Michael Rapino: ‘Live Nation’s US biz is fully reopen’
Live Nation Entertainment’s US concert business is now “fully open,” according to CEO Michael Rapino.
“We’re very excited about the American market. Seventy per cent of our business is going to be in the US and the UK. Those two markets seem on track,” he told CNBC on Thursday (8 July).
In the States, Live Nation has already hit a major post-restrictions milestone with its full-capacity show at New York’s iconic Madison Square Garden (cap. 20,000), performed by the Foo Fighters, which was the venue’s first concert since March 2020.
Continuing on an upward trajectory, Live Nation will host 30 US-wide amphitheatre tours at full capacity beginning this week, according to the CEO.
Later in July, the live entertainment giant will host the Rolling Loud festival in Miami – expected to bring in around 200,000 people – and a further 10–15 more festivals this summer.
“We’re going to make sure that we don’t [put on] four shows in one week and you’ve got to pick one”
In the company’s Q1 2021 earnings call in May, it reported that US festivals including Bonnaroo, Electric Daisy and Rolling Loud festivals all sold out in record times at full capacity.
The company also reported an increasingly busy 2022, after the number of major tours for next year increased by double-digits from pre-pandemic levels in 2019.
Addressing concerns about whether the backlog of concerts caused by the pandemic will result in an oversaturated market, Rapino told CNBC that artists will not perform “unless they have the weekends, and the right cities and the right markets”.
“We’re going to make sure that we don’t [put on] four shows in one week and you’ve got to pick one,” the CEO said. “We’ll spread those over a couple of years and a couple of markets. So we look at the pent-up demand as lots of availability, but we’re also going to make sure the consumer has time to buy it.”
While the US surges ahead, Rapino expects Live Nation’s European market to reopen by the autumn, and the Asian market to return in 2022 due to a delay in Covid vaccinations. “It’ll be a record 2022 and 2023,” he said.
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LIVE survey: UK fans eager to return to shows ASAP
UK trade body LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment) has conducted a survey of 25,000 music fans, the results of which reveal an overwhelming desire for live music to return as quickly as possible.
More than half of fans are ready to attend music events right now if they could with a further 25% willing to come back with safety measures in place, according to the results of the survey.
The findings also show that the majority of fans (85%) are planning on attending either the same or higher numbers of live music events when they reopen than before the pandemic and more than half of fans (55%) have already bought tickets for live music events in the coming months.
Among those who are yet to buy their tickets, one-third are waiting for more gigs to come on sale rather than being deterred by the pandemic.
The top three reasons fans want to return to gigs are seeing an artist that they love (91%), the joy that live music brings (89%) and spending time with friends (69%). The majority of respondents (64%) stated that attending live music events boosts their mental health.
In further encouraging news, music fans are largely accepting of proposed Covid-prevention measures with 75% of respondents confirming they would be happy with the idea of Covid certification to attend an event.
“It’s great that the passion of live music fans has endured and after a long wait fans want to go to more shows than ever”
Hand sanitiser stations, temperature checking and one-way systems are the simple mitigations fans would like to see when events return, though 41% of respondents said they would be put off attending an event if they had to wear a face mask.
The survey is the most detailed research yet conducted on the attitudes of UK music fans towards the return of live events and how they want them to be run in a post-pandemic world.
“It’s great that the passion of live music fans has endured the pandemic, and after a long wait fans want to go to more shows than ever,” says Chris Carey, chief economist of LIVE. It is especially encouraging to see how quickly fans want to get back to live.”
Greg Parmley, CEO of LIVE, says: “After a devastating year for the live music industry it is fantastic to see the strength of feeling from fans across the UK who are desperate to get back to live music events. The industry has worked tirelessly to ensure that we can return as quickly and safely as possible.
“It is notable that fans are willing to live with short-term mitigation measures in order to get back to live music as quickly as possible, with three quarters saying that they would be happy with a Covid-certification system as part of those measures.”
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UK industry reacts to reopening roadmap
Indoor performances are expected to return to music venues across England towards the end of May, provided the country’s Covid-19 response is going as planned, prime minister Boris Johnson announced today (22 February).
