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Italian live business defends vouchers

Italian live music industry professionals have hit back at comments made by Sir Paul McCartney criticising the decision to offer fans vouchers, instead of cash refunds, for cancelled shows.

Representatives from industry association Assomusica and promoter D’Alessandro e Galli spoke out following a statement on McCartney’s official Facebook page in Italy. The post declared it was “outrageous” that fans were “not getting their money back” for shows he had been scheduled to play at the 23,000 square-metre Piazza del Plebiscito in Naples on 10 June and at the 45,000-capacity Mura Storiche in Lucca on 13 June.

In accordance with government regulations, ticketholders for McCartney’s Italian concerts were reimbursed with credit to spend on future shows, rather than receiving their money back. Vouchers have been championed by industry associations around the world as a way to alleviate the pressures on cash-strapped promoters facing unprecedented volumes of refund requests.

“We strongly disagree with what the Italian government are doing,” wrote McCartney. “In every other country we were going to visit this summer the fans have all been offered full refunds. This is a real insult to the fans.”

In response to the comments, D’Alessandro e Galli, the promoter for the former Beatle’s Italian shows, issued a statement acknowledging the “displeasure” McCartney may feel at “the inconvenience that his fans will have to sustain by not receiving a direct refund”.

“The voucher is the instrument that guarantees the balance between the disappointment of the fan and the vital need to support the industry”

The promoter adds that vouchers are an “extraordinary” form of reimbursement that McCartney’s team was “perfectly aware of before the cancellation” and that aims to help the Italian live industry through a crisis that could deal it, as well as the 400,000 professionals working within it, a “fatal blow”.

“We believe that the government has identified the voucher as the instrument that guarantees the correct balance between the legitimate disappointment of the fan and the vital need to support the entire entertainment industry.”

Speaking to Italian publication Rockol, Vincenzo Spera, president of Italian promoters’ association Assomusica – which has spoken out in favour of the voucher scheme – iterated that McCartney’s team were aware of the reimbursement situation and had the chance to “devise and adopt solutions that seemed most suitable”, if they so wished.

Spera also points out that the voucher scheme extends to the whole tourism and cultural sector in Italy, with similar programmes also adopted in other European countries including Germany.

In countries where voucher laws are not in place, ticketing platforms including Eventbrite, StubHub and SeatGeek are currently facing legal action for the alleged non-payment of refunds for cancelled or postponed events.


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Security security security

I first started working security at concerts 46 years ago, when I cut my event teeth in the Empire Theatre, Edinburgh. Prior to that I was a member of the audience.

Crucially, it was the experience of being a ticket buyer that gave me a unique and very early perspective – I was only 16 years old – on how audiences should be managed, and a sense that something had to change and improve.

Fast-forward to the present day and it would be a failure if there was not an acknowledgement that many individuals, some who are no longer with us, have given their entire careers and sacrificed much of their personal life to create a safer and more secure environment in which people can go out and enjoy themselves, and also to work and perform at events.

Many of those same individuals understood not only the greater good of sharing, collaborating and exploring new methods, but also of obtaining input from the eventgoing public, which was about seeing how we do our job – not introspectively, but from the view of that 16-year-old live music fan.

The past strides taken towards improving standards of planning, tactical awareness, operational delivery and customer expectations were, and still are, very much an experiential process, where good and bad lessons learned are then applied so that future incident and disaster can be avoided. I think this is best characterised by paraphrasing the words of Spanish philosopher, George Santayana: “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

There can be no secrets where public safety is concerned

The importance of analysing and prioritising the range of risks and threats underlines what Lord Kerslake said in his contribution last year in the eponymous Manchester Arena bombing report: that “we cannot afford to be complacent,” which is no less equal to Lord Justice Taylor’s comment in his Hillsborough Disaster report that “complacency is the enemy of safety.”

From what I saw at the Event Safety and Security Summit (E3S) in October, there is no sense of complacency among event security professionals today.

