IOW’s John Giddings: ‘Business is booming’
Isle of Wight Festival promoter John Giddings says “business is booming” ahead of one of the UK’s biggest live music weekends of the year.
The 210,000-cap Glastonbury welcomes headliners Arctic Monkeys, Guns N’ Roses and Elton John from tomorrow to Sunday, while AEG’s British Summer Time Hyde Park (cap. 65,000) kicks off in London tomorrow with All Things Orchestral, followed by two shows by Pink.
Solo Agency boss Giddings has worked on Beyoncé’s recent Renaissance stadium dates and Madonna’s upcoming Celebration tour for Live Nation. With Festival Republic, meanwhile, Solo is staging Dog Day Afternoon, a one-off outdoor show at Crystal Palace Park on 1 July, featuring Iggy Pop, Blondie and punk supergroup Generation Sex.
“I was really worried at Christmas about the cost of living crisis, but it doesn’t seem to be evident – people want to go out and have a good time”
“Beyoncé sold out to the rafters, we’ve sold out Madonna in the autumn, we’ve got Iggy Pop and Blondie at Crystal Palace Park a week on Saturday and we’ve obviously got some acts at Glastonbury, so there’s a lot knocking around,” Giddings tells IQ. “Business is booming – booming. I was really worried at Christmas about the cost of living crisis, but it doesn’t seem to be evident – people want to go out and have a good time and enjoy themselves.”
Giddings is also basking in the glory of last weekend’s sellout Isle of Wight. The 55,000-cap event was headlined by Pulp, George Ezra, the Chemical Brothers and – for the first time in his career – Robbie Williams.
“It was incredible,” says Giddings. “You always wake up on Monday morning and think, ‘How the fuck am I going to beat that?’ I mean, Robbie Williams was a different level, he was absolutely extraordinary. He told his whole life story, warts and all, and played the songs to go with it. He’s such a showman.”
“We’ve definitely established Isle of Wight as one of the Premier League festivals”
More than 22,000 tickets for this IoW 2023 were sold in the week after last year’s festival.
“That’s better than usual,” he says. “Early birds [for 2024] go on sale this Friday. And it’s interesting that as soon as we sell out, I get a million emails and phone calls saying, ‘I haven’t bought a ticket yet.’ So I said to everyone, ‘Buy one early this time!'”
He adds: “I think half the audience come because they love the event and the other half come because of the lineup. We’ve definitely established it as one of the Premier League festivals. You can’t compare Glastonbury because that’s in its own league, but we’re up there with Leeds-Reading, etc.”
“You can’t do the same thing year in, year out. It’s like a Formula One car – you have to develop it as it evolves”
Giddings revived the legendary festival in 2002 after a 32-year hiatus and has continued in his leadership role since Live Nation acquired a controlling stake in 2017. Other acts on the bill this year included Courteeners, Blondie, OneRepublic, Sugababes, Anne-Marie, Sam Ryder, N-Dubz, Niall Horan and Manic Street Preachers.
“It’s just making it better for the general public because they pay us to come, and we pay the artists to come, so in a sense the audience are more important than the artists and you have to create different areas for them to be entertained,” says Giddings. “We’ve got 15 stages and I discovered things that I didn’t even know existed. There’s a special Cabaret Club at the back of the Intoxicated Tea Rooms, and we develop new things every year.
“This year we had a drone show, which came all the way from Australia because I used it with The Corrs last November, and it had an image of the Isle of Wight Festival evolving into the needles and stuff like that. It just makes it more interesting for people.
“You have to just keep doing things to keep everybody interested and you can’t do the same thing year in, year out. It’s like a Formula One car – you have to develop it as it evolves.”
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Football icon Eric Cantona announces music tour
Football legend Eric Cantona is launching a music career, announcing a trio of live dates in the UK and Ireland for this autumn.
The 57-year-old’s Cantona Sings Eric Tour will kick off at the 482-seat Stoller Hall in Manchester on 26 October, followed by a show at London’s 535-cap Bloomsbury Theatre on 28 October. It will then wrap up in Dublin at the 411-cap Liberty Hall Theatre on 31 October.