Johnson has set out a “cautious” four-step roadmap for the reopening of society, with at least five weeks between each step. The first step commences on 8 March when children will return to schools, while outdoor gatherings of either six people or two households will be allowed from no earlier than 29 March.
Step two, which will commence no earlier than 12 April, will see non-essential retail and outdoor hospitality open without curfew.
Step three, expected to launch no earlier than 17 May, will see music venues, sports stadiums cinemas, pubs, restaurants and other hospitality businesses welcome people indoors subject to social distancing and capacity limits, depending on the size of the venue.
Indoor performances will be restricted to the lower of 1,000 people or 50% capacity, outdoor performances limited to the lower of either 4,000 people or 50% capacity, and seated outdoor performances, to either 10,000 people or 25% of capacity.
The final step, which will start no earlier than 21 June, will see the government lift all restrictions, allowing nightclubs to reopen and large events to take place “above the limits of step three”.
The final step, estimated to start around 21 June, will see the government lift all restrictions
Larger events in step four will be influenced by the results of a new research programme which is detailed in new supplementary guidance that states: ‘Over the spring the government will run a scientific Events Research Programme. This will include a series of pilots using enhanced testing approaches and other measures to run events with larger crowd sizes and reduced social distancing to evaluate the outcomes.
‘The pilots will start in April. The government will bring the findings from across different sectors and different settings to determine a consistent approach to lifting restrictions on these events. Depending on the outcome of this work, the government hopes to be able to lift restrictions on these events and sectors as part of Step 4.’
However, the PM has stipulated that to move from one stage to the next, four conditions will need to be met: first, that the vaccine deployment programme continues successfully. Second, that evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths.
Third, that infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations, which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS. And fourth, that the government’s assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of Covid that cause concern.
While the UK live industry has welcomed some clarity from the prime minister, it has also expressed disappointment at being the last to reopen and is calling for extended financial support to sustain the sector throughout the next four months.
“We need the government to commit urgently to an extension of the 5% VAT rate on ticket sales and employment support”
A statement issued by recently-launched umbrella trade organisation LIVE says, “The Chancellor now has a choice to make as it is clear live music will be closed, or uneconomical, for the months ahead, with a return to normality not possible at least 21 June, four long months away. Support for businesses and individuals must continue and, in particular, when the Government looks at unwinding the general support packages, they must replace them with sector-specific support for the industries that will take longer than anyone else to reopen.”
Greg Parmley, CEO, LIVE, says: “While it is good to get some clarity following almost a year of confusion, as predicted our £4.5 billion industry is at the back of the queue to reopen. Any return to normality for live music could be months behind the rest of the economy. The chancellor must acknowledge our extended closure in the budget and provide the economic support needed to ensure the jobs and livelihoods of the hundreds of thousands of people that work in our industry exist as we come through this pandemic.
“We need the government to commit urgently to an extension of the 5% VAT rate on ticket sales and employment support that reaches all those unable to work due to the restrictions. To reopen, the sector needs a government-backed insurance scheme to allow shows to go ahead when it’s safe to do so, and with venues shuttered across the UK, an extension of business rates relief would be both fair and necessary.”
“Today’s statement must be accompanied with comprehensive financial support”
David Martin, CEO, Featured Artists Coalition, says: “While the prime minister’s statement offers some green shoots of hope for live music, there is some way to go before we return to pre-pandemic levels of activity. A cautious approach is right to protect lives and reopening too early would be counter-intuitive for the industry’s long-term outlook. However, the government must adhere to its own advice, allowing data to guide decision making, so that we can return immediately when it is safe to do so.
“Ahead of full reopening, government has to learn from previous mistakes and listen to the industry. Last year’s slow response on income support and other financial assistance led to the closure of businesses and the loss of livelihoods. Today’s statement must be accompanied with comprehensive financial support for individuals plus insurance and businesses support measures, including an extension to the reduced VAT rate on event tickets. This will allow the music industry to bounce back effectively and contribute its full potential to the UK’s economic recovery.”
