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Giddings blasts ‘joke’ government insurance scheme

Isle Of Wight Festival promoter John Giddings has criticised the British government’s long-awaited reinsurance scheme for live events.

The £800 million scheme, which opened yesterday (22 September), will cover costs incurred if an event has to be cancelled, postponed, relocated or abandoned due to a government-imposed lockdown in response to Covid-19.

The cover, which is a partnership between the government and the Lloyd’s of London insurance market, is now available to purchase alongside standard commercial events insurance for an additional premium.

However, Solo Agency boss Giddings tells IQ he believes the cover did not meet requirements.

“I think it’s a joke,” he says. “They want far too much money and there are too many caveats in it. I think they just keep paying us lip service like they have done all the way down the line.”

“[The British government] want far too much money and there are too many caveats in [the insurance scheme]”

Premium is set at 5% of the total value of insured costs (plus Insurance Premium Tax) and claims will be subject to an excess of 5% of the value of the insured costs or £1,000 (whichever is higher) per policy.

However, the scheme will not cover loss of revenue due to lower demand for tickets, reduced venue capacity, or self-isolation of staff or performers. “It was financially impossible and it didn’t cover the things it needed to cover,” adds Giddings.

On a brighter note, Giddings says last weekend’s return of the Isle Of Wight Festival, headlined by Liam Gallagher, Snow Patrol, David Guetta and Duran Duran, could not have gone better.

“It was incredible,” he says. “It was four days of sunshine, all the bands turned up and the audience were gagging for it. We had incredible demand and the audience were incredibly excited about being out in the open air again.

“It was complete absolute, utter luck on our behalf that the weekend in June we should have done it poured with rain every day and the dates in September, the sun shone every day and it was like an Indian summer.”

“Somebody said to me, ‘What do you think about 50,000 people in a field?’ and I said, ‘Well, it’s safer than going to the supermarket.’”

The 2021 event was switched to September due to the pandemic, but will return to its traditional weekend next year from June 16-19. The 2022 line-up is due to be unveiled on Monday morning (September 27).

“When it was obvious June was going to be a problem this year, we took the executive decision to move to September, so that we didn’t have to move another year,” explains Giddings. “We certainly had good ticket sales and a very excitable audience, but it’s such a gamble with the weather, that’s the problem.

“The good news was it got darker earlier, so the top three acts played in darkness as opposed to the top one and a half acts. But it does get cold at night, I have to say.”

In line with government guidelines, ticket-holders were required to either be double-jabbed at least 14 days before the festival, proof of a negative lateral flow test or an exemption in order to be permitted entry.

“Everybody was willing to do it and they expected it. It was a collective responsibility,” says Giddings. “Somebody said to me, ‘What do you think about 50,000 people in a field?’ and I said, ‘Well, it’s safer than going to the local supermarket.’”

 


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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.”

 


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