The concerts are being promoted by Live Nation and MCD Productions, by arrangement with Solo Agency.
“Next year, I’ll be playing with a band, but for now, I’m starting with a modest piano to play alongside me in intimate venues”
Cantona will release his debut single via Decca Records next Friday (2 June). The Marseille-born star, who turned to acting after retiring from football in 1997, made more than 400 appearances during his career and won 45 caps for France. He is best remembered for a trophy-laden five-year spell with Manchester United.
“Next year, I’ll be playing with a band, but for now, I’m starting with a modest piano to play alongside me in intimate venues,” says Cantona “I’ll be starting in Manchester because it’s a city that has stayed with me so much for the football, of course, but also the general atmosphere.”
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Top agents weigh up consolidation of the biz
Top execs weighed up the pros and cons of the continued consolidation of the agency business at the recent ILMC.
Alex Hardee (Wasserman Music), Alex Bruford (ATC Live), Charly Beedell-Tuck (Solo Agency) and Ella Street (WME) shared their views on the matter during the Agency Business 2023 panel, moderated by IQ Magazine‘s Gordon Masson.
The panel, which took place at the beginning of March, marked one year since Paradigm UK was acquired by Wasserman Music, with Hardee becoming part of the managing executive team.
He told ILMC delegates he thinks the convergence of the business will continue, leaving a handful of major agencies that operate on a global scale.
“I think that there’ll be fewer and fewer agencies and they’ll fold up into bigger ones,” said Hardee, who represents Liam Gallagher and Lewis Capaldi among others.
“I don’t know how you can survive on a big scale without having a global footprint moving forward because the Americans have rigged the game in streaming and the majority of the new acts that are going to be global acts will come from America and perhaps Korea because that’s where the streaming base is. Branding – even though a lot of its smoke and mirrors – seems to be quite important. We’ve got 300 people working at our company now, just in the UK.
“I think that there’ll be fewer and fewer agencies and they’ll fold up into bigger ones”
“I don’t know how you’d operate on a cottage industry level and retain a world-class band. You’d be under so much pressure from people. I think it will be very hard. I think that there will be four or five main agencies probably like there are four or five main record labels.”
While WME’s Ella Street stressed the importance of independents in a healthy marketplace, she echoed Hardee’s point about the need for agencies to have a global footprint.
“I think competition is obviously important and we need to support those independent agencies, venues and festivals to create a healthy marketplace for everybody,” said Street, a WME veteran who represents the likes of Keane, Goldfrapp and more.
“And obviously, some artists are looking for a more boutique experience and don’t want to sign with WME or Wasserman. But I think Alex does have a point; artists and managers are coming to us and wanting a global plan. We’re having to project 18 months, two years ahead. So unless an artist is just looking to just tour the UK at a certain level, they are eventually going to involve a bigger team – they’re going to be looking for that next part of the conversation.”
Bruford, founder and MD of independent agency ATC Live, argued: “I think it’s well proven now that you don’t need a major record label or a major agency or major management to be a global success. I think there are a lot of artists out there that have managed it with all kinds of different levels of teams. For me, what matters is the quality of the work that you do. Whether you deliver not for your artists, it’s not really about the size of the company.
“It’s well proven now that you don’t need a major record label or a major agency or major management to be a global success”
“For us, the continued consolidation is beneficial because rather than being focused on volume, we’re focused on the creative and strategic representation of our artists. And that’s really our priority, rather than how many acts we represent and how big the numbers are. We’ve had really positive responses to that from a lot of the biggest artists and managers out there who want to have their artists represented in that way. There are obviously different ways of doing it and it just depends on which path artists want to take with their careers. I do totally agree that you need a global footprint – we have one – and I think that that’s a really important part of the business. It’s just part of the game.”
Beedell-Tuck, a senior agent at John Giddings’ boutique Solo Agency, reinforced Bruford’s point about the bespoke service independents can offer artists.
“It’s about how you’re servicing your clients and what kind of service you’re offering,” said Beedell-Tuck, who works with artists ranging from Iggy Pop to Megan McKenna.
