Big Concerts ‘ecstatic’ as SA drops restrictions
South Africa’s largest promoter Big Concerts has spoken of its relief after the government finally dropped the country’s remaining coronavirus measures.
Restrictions had included mandatory mask-wearing in indoor public spaces, border checks for Covid-19 and – most pertinently for the live music business – capacity limits of 1,000 people indoors and 2,000 people outdoors.
Live Nation-owned Big Concerts has upcoming dates scheduled with the likes of OneRepublic, David Gray and Foreigner, as well as two huge shows with Justin Bieber at Cape Town’s DHL Stadium (28 September) and FNB Stadium in Johannesburg (1 October).
“The road to economic recovery starts today”
“It was nerve-wracking because our timing was impeccable,” says Big Concerts CEO Justin van Wyk, reports Eyewitness News. “We had just announced Justin Bieber and two weeks later, our scientists announced Omicron. We are ecstatic with this news, it is going to be a great summer. The road to economic recovery starts today.”
According to Reuters, the lifting of measures followed a decline in the number of Covid infections and deaths.
Big Concerts has been involved in nearly every major international live event promoted in South Africa since the 1990s, including the 1992 concert by Paul Simon which marked the end of a 10-year international ban on foreign artists during the Apartheid era.
Live Nation acquired a controlling interest in the Cape Town-based promoter in 2016. The two companies have been working together since mid-2009, when Big Concerts became exclusive promotion partner for all LN tours in South Africa.
Ticketmaster expanded to South Africa earlier this year, opening a new headquarters in Cape Town.
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Ticketmaster enters South Africa
Ticketmaster is expanding to South Africa, opening a new headquarters in Cape Town.
Sporting teams, artists, promoters, festivals and venues will be able to take full advantage of Ticketmaster’s suite of products and digital ticketing tools.
The official announcement follows Ticketmaster’s highly successful on-sale for Justin Bieber’s Justice World Tour, the first-ever major international tour to sell all tickets online in South Africa, and the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022 on sale which is set to deliver the country’s first-ever 100% digital sporting event.
“As a popular stop for the world’s biggest artists and major international sporting events, South Africa is a natural choice for us,” says Mark Yovich, president of Ticketmaster.
“As a popular stop for the world’s biggest artists and major international sporting events, South Africa is a natural choice”
“Our unparalleled technology and continued investment in innovation will enable our South African team to provide the best ticketing experience to event organisers, venues and fans across the country.”
Justin Van Wyk, managing director of Ticketmaster South Africa, says: “Our local team of experts have been living and breathing live events for 20+ years and are ready to bring their industry-wide knowledge coupled with the world’s largest ticket marketplace to clients and fans here.
“As a country rapidly adopting digital technology, South African fans are sure to embrace Ticketmaster’s industry-leading digital ticketing innovations.”
Ticketmaster’s move into South Africa brings the company’s operations to 31 countries worldwide.
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Arte Viva Management sets out global intentions
Cape Town-headquartered Arte Viva Management (Arte Viva) is expanding globally with the launch of a new roster of primarily Southern African acts at this month’s International Live Music Conference (ILMC).
Founded in 2016, the booking, management and touring agency also has a European office in Amsterdam, the Netherlands and counts a collective 60 years of experience among its team, including tour production in territories such as Africa, Latin America and Europe.
Prior to Covid-19, the company focused on in-bound tours for international music clients and had already produced some 20 tours around South and Southern Africa for artists including Adrian Iaies (Argentina), Hildegard Lernt Fliegen (Switzerland), Coco Zhao (China) and Bokani Dyer (SA).
It was also commissioned to produce and manage the Carnegie Hall’s National Youth Jazz Orchestra tour to SA in 2020 with Grammy Award winner Dianne Reeves before its postponement due to the pandemic.
“Southern African music is widely appreciated and enjoyed across the world, and we believe there is significant opportunity to increase international touring”
“The world has been deeply impacted by the pandemic, but one thing that has not changed is the desire for and connection to music that moves the heart, the soul – and often, the feet,” says Arte Viva founder and MD Nikki Froneman. “Southern African music is widely appreciated and enjoyed across the world, and we believe there is significant opportunity to increase international touring. We are immensely proud of this new roster, and we are confident the time is right for expansion and introducing these artists to keen audiences in new territories.”
