Sustainability heads say pandemic prompted “sea change”
Sustainability heads say the pandemic has prompted a “real sea change” in the industry’s attitude towards green issues.
“The pause allowed for time to think and reflect about their own businesses but, more than this, different sectors of the industry have recognised that they are part of the bigger live ecosystem and need to work together in a much more joined-up way to tackle climate change and the industry’s environmental impact,” explains Teresa Moore, director at A Greener Festival (AGF).
“In my mind, it has undoubtedly speeded up progress, and the launch of Live Green and the Beyond Zero declaration felt like a genuine collaboration across the industry,” says Moore.
The declaration, led by the sustainability arm of live music umbrella trade body LIVE, was revealed last September at the Green Events and Innovations Conference (GEI).
The initiative sets out a roadmap for how the UK’s live music businesses can reach net-zero emissions by the year 2030, in line with the Paris Agreement.
The launch of the declaration came a month before the United Nations Climate Change Conference (aka COP26) – which Moore says acted as a focal point for change.
The seminal year led to “huge demand” from the industry for AGF’s A Greener Arena and Greener Touring certification and set the bar for 2022.
“There is a tsunami of inspired, positive, and powerful actors in the industry pushing sustainability to the front of our rebuild”
“I do think we will see a greener live experience in 2022 as festivals put the commitments they have made into practice,” says Moore.
Claire O’Neill, founder of GEI, is also optimistic that the live industry will build on the momentum of last year.
“The good news is there is a tsunami of inspired, positive, and powerful actors in the industry pushing sustainability to the front and centre of our rebuild,” says O’Neill. “I am extremely confident that we will build a better future.”
However, O’Neill warns that in order to tackle best environmental practices on top of everything else, the industry needs to be proactive in protecting the wellbeing of ourselves and each other.
“The workload is immense and we’re all a little bit rusty around the edges. When we are no longer stressed out, environmental best practice will be easier to achieve. So long as we’re permitted, there will be a great upturn in attendance to gigs, festivals, and events of all kinds.
“This will help us to recover financially, but also gives us back the incredibly important platform that we can use to influence important and urgent societal changes for deeper connection, acceptance and care – for ourselves, each other, and the environment we are a part of. Let’s make 2022 the year that we step up to our responsibility and power as agents of change.”
The GEI conference will return this year, this time taking place within the main conference programme of ILMC on Friday 29 April. For more information visit 34.ilmc.com.
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Ed Sheeran planning to tour in an electric campervan
Ed Sheeran says that he’s planning on touring in an electric campervan for his + – = ÷ x (mathematics) stadium tour, which kicks off in the spring.
Speaking last weekend as a guest on Today’s Sunday Sitdown, Sheeran said his ambition is to be “as electric as possible” in regards to his travel.
“We’re going to try and [travel] on the train or I’m talking to VW about an electric campervan,” he said. “I want to travel to every show as electric as possible.”
Sheeran also recently talked to BBC Radio London about his commitment to environmentalism and plans to “rewild as much of the UK as I can”.
“I feel like I am going to get my head bitten off anytime I say that, as my job is not a hugely sustainable job as I go and play in cities, but I am trying my best,” he added.
“I want to travel to every show as electric as possible.”
The mathematics tour, which kicks off in April next year, will see Sheeran play shows across the UK, Ireland, Central Europe and Scandinavia.
Dates for Asia, Australia and America will be announced in due course, according to a recent IQ interview with Sheeran’s live agent, Jon Ollier of One Fiinix Live.
Sheeran is the latest superstar act to discuss greener touring plans after Coldplay announced a groundbreaking eco-friendly stadium tour. The band’s agent, Josh Javor of X-Ray Touring, told IQ he hopes the tour will become a blueprint for other artists of the same calibre.
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Green Code of Conduct consultation launched
Sustainability initiative Vision:2025 has launched a consultation for a music industry Green Code of Conduct to provide clear, minimum, environmental standards for all UK outdoor events.
The code has been developed by trade bodies including AIF, AFO, NOEA and EIF, as well as organisations such as Festival Republic and Julie’s Bicycle, with support from live event promoters across the UK.
“Developing a code of conduct by the industry for the industry has multiple benefits,” says Chris Johnson, chair of Vision:2025. “It will provide standards for sustainable practices that are credible, realistic, and crucially, workable, for all event organisers. It will bring the clarity, along with national consistency, that stakeholders across the sector are asking for, as we take steps to reduce emissions and impacts as part the industry’s journey to net zero.”