“If you’re represented by a smaller boutique agency, you’re likely to get a more tailored experience because, in my opinion, you get more of the agent’s time and you’re not just another number. Having a global footprint is very important but there are other ways of satisfying that.”
Since the panel took place, there has been more movement in the agency business, with Primary Talent returning to being an independent music talent agency following a management buyout.
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Solo strikes biofuel deal over IoW festival site
Solo Agency has struck a “groundbreaking deal” with an Isle of Wight biogas firm to generate more than 950,000 kWh of electricity using grass from the Isle of Wight Festival site – almost twice the amount of energy used during the festival.
The Newport-based Black Dog biogas plant supplies power to the Vestas Offshore Wind Blades facility, further contributing to the sustainability outcomes of the project.
Solo, owned by Isle of Wight Festival leaders John and Caroline Giddings, has turned over the land it holds for festival camping to biofuel production – with grass harvesting being conducted either side of the June event.
“I’m really pleased that we’re able to give our land a new lease of life, helping to generate renewable energy and making sure the fields are used productively year-round,” says John Giddings. “On top of delivering one of the UK’s best music festivals on the island, we have also sought to play a positive role in the local community and we’re proud that we will be doing our bit in the push for a more sustainable future for the island.”
“We want the Isle of Wight Festival to be the most sustainable festival in the UK”
The new project is the latest in a host of initiatives designed to make the festival more sustainable. Organisers are currently working with the Isle of Wight Council on a scoping exercise around installing a new electricity sub-station near the site. The move would enable the most energy intensive areas of the festival to be powered from the grid rather than generators, leading to a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
“We want the Isle of Wight Festival to be the most sustainable festival in the UK,” adds Caroline Giddings. “Year on year we have done more to ensure that our event is as sustainable as possible, from small scale changes, such as the type of cups and cutlery we use, to systemic shifts such as the push to get the main stage area on the electricity grid. This latest initiative builds on that decade of work to keep us at the forefront of environmental activity in the industry.”
The 2023 Isle of Wight Festival takes place between 15-18 June at Seaclose Park, Newport, featuring headliners Pulp, George Ezra, Chemical Brothers and Robbie Williams.
Solo Agency names Jonathan Lomax as managing director
Solo Music Agency has appointed Jonathan Lomax as managing director to work with owners Caroline and John Giddings across the agency and the Isle of Wight festival, in the UK.
Lomax joins Solo after a 20-year career running communications agencies in London. For two years through the Covid pandemic, Jonathan ran the political lobbying and communications work for the live music industry body LIVE. He led a team working with a wide range of industry leaders to help them navigate the ever-shifting sands of policy during the pandemic, and fought to ensure the financial plight of the industry was on the radar of media and government.
In addition, he has also advised and overseen communications activity for international arena development businesses on their plans for new large-scale venues in the UK.
Lomax says: “It was one of the privileges of my career to support the live music industry during the pandemic, when I met the most interesting and committed people. Despite everyone telling me that I was mad, I was determined to work in the industry permanently and I am thrilled that John and Caroline have taken me into the Solo family.
“I find myself feeling incredibly lucky to be working with such legends of the industry”
“Yet again I find myself feeling incredibly lucky to be working with such legends of the industry as we push forward both the Isle of Wight Festival and Solo. I’m very excited and start the job knowing that, at the very least, there will never be a dull day at work.”
Caroline Giddings adds: “At Solo we’re always looking to bring in new ideas and fresh thinking and we’re excited about someone helping us run the company who has extensive experience in other fields. Like many people in the industry, we got to know Jonathan during the dark days of the pandemic and we’re excited to be working together as a team in happier times as we look to turbocharge both the agency and the Isle of Wight Festival.”
John Giddings comments: “Things never stay the same in this business, you either change or die. I’m really pleased that Jonathan is going to be working with the team on Solo’s next phase and I’m looking forward to many more successful days ahead.”
The lineup for Isle of Wight festival 2023 was recently revealed, with acts including Pulp, George Ezra, Chemical Brothers, Sugarbabes, Sophie Ellis Bextor, Anne-Marie, Gabrielle and Blondie.
September New Music Playlist out now
The latest edition of the IQ New Music playlist, featuring a selection of tracks curated by international booking agencies, is now live.
