressure on a profession that is still not back to full speed in terms of personnel.

The Tour Company’s Waters notes that the sector has not been immune to the dilemma of retaining, hiring, and training new staff. “Fortunately, we have a great core team of knowledgeable travel agents,” she says, “but if anybody reading this knows of anybody with good experience in that area, then please point them our way!”

That drive to recruit is one that’s being felt around the world. IBERO’s Aurich lists his company’s main challenges for 2023 as being, “Staffing; increasing hotel rates and air fares; strict contract policies from hotels; communication with hotels; and diversification of booking channels and content for air and hotel.”

One specialist unfazed by staffing issues is Manchester, England-based Hannah Mursal who has been working solo for the past six years through her Murs Entertainment Travel operation, which counts everyone from DJs, indie bands, and oldschool R&B acts to corporate clients and NBA basketball superstars among its clients.

“Cost is the biggest challenge,” states Mursal. “Whereas last year it was trying to get buses and trying to get the tour dates into a decent routing, this year it’s all about cost. Again, buses are sold out, so people are having to try different ways of logistically moving from place to place.”

Alison Rodgers of London-based Detonate Travel highlights another potential obstacle. “Industrial action worldwide is causing disruption and cancellations, which can put the whole itinerary for a tour out of sync and in turn means we are sourcing last-minute alternatives,” she says.

“We are definitely seeing an increase in the number of clients that contact us sooner rather than later with their touring plans”

Robinson, meanwhile, says the post-Covid landscape has eliminated some services that tour parties had become accustomed to. For instance, hotels that before allowed buses to use their electricity for power, etc, have withdrawn such offers.

“Or they’ll charge a silly fee – I’ve been quoted €400 a day just to connect to power,” reveals Robinson. “Also, multiuse dayrooms are becoming scarce because hotels are more wary of the costs in terms of laundry, people using the shower, charging devices, and things like that.”

She adds, “The price rises are a shock to the system for a lot of tours, but at the end of the day, hotels need to pay more for staff, they’ve got heating bills, the price of food has shot up… so there has been a shift. The £60-80 entry level of rooms is now £70-90, while the top end has gone even higher. It’s taking clients a bit of time to come around to the reality.”

Different paths
While loyalty is a key component for travel specialists, Mursal tells IQ that more and more clients are now shopping around in an effort to minimise costs.

“There are three or four different people who can book travel for artists,” she explains. “On Australian tours, for example, it’s mostly the promoter who books all the travel and hotels, while we might just book the international flights. Then you’ve got the management: if management has a travel agent, they’ll go with them. Then there’s the record label, who might book the travel when it’s a promotion tour. And then, obviously, you’ve got the tour manager. So, there are at least four different avenues for travel to actually be booked.”

Mursal continues, “I’ve got clients who represent five artists: four of them they’ll book with me, but the other one has a tour manager who likes to use their own travel agent. That works both ways, though, as I’ve recently taken on an act who had to book with me even though she’s got her own travel agent, just because her management want to book with me. So, it’s swings and roundabouts.”

“The price rises are a shock to the system for a lot of tours, but at the end of the day, hotels need to pay more for staff, they’ve got heating bills, the price of food has shot up… so there has been a shift”

Loyalty cuts both ways, according to Robinson, “Low-cost airlines are what they are, so we add a fee on to those that we book, but we’re quite upfront if a client comes to us with a really tight budget, and they need to keep travel as cheap as possible – we’ll advise them to book it direct,” she says.

And Detonate’s Rodgers observes, “Tour managers have a lot of work to do, and booking travel online can be very time consuming. We can take this job away from them, leaving them to do what they do best. We have access to the best fares and hotel rates at the touch of a button. We can take the headache out of navigating airlines’ rules and regulations and are responsive rather than reactive to any given situation.

“With our industry knowledge and expertise in itinerary planning, any tour manager can be sure that we offer the best option for the required routing whilst being aware of any budget constraints. When flights are delayed or cancelled, we have direct access to scheduled and low-cost flights so we can provide alternative travel options much faster and more effectively than someone on their mobile or laptop.”

Tightening the belt
With prices of hotel rooms spiralling upward and flight expenses going in the same direction amidst a situation where every line item on a budget is increasing in cost, our travel agent confidantes disclose that clients are scrutinising their travel requirements like never before as they battle to keep touring financially viable.