If there is any looking back, it is about preparing for the future. It is also about analysing current methods and trends with a critical eye, but also seeking out new theories and keeping pace with what technology has to offer while still aiming to share best practice, and in general to collaborate.

The latter, of course, can bring into play the debate about competition and commercial interest. However, there can be no secrets where public safety is concerned. Any agile business or service provider knows that quality in delivery of a ‘safe and secure event,’ from which there are no injuries or fatalities, and the prevailing public consciousness is about a good time experienced and not about security presence, is where the greatest amount of positive impact will be made on both the consumer and client’s ‘feelings’ about their own safety.

So what does the future look like? Technology is most certainly going to be a large part of how events are managed, where safety, security and customer service are assured and integrated.

‘Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it’

The threat of internal terrorists perhaps calls into question the need for more robust employee screening, vetting and supervising to minimise the opportunity for someone to become hostile within the organisation or event.

Of course, threats are not just focused around people, but increasingly our events are reliant on multiple systems that are vulnerable to cyber attack. The world is moving at pace towards the Internet of things, the advent of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Biometrics, facial matching and recognition, and utilising open-source intelligence are of great benefit, but create in themselves an asset-protection need. Therefore, it is essential to have a clear plan that addresses what security controls are required for each critical system, and contingencies.

Events are really about a gathering of people, usually for the purposes of seeking enjoyment and entertainment, and the physical and psychological factors that influence their actions. The industry has advanced quite considerably in the last few years and quite rightly is embracing technology, seeking out new ways to train, educate, plan, manage and communicate.

Yet we must never forget that we are dealing with people and all of the human factors arising from excitement, anticipation, fear, expectation and cultural influences that are ever present and always changing.


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Ticket sales grow 88% in Australia in record-breaking 2017

Major international tours, including stadium and arena shows by the likes Adele, Paul McCartney, Guns N’ Roses, Bruce Springsteen, Justin Bieber, Drake and Ariana Grande, drove ticket sales to new highs in a “record-breaking” 2017 for the Australian live entertainment business, according to new figures from industry body Live Performance Australia (LPA).

LPA’s latest Ticket Attendance and Revenue Report reveals that ticket sales revenue from contemporary music concerts grew a staggering 87.8%, from A$440.1 million (US$312m) in 2016 to $826.1m (US$585m) in 2017, reaching its highest level since LPA began compiling the figures in 2004. The increase was fuelled by both significant growth in attendance (+49.6%, to 8.5m) and a 23.9% increase in the average ticket price, to $105.73 (US$75).

“The growth in contemporary music revenue is primarily due to the large number of prominent acts with arena or stadium tours that attracted large crowds and toured to almost all the five major cities [Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide] in 2017,” according to the report. Other arena- or stadium-level acts on tour last year included Sia, Elton John, Midnight Oil and Cat Stevens (Yusuf).

The figures do not include contemporary music festivals, although they also experienced strong growth, with the sector posting a 26% increase in revenue, to $100.7m (US$71.3m), and attendance, to 850,000.

“The live performance industry continues to contribute significantly to our economy and cultural ecology”

Overall, across all live performance categories – ballet and dance, children’s/family events, circus and physical theatre, classical music, comedy, contemporary music, festivals (multi-category), festivals (contemporary music), musical theatre, opera, special events, and theatre – ticket sales revenue increased 31.7% and attendance 22.6%.

“The live performance industry had a record-breaking year in 2017,” according to LPA’s chief executive, Evelyn Richardson.

“The live performance industry continues to contribute significantly to our economy and cultural ecology,” she comments. “In 2017, 23 million tickets were issued to live performance events, generating total ticket sales revenue of $1.88 billion. That’s more than the combined attendances at AFL [Australian Football League], NRL [National Rugby League], soccer, Super Rugby, cricket and NBL [National Basketball League] in 2017.”