Arte Viva’s hand-picked roster predominantly features artists from Southern Africa, with genres spanning World-Fusion to SA Jazz, Afro- Soul & Folk, including The One Who Sings, Hope Masike, Abavuki, Sibusiso Mash Mashiloane, Mandla Mlangeni, Thandeka Dladla, The Lady Day Big Band, The Unity Band, Mthwakazi and China’s Coco Zhao – the one international performer selected by the Arte Viva team for his “exquisite singing and sensitively articulated fusion of Jazz with traditional Chinese music”.
ILMC 34 will take place in person from 26–29 April 2022 at its longstanding home, the Royal Garden Hotel in London
Arte Viva’s presence at the event is supported by the South African Department of Sports, Arts and Culture, through its Mzansi Golden Economy programme. Arte Viva has used the funding as an investment injection into the launch of the new roster and says it has the requisite experience in coordinating multiple stakeholders and partners to realise sustainable touring that works for all parties and opens the world stage for ongoing prospects.
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Omicron live music restrictions: World update
As the new Omicron variant of coronavirus takes hold, IQ has updated the latest restrictions affecting major international touring markets. This update complements our European list which can be read here.
Below you’ll find the latest information on certification schemes, social distancing requirements, mask mandates, capacity restrictions and lockdowns affecting key live music markets around the globe.
Please note that we will aim to keep this article as up-to-date as possible but all information is subject to change.
To submit an update to this, please get in touch. This article was last updated on Thursday 16 December.
To read about the Omicron restrictions affecting European markets, please click here.
As of 27 November, the operating capacity of indoor events has increased to 80%. Entry to indoor events requires attendees to show their green pass and a negative PCR test result received within 96 hours.
Attendees at indoor events must also undertake an EDE scan at public entry points and wear a mask.
As of 16 November, mass events in outdoor spaces can take place at 100% capacity. Attendees over 18 years of age must provide proof of at least one dose of the vaccine, and wear a face mask during the event.
In New South Wales, face masks, proof of vaccination and Covid-19 Safe Check-in are not required. Retail and businesses are no longer required to have a Safety Plan.
In Victoria (and from 17 December, Queensland too) many leisure and entertainment facilities, such as live music venues, can only open for attendees and staff who are fully vaccinated or exempted. Capacity limits and social distancing will not apply.
South Australia is currently operating under Level 1 restrictions which means venues are limited to 75% capacity for seated events and 50% for standing events. Covid Management Plans required for events of more than 1,000 people. Masks are required for shared indoor public spaces.
Though Western Australia remains in a ‘state of emergency’, events and concerts are permitted to go ahead at full capacity. However, businesses must provide a Covid Safety Plan and maintain a contact register. Events with more than 500 patrons are required to complete a Covid Event Checklist or Plan.
In November, the Brazilian government increased the capacity limit for music venues from 70% to 100% with proof of vaccination.
In Ontario, Canada’s capital city and its biggest live music market, new restrictions came into effect on Sunday 19 December.
Under the new rules, music venues and many other indoor public settings will be limited to 50% capacity. Event spaces are required to close by 23:00.
Canada’s live music restrictions vary from province to province.
See the latest guidelines for each of the regions here: Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Yukon.
Restrictions vary across the country but the majority of regions are on step 3 (preparation) or step 4 (initial opening) of the national five-step reopening plan.
During step 3, seated concerts in closed spaces (such as music venues) can take place at 50% capacity if all attendees show a Mobility Pass verifying full vaccination. If there is food consumption, it is reduced to 30% capacity.
Seated concerts in open spaces (such as open-air venues) can take place at 60% capacity with a Mobility Pass. If there is food consumption, it is reduced to 40% capacity.
In non-seated closed spaces, events can take place with up to 100 people (sans Mobility Pass) or 500 people (with Mobility Pass). In non-seated open spaces, events can take place with up to 200 (sans Mobility Pass) or 1,000 (with Mobility Pass).
Attendees at all non-seated venues must be able to maintain social distancing (1m without food consumption, 1.5m with).
Masks are required in all public spaces.
Life is largely back to normal but regional lockdowns have been imposed every time there are new outbreaks of the virus.