“It is logical that the government will choose to address [our] specific status with sector-specific financial support”
Mark Dayvd, CEO, Music Venue Trust, says: “It is good to hear the government provide conditions under which initially socially distanced events, and then fuller capacity events, can take place. Based on this information, it is now possible to imagine how we Revive Live in grassroots music venues and develop that work into the full return of our domestic music scene.
“We note that this roadmap once again singles out live performance events as a specific risk which require that the sector is treated in a special way. Since March 2020, we have made the case to the government that if this is the case, based on their interpretation of the data, then it is logical that the government will choose to address that specific status with sector-specific financial support to mitigate the damage being done to businesses and people’s lives, careers and families right across the live music industry.
“In light of today’s announcements, the budget next week must clearly lay out exactly how the government is going to provide that sector-specific support. We warmly welcome the government’s acknowledgement of the value of nightlife, committing to not reinstating a curfew and including nightclubs within the reopening timetable.”
“The real risk that suppliers to events face is collapse”
David Keighley, chair, PSA, says: “Whilst we fully understand the risk-averse approach to reopening, government needs to be aware that live events excel in a risk-assessed approach, with the safety of attendees and workers always prioritised. The real risk that suppliers to events face is collapse, to avoid this will require effective financial support that reaches the whole events ecosystem, real support until our sector is allowed to return to viable levels of activity. This is the only way to ensure this valuable economic contributor is in a position to play its essential part in our country’s recovery.”
Paul Reed, CEO, AIF, says: “We welcome the prime minister’s roadmap out of lockdown, presented to the house of commons this afternoon, and are optimistic that many of our member festivals may be able to go ahead in some capacity later on this year. There are still, however, some urgent points of clarity that need to be made around the exact requirements that festival organisers will need to meet, in particular around testing and covid certification.
“We look forward to engaging closely with government on the Events Research Programme and again stress that we are rapidly approaching the decision cut off point for the vast majority of festivals at the end of March. If a complete picture is not given by this time, it will be too late for many to stage events later in the year.
“We also appreciate that this is a best-case scenario and that the government reserves the right to delay the easing of lockdown restrictions if the data dictates. Festival organisers only want to return when it is safe to do so but, if the easing of restrictions does lose momentum and events are suddenly cancelled as a result, it is vital that our sector receives swift and targeted government support to compensate. In addition, government intervention on insurance and VAT remain critical.”
The NHS has so far vaccinated more than 17.5 million people across the UK and the PM hopes to have every adult vaccinated by the end of July.
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Pearle* launches 2021 map showing reopening of live
European live industry body Pearle* has published a new edition of its Map of Europe, which presents updates on the resumption of venues and live events across Europe.
Using a colour-coded system, the map illustrates differing circumstances from country to country, with some allowing performances for a smaller audience, others allowing rehearsals, and many remaining closed until further notice.
As it stands, Luxembourg will be the only country open for live music when venues open on 15 February. Up to 100 masked attendees will be permitted at shows, provided that they are assigned a seat and observe the two-metre social distancing measure if they do not belong to the same household.
While, in countries such as France, Belgium and Greece, public concerts are banned but exceptions such as rehearsals and livestream events are permitted.
“Providing citizens with a perspective of when they will be able to see a live concert again is a vital sign of hope to society”
No concrete, live performance-related information is available for Latvia, Lithuania, Malta and Norway.
“Over the past year, the live performance sector has proven its capacity to manage the risks for rehearsals and performances,” reads a statement from Pearle*.
“It has also fully proven its expertise on how to manage audiences. In the meantime, various scientific studies provide evidence of the fact that it is absolutely possible to reopen venues and hold open-air events in safe conditions for workers and audience.
“It’s time for governments to give the sector an outlook. Live events matter to people. Providing citizens with a perspective of when they will be able to see a live concert or performance again is an important sign of hope to society.”
The resource, which was first published in May 2020, will be continuously updated as more information becomes available from Pearle* members. The map with the evolution during 2020 can be accessed here. See the 2021 edition below.
Yourope: ‘European festivals need strategy and bailout’
Yourope, the association of European festivals, has made the latest appeal for a clear perspective and a financial bailout plan to enable organisers to plan for the forthcoming summer season without the financial risk posed by a potential Covid outbreak.