Creating a Green Code of Conduct is a practical and potentially effective step that the industry can take to show leadership and improve standards
The Green Code is a direct response to recommendations made by the select committee on the future of music festivals, in May. It also relates to the framework set out for the wider music sector in the LIVE Green vision, launched earlier this year.
“Creating a Green Code of Conduct is a practical and potentially effective step that the industry can take to show leadership and improve standards,” says Festival Republic MD Melvin Benn.
Steve Heap, general secretary of the AFO, and chair of the Event Industry Forum (EIF), which oversees health and safety publication the Purple Guide, says: “The Purple Guide is an established publication that advises how our industry manages health & safety best practice. This Green Code of Conduct could provide the blueprint for a new sustainability chapter.”
Paul Reed, CEO of the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) adds: “The development of the Green Code of conduct will help AIF members and all outdoor events to manage their impacts and agree on some top-level shared principles. It is vital that we continue to work together as an industry and with government to mitigate impacts and take collective action.”
The online survey is open for comments here until 14 January.
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Bilbao promoter announces new festival in Spain
Spanish festival organiser and concert promoter Last Tour is adding a new international festival to its stable of events.
The inaugural Cala Mijas festival will take place between 1–3 September in the picturesque municipality of Mijas, Málaga, with a number of high-profile acts.
Arctic Monkeys will return to Spain for the first time in four years to headline the Cala Mijas for what will be their only festival appearance in the country in 2022.
Kraftwerk, Chet Faker, Blossoms and Hot Chip have also been announced to perform at the festival.
Last Tour has also set out a commitment to follow the guidelines of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with Cala Mijas, “both in its execution and in the way its values and importance are promoted”.
Arctic Monkeys will return to Spain for the first time in four years for their only appearance in the country in 2022
“The event’s commitment to the 2030 Agenda and to the environment of the municipality of Malaga is one of the fundamental pillars of Cala Mijas. To that end, it will base its ideals, strategies, and actions on a transversal model with measures ranging from ensuring social inclusion and complete transparency in all its processes to the promotion of local commerce, and a workflow designed to optimise and reuse all available resources,” reads a statement on the festival’s website.
Three-day passes cost just €80 for those who sign up for an exclusive presale on 29 November.
Last Tour’s stable of events also includes Bilbao BBK Live, Azkena Rock Festival, Donostia Festibala, BIME Live, Goxo, Navia Suena festival and Festival Santas Pascuas.
X-Ray’s Javor: “Coldplay are leading by example”
In mid-October, X-ray Touring-repped heavyweights Coldplay announced their first tour in four years in support of their new album Music of the Spheres.
Having previously put touring plans on hold to investigate how to make their concerts more sustainable, Coldplay’s new announcement came hand-in-hand with a 12-point plan for cutting their carbon footprint.
The eco-friendly 2022 tour is currently slated to visit 40 stadiums around the world and one festival, with more dates to be announced, meaning that it could end up being the highest-grossing tour of the year.
For X-ray Touring’s Josh Javor, who planned the tour alongside his late partner, Steve Strange, seeing the groundbreaking tour come to fruition is bittersweet.
Here, Javor tells IQ about how the pair planned a tour of this nature; when he sees the industry recovering; and how he’d celebrate with Strange if he were here.
IQ: How would you describe the on-sale for the European leg of Coldplay’s Music of the Spheres – World Tour?
JJ: It was insane… we pretty much sold out. We sold more than a million tickets just in Europe and added extra dates in the UK, France, Germany, and Belgium. At the moment, we’re discussing adding more dates. The US also went on sale that day and Latin America had already gone on sale and sold out.
You planned this tour with your late partner, X-ray Touring co-founder Steve Strange. On a personal level, what is this moment like for you?
This is one of the most bittersweet moments of my life. This tour is something Steve and I planned for a very long time and because he’s not here to revel in the success, it feels very bittersweet to me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m ecstatic at how well it’s done, but the fact that Steve, unfortunately, didn’t make it to see our plan come together and work so well, brings things down to earth. It’s not the same on my own. My constant thought has been, I wish Steve was here to see this.
How do you think Steve would react to the success of Coldplay’s on-sale?
He would be on another planet. He was a member of the family when it came to this band and he would’ve been jumping for joy. We’ve all talked about it – management and ourselves – and about how amazing Steve would have thought this is. Normally, Steve and I would get to 12 o’clock on the day of an on-sale – after selling a million tickets – and we’d be on our second bottle of champagne.