Mask-wearing is compulsory, as is keeping a two-meter social distance, except in restaurants, cafes, offices, workplaces, gyms, shopping centres, beaches and public and entertainment parks, where a one-meter rule applies.
Outside, you must wear a mask unless exercising, eating or drinking, at a barbershop or salon, in a car with people from the same household, or if you’re alone.
Live entertainment and activities are permitted in restaurants, cafés and shopping malls. Events with free movement – such as standing concerts – are now allowed again, with a maximum of 5,000 people. Vaccination is required for these events.
At the beginning of November, the Japanese government eased its 10,000-capacity limit on mass gatherings such as concerts following a steady decline in coronavirus cases.
Events across the country can now admit 5,000 people, or 50% of capacity – whichever is larger – while large-scale spaces are permitted to welcome more than 10,000 spectators in Tokyo and other regions previously under a state or quasi-state of emergency. However, events that will involve fans shouting and cheering will be capped at 50% of capacity.
See more information on event restrictions here.
Mexico is currently following a colour-coded system (red, orange, yellow, green) which is updated every two weeks.
Currently, all states are coded yellow (resuming limited activities but with precaution) or green (resuming normal activities but with precaution).
Concerts can only take place in green-coded states. See the colour codes for states here.
Since the beginning of this month, New Zealand has been operating with a traffic light system, under which each region has been assigned a colour (green, orange or red) based on vaccination rates and the spread of Covid-19 in the community.
A region’s colour determines the set of restrictions by which it has to abide.
In regions assigned ‘red’, venues using vaccine certificates are limited to 100 people with one-metre social distancing. In ‘orange’ regions, these venues face no limits on gatherings at events, retail, hospitality. Venues that don’t use vaccine certificates are not permitted indoor or outdoor events under red or orange.
Every region aside from Northland will move to orange at 23:59 NZST on 30 December. These settings will stay in place until 17 January when the cabinet will review. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she expected many areas would move to green at that point.
As of 1 October 2021, South Africa is operating under an adjusted Alert Level 1 which indicates a “low Covid-19 spread with a high health system readiness”.
Under Alert Level 1, leisure and entertainment facilities, whether indoors or outdoors, must close at 23:00. Nightclubs are closed to the public.
Face masks are mandatory for every person when in a public place and 1.5 metres social distancing must be maintained.
Entertainment facilities are limited to a maximum capacity of 750 people for indoor venues and 2,000 people or less for outdoor venues – with social distancing. Smaller venues are limited to 50% capacity.
It was announced on 16 December that South Korea will reimpose curfews on businesses for an initial two weeks from Saturday 18 December.
Public places such as concert halls and cinemas will be permitted to operate until 22:00, while restaurants, cafes and other nightlife venues will have to close at 21:00.
The measures, announced on Thursday (16 December), come a month and a half after the government initiated a phased reopening plan. Amid record highs of Covid-19 infections, the cabinet has gradually rolled back the policy.
Restrictions may vary from state to state – check the US government website for the latest guidance.
New York City
On 13 December, governor Kathy Hochul announced that masks will be required to be worn in all indoor public places unless businesses or venues implement a vaccine requirement. This measure is effective until 15 January 2022, after which the state will re-evaluate based on current conditions.
California is fully open for business with no capacity limits or physical distancing requirements.
For indoor events with 1,000 or more or outdoor events with 10,000 or more, attendees age 3 and older must provide proof that they are fully vaccinated or have received a negative Covid-19 test.
Unvaccinated persons are required to wear masks in all indoor public settings. It is recommended that fully vaccinated people also wear masks in these settings.
SA supreme court rejects appeal over concert death
The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) of South Africa has rejected an appeal by one of the companies held responsible for a scaffolding tower collapse that killed one person at a Linkin Park show in South Africa in 2012.
In 2017, nearly five years after the death of 32-year-old Florentina Popa, Cape Town magistrate Ingrid Arntsen ruled that Vertex Scaffolding, Bothma Signs and Hirt & Carter – which constructed two large scaffolding towers at Cape Town Stadium and hung an advertisement for Lucozade between them – had been negligent and could be “causally linked” to Popa’s death, while Big Concerts, the promoter of the show, was found not to be responsible.