In a statement, Yourope asks whether festival organisers can expect to be able to hold their events as normal and at full capacity, provided they ensure that additional protective measures are in place; what measures will they need to take in terms of guests, staff and suppliers; and whether international artists be allowed to travel as needed.
The appeal outlines key requirements for a full and safe return to live including a transparent roadmap from the authorities, which would inform a strategy with clear guidelines and coherent timeframes, and a proportionate relaxation of measures which are devised using the expertise of the international festival industry.
Yourope has also called for a financial bailout plan – similar to Norway’s NOK 350m scheme – in the event that stricter Covid measures mean it is no longer economically viable for an organiser to carry out their event as normal.
“Without this bailout, planning these events becomes a forlorn hope and will grind to a halt, as our badly battered and bruised industry can no longer bear the weight of these scarcely predictable risks alongside their normal financial risks alone,” the statement says.
“Now the time has come to develop a strategy for 2021’s summer of events”
In a final call to arms, Yourope says: “Now the time has come to develop a strategy for 2021’s summer of events. We owe it to the millions of visitors who have trusted us enough not to return their tickets, to our many thousands of staff and contractors, to big-time and lesser-known artists, and to our suppliers to preserve the cultural diversity we have created as event organisers.”
Yourope – whose membership includes Spain’s Primavera Sound, the Netherlands’ Lowlands and Serbia’s Exit Festival – joins dozens of associations and festival organisers across Europe in urging governments to provide clarity and contingency for the northern hemisphere’s festival season.
Last week, Swiss promoters’ association SMPA released a similar statement co-signed by 26 domestic festivals, while Danish festival organisers welcomed the news of the introduction of vaccine passports but called for a roadmap for reopening.
Elsewhere, Portugal is examining whether ‘safe bubbles’ of vaccinated festivalgoers could be the key to keeping fans and artists safe this summer, French festival operators ‘have 11 days to save festivals’, and the UK festival sector is waiting with bated breath for the prime minister to reveal a roadmap on the 22 February.
The lessons that can be learned from 2020’s lost festival summer will be discussed at ILMC during Festival Forum: Reboot & Reset, while leading festivals operators will be discussing the evolving passions, priorities and unique features of their events in Festival Futures: Core Priorities.
German alliance unveils roadmap for return to live
German alliance Event Management Forum (EMF) has presented a proposal titled ‘Manifest Restart’ which details a uniform approach to the gradual and safe reopening of events in Germany.
The Alliance – which consists of five major organisations including live music associations BDKV and LiveKomm – has devised an ‘approval matrix’ to help organisers and authorities determine in which risk levels, under which general and special measures of infection protection and hygiene, and with which capacities events are permitted.
The comprehensive matrix takes into account a range of nuances in venues such as different construction methods, special features of event formats or existing ventilation systems.
The alliance presented Manifest Restart during a press conference yesterday (9 February) in which Jens Michow, president of the BDKV, emphasised that the goal of the matrix is to make events “the safest place in the pandemic”.
“The industry has shown in the past year that events can be implemented safely. With the following suggestions we show the way to a step-by-step achievement of this goal and finally create a perspective for the industry again,” the proposal reads.
“With the following suggestions we show the way to a step-by-step achievement of [implementing events safely]”
EMF’s proposal also calls for the government to: compensate losses caused by capacity restrictions, fund the costs of SARS-CoV-2 tests and the personnel and logistics required to carry them out, and reimburse the costs of rescheduling and cancelling events.
The alliance has also said that it is necessary that domestic and foreign artists, ensembles, orchestras, bands and their accompanying staff have basic freedom to travel and quarantine, and that “cultural work” is an acceptable reason for this.
The EMF – which is completed by EVVC (European Association of Event Centres), the ISDV (community of interests of independent service providers in the event management ) and VPLT (The Association for Media and Event Technology) – hopes to take the Manifest Restart proposal and matrix to the federal government.
The government is currently consulting with BDKV’s Jens Michow on how to implement Germany’s €2.5 billion event cancellation fund.