The playlist complements IQ Magazine’s popular New Signings page, which keeps the live industry updated about which new, emerging and re-emerging artists are being signed by agents. Click here to read the latest issue of IQ now.
The September edition of the playlist features tracks hand-picked by agents at CAA, ITB, Wasserman Music, UTA, Mother Artists and Solo.
Listen to the latest selection using the Spotify playlist below, or click here to catch up on last month’s Loud and Proud playlist from IQ Magazine‘s Pride edition.
Separated by agency, the full track list for the September playlist is:
|CAA||Sophie May||With The Band|
|CAA||Warren Zeiders||Ride the Lighting|
|ITB||Cemetery Sun||Break Me Down|
|ITB||Eat Your Heart Out||Sour|
|ITB||Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown||Ain’t None Watered Down|
|Wasserman Music||Nieve Ella||Girlfriend|
|Wasserman Music||The Clause||Forever Young|
|Wasserman Music||Ewan McVicar||Heather Park|
|UTA||Laa Lee||Bong Bing|
|UTA||Musa Keys||Selema (Po Po)|
|ATC||Surf Curse||Lost Honor|
|ATC||Car Boot Sale||Odoyewu|
|ATC||Zella Day||Radio Silence|
|ATC||Stella Donnelly||How Was Your Day?|
|Mother Artists||First Aid Kit||Out of My Head|
|Mother Artists||Fazerdaze||Come Apart|
|Mother Artists||julie||pg.4 a picture of three hedges|
|Mother Artists||corook||it's ok!|
|Solo||The Kairos||Lazy Lethargic|
|Solo||Sleep Well Beast||Out of Date|
Six of the best from Alex Hardee & John Giddings
Heavyweight agents Alex Hardee and John Giddings served up a treat for ILMC delegates by starring in one of the most entertaining panels yet seen at a music business conference.
Coda Agency co-founder Hardee, now of Wasserman Music, and Isle of Wight Festival promoter Giddings, of Solo Agency, sat down in front of a standing room only audience to review their respective career paths and retell some of the many stories of their lives in the concert industry.
Here are six of the best tales (that we can print) from the double act’s ‘Dragons’ Den’ masterclass…
Why they became agents…
John Giddings: “I couldn’t get a real job. When I was 14 at school my mate said his group had split up and why didn’t I learn to play bass and pull a few chicks, so I thought it was a good idea. But then we were playing Harpenden Youth Club and a skinhead came and stood in front of me and said, ‘If you don’t stop playing now, I’m going to hit you,’ which was the end of my musical career. But I was better at booking the gig than being in it and my mate was social sec at the local college and he got a job in the music business. So I knew if you went to university and became social sec, you’d meet people in the music business and get a job. I got offered a job… Barry Dickins couldn’t decide between me and Paul Loasby, so he employed both of us.”
Alex Hardee: “Believe it or not, I actually was doing aeronautical engineering at university. My brother [the late Malcolm Hardee] was a comedian and he introduced me to lots of other comedians like Steve Coogan, Eddie Izzard… And I started booking them while I was a student. Then I got a 2:2 in my second year in aeronautical engineering and [careers’ advice] said, ‘If you work really hard and get a 2:1 then you will be able to work in Enfield Aerodrome and get £16,000 a year.’ And I went, ‘Fuck no, I’m already earning £25,000 a year!’ So I left university the next day and that’s how I became an agent. I mean, some still say I am a comedy agent…”
“Groups should pay little commission when they start and more commission when they earn money”
Changing client relations…
JG: “When you start, you’re petrified about losing an act because you need to earn the money to pay your mortgage. And then finally, when you earn some money and you buy your house, the relationship changes. If a group comes to you and says, ‘We want to do this tour of beaches and rent a big top and go around the UK.’ And you can tell them it’s a fucking stupid idea which you couldn’t tell them before because you’re worried about losing them. But then when acts get to a stadium level, it’s a different level of representation. I’ve always thought groups should pay little commission when they start and more commission when they earn more money, but… it doesn’t work like that. Try telling a group they should pay you more money when they get bigger. And the poor little group has no money to pay you in the first place.”