“[At] 12 o’clock on the day of an on-sale – after selling a million tickets – [Steve and I] would be on our second bottle”
How did you approach ticket pricing post-pandemic?
Just being realistic. You just have to know what the market is and what people can afford. One way of doing that is to stay very grounded and down to earth. I think we’ve got ticket prices spot on. Tickets for this tour are slightly more expensive but not by much. Without the pandemic, we could have leant towards increasing them from what they are now, but you have to take everything into account.
How are you feeling about the business in general next year, and has this on-sale given you extra confidence?
Yes and no. It’s very difficult to predict what will happen. I think it’d be stupid to give any assurances, but I still worry about the industry between now and next summer. We’ve got a lot of shit to go through and a lot of hoops to jump through to get to where we want to be, but the on-sale is very positive, definitely. I think the industry as a whole is very happy and proud that the public is still interested in going to concerts on a grand scale. I think, in this instance, when one of us succeeds, in a way, we all succeed because we’ve been up Shit Creek for so long.
“It’s very difficult to do an eco-friendly tour when you’re at a smaller level than Coldplay”
Do you think this eco-friendly tour will become a blueprint for other bands of the same calibre?
I hope so. It’s something that everyone should be striving for, and just as Coldplay have said, they might not get it right, but at least they’re trying. They’re not just talking about doing something, they’re leading by example. I think you do need bigger artists to show other people how it could be possible to change.
It’s very difficult to do an eco-friendly tour when you’re at a smaller level than Coldplay. You have fewer decisions that you can make about how you tour when you’re a smaller artist. If you’re playing a club or a theatre, you don’t have the same choices as if you’re playing a stadium. It’s about the amount of control you have, the amount of money you can generate, and about the different kinds of venues and different rules that you have. It all goes hand in hand.
How involved were you in the creation of the 12-point plan to cut the band’s carbon footprint?
I was involved in the parts I could be, like figuring out how we can try and cut the carbon footprint by staying in the same place and playing more shows. It’s very different from the standard tour where artists do one or two shows and then move on in order to visit as many places as possible. We’re not visiting most of Europe. If you look at the tour, it’s cut down to a few cities.
“We’re staying in one place for a longer period of time and cutting emissions. It’s about staying put.”
What we’ve done is we’ve recognised that it’s not possible to tour everywhere in one summer or in one year. It’s going to take longer to visit everywhere, but by doing it this way, we’re staying in one place for a longer period of time and cutting emissions. It’s about staying put.
What advice would you give to other agents attempting to plan an eco-friendly tour?
It’s the little things sometimes. It’s not having single-use plastics or not having plastics at all. There are basics that everyone can be doing. The live industry has been at the forefront of trying to be greener since festivals started changing years ago.
Tell us about the time period in which you booked this tour.
It has been very difficult to put these shows in because, at the time of making these decisions, a lot of places were in lockdown. At the time, you couldn’t even go on-sale with shows in certain markets – let alone full-capacity stadium shows.
Co-op Live to become UK’s first all-electric arena
Oak View Group’s new east Manchester development Co-op Live will become the UK’s first all-electric arena when it opens in 2023.
Against the backdrop of the COP26 climate summit, OVG says the venue has been designed “with sustainability at its core”, and will use electricity for everything from air-source heat pumps for heating and domestic hot water through to cooling and catering, without any gas supply serving the site.
The company adds that the current design achieves over 50% reduction in energy usage compared to a similar arenas, largely due to moving away from using gas boilers. Rooftop solar panels will be used to power day-to-day activity, with green electricity from the grid topping up capacity for events. The avoidance of on-site fuel burning, meanwhile, will significantly improve air quality.
“Climate change is the single largest problem facing the planet today and we take our responsibility in creating a greener world seriously,” says Mark Donnelly, COO, OVG International.
The design will enable a 23% reduction in carbon emissions and, by building electric-based infrastructure from the very beginning, the arena will be on track towards achieving net zero carbon by Manchester City Council’s 2038 target.
We are building a planet-friendly venue as well as one capable of hosting the world’s best events
“In Co-op Live, we are building a planet-friendly venue as well as one capable of hosting the world’s best events,” adds Donnelly. “I’m proud that it’s going to be the UK’s first all-electric arena and we’re also implementing a range of other features including solar panels, rainwater harvesting, and extensive green spaces to make sure it’s the UK’s most sustainable.”