Michow recently spoke to IQ about the considerations, logistics and hurdles to overcome in setting up an insurance fund for one of Europe’s largest live music markets.
UK festival industry warns of ‘wipeout’ at DCMS inquiry
Key stakeholders in the UK’s festival industry today gave evidence at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Select Committee’s inquiry into safeguarding the future of the sector, which has been ‘decimated’ due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The inquiry heard from Sacha Lord, co-founder, Parklife and The Warehouse Project and nighttime economy advisor for Greater Manchester; Anna Wade, communications and strategy director, Boomtown Fair; Steve Heap, general secretary, Association of Festival Organisers (AOF); Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, chief executive, UK Music and Paul Reed, chief executive, Association of Independent Festivals (AIF).
The witnesses gave evidence on a number of challenges facing the sector and conveyed the urgent need for further government support to avoid a ‘total wipeout’ of the festival ecosystem.
Among the participants’ key demands was an indicative date for a full return to live; a government-backed coronavirus cancellation scheme; a three-year extension of the VAT reduction and an extension for business rates relief.
“If organisers don’t have certainty, confidence and some sense of financial security, there’ll be major cancellations within weeks”
Indicative date for full return to live
Participants unanimously agreed that one of the most pressing requirements from the government is an indicative date for festivals to return to full scale and without social distancing, which would allow organisers to either proceed with their events or cancel.
AIF’s Reed said: “Right now is when organisers have to make key decisions. If they don’t have certainty, confidence and some sense of financial security for summer events, then there’ll be major cancellations within weeks.”
UK Music’s Njoku-Goodwin said: “We have a vaccine on the way. It’s being rolled out and there’s a timetable for that. The public target for ministers has been two million vaccines every week and if we know our testing capacity and the testing situation is going to be at a certain point by a certain time, we should be able to have some sort of roadmap for live. If you’ve got that sort of data and information, there should be a way to calculate or make some sort of political determination or judgement for an indicative date for a return.”
Boomtown’s Wade said: “There’s a challenging road in front of us but not impossible. We need the government to understand our timeline because we can’t roll something out quickly – it’s a very very complex operation to put on festivals. Normality might resume but that doesn’t necessarily give us a green light.”
“Insurance is the first key in the door that will unlock everything else”
Government-backed insurance scheme
Citing insurance schemes rolled out in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, UK Music’s Njoku-Goodwin expressed concerns that the UK would be at a competitive disadvantage if the government doesn’t prevail with our own scheme: “I think the real danger here is that if we see a lot of countries – particularly in Europe or close to home – protecting their festival seasons, you could have a sort of a talent transfer. We don’t want to have a situation where musicians, crews, technicians and people who should be working in and supporting the UK festival scene are looking to the continent thinking ‘actually if there’s going to be live music happening there in 2021, that’s where we are going to be’.”
AIF’s Reed reiterated the need for a government-backed insurance scheme, adding that none of AIF’s member festivals will be able to go ahead in 2021 without it: “Without government intervention, festivals will simply cancel early and on mass. It’s still too early to tell in a binary sense whether the season is on or off, but for the larger festivals, [the decision of whether or not to cancel] will come by the end of this month and for some of the smaller ones it’s March but they are all reaching a point at which they will need to commit that upfront capital and make a determination on the event for this year.”
Addressing the government’s claims that an insurance plan should be the final hurdle for event organisers, Boomtown’s Wade said: “Insurance is the first key in the door that will unlock everything else. Then we can commit to things and start getting a bit more confidence back in the industry.”
“If festivals don’t take place in 2021, the vast majority of the ecosystem could disappear”
Consequences of a cancelled 2021 festival season
Boomtown’s Wade said: “It’s unlikely that we’ll be able to weather the storm of no events happening in 2021. Most festival organisers only hold one event and that is the one opportunity in the year. Without that, we don’t have a company essentially.”
AIF’s Reed said the loss for the taxpayer will be ‘significant’ in the 2021 festival season is cancelled: “If you look at the overall contribution of festivals to the UK economy, you’re looking at £1.7 bn GVA and 85,000 jobs. The live music industry in general, I believe, generates about £1.6 bn in VAT receipts and a significant portion of that will be generated by festivals.”
