Venues open up, but doors remain closed to public
Venues the world over are beginning to experiment with behind-closed-doors gigs, with talent including Laura Marling, Jorge Drexler, Katherine Jenkins, Keith Urban and Pipo Rodríguez among those to perform to empty concert halls.
The coronavirus crisis has seen no end of creative alternatives to traditional live shows, with concerts performed via videocalls, in-game live performances and the rising phenomenon of drive-in concerts.
Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino has said the company is “going to dabble in” some such alternative concert formats, such as fan-less concerts, reduced-capacity shows and drive-in concerts.
Indeed, a handful of venues have already started to bring live events back home, broadcasting performances live from their empty concert halls.
An early pioneer of the fan-less concert format is Uruguayan musician Jorge Drexler, who performed to an empty Teatro Melico Salazar in San José, Costa Rica, on 10 March, after his shows at the venue were cancelled due to the onset of the coronvairus crisis.
A few days later, French ska band Tyro played to a desolate AccorsHotel Arena (20,300-cap.) in Paris, on the very day that prime minster Édouard Philippe outlawed events of more than 100 people in a bid to stem the spread of the virus.
The AccorsHotel Arena is set to stage another, larger-scale fan-less event on 19 June. All Together for Music (Tous ensemble pour la musique) will see dozens of artists perform from the arena in support of venues that have been shuttered and festivals called off due to the current crisis. The show will be broadcast on TV channel France 2.
“It’s still magic, still sounds good, feels rich and feels special. That just shows how special this place is”
In the US, country stars Keith Urban and Kelsea Ballerini performed at the 2,362-capacity Grand Ole Opry in Nashville last week. Ballerini, who said she was “interested” to see what it would be like to perform “without full pews”, comments on the night that: “It’s still magic, still sounds good, feels rich and feels special. That just shows how special this place is.”
Other upcoming fan-less shows in the US include Dropkick Murphys’ performance at an empty Fenway Park (37,731-cap.), the home of baseball team the Boston Red Sox, on 29 May. Bruce Sprinsteen will join the band as a “virtual” special guest.
The show will be livestreamed for free at 6 p.m. (EDT), hosted by Boston tech company Pega.
In the UK, where the government recently announced that live events would likely be able to take place behind closed doors from 1 June, venues are taking the opportunity to return to some sort of business.
The 900-capacity Union Chapel in London is putting on a ticketed livestreamed show by singer Laura Marling on 6 June.
“The announcement also offers a tentative step in helping to aid the flagging live sector, and sets a potentially positive new precedent for other artists suffering from the loss of live earnings,” reads a statement from organisers.
Fans in the UK and Europe can purchase tickets for the show, priced at £12 with the option of making an additional charitable donation, here. A separate livestream is available for fans in the United States for US$12.
“This offers a tentative step in helping to aid the flagging live sector, and sets a potentially positive new precedent for those suffering the loss of live earnings”
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins performed a one-off live show at the 5,272-capacity Royal Albert Hall – the first UK arena to completely shut its doors as a result of the coronavirus outbreak – to mark the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day.
The sold-out performance, available to watch back here, also featured a virtual duet with Dame Vera Lynn, who sang to British troops during the Second World War.
Elsewhere, London’s 545-capacity Wigmore Hall last week announced a twenty-show concert series, featuring classical musicians including singers Iestyn Davies and Roderick Williams, as well as pianists Benjamin Grosvenor, Angela Hewitt and Paul Lewis.
All concerts will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and will be available for 30 days after the live show.
“When we shut the hall on 16 March we made sure to leave the piano on the stage, and the camera and audio equipment – all of which can be operated remotely – in place,” says the venue’s artistic director, John Gilhooly, tells the Guardian. “With only one or two performers on stage it’s very possible to make this work within government guidelines observing social distancing.”
Fan-less concerts are also taking off in Mexico, with venues in Mexico City and Guadalajara opening up behind closed doors as part of the Reactivation of entertainment and music in Mexico (REMM) programme.