Popa died of blunt-force trauma after the tower fell on her in strong winds before Linkin Park show’s at the 58,309-seat stadium on 7 November 2012.
Arntsen said the companies should have foreseen that even moderate winds could have blown it over. “[W]inds with speeds of up to 15 metres per second were eminently foreseeable in Cape Town, and the towers could have been designed and constructed in such a way as to withstand the winds that were recorded on the day of the concert,” she said at the time.
“There is, in my view, no discernible material error of law … on which a review might be founded”
“It would appear, then, from all the evidence, that while the wind did come up and create problems, there was no real fear on the part of anyone in authority at the concert that the towers would blow over.”
Durban-based Hirt & Carter, which produces billboards and digital advertising, took the inquest’s findings to the Western Cape High Court, which dismissed the appeal, and then to the Supreme Court of appeal, which has upheld the high court’s ruling.
SCA judge Sulet Potterill, with four judges concurring, found that Arntsen “cannot be faulted for concluding that the death of the deceased was brought about by an act or omission that prima facie amounts to or involves an offence on the part of Hirt & Carter”, reports News24.
“It was premised on a finding of negligence on the part of Hirt & Carter. There is, in my view, no discernible material error of law by the magistrate of the kind on which a review might be founded. Indeed, I can find no error at all.”
Hirt & Carter’s appeal argued that the magistrate had erred when she found that it had omitted to supervise and manage the erection of the towers, which it said was the responsibility of a subcontractor (Bothma Signs).
In her judgment, Potterill disagreed, saying Arntsen “was correctly unpersuaded that the subcontracting of Bothma Signs and Vertex, against the facts of the case, could be relied on to exonerate Hirt & Carter.”
A further 19 people were injured in the accident, with 12 requiring hospitalisation.
South Africa’s largest indoor venue closes
The 20,000-capacity Ticketpro Dome, South Africa’s largest indoor venue, is closing to events and will become a giant used car dealership after owner Sasol Pension Fund sold the building to WeBuyCars.
RX Venue Management, which operated the Johannesburg venue for 20 years, said the venue was unable to operate during the country’s Covid-19 lockdowns, adding that its permanent loss will hit the live industry at a critical time.
Carol Weaving, MD of RX Africa, said: “This is extremely disappointing and heartbreaking for our industry. The Ticketpro Dome has been home to many international concerts and events in South Africa, and this will undoubtedly leave a huge void.
“The constant changes and severity of the Covid-19 restrictions have wreaked havoc amongst our stakeholders and across the supply chain. This has meant we were unable to change the outcome of Sasol Pension Fund’s decision to sell the venue due to a force majeure. We want to thank all our customers, suppliers, and partners for their support over the past 20 years.”
“This is extremely disappointing and heartbreaking for our industry.”
Artists that performed at the Dome include Katy Perry, Pink, Lauren Hill, Lionel Richie, Celine Dion, Pharrell Williams, and Michael Bublé.
In a statement on Facebook, leading South African promoter Big Concerts said: “We are saddened by the news that the Dome will be closing their doors. Since 1998, we have promoted 186 shows at the Dome. To all our friends at the Ticketpro Dome, it’s been a pleasure working with you all, we will miss you terribly!”
The WeBuyCars showroom is expected to have room for 1,500 vehicles, making it one of the largest car showrooms in the world. Handover is expected on 7 September.
Sara slams lack of regulation in South Africa
The South African Roadies Association (Sara) has hit out at the loose regulations governing live events production in South Africa, as it emerged no one has been held responsible for the death of a rigger over two years ago at the Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100.
Speaking to the Weekly SA Mirror of 4 June, Freddie Nyathela, president of Sara, describes the sector as a “free for all”, blaming the Department of Employment and Labour for dragging its feet on a proposed new framework for the technical events production and production services industry.
Lack of transformation in the industry is ultimately responsible for the death of Siyabonga Ngodze, the 36-year-old who suffered fatal injuries after falling in the set-up for the Mandela 100 event, which featured performances from Beyoncé, Jay-Z and Ed Sheeran.
Though Ngodze’s mother has received compensation from his employer, production company Gearhouse SA, and the Department of Employment and Labour (R39,000 [US$2,900] and R35,000 [$2,600], respectively), Thembekile Ngonze says she has yet to see justice for her “beloved son”.