It was confirmed last year that Harry Styles has made an investment in the the 23,500-capacity venue, which will be built on the Etihad Campus, the site of Manchester City FC’s Etihad Stadium in Eastlands.
Co-op Live will be the UK’s biggest arena and is around one year into its build phase. The project will inject £350 million of private investment into the local area.
Similar to how Battersea Power Station has been reinvented in London, OVG predicts that Co-op Live will serve as “an iconic landmark for the transformation and reimagination of post-industrial urban landscapes in the north”, upon completion.
Coldplay sell more than one million tickets in Europe
More than one million tickets have sold for the European leg of Coldplay’s Music of the Spheres world tour, which went on sale last Friday (22 October).
X-ray Touring’s Josh Javor, who planned the ‘eco-friendly’ stadium tour along with the late Steve Strange, told IQ that the on-sale was “insane”.
According to Javor, the European leg has “pretty much sold out” and the team is currently discussing adding more dates.
The 20-date run, which kicks off on 2 July 2022, has already expanded with an extra date apiece at Deutsche Bank Park (Germany), Stade de France (France), King Baudouin Stadium (Belgium) and Hampden Park (UK).
Notably, an extra three dates have been added at Wembley Stadium (cap. 90,00) in the UK, on top of the three already announced.
According to Javor, the European leg has “pretty much sold out” and the team is discussing adding more dates
The world tour – which is mostly promoted by Live Nation, with SJM as the main partner in the UK – is also visiting the US and Latin America (which is completely sold out), taking in 40 stadiums and one festival (Rock in Rio) altogether.
The groundbreaking tour is one of the last projects that legendary booking agent and X-ray co-founder Steve Strange worked on before his tragic passing in September.
“This is something Steve and I have planned for a very long time and because he’s not here to revel in the success, it’s one of the most bittersweet moments of my life,” says Javor.
He continues: “Don’t get me wrong, I’m ecstatic at how well it’s done but the fact that Steve, unfortunately, didn’t make it to see our plan come together brings things down to earth.
“Normally, Steve and I would get to 12 o’clock on the day of an on-sale and we’d be on our second bottle of champagne”
“Normally, Steve and I would get to 12 o’clock on the day of an on-sale and, after selling a million tickets, we’d be on our second bottle of champagne. But, on your own, it’s not the same. My constant thought has been, I wish Steve was here to see this.
“He would be on another planet. He was a member of the family when it came to this band and he would’ve been jumping for joy.”
Coldplay announced the tour earlier this month after a four-year hiatus from touring while they investigated how to make their concerts more sustainable.
The Music of the Spheres tour is bolstered by a 12-point plan to cut the band’s carbon footprint, which supports new green technologies and sustainable, super-low carbon touring methods.
A full interview with Josh Javor will appear in the next edition of IQ magazine at the end of this month.
Green Guardians: Power
The Green Guardians Guide, spearheaded by the Green Events and Innovations Conference (GEI) and IQ Magazine, is a new yearly initiative boosting the profiles of those working at the forefront of sustainability, in the hope that it might also inspire others.
The 2021 list, which originally ran in IQ 103, includes 40 entries across eight categories, highlighting some of the organisations and individuals who are working so tirelessly to reduce the carbon footprint of the live entertainment business.
This year’s winners have been chosen by a judging panel that includes experts from A Greener Festival, Greener Events, Julie’s Bicycle, the Sustainability in Production Alliance, the Sustainable Event Council and the Tour Production Group.
IQ will publish entries across all categories over the coming weeks. Catch up on the previous instalment of the Green Guardians Guide which looks at travel & transport.
Club La Feria
In May 2019, La Feria club in Santiago, Chile, became the first nightclub in the world to sustainably cover 100% of the energy it uses.
In a collaboration with Budweiser, the project included carefully retrofitting the historical structure with 35 photovoltaic panels on the roof and in the main wall.
In total, the facility will produce 1,299 kWh of energy monthly – more than enough to power its strobe lighting, cool down overheated clubgoers, run the sound system, and provide all other electrical needs.
This translates to a saving of 6.51 tons of CO2 annually that would have been otherwise emitted into the atmosphere – more than what five houses would consume.
That “Chile is at the forefront of sustainability in the region and probably the world,” is La Feria and Budweiser’s vision.