Sacha Lord, co-founder, Parklife and The Warehouse Project reinforced that point, adding: “The UK has got one of the biggest festival markets, globally, and we’re proud that music is one of our biggest exports. If festivals don’t take place in 2021, I think the vast majority of the ecosystem could disappear.”
“If events like [Boomtown Fair] can’t run, there’s going to be this big knock-on effect”
The wider economic impact of a disappearing festival sector
Lord said: “Let’s not forget everything that happens on the outside of the perimeter. When Parklife takes place on that one weekend it brings £16 million into the local economy. Every single year we have the Parklife Foundation, which raises on average about 100–120,000 pounds for local community causes. So there’s a bigger picture here and we need to look at the whole ecology. The supply chain will be wiped out if we have another year like 2020.”
Boomtown’s Wade said: “If events like ours can’t run, there’s going to be this big knock-on effect because we then can’t invest in local services people and skills. Festivals are like mini-cities so the supply chains, infrastructure and the services that we use are vast and countless.”
“Testing and pilots are two of the pillars. The other pillar would be industry mitigations”
Testing and safety precautions
AIF’s Reed said: “It’s difficult at this stage to see testing as the only solution to facilitate festivals. I think testing and pilots are two of the pillars, alongside vaccine development and rollout and of course treatment. But the other pillar would be industry mitigations, which is why we have a festivals working group which is cross-industry and that is working with the DCMS and Public Health England, to look at specific guidance and planning assumptions. [Those aspects] will contribute to a proposition for how festivals can safely return and instil that confidence in customers.”
UK Music’s Njoku-Goodwin said: “We don’t want to come back before it’s safe. It’s why we’re engaging in testing to make sure that we can find ways to make sure that no infections are brought into events spaces. And it’s one of the reasons we’re asking for an indicative date from the government because having government be clear on a date when we believe it’s safe to be able to hold events without social distancing and at scale will help with the public confidence.”
Steve Heap, general secretary, AOF, said: “The customer confidence, I think, is one of the biggest hurdles we have to overcome. Our ticket sales are virtually at zero. There are one or two festivals are managing okay to sell, but the customers are no longer prepared to release the funds for the tickets because they’re just not sure the event will go ahead until we get to such a point that we can say they will.”
To coincide with today’s hearing, UK Music today published a new report, titled Let The Music Play: Save Our Summer 2021 report, which outlines a strategy to restart the live music industry when it is safe.
NZ festivals bring in the new year with huge audiences
New Year’s Eve (NYE) events were held as usual in New Zealand (NZ), with festivals welcoming tens of thousands of people to celebrate without social distancing.
Thanks to strict lockdowns and border closures which have all but eliminated Covid-19 in NZ, residents were able to enjoy a full return to live at mammoth NYE events.
NZ’s largest festival, Live Nation-owned Rhythm and Vines, welcomed 20,000 people to the Gisborne site between 29–31 December where social distancing and mask-wearing was not required.
The 18th edition of the music and camping festival – founded in 2003 by University of Otago friends Hamish Pinkham, Tom Gibson, and Andrew Witters – delivered sets from artists including Benee, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Broods, The Beths and Netsky. Single-day festival passes started from NZ$125.
— Rhythm 💎 Vines (@RHYTHMANDVINES) December 30, 2020
Elsewhere, Rhythm & Alps celebrated its 10th anniversary by inviting 10,000 people to Wanaka, a resort town on NZ’s South Island, for three days of non-socially distanced festivities.
The event took place between 29 and 31 December, bringing in the New Year with a wholly domestic lineup featuring Six60, Chaos in the CBD and Shihad.
Northern Bass, presented by Fuzen and George FM, also celebrated its 10th chapter with another NYE celebration spanning three days and nights.
Around 10,000 people flocked to the festival site in Mangawhai – just over an hour north of Auckland – for sets from world-renowned artists, producers and DJs including Dimension, Earthgang and LAB.
NZ, which has a population of around 4.8 million, has been lauded for its response to the pandemic and currently only has 72 active Coronavirus cases.