“I cannot understand why it is taking so long to have someone prosecuted”
“I cannot understand why it is taking so long to have someone prosecuted for the death of my son”, says the 56-year-old.
According to the Weekly SA Mirror, progress in resolving the case has been delayed by successive lockdowns in South Africa. However, a Department of Employment and Labour investigation found that Gearhouse SA had failed to comply with the provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
In addition to the death of Ngodze, the Mandela 100 event, held to celebrate the 100th birthday of the late Nelson Mandela, was also marred by reports of widespread lootings and assaults, blamed by the venue, FNB Stadium, on the lack of police presence.
The concert raised billions of dollars for education, HIV prevention and anti-poverty initiatives in Africa.
Unsung Heroes 2020: #feedourcrew
Unsung Heroes 2020, published in IQ 95 this month, is a tribute to some of the organisations and individuals who have gone above and beyond to help others during a year unlike any other – be that through their efforts to protect the industry, or helping those who were in desperate need.
We turned to the readership and asked you to nominate worthy causes and personalities for consideration as the inaugural members of our Unsung Heroes awards. Now, IQ can reveal the dozen most voted Unsung Heroes of 2020, starting with South Africa’s #feedourcrew.
Established just after lockdown in April 2020, #feedourcrew’s objective is to provide temporary support, through food vouchers, to technical and casual event crew personnel across South Africa. Founding members Tamsyn Strydom (MGG Productions), Kagiso Moima Wa Masimini (Black Motion Productions), Marcia Alves (We Are Boundless) and Daria Higgins (True North Events) wanted to assist the members of their teams who contribute tirelessly towards creating memorable events, but as freelance technical staff were unable to access any form of relief funds or grants.
Almost all 526 freelancers assisted to date are the sole breadwinners in their families and rely heavily on a normally robust industry for their livelihoods. That, however, changed when the strict lockdown rules were introduced in South Africa, leaving hundreds of crew members without any income.
#feedourcrew has raised ZAR344,564 (€18,684) and has paid out ZAR333,500 (€18,084), with 122 applicants still on the waiting list
To date, #feedourcrew has raised ZAR344,564 (€18,684) and has paid out ZAR333,500 (€18,084), with 122 applicants still on the waiting list for help. As the live industry begins to get back to business in SA, #feedourcrew has partnered with organisations such as the Kagiso Education Fund, which provides on-the-job stagehand training for students aged 18-30 through various industry partners. It also develops community arts space for young people, women, and people living with disabilities.
In August, #feedourcrew also gave birth to #flightcasemovement in an effort to unite members from the live events and technical production sectors. On behalf of those working in the business, #flightcasemovement hand-delivered a memorandum of demands to South Africa’s Department of Sports, Arts & Culture (DSAC) in response to the devastating effect that the government’s prohibition on gatherings has had on the live events industry.
Founded by Kagiso Moima Wa Masimini, Tamsyn Strydom, Aubrey Ndaba (Tech Forum), Sizwe Mokoena (Ugqozi Entertainment), and freelance production manager Lefa Tsiane, #flightcasemovement is providing the live events production community with a vehicle to lobby politicians and give a voice to the sector.
“It is not unusual for crews to work up to 36 hours in a row with no rest… we need to change that”
Among its early activities, the organisation was able to participate in and present the findings of a survey conducted by media group Sun Circle, examining the impact Covid-19 has had on the business and the people who depend upon it.
As a result, #flightcasemovement’s memorandum of demands to the government includes:
- The reopening of the live events industry at 70% capacity, following strict Covid-19 protocol in line with Event Safety Council-proposed guidelines.
- A specific ZAR2billlion (€108million) relief fund for businesses in the live events and technical production sector.
- Compulsory extended relief from financial institutes for businesses and crew members (covering such areas as rent/ bond repayments, school fees, car repayments, insurance/ medical), until the live events sector has recovered.
- Monetary assistance to the organisations that stepped in and assisted freelance technicians and casual workers, such as #feedourcrew.
- Relaxation of relief fund application requirements for freelance crew members.
- Recognition of the live events and technical production sector with different representation across the board and a seat at the DSAC table.