“We hope this initiative can inspire and motivate other clubs in Chile, and that in a few years [those that] operate on renewable energy are the rule and not the exception.”
The undertaking is the fusion of both worlds from the club and the brand.
La Feria’s commitment to inspire green initiatives in the music industry and in its community unites with Budweiser’s goal to transform its global production by 2025 to 100% clean energy.
La Feria club in Santiago, Chile, became the first nightclub in the world to sustainably cover 100% of the energy it uses
Ecotricity’s mission is to fight climate change by scrapping the use of fossil fuels and giving people an alternative – green energy.
The company started with one windmill in Gloucestershire, UK, and has carried on building new wind and solar parks around the country.
Whenever a home or business switches to Ecotricity for their electricity, they stop using fossil fuel to power their home and start using green energy.
Other energy companies have followed Ecotricity’s lead, and today around 33% of the energy used in the UK comes from green sources.
Across the UK, homes and businesses are still predominantly heated using fossil fuels – mainly natural gas. Although Ecotricity’s gas is only about 1% from sustainable sources, the rest is carbon neutralised gas (the company invests in carbon reduction programmes to cancel out the carbon burned).
However, the company believes green gas is the way forward and it is constructing green gas mills – making biomethane from grass cuttings – to replace natural gas in the grid. When the grass grows back, it absorbs the carbon dioxide created by burning green gas. Then that grass is cut to make more green gas, and the sustainable cycle repeats itself.
Ecotricity’s mission is to fight climate change by scrapping the use of fossil fuels and giving an alternative – green energy
Greener was founded in January 2018, in order to make an impact on the carbon dioxide footprint of on and off-grid energy markets, using mobile batteries and smart energy planning.
The idea emerged in 2014, after a backstage visit to one of the biggest festivals in The Netherlands. Greener’s founders were shocked to discover how little thought had gone into accurately and efficiently planning the power supply of equipment such as lights, audio and food trucks.
As they investigated further, they saw the same lack of planning for energy efficiency in other areas, like construction sites and grid maintenance. Instead, all they could see was needlessly massive equipment running on very low-efficiency rates – a situation they felt compelled to change.
The people behind Greener are convinced that there are many opportunities to make practices in the energy sector less of a burden on the environment. The company sees solutions in technological innovation and it is bringing these to the market to make our world greener.
Greener was founded in order to make an impact on the carbon dioxide footprint of on and off-grid energy markets
Pohoda on the Ground, the miniature 2021 version of Pohoda Festival with capacity limited to 1,000, was able to operate using just electricity from the grid.
Pohoda takes place on a local airfield that is in regular use. In its partnership with local energy provider, ZSE, the event’s production crew researched the maximum capacity of the local network and set up four points on the airport, where they could temporarily place high voltage 630kVA transformers.
“For the full capacity festival with 12 stages and 30,000 visitors, it covered about 40% of the festival energy needs in 2019. For the limited-edition 2021 [event], just two transformers were enough to cover it completely,” reports the event’s sustainability chief, Michal Sládek.
“As we cannot expand the local network further, our next intention is to use the transformers more efficiently. Although they are ideal for stages to handle the energy peaks in the shows, it appears that more energy is consumed in the services that are running continuously for the whole festival, as well as the food concessions. So, for the next edition of Pohoda, we plan to analyse thoroughly the energy use to find any possible savings and the optimal setup to feed the festival, efficiently, with energy.”
Pohoda on the Ground, the miniature 2021 version of Pohoda Festival, was able to operate using just electricity from the grid
Offering consultancy in energy and sustainability, ZAP Concepts has created a unique, straightforward, online power supplies application that has been designed to calculate the amount of power that an event needs in advance.
The new web application makes the collection of power information from all event suppliers extremely easy, quick, and efficient. All suppliers receive a link where they can submit details of their power consuming gear directly into the application, and event producers can select their gear from the database, which contains all possible power consumers at events, including all required data to make accurate energy calculations.
Instead of a power supplier trying to estimate the energy consumption at an event, organisers can select their own equipment in the tool. Zap can then calculate energy consumption with the help of an extensive set of parameters, and the system will create a customised Smart Power Plan within 72 hours.
The Zap tool provides information and suggests the most sustainable and efficient power supply for an event, allowing organisers to cut up to 80% of emissions, use fewer generators, increase the use of green batteries and create the most reliable power network for their event.