“Travel is the first thing to get cut when budgets become tight,” states Mursal. Robinson agrees, reporting, “More people
are sharing rooms. Another change is that instead of booking the high-end hotels in the middle of town, whose rates have all gone up, people might be happy now to go out of town to get the cheaper hotels.

“We recently worked on a big tour around Europe – a party of 18 people – and we split them across three hotels to meet the overall budget. We had A, B, and C parties, which isn’t ideal because it can create a bit of a hierarchy, but it meant that the A party got the sweet five-stars, while the C party were in the Hampton-type places. It took a bit of creativity to get the variables, cost-wise.”

“Travel is the first thing to get cut when budgets become tight”

Mursal opines that while people are aware that the cost of living has ballooned, that reality hasn’t fully been acknowledged by those planning international tours. “A lot of people haven’t changed their budgets even though inflation has gone up,” she says. “They might still want the four- or five-star hotels that were £150 per night, but those prices don’t exist anymore. But rather than downgrade or increase their budgets, they’re stripping back in terms of people or having people share twin rooms.

“I’ve noticed that lots of US artists are hiring locally – backing singers, trumpet players, and the likes if it’s a UK gig, which obviously cuts down the cost of the international flights. On my smaller tours, which were typically 15 people, they’ve been completely stripped back to maybe a DJ and the artist and then a core crew. So, they’re now maybe down to eight people. Also,
we’re seeing people jumping on and off tour, so where you don’t need a creative director for the whole tour, they’ll maybe be present for the first three gigs and that’s it.”

That’s not the case everywhere. At The Tour Company, Waters says, “We can understand why people would consider slimming down on their travelling parties due to the rise in overall touring costs, however, we haven’t experienced that as yet, with the majority of our tours seemingly being fully staffed.”

That scenario is recognised by IBERO’s Aurich who doesn’t believe the rising costs have changed too many attitudes toward travel considerations. “It’s like before Covid,” he notes, “the clients that were well structured before are running like
normal and start planning early, so large productions are usually earlier than smaller ones.”

Timely planning
As artist management and their tour managers come to terms with spiralling travel and accommodation expenses, many are making that side of the tour budget a priority by engaging with their travel agents earlier than they would have three years ago.

“We are definitely seeing an increase in the number of clients that contact us sooner rather than later with their touring plans, and we are presently working on tours for 2024 and beyond,” says Glasgow-based Waters. “That said, we have also had some clients come in really close to their touring period as well. Either way, we just get on with it, but somewhat obviously, the more time we are given, the better it is from an availability and consequently budgetary point of view.”

“We are seeing a trend of clients booking air tickets with a degree of flexibility”

That advice is echoed by every travel company, and Robinson suggests that this is where the expertise of the agent comes into play. “Some people come to us almost too early – you don’t necessarily get the best rates when you’re super early because most hotels start their rates at a high price, just to see if they can get away with it.”

While recommending booking early for places that are hosting major festivals – “Primavera or something like that, for example, where you know the hotels in the city are going to be busy,” Robinson says in terms of a sweet spot in the timing of hotel bookings, specialist knowledge is again crucial, as different locations have certain quirks.

“A Saturday night in Dublin is going to sell out every week, so that’s never going to come down in price,” she says. “You only learn about each city and each hotel through experience, so that’s where a good travel agent will prove invaluable.” Despite the fact that early booking can result in savings, Mursal says many of her clients are still leaving things to the eleventh hour.

“It can be very short notice,” she says. “For instance, I got given a DJ tour on a Friday that was leaving for India three days later. And that’s not unusual, as I’ve had others that have contacted me with just two days’ notice. That’s fine when it’s a DJ and maybe one or two others in the touring party, but it can get complicated if there are multiple people involved.”

Sharing her observations, Detonate Travel’s Rodgers says, “The larger groups are sourcing accommodation earlier but are demanding more flexible cancellation policies. In 2022, a lot of flights sold out very quickly leaving artists with little or no choice and very high airfares. Therefore, this year, many are booking in advance, especially for the summer. We are seeing a trend of clients booking air tickets with a degree of flexibility.”