- A strategic, deliberate and sustainable plan on how to support the live events industry.
On the final point, #flightcasemovement is hoping DSAC will help it draw up guidelines for a sustainable plan to best support the industry and to start the process of regulation within the production business. “While we are one of the strictest industries worldwide in terms of health and safety, there is no regulation on the hours worked in South Africa and it is not unusual for crews to work up to 36 hours in a row with no rest,” states Lefa Tsiane. “We need to change that.”
South Africa: Nearly half of pros to leave the industry
Nearly half of the thousands of people working in live music in South Africa might quit the business for good, according to the country’s biggest-ever survey on the effects of 2020’s Covid-19 shutdown.
Some 47% of live music industry professionals, including artists, say they are at risk of being driven out of the industry altogether due to their inability to continue with “music-related activities” at present, reveals Impact Analysis: Live Music and its Venues and the South African economy during COVID-19, a report by the South African Cultural Observatory (SACO).
SACO commissioned the research in August to discover how the sector has been affected by the measures imposed to control the spread of the coronavirus. “It is important we understand how the various sectors of the industry have been affected and continue to be affected by the pandemic, as this empowers us to provide better insights to both policy makers and the industry,” said the organisation’s executive director, Unathi Lutshaba.
Among the study’s key findings are:
- A majority of respondents had previously been operating for more than five years, but the impact of Covid-19 has been devastating even on these established practitioners. Around 90% of the live music industry lost income due to Covid-19 and 25% indicated that they would not be able to continue with any elements of their business under lockdown
Around 90% of the live music industry lost income due to Covid-19
- Industry professionals have attempted to respond flexibly and with agility to the crisis, with 88% attempting various online music alternatives in a very short space of time. However many had to resort to more severe measures such as terminating short-term contracts (23%), retrenching employees (13%) or cutting employee salaries (18%). Only 6% of respondents could continue to pay all employees
- The predominantly informal and project-based nature of all music-related work means that many industry actors were unable or ineligible to apply for or secure any form of government relief, since all required extensive formal documentation. Only 7% reported that they had successfully applied for the various SMME [small, medium and micro enterprises] support mechanisms available, while 21% indicated that they had successful applied to the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture for funding. Without access to support, many have resorted to the sale of equipment and assets, and reliance on financial support from friends and family
- The participants also called for decentralisation of programmes, projects and infrastructure, with a focus on the local – including shifting funding away from large-scale events towards local music initiatives, venues and performance spaces
In response to the findings, the SACO report makes a number of recommendations, including launching a national ‘music desk’ specifically to work with the music industry and reducing licensing costs and red tape around the use of public space for Covid-secure performances.
“It is our hope that this report will contribute in some small way towards the industry and stakeholders from other industries who wish to participate assisting in the recovery,” adds Lutshaba.
SA’s recovery: “There’s still a lot of blood on the floor”
To say South Africa (SA) has had a tough time during the pandemic would be something of an understatement. The nation endured one of the earliest and strictest national lockdowns in the world, which saw a curfew enforced and the sale of alcohol and tobacco restricted.
Now though, things are looking up for SA. On the 20 September, the overnight curfew was reduced to 12–4 am and entertainment venues permitted to accommodate 50% capacity with limitations of 250 people indoors and 500 people outdoors – just in time for summer and, under normal circumstances, the live market’s busiest season.
As the market starts its recovery, IQ catches up with Theresho Selesho, CEO at Matchbox Live and the promoter behind some of SA’s most popular events and festivals including OppiKoppi (cap. 10,000), to discuss recovering, adapting and planning post-lockdown.
IQ: Lockdown must’ve been an incredibly tough time for businesses, how has Matchbox Live managed to survive?
TS: With the type of restrictions that we’ve had, it didn’t make any sense to do much. We couldn’t sell alcohol or tobacco up until the beginning of September, which is a crucial part of how most festivals generate income on sites and how they secure sponsorship.
It was more economical to just stay closed and just try to keep your business upright by cutting as many costs as possible. That was one way to survive this. There’s still a lot of blood on the floor. Some companies have closed down, some production companies have had to let a lot of people go.
What kind of support has the sector received from the government?