Lights, camera, action: UK suppliers on the reopening
Do you remember at which point the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic first hit home? For some, it was when they suspended all flights to mainland China. Or when the UK government admitted that we faced a “substantial period of disruption… due to the outbreak.”
For others it was the realisation that, after the announcement on 9 March of a strict nationwide quarantine in Italy, lockdowns were coming to us all. For those whose livelihoods were invested in the music industry, watching all of this unfold prompted an increasing feeling of dread.
For Yvonne Donnelly Smith, music lighting sales director of PRG – a global company operating audio, camera, lighting, and various other production services – that latter date was particularly significant.
“I got my first email from Bryan Adams’ team saying: ‘All shows cancelled due to Corona,” she says. “That was quickly followed by The Script, who cancelled because someone in the touring party had caught Covid. Then the domino effect really started to kick in.”
As she tells it, every day two or three more tours would cancel as the reality of the situation began to outweigh optimism that the whole thing would blow over quickly. And then the summer festivals started to fall – “which everyone was holding out hope for,” she says.
“We’d just loaded the trucks to head to site the next day when everything was cancelled”
It was a similar story with John Henry’s, a multi-disciplinary company in the live sector offering audio, backline, and staging services, who had just sent out audio and backline equipment for multiple US country artists touring Europe and heading towards the C2C Festival at London’s O2 Arena.
“We’d just loaded the trucks to head to site the next day when everything was cancelled,” says Johnny Henry, company director. “We then had to negotiate the return of equipment from all around the country to get it back before we had to close the doors and send staff home. It was a devastating moment for everyone.”
Christie Lites, a global stage lighting vendor covering live music, theatre, TV, corporate, and special events, and employing over 400 employees around the world, were ramping up into what business development executive Jessica Allan describes as “a very, very busy year.” It all came to a sudden, complete halt.
“The realisation that pretty much everything was coming back in kit-wise – including shows that had been out for five years or more – and the logistics of what that involved was definitely one of the ‘Oh shit!’ moments,” she adds.
Everyone IQ spoke to for this feature talks of the initial shock and disbelief, and how thoughts turned extremely quickly from dealing with the mammoth task of returning equipment and personnel, to the question of “what happens now?”
“We all thought it was only a temporary blip, not an 18-month hiatus”
Bryan Grant of Britannia Row, a company that has been supplying audio systems and crews since 1975 and is now part of the Clair Global Group, was initially optimistic.
“The enormity of it didn’t really sink in for some time,” he explains. “We all thought it was only a temporary blip, not an 18-month hiatus.”
As such, hard work continued behind the scenes at all these companies, to ready themselves for whenever a re-opening – and large-scale music events – could once again take place.
Grant notes how crucial it was to keep key people in place and remain open for business, while Donnelly Smith says that “remaining flexible and resilient” kept PRG busy through the on-slaught.
John Adam’s famous old adage, that “Every problem is an opportunity in disguise,” was severely tested as companies struggled to make sense of what they were dealing with, and what the long-term future of touring and live might look like.
John Henry’s began working with an AV company, PIXL, to convert their studios into a live-streaming and broadcast hub
Tentative suggestions that late summer 2020 could see some events return, were nixed by the looming threat of the second wave, and with further lockdowns throughout winter and the early part of 2021 – not to mention the Delta variant – the prognosis looked gloomy.
Nevertheless, the pause became a chance to take stock, to develop their offerings, and branch out into new tech or events.
Britannia Row, through the Clair Global Group, developed the Virtual Live Audio system, a high-quality, low-latency streaming platform that allows presenters and performers in the broadcast and corporate sectors to interact in real-time with their audiences, while PRG was also helping clients move into streaming, setting up studios and live spaces, and tailoring solutions to help events transition into the digital space.
They opened a rehearsal space, too, The Bridge, which allows clients to prepare for shows safely and securely.
John Henry’s began working with an AV company, PIXL, to convert their studios into a live-streaming and broadcast hub, and were actually able to service a number of recorded events that saw over a thousand people back through their doors.
“We took the opportunity to re-evaluate internal processes with our team behind the scenes”
For Christie Lites, planning and research never stopped, but they also – like the others – took a brief step back.
“We took the opportunity to re-evaluate internal processes with our team behind the scenes, making improvements in preparation for the return,” says Allan.
These ranged from technology tweaks through to broadening and building on sustainability programmes, as well as a number of ‘Crew Prep’ events to help crew and clients prepare for getting back to work.