Industry heads predict return to normal by 2022
Yesterday’s news of Moderna’s 94.5% effective coronavirus vaccine provided yet another glimmer of hope for the live music industry and its return to normality.
Moderna’s announcement came a week after Pfizer reported that its vaccine, developed in collaboration with BioNTech, was more than 90% effective – causing share prices in industry giants such as Live Nation, CTS and DEAG to soar by double digits.
As the race for a Covid vaccine accelerates – with trials also being conducted in China, Russia, India and Australia – and optimism in the return of live music increases, IQ asks some of the industry’s big hitters for their thoughts.
Here, CTS Eventim’s Klaus-Peter Schulenberg (Germany), AEG Presents France’s Arnaud Meersseman, Isle of Wight Festival and Solo Agency’s John Giddings (UK) and Radar Concerti’s Fabrizio Pompeo (Italy) share post-vaccine predictions and preparations.
Crystal ball gazing
“Ever since the pandemic began, I have repeatedly emphasised that we need a vaccine or effective drugs to combat the disease before any concerts or events can be held to the familiar extent. It is very encouraging, therefore, that vaccine development is progressing at such a rapid pace. Leading experts are turning optimistic, now that there is obviously a very promising vaccine candidate,” says Klaus-Peter Schulenburg founder of CTS Eventim, the German entertainment conglomerate.
“This news also gives us hope, accordingly, that the very difficult situation our industry finds itself in will take a turn for the better in the foreseeable future and that people will once again be able to enjoy art and culture the way they did before the pandemic,” he adds.
Head of AEG Presents France, Arnaud Mersseman, echoes the sentiment saying: “The vaccine news has definitively given us a sense of a light at the end at the tunnel and some sort of horizon.”
More importantly for AEG Presents France, which has a slate of shows scheduled from as early as May next year, news of the vaccines provides a sense of security when it comes to planning ahead.
“The vaccine news has definitively given us a sense of a light at the end at the tunnel and some sort of horizon”
“I definitely think that’s what has been the hardest so far – no timeline, and therefore the feeling that this will go on forever. Now, that we know that distribution should start somewhere around early 2021, we can start actively preparing for a return to activity,” adds Meersseman.
Over in the UK, which is in lockdown until at least until 2 December, Isle of Wight Festival and Solo Agency’s John Giddings said he couldn’t speculate on when the industry might return to live but he is optimistic that news of a vaccine might speed things up.
“I’ve just got more hope, that’s all it boils down to. It just means hopefully, it will accelerate the chance of getting back to normal quicker – that’s what we’re praying for,” he says.
However, Radar Concerti’s Fabrizio Pompeo is more cautious and believes “it will be a slow process, even with vaccines”. “I do believe next summer we will start promoting some shows but nothing really big,” he says.
Festival season 2021
For festival organisers in the northern hemisphere, the need for an effective vaccine or test and trace system to be developed before the summer season could be crucial in order to host thousands of patrons and invite international artists to play.
As Meersseman says, festivals are “the big question”. “Will there be enough diffusion of the vaccine, completed by rapid testing measures to allow festivals to play out this summer? Will the acts be able to travel? It’s still 50/50 in my opinion,” says Arnaud.
Giddings, who owns the iconic Isle of Wight festival which has been rescheduled to June 2021, is more optimistic.
“I think [festival season] has got a good chance if this all comes according to plan,” he says. “I know that MPs are meeting and having a conversation about it.”
“I think [festival season] has got a good chance if this all comes according to plan”
Last month, a coalition of UK industry bodies published new guidance to help the festival sector mitigate risk and plan Covid-secure events ahead of next summer, which will be continually updated.
The working group also includes the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and Public Health England (PHE) who provided input on the development of the guidance.
Pompeo, who partners on festivals Cinzella and Flowers with Radar Concerti, believes that whether or not live has made a comeback, the summer will still hold promise for domestic promoters, events and artists.
“Being in the south of the EU, Italy may have some advantages considering the amount of summer venues opportunities and a very strong domestic artist offering,” he says.