Only recently has our sector started organising itself to have real engagements with the arts and culture department. This required a lot of engagement amongst various players within the industry, which included venues, promoters, technical companies and the likes. There is a little bit of movement that is starting to happen but in terms of support and grants, that has started to slowly materialise. The administration behind this has been one of the biggest challenges for a sector that is not formally organised, as it should be.
Freelancers and musicians could apply for support but not the promoters who create those opportunities because there’s a very specific kind of support that is needed to make these things happen and keep the wheels turning. So that has also made this time very challenging. Promoters couldn’t rely on the government, they had to be gung-ho, have deep and frequent engagements with each other in order to better organise ourselves to make things happen, coming out of this thing.
“Promoters couldn’t rely on the government, they had to be gung-ho”
How have you adapted your events in line with the restrictions?
With the current restrictions it makes sense to do smaller, curated, daytime events. So with one of the venues that I co-own, in collaboration with another entertainment company, Homecoming Africa we came up with the concept for Fontein Brunches, where attendees can book tables of four or more, eat brunch, and listen to DJs and artists. We launched at the beginning of September, with events on both Saturdays and Sundays between 10 am and 6 pm. It’s a great day out.
Have you managed to make the events financially viable?
We have done all the Fontein Brunches on risk, without a sponsor, which is unheard of in our market. You rarely do an event without a brand partner here, it’s just not viable. But we believed in the concept enough to cost it so it made sense and now it’s starting to build traction and bear fruit. We’ve managed to sell out 80% of them.
“We’ve always had to be pretty self-sustainable so operating in these kinds of conditions is not really new”
Has the market got busier now restrictions have been eased?
Lots of daytime events and club shows have popped up now so we want to take ourselves out of the clutter of the people doing the same stuff in the city. We’re looking at other options. We just announced an event at Sun City Resort, which is like a mini city with multiple hotels and entertainment, for the end of November. People can book hotel packages and there’ll be pool parties, after-parties and live performances in different areas.
Is that business model of creating a ‘temporary venue’ and booking it up the way to go right now?
Definitely. We were looking at doing drive-in shows with the same model as Newcastle’s Virgin Money Unity Arena, where we set up a venue in a rugby or soccer field for two to four weeks in Johannesburg and then in Cape Town and get different promoters to do different shows. So I could bring an Alchemy [a festival series featuring international artists] experience, someone else can bring an electronic festival, and someone else could book a classic concert etc. That way everyone covers the same base costs and the suppliers know how to cost for that. It’s just a bit more viable for everybody, as well.
“It’s going to be a big rebuild. We’re going to have to all force ourselves to rebuild from whichever level that we started at”
Are you confident in the market’s ability to bounce back?
Being so removed in South Africa, we’ve always had to be pretty self-sustainable so operating in these kinds of conditions is not really new – aside from the obvious catastrophic health and economic factors. You can never just do a festival in South Africa and that’s all you do. We have very nimble and lean teams that we operate with, and everyone works on different things throughout the year.
Another bonus is our production costs which are a lot more manageable than Europe where you need a higher capacity for events to make financial sense. It’s 5-10 times cheaper to do the same production here than it is in the UK or in Europe as well. There are a lot more suppliers in the market now which speaks to the maturity and growth of the market. And we can negotiate a lot harder to make the event a lot more viable, as well.
“The confidence to bounce back also comes from the fans”
It’s still early days in SA’s recovery, are promoters cautious about booking for next year?
Yes, we have to be very calculated. Currently, we’re only planning per quarter. Many promoters haven’t committed to their typical dates for festivals next year. We need to look at the dynamics like how much money is in the market for people to go out to go to a big festival and big productions.
It’s going to be a big rebuild. I think we’re going to have to all force ourselves to rebuild from whichever level that we started at, so if it means we need to start with 500-capacity shows upwards, that’s what we’re going to do. Most of the big festivals happened this year; we also decided to take the OppiKoppi Festival online this year.
Are promoters confident about fans’ willingness to return to live events?
Yes, I would like to believe that there is a lot of confidence in the market. The confidence to bounce back also comes from the fans. People really, really want to go out and reconnect with other humans in good, safe spaces so that’s motivating. Regardless of sponsors, artists want to perform and the fans want to go out. It would have been a very different dynamic if people were very hesitant to go out because of financial constraints and health and safety issues.