With Britain having lifted restrictions on 19 July this year, many other countries following suit, and the continuing rise in the number of people double vaccinated, something approaching normality has begun to return.
Music’s live and touring sector has been scrabbling to respond, but with lead times normally measured in months, and many still wary of attending packed, sweaty arena shows and festivals, it’s been a stuttering reopening.
“Ramping up from essentially a standing start, combined with the uncertainty, was always going to be a challenge”
PRG just serviced Creamfields – as did Christie Lites – alongside Rewind, Wireless, and Isle of Wight, but really all eyes are on 2022, and a full-blown return.
“We’re optimistic,” says Britannia Row’s Bryan Grant. “We think there’s going to be huge demand,” adds PRG’s Yvonne Donnelly Smith.
Others are even more confident: 2022 is shaping up to be a “very mad year” says Christie Lites’ Allan, with two years’ worth of events squeezed into one system. But that pressure is already being keenly felt, and having some worrying knock-on effects.
“Ramping up from essentially a standing start, combined with the uncertainty still floating around, was always going to be a challenge,” says Allan.
“There is fear from vendors and freelancers that limits will be pushed both of budgets, timescale, and of people to meet demand. The other big issue is the lack of crew, as so many have had to get work elsewhere or have decided not to come back.”
“There is fear from vendors and freelancers that limits will be pushed both of budgets, timescale, and people to meet demand”
That’s a problem noted by Britannia Row director Bryan Grant as well; “that’s why we’ve kept up with our training programmes and have kept as many of our people employed as we possibly can,” he says.
Demand outstripping supply has had other consequences too. “Material shortages are already affecting manufacturers, so spares and some of the vital things that you need for touring and shows are in short supply already,” notes Johnny Henry. “There is no sign of that improving yet.”
There is also the issue of Covid bubbles being broken, and isolated infections bringing whole operations to yet another temporary halt.
“We’ve already recently seen shows and tours being pulled at the last minute because of positive Covid cases,” continues Henry.
“Everyone involved in productions is doing their best to avoid these situations, but it’s clearly very difficult no matter what precautions are being taken. I expect this to continue into 2022.”
“The fact that we can duplicate both equipment and people in many territories means less freight and air travel”
And that concern has led to yet another issue, particularly with regard to larger tours. “We’re starting to see some now pushed back into 2023 as artist management look at scheduling, and also the fact that so many artists and bands are potentially competing for venues and punters in 2022,” says Allan.
Making sure long-awaited live performances are delivered in the best possible way to fans is a key component for festival chiefs and touring acts when deciding on their 2022 and beyond plans. Innovation has seemingly blossomed during lockdown; so too gains in efficiency.
“We are constantly upgrading our systems to provide more efficient packages in terms of weight, size, and coverage,” says Grant. “For touring acts, the fact that we can duplicate both equipment and people in many territories means less freight and air travel, which saves money and the environment.”
That last part – sustainability – is becoming an ever more vital component of companies’ offerings, and something the music industry is keen to embrace. All of the companies IQ spoke to had placed it at the top of their agenda.
“There’s a high demand for LED products to take the lead on jobs, and PRG were doing this well before the pandemic,” says Donnelly Smith.
“Our warehouses use rainwater harvesting and solar panels where possible”
“Joining and working with TPG has been extremely influential for us in continuing this journey towards sustainability in our events – we’re taking an inside-out approach to solidify this culture change, offering sustainable kit to our customers and also making changes in-house, like switching energy suppliers and using sustainable materials.”
“We are constantly trying to learn about where we can improve on sustainability – it is something we are passionate about,” says Allan.
“We have a living sustainability programme, so our warehouses use rainwater harvesting and solar panels where possible, and we’re excited to be opening our most eco-friendly building to date in Nashville in September, which is built using a revolutionary decarbonised method of construction.
“On tour, our standardisation of flight cases helps reduce the truck pack and the fact that you can pull and drop a European leg from the UK and pick up again in North America without the need to fly or ship kit is a key reason why sustainability-conscious clients use us.”
Undoubtedly, the last 18 months have been a seismic shock, and recovery will depend on the ticket-buying public – as Grant notes, “Covid isn’t going away, so we are just going to have to adapt to the circumstances that confront us.”
“This past year has shown what we can achieve if we pull together”
But live events have proved resilient before, and are doing so again. The future will just be a little different.
“This past year has shown what we can achieve if we pull together,” says Allan. “Yes, a very difficult road lies ahead, but we have confidence that collectively the industry will find a way through and come out the other side.”