The future of domestic/international touring
While news of the vaccines has inspired hope for a busier 2021, promoters and agents are still apprehensive about the recovery of international touring which, with or without a vaccine, could prove difficult with each country’s varying immunity, legislation and post-Covid regulations.
“My personal prediction is that international touring will take a bit longer than domestic: a tour is built on 15 to 20 different national legislations and sanitary policies, and for these to be harmonised will take some time,” says Meersseman.
“I suspect we can see some sort of semblance of normalcy by fall 21, with a return to normal by early 22. I would also predict an earlier return to normal for domestic touring, somewhere between late spring and early summer. It’s much easier to plan a routing from Bordeaux to Lyon than from Munich to Barcelona!” he adds.
“I suspect we can see some sort of semblance of normalcy by fall 21, with a return to normal by early 22”
Giddings, whose clients at Solo Agency includes Little Mix, Blondie and Iggy Pop, agrees, adding that the logistics of a tour could become fragmented.
“The problem is if you’ve got a European tour in April/May/June, all the different countries have got different rates of infection. To do a European tour, you have to do all of the dates, you can’t do half of them and take time off in between so that’s going to be more difficult to look at. Lots of people think that there won’t be proper shows until 2022. But it really depends on how quickly the vaccine and the testing comes out,” he says.
Pompeo reinforces this sentiment, adding that he thinks it’s unlikely international touring will happen before 2022. “I see shows to up to 3-4000 cap in wide open-air spaces possible as a return to live music. If we are lucky the first arena shows may happen in the fall.”
How Taiwan became a global outlier for live, post pandemic
Taiwan has become the envy of the global live music industry after enjoying many months of full-capacity festivals, concerts and events.
The east Asian country, which has a population of more than 23 million, has recorded a mere 603 cases and only seven deaths during the pandemic, despite being close to mainland China where the virus began.
The country recently celebrated a record 200 consecutive days without any domestically transmitted cases of Covid-19, making it even more successful than New Zealand (which has a far smaller population) and Vietnam – both of which have been lauded for their efforts since March.
Taiwan’s success with controlling the virus has been tied to a number of factors, including: an early response which brought in strict control measures such as two weeks of quarantine for anyone flying into the island; a generous amount of resources being poured into testing and tracing and checks on travellers arriving from Wuhan as early as December last year.
On top of that, the island’s previous exposure to the Sars epidemic meant that preparations were extensive and up to date.
As a result, the nation has managed to maintain a positive rate of economic growth, and unemployment rate dropped to 3.83% in September, the lowest seen in six months.
Thanks to these precautions and achievements, the country saw a return to live as early as June when the Taiwanese government lifted all limits on the number of people allowed to attend public gatherings, including cultural events, and removed the need for social distancing at concert halls and stadiums.
Taiwain has recorded a mere 603 cases and only seven deaths during the pandemic
Following that, Taiwanese artist Eric Chou delivered Asia’s first post-Covid arena shows to a sold-out, full-capacity Taipei Arena (cap. 15,350) on 8 and 9 August.
Fans were still required to wear masks, undergo temperature checks upon entry, and provide identification that would facilitate contact tracing should the need arise. Pink medical masks and square alcohol wipes were provided.
Since then, however, measures are not being as strictly enforced. Last Saturday (14 November), some 10,000 – mostly maskless – patrons crammed together at Dajie Riverside Park in Taipei for Ultra festival, a worldwide electronic music festival franchise.
A carefree audience enjoyed performances from domestic and international artists (who would have quarantined for 14 days upon entering the country) including Kayzo, Vini Vici, Slander and Alesso.
Artists have been among those praising the nation for its efforts in tackling coronavirus. Last Tuesday (10 November), world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma gave thanks to the audience and praised the people of Taiwan for their “truly amazing” feat during his concert.
His performance at Taipei Music Center to more than 4,000 fans was his first in front of a live audience since March.
One of the nation’s biggest triumph in terms of live events, however, came last month as tens of thousands celebrated the LGBTQ+ community in Taipei.
On the 31 October, the capital hosted the biggest in-person pride event of 2020 since the pandemic began, drawing an estimated 130,000 people.