The scheme, which has been initiated by operators of Mexico City’s Pepsi Center WTC (7,500-cap.) and the Conjunto Santander de Artes Escénicas (1,700-cap.) in Guadalajara, along with local booking agencies and promoters, aims to create over 1,000 jobs in the two cities.
“With only one or two performers on stage it’s very possible to make this work within government guidelines observing social distancing”
Artists billed to play at the venues include cumbia singer Pipo Rodríguez, who will perform along with a 20-piece orchestra, rock group El Haragán y Compañía and Afro-Argentinian reggae musician Fidel Nadal.
The performances will be broadcast live via streaming platforms. Those wishing to watch in Mexico can purchase virtual tickets, priced between 60 (€2.35) and 100 pesos (€3.91) on the Acceso ShoWare website.
All revenue generated by the concerts will be distributed to the musicians and live event professionals involved.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the game for the entertainment world,” Norma Gasca, CEO of REMM co-founder Rock Show Entertainment. “This is a small step forward – once we see the outcome [of these concerts] – to continue proposing different formats until we are able to return to live shows again.”
Rock Show Entertainment is also among companies taking part in the Auto-Conciertos #DesdeTu Auto (Drive-in concerts #FromYourCar) initiative, along with MH Music Live, Switch it, Meximm Mexico Internacional Music Market, Blu2 Entretenimiento, Wild Side Press, Capital Nation and HM Entretenimiento.
The concerts are expected to take place in Mexico City from the end of June.
Read more about the drive-in concert boom here.
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Pepsi Center agrees to open captioning for concerts
Pepsi Center, the Denver arena sued last year over its lack of scoreboard captions for the hard of hearing, has agreed to demands to provide open captioning of all aural content at sports matches and concerts.
In a proposed consent decree submitted to the US district court for Colorado, arena owner/operator Kroenke Arena Company agreed to provide open – or always-on – captioning for all content spoken over the arena’s PA system, whether live or pre-recorded.
The class-action lawsuit’s lead plaintiff, deaf woman Kirstin Kurlander, claims the lack of captioning on the 18,000-cap. Pepsi Center’s scoreboards is not in compliance with the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
“Arena operators can be reasonably certain that the settlement will prompt deaf fans at other venues to request more open captioning”
According to Ogletree Deakins disability lawyer David Raizman, the consent degree, which is still awaiting final approval, requires the arena to provide open captioning for “all aural (spoken or heard) content at games played and concerts held at the arena”.
Writing on the Ogletree website, Raizman says that while “the idea that aural content must be effectively communicated to arena fans is not new, “the novelty in this proposed consent decree is that it requires open captioning (in four locations in the corners of the arena) as a required means of providing such communication, and that it covers all aural content, including, for example, lyrics to prerecorded songs.”
The agreement could potential set a precedent for other US arenas who do not provide open captioning, writes Raizman. “[A]rena operators can be reasonably certain that the settlement will prompt deaf fans at other venues to request more open captioning, and perhaps even a few legal claims for the failure to provide such open captioning,” he says.
Another Denver venue hit with accessibility suit
Pepsi Center, a ~20,000-capacity arena in Denver, Colorado, has become the latest Denver venue to face legal action for the alleged violation of equality legislation.
The arena (pictured), a popular concert venue and also home to NBA team Denver Nuggets, NHL team Colorado Avalanche and lacrosse squad Colorado Mammoth, is being sued by Kirstin Kurlander, a deaf woman who claims the lack of captioning on scoreboards is not in compliance with the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
She told TV station KDVR at the time: “I don’t hear the announcements that are happening, I don’t hear the entertainment portion, I don’t hear the score… You’re missing a lot of information.”
The class-action lawsuit was originally filed in November, prior to a group of disabled people suing the city of Denver for the alleged lack of accessible seating at the city-owned Red Rocks Amphitheatre (9,525-cap.).