An infographic, courtesy of LPA, showing figures for the last nine years in contemporary music, is below. For more information, read the full Ticket Attendance and Revenue Report here.

LPA Contemporary Music 2017


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Beatles’ hair fetches $10k at auction

File under ‘not what we’d do with $10k’: Strands of hair belonging to The Beatles have been sold on Catawiki, an eBay-like auction website for “special objects”, for more than US$10,000.

The hair in question dates from 25 March 1964, when the Fab Four had their moptops trimmed during the filming of A Hard Day’s Night. The cuttings were swept up by John O’Gorman, head of make-up for the film, who later gave the hair to friends for a wedding anniversary present.

“Nowadays, collecting the hair of famous people is a booming industry,” explains Catawiki’s resident Beatles expert, Denny Hoekstra. “In general, the hair of celebrities will only become more valuable over time, which makes these locks of hair a good investment.”

“Collecting the hair of famous people is a booming industry”

The hair was offered for sale as four individual auctions: one for each Beatle. “Paul McCartney’s hair was the most sought after, selling for $2,996,” Hoekstra continues. “Each lot contained four to five strands, which means McCartney’s hair sold for approximately $600 per strand.

“George Harrison’s and Ringo Starr’s lots were both sold to a bidder from France for $2,901 and $2,885, respectively. The hair belonging to John Lennon yielded only $1,385, which surprised us.”

Elvis Presley holds the distinction of having the world’s most expensive barnet, with a collector previously having paid $115,000 for a piece of the King. Marxist militant-turned-ironic fashion icon Che Guevara is second ($119,500); Lennon, in a different auction, third ($48,000); Justin Bieber fourth ($40,668); and Marilyn Monroe fifth ($40,000).


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Sir Paul backs MVT: ‘We need places to start out’

Following yesterday’s well-received third Venues Day event at the Roundhouse, Sir Paul McCartney has affirmed his support for Music Venue Trust’s efforts to protect the UK’s grassroots music venues.

The ex-Beatle, who on Saturday played the second and final weekend of the Desert Trip ‘megafestival’ in California, says: “Throughout my career I’ve been lucky enough to play in venues of all different shapes and sizes, from tiny clubs to massive stadiums all over the world. Without grassroots clubs, pubs and music venues my career could have been very different.

“I support Music Venue Trust because artists need places to start out, develop and work on their craft, and small venues have been the cornerstone for this. If we don’t support live music at this level then the future of music in general is in danger.”

“Without grassroots clubs, pubs and music venues, my career could have been very different”

Also throwing their weight behind MVT’s mission are writer, comedian and ‘national treasure’ Stephen Fry, Jeremy Pritchard of Everything Everything and Public Service Broadcasting’s J. Willgoose, Esq. (the latter two of whom performed at the post-Venues Day #Fightback show).

Fry comments: “Are you fed up with our music venues being closed down by greedy and short-sighted developers and people with no sense of culture? Let’s club together and #Fightback.”

Willgoose adds: “”We’re firmly behind  Music Venue Trust and its support for grassroots venues across the country. Too many venues have been lost in recent years and those that survive are under unprecedented pressure from unscrupulous developers, with little protection offered to them by the government, be it national or local.”


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Goldenvoice confirms Desert Trip megafestival

Though Roger Daltrey had already rather ruined the surprise, Goldenvoice – the AEG Live-owned promoter behind Coachella, FYF Fest and country music festival Stagecoach – has officially confirmed the existence of its long-rumoured California ‘megafestival’ featuring six of the biggest rock acts of all time: The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Neil Young, Roger Waters and The Who.

Tickets for Desert Trip will go on sale on 9 May and cost US$399 for a three-day pass, with single-day passes ($199), reserved floor, reserved grandstand and standing pit ($1,599) tickets and hotel packages, RVs and tent camping also available.

There will be further additions to the line-up, meaning each act will set back festivalgoers a hefty $66.66.

Here’s a poster:

Desert Trip 2016, Goldenvoice