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Stuart Galbraith talks getting back to business

Kilimanjaro Live CEO Stuart Galbraith has told IQ he is “optimistic but nervous” about the concert industry’s return to business.

As co-founder of UK trade body LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment), Galbraith has been a key player in the restart efforts. But despite England lifting remaining restrictions last month, the promoter warns the spectre of Covid is likely to hover over the sector for a little while longer.

“We’ve been very optimistic, but we’re also still very nervous,” says Galbraith. “And I think for the next several weeks and months, we will still see some cancellations and postponements.”

Galbraith points out Kili was forced to hurriedly reschedule seven Simply Red arena concerts in February due to Covid cases in the camp (although, ironically, the band’s shows at The O2 would have been moved anyway due to the original dates falling in the week the London venue was closed due to storm damage).

Earlier this week, Belgium transitioned to ‘code yellow’ on its coronavirus barometer, meaning the majority of measures have now been lifted. Elsewhere in Europe, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland, Austria and Switzerland have all announced plans to lift all remaining limits, with Germany also set to axe most Covid curbs from its 20 March “Freedom Day”.

“Until the rest of Europe catches up with where we’re at in the UK, we’re going to also see some postponements and cancellations due to artists not being able to make the UK work in isolation,” advises Galbraith.

“Now that Covid has no legal status over and above any other disease then that’s it, life is back to normal from an event organiser’s point of view”

Speaking in the new issue of IQ, Galbraith also tackled the matter of ticket refunds as the world emerges from the pandemic.

“Realistically, now that Covid has no legal status over and above any other disease, then that’s it, life is back to normal from an event organiser’s point of view,” he offers. “If somebody has flu, chickenpox, mumps, or whatever, and they can’t go to the show, then unfortunately that’s just part of life and I think the same will be true of Covid.

“In the last two years we have seen a significant increase in the number of customers taking out personal insurance on their tickets. For a very small percentage of the ticket cost, you can insure your ticket in the way that you can a holiday or anything else. That insurance, in many cases, does actually give you illness cover. So I think that is an easy customer solution going forward.”

Discussing no-show rates, Galbraith says concert attendance is rebounding following a pre-Christmas slump, prompted by the Omicron spike.

“Customers were making the decision that they didn’t want to go out and expose themselves in crowded locations, and it crescendoed just prior to Christmas,” he says. “We could see a clear customer trait, which was, ‘I don’t want to catch Covid just before Christmas, so that I miss family Christmas. I don’t want to infect elderly relatives.

“As Omicron started to come into play and we headed into Christmas, [crowds] started to drop again to as little as 70% on some occasions. When we came back after Christmas, almost instantly, those attendance rates went back up to 95-97%, and that’s where they’ve been ever since.

“What was very interesting is that virtually none of those customers who didn’t attend the shows before Christmas asked us for refunds. They’d just decided they weren’t going out and would take it on the chin.”


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