Robinson adds, “We’re already booking tours beyond August and September, which we wouldn’t probably have done on past tours. There also appear to be a lot more festivals, suddenly. I don’t know the stats but certainly there are festivals popping up all over the place that we’ve never covered before, and that’s going to generate shortages in terms of buses and hotel rooms.”

“The impacts of both the pandemic and Brexit are still ongoing”

And the financial burden is leading to worrying scenarios, too, as Mursal reports, “Lots of bands are now hitting the road without tour insurance, which is really risky.”

Identifying the most special agents
As travel is one of the cornerstone components to touring, the importance of aligning with experienced booking experts has become paramount.

Specialists fiercely guard their client lists, but some research on websites can often hint at who certain companies work for, when artists are kind enough to offer testimonials about the service they receive.

Highlighting the benefits for touring acts to find experienced travel experts, Aurich lists a number of positives: “It saves time and money; professional travel agents have access to various booking channels and content for air and hotel; centralised
accounting; and statistics and reporting.”

Waters notes that it’s not just about finding rooms. “The impacts of both the pandemic and Brexit are still ongoing, so we are constantly dealing with changes in regulations and restrictions. There is also the need to adapt to the growing interest in more sustainable travel,” she says.

“There are several benefits for using a travel specialist or a team of them, as we have in the office,” continues Waters. “We are dealing with hotels, airlines, and other travel suppliers every day and know which ones work for artists or their crew. Not only that but we have direct access to rates and deals not available anywhere else.”

“Anyone with Skyscanner and Trivago thinks they’re a travel agent…but we have quite a different business model”

Tour-party needs are evolving, says Rodgers. “We are noticing that clients are turning to us to book more intricate components of the tour, as not only is it a more efficient process, but it is also a lot easier to reconcile a tour when all the components are booked in the same place, rather than having to collect invoices and receipts from various different companies and websites.”

Robinson is pragmatic. “Let’s face it, anyone with Skyscanner and Trivago thinks they’re a travel agent, and there’s a presumption that travel agents cost money,” she says. “But we have quite a different business model: we take commission from the hotel, so we don’t charge the client a fee, whereas some of our competitors might charge a fee for the booking service.

Also, we provide the tour accountants with a full-priced itinerary for the tour, so they know exactly what all the costs are accommodation-wise.” Waters concludes, “We can understand the temptation to use online travel apps and booking platforms, but we’ve seen this to be a false economy where those doing the work could make far better use of their time dealing with the plethora of other tasks on their list – and when it comes to making changes with such things, good luck with that!

 


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P&J Live head discusses first full year of trading

When Aberdeen’s brand new £333 million P&J Live arena opened in September 2019, no one could have predicted it closing just seven months later.

The ASM Global-operated venue, which replaced the former 8,500-capacity Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC), opened in the northeast of Scotland with much fanfare.

At 15,000-capacity, the purpose-built venue became the biggest indoor arena in Scotland, boasting the largest standing floor in the UK.

In addition to the arena, the 480-square-metre site comprises conference spaces, exhibition halls, restaurants and two on-site hotels, and is located minutes from the international airport.

With the stage set, P&J Live got off to a roaring trade, hosting concerts from the likes of Alice Cooper, Lewis Capaldi, Stereophonics and the Script. But when the Covid-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, the venue closed its doors and became a vaccination centre.

Four years later, the arena has only just completed its first full year of trading. P&J Live’s head of entertainment, exhibitions & marketing Louise Stewart tells IQ how her team got the business off the ground again.

 


IQ: Last month you hosted two of Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road shows. How did they go?
LS: It was such a buzz. The city is still talking about it, which is amazing. In a small city like Aberdeen, something like that dominates so much and there’s a spotlight on the venue. Around 55% of the audience wasn’t from the city – the highest we’ve had – and given that both concerts were midweek, that was great. There were people from Inverness, Perth, Dundee, loads of European countries and even America. The feedback was that it was so easy to access, with the airport around the corner and hotels on site. It was our largest seated music act, with 10,000 at each of his two sold-out shows. It was a little compliment that Elton ended up staying for the two nights [in between his Aberdeen shows] as a pose to going home.