Lawyer Susan Klopman, representing Pepsi Center’s owner and operator, Kroenke Arena Company (KAC), responded to Kurland’s allegations on Thursday (20 April), telling the US district court for Colorado that “no court opinion or governmental regulation has stated a requirement for any place of public accommodation, much less sporting stadiums or multi-use arenas, to provide open captioning”.
“No court opinion has stated a requirement for any place of public accommodation … to provide open captioning”
Klopman countered that, under the ADA, KAC has an obligation to provide “appropriate auxiliary aids and services where necessary to ensure effective communication with its deaf and hard of hearing patrons” – something Pepsi Center already does via “sign language interpreters, closed captioning on handheld devices or iPads and on the television monitors in the suites for all sporting events”.
While conceding that “plaintiff [Kurlander] is profoundly deaf and, thus, unable to hear any aural content announced at the Pepsi Center”, Klopman, one half of Denver’s HK Law, also disputes that it is incorrect for Kurlander to say she “requires captioning to know what is announced and what music is playing” when the same information can be conveyed by an interpreter. “Plaintiff has requested a sign language interpreter for more than one event at the Pepsi Center, and KAC has provided one or offered to do so each time,” she noted.
She concluded that the “plaintiff’s alleged sole reliance upon open captioning” – as opposed to closed captioning, interpreters, etc. – “is not typical of the class [disabled people] she purports to typify and represent” and should be dismissed.
The case continues.
Executive reshuffle: Liberty Media Corporation
Liberty Media Corporation, the Colorado-based mass media group that holds a 34% stake in Live Nation, has made three new internal hires.
Former chief development officer Mark Carleton, who was recently reappointed, along with president and CEO Greg Maffei, to Live Nation’s board of directors, has become chief financial officer (CFO), overseeing Liberty’s accounts and corporate treasury.
Christopher Shean, meanwhile, moves from CFO to a senior adviser role with responsibility for unnamed “significant investments”, while former chief tax officer Albert Rosenthaler has been appointed chief corporate developer officer.
“We congratulate Mark, Chris and Albert and look forward to their continued service at Liberty Media in these new roles”
All will report to Maffei (pictured), who says: “We are pleased to announce these management changes, which will benefit the organisation. We congratulate Mark, Chris and Albert and look forward to their continued service at Liberty Media in these new roles.”
Maffei in July offered $3.4bn for music streaming service Pandora in a bid to bring it and Live Nation under one roof.
Liberty Media’s other investments include the Pepsi Center in Denver (18,007-cap.), the Atlanta Braves baseball team and its stadium, Turner Field (49,586-cap.) and a number of TV, radio, telecommunications and ecommerce businesses. It grew its revenue to US$1.366 billion in Q2 2016, up from $1.222bn in the same period last year.
Live Nation investor Liberty posts Q1 results
Liberty Media Corporation, the John C. Malone-controlled mass media giant which owns significant stakes in Live Nation Entertainment, the Pepsi Center in Denver and the Atlanta Braves baseball team and its stadium, Turner Field, has posted positive first-quarter (Q1) results for 2016.
The Liberty Media Group – one of the three targeted stock groups, which includes Live Nation, created by a recapitalisation on 15 April (the others are the Liberty SiriusXM Group and Liberty Braves Group – reported an increase in operating income of US$507 million to $488m. It should be noted, however, that this growth is “primarily” due to one-time proceeds from the settlement of a lawsuit with Vivendi, which paid the company $775m in February 2016 after a jury ruled that the French company had concealed the state of its finances and artificially inflated the value of its shares.
There were mixed results in the Liberty SiriusXM and Liberty Braves groups. The former, which includes Liberty’s interest in the satellite radio group, posted a 12% revenue increase to $1.2 billion and 16% increase in operating income to $336m, while the latter saw its revenue decrease by $1m to $4m in the first quarter, which Liberty blames on a $11 million increase in player salaries as a result of of a number of injuries and released contracts in Q1.
Live Nation posted its own Q1 results, which were characterised by double-digital revenue growth primarily driven by ticketing, last week.