AH: “As soon as you’re worried about losing an act, you’ve already lost them. What’s quite interesting is when an artist starts to become unsuccessful they can’t fire the record label. So probably first thing they’d do would be to fire the agent, because they don’t have a contract. But it’s interesting in Covid… I thought there’d be a lot more change. But the agents couldn’t get blamed for nothing happening for the last two years so they couldn’t get fired!”
“The middle is being squeezed and it’s going to be quite a tough summer. A lot of shows aren’t going to hit that breakeven point”
The ’22 summer season…
JG: “Shows that went on sale before Christmas have done quite well, but shows that have gone on sale since then are beginning to struggle and it’s becoming soft in the market, because there’s three years’ worth of touring in one year. So we’ve all got to watch out. I don’t think it’s going to come completely back to normal until the start of ’23. Everybody’s putting on a brave face, but there’s a lot out there and it costs a third more to fill up your car, or your electricity bill now… If you’re a punter, you’re going to worry about your food bill, as opposed to buying a ticket for a festival.”
AH: “This year, there’s too much on, there are too many shows. There’s more tickets on sale, but the P&Ls for the individual shows aren’t making profits. So it’s a good year to be an agent or a ticketing company, but the promoters are going to suffer and that will have to get readjusted the following year. The middle’s been squeezed and it’s going to be quite a tough summer I think… A lot of shows aren’t going to hit that breakeven point.”
JG: “The kids are still going out. I mean, the Little Mix tour we keep releasing production seats and they sell like hot cakes. Harry Styles sells out.”
AH: “Billie Eilish… The top never gets squeezed but the middle acts, the middle festivals, the middle events, there’s a lot of trouble there. it’s going to be hard.”
“I looked around and Prince Harry’s there with a crate of beer”
Best festival memory…
JG: “Jay-Z was playing [Isle of Wight] and the audience of going wild. I thought, ‘An audience can’t go more wild than they are now,’ and then Kanye West walked on behind him… I turned around to my left, and there was Beyoncé standing next to me and I thought, ‘This is worth it.'”
AH: “This isn’t my best one, but it’s reminded me of a good one: I was at Hyde Park and I managed to blag on stage to Jay-Z. There was Beyoncé, Sacha Baron Cohen, Madonna and somehow me on the side of the stage and I was fucking desperate for a drink but there weren’t any. I looked around and Prince Harry’s there with a crate of beer. I go, ‘Can I have a beer mate?’ And he goes, ‘Here bruv’. And I thought, ‘Fucking “bruv!”‘ I went, ‘Oh thanks. where are we going afterwards then? I hear it’s all back to yours because yours is the closest.’ That’s a true story!”
“All the contracts in the world are meaningless, you have to deliver on your word”
Least favourite thing about the live business…
JG: “When people bullshit you – it’s so boring. The easiest thing in the world is to tell the truth, because then you can at least remember what you’ve said. All the contracts in the world are meaningless, you have to deliver on your word. And it’s so disappointing when people let you down and don’t deliver… It’s rife with bullshit, that’s the thing I like least about it.”
AH: “Smoke and mirrors is much harder nowadays, everything’s a stat, you can’t say I sold out Brixton if you didn’t sell out Brixton. Within two seconds, you can find out every ticket count, everyone can find everything.”
JG: “One thing that’s changed in the music business is, when I joined it, everybody used to lie about ticket sales and say they were less than they really were. And they still lie about ticket sales, but by saying they’re more than they really are. So they’ve never actually told the truth in the whole of my career.”
AH: “The promoters used to say they were less?”
JG: “Yeah, because they didn’t want to pay you as much and now everybody’s embarrassed by it so they inflate it when they tell it to you. Unless you speak to Simon Moran, who knows every ticket sale for every show throughout the universe…”
Advice they would give their 16-year-old selves…
JG: “It’s so long ago I can’t remember, seriously. I mean, to be in this business you have to work really hard. You have to work the room and you have to deliver on your word. It’s not brain of Britain stuff, but people have to be able to trust you. If people can trust in you then they’re confident in what they’re doing.”
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.’”
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.”