“I think what we’ve learnt over the last 18 months is that you can’t stand still,” adds Johnny Henry. “You have to use any spare time to continue to refine your trade, improve where you can, be more efficient, and get more out of your resources than you think possible. Your staff are your greatest asset, and while you’ve got to put faith in the future, don’t forget the past.”
Ultimately, the message is one of collaboration, and working together for greater success – and the greater good. “It’s an opportunity for all of us in the touring community, from artists, agents, promoters, and managers, to supply companies and all of those who work within these organisations to realise that we’re all on the same side,” says Grant.
“We all need to earn a living, and all need to respect what we all contribute to making this wonderful, mad machine work; let’s keep going.”
Live music to set the stage for COP26 Glasgow
Live music will play a supporting role in the United Nations Climate Change Conference (aka COP26), in Glasgow, this month.
The summit will take place between 31 October and 12 November at the Scottish Event Campus, the site of the nation’s flagship live music venue, the newly renamed OVO Hydro (cap. 13,000).
Running alongside the conference is a three-day fringe festival, Beyond The Green, celebrating music, the arts and sustainability.
The fringe festival will include a not-for-profit event combining live performances and conference sessions, led by sustainable events specialist UMA Entertainment (UMAE).
The 6 November event will involve a day of panels from climate experts and thought leaders across NGOs, youth activism, music and the entertainment industry, including several LIVE Green working group members.
UMA Entertainment’s event will feature performances from acclaimed artists Aurora, Sam Fischer and BEMZ
Speakers include A Greener Festival director Teresa Moore, Beggars Group head of sustainability Will Hutton, Tyndall Centre deputy director Professor Carly McLachlan and Groove Armada’s Andy Cato.
Performances from acclaimed artists Aurora, Sam Fischer and BEMZ will be followed by an after-show event with sets from Cato, Sarra Wild and Darwin.
UMAE, which is chaired by Live Aid promoter Harvey Goldsmith, is working on the event with partners including Future for Humanity, Ivy Farm, Stabal, PRS, PPL, Ecosia, Count Us In, Bluedot Festival, Julie’s Bicycle, LIVE Green, and Featured Artists Coalition.
“We are thrilled to be leading on the conversation of culture and entertainment and the role it plays in driving change at scale at COP26, a pivotal event in the climate crisis,” says Harvey Goldmsith. “This event is the cornerstone of what’s to come from UMA in our mission to produce events that push the global climate agenda forward.”
LIVE Green chair John Langford added: “In the wake of Live Green unveiling a suitability charter for the live music industry, it’s encouraging to see so many artists, their representatives and other influential personalities taking a clear stand against climate change at COP 26.”
Earth Aid, Music Managers Forum, Positive Impact, Exit [Live], EarthPercent, Music Declares Emergency and Beggars Group are also associated.
All profits from the ticketed event will be donated to official charity partner EarthPercent founded by Brian Eno, and social impact charities in Glasgow.
Also running alongside COP26 is a new concert series to help “turn the tide on the climate crisis”, organised by leading Scottish promoter DF concerts and Project Zero.
Concerts for Climate will feature some of the biggest names in Scottish music including Twin Atlantic and Admiral Fallow
The series, Concerts for Climate, will feature some of the biggest names in Scottish music including Twin Atlantic, Admiral Fallow, the Ninth Wave, Rachel Sermanni, Rura, Blue Rose Code, Tamzene and The National Youth Pipe Band.
The event will take place at Scottish venue King Tuts Wah Wah Hut on 11 November, and is set to become the first in a series of global music events produced by Project Zero.
All proceeds from the Concerts for Climate series will fund a global network of projects that protect and restore the ocean and blue carbon ecosystems (mangroves, seagrass meadows and tidal marshes).
“We are honoured to host the very first Project Zero Concert at King Tut’s, in the host city of COP26, Glasgow,” says Susan Kerr, King Tut’s.
“It is so important that we tackle climate change now and, this concert series will help draw attention to the fact our oceans are our biggest weapon in fighting the climate emergency.”
Tickets for Concerts for Climate go on sale tomorrow (22 October) at 10.00 BST.
COP26 comes a month after LIVE Green launched the ‘Beyond Zero Declaration’ to reduce net emissions across the UK’s live music business to zero by 2030. The declaration and charter has been signed by the 13 key associations representing the various sectors of the business.