“The perception is that we’re off the beaten track but it is a good place to start a tour as we’ve got the availability”

With the opening of the arena, has Aberdeen become a more attractive tour stop for international artists?
Definitely. We would never have been able to get Elton indoors. We had him outdoors at the AECC with 14,000 people because we had land so we were lucky to be able to do that. We could do 8,500 standing at the old place and we can do 15,000 here so that’s a game changer. To be able to do shows like Michael Buble, BBC Sports Personality of the Year, and to break records with Gerry Cinnamon and Lewis Capaldi is amazing. Another difference is the level of experience we can provide for top artists. The old venue was a bit of a shed – I don’t mind a shed, I love a black box-type venue – but this is just a completely different level and once our clients have been here, they grab it with both hands.

Given that P&J Live is now the largest indoor arena in Scotland, could Aberdeen become a higher priority for agents?
I wish it had that effect but I’ve got to be a realist: Glasgow will always be the must-play city, with how well-established it is and also the content that comes out of there. And that’s great for Scotland – we can’t take anything away from that. It also helps us because we do pick up stuff. The perception is that we’re off the beaten track but it is a good place to start a tour as we’ve got the availability and we could pass down to Glasgow, whereas Glasgow would have to be very conscious of what they were doing in terms of rehearsals and production days. So that’s how we try to pitch it. Various agents have said how brilliant the venue is and production teams are so complimentary because the venue is purpose-built so it’s easy to get around and load in and it’s safe which goes a long way.

“I think the perception has always been that venues make all this money but margins are tight”

How was P&J Live’s first full year of trading?
This year is a tough year for us, compared to last year, with energy costs and price hikes. People are definitely more cautious. Aberdeen’s a small market and it’s a big venue, so for us, it’s about trying to be flexible and creative with our content. We have 280 events this year – 50 are entertainment – but we have a mix of business that keeps us going and makes us a profitable business. In terms of energy, costs have probably doubled and not yet stabilised. It’s great that we’re part of ASM Global which can help us and we can benchmark against other venues and other cities. I think the perception has always been that venues make all this money but margins are tight. Also, stadium shows, outdoor stuff and festivals do affect business but hopefully, we’ve got a place in the market somewhere and we can keep pushing away.

How are you diversifying content to keep business going?
In Hall C, for example, we’re doing a lot more smaller shows which have gone down really well. We’re about to announce a standing show with DF Concerts, which we’re really pleased about. The city doesn’t have a 2,000 cap. standing venue so we’re hoping to fill that space. Also, our conference, exhibition and banqueting businesses do really well. And we’ve done a lot with our premium and moved into more ad hoc inventory which is working really well. We’re really fortunate that our premium is popular. We’re always thinking about what other opportunities that we can find.

“The business has changed a lot from what we can see; there’s a lot more short-lead stuff”

ASM Global recently pledged its support to grassroots venues in the UK via Music Venue Trust. How is P&J Live embracing this?
Promoters work so hard on the early part of artists’ careers and some of those acts might reach us one day. I don’t want to muscle in on the stuff that the Lemon Tree or the Music Hall do because that’s their business and without those venues, artists won’t get to the arena level. It’s about that journey. It’s easy to think “Oh, I need to get this, I need to fill that space” but what does that mean to your business in the future? I think that’s really important to look at. In a small city, there’s not a huge number of venues and clubs so it’s about keeping the scene going especially for the big student population. If people can be in the world of live entertainment from a young age and carry that on, it benefits us in the end. So it’s definitely something that we’re passionate about.

Looking to 2024, how is the diary shaping up and how do you see business developing?
Next year the diary is really strong, a lot of pencils in there and a lot of good content. The business has changed a lot from what we can see; there’s a lot more short-lead stuff. We literally announced Jack Whitehall two weeks ago and it’s in October. That [trend] has done a bit of a full circle because it was like that years ago but then we were booking things 18 months in advance. Although, we’ve actually got pencils for entertainment in the diary into 2027 which is unusual but I think there are definitely more short leads because the world we live in is very on-demand now. It’s about whether someone wants to buy a ticket now for 18 months time or if they want to buy a ticket now, for next month or the next six months.

 


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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”

Safety-ing Numbers
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”

Golden Year
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

 


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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:

 


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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.”

 


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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!”

 


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