Festival leaders look to domestic artists for 2021
Gathering speakers from Australia, South Korea, Germany, Switzerland and the UK, Festival Forum: Reboot & reset delved into the states of those local markets and their various timelines for reopening.
Moderator Beatrice Stirnimann, of boutique event Baloise Session, explained that when her event was cancelled early on in 2020, it allowed the organisation to spend time concentrating on a series of livestreaming shows, leading her to quiz her fellow speakers about how they have spent the last 12 months.
Stephan Thanscheidt, CEO of FKP Scorpio, disclosed that the company had to get creative during last year’s first lockdown by developing digital versions of festivals to prepare audiences for the rescheduled 2020 festivals, although he admitted that this year’s diary is now looking precarious as well.
Thanscheidt said tickets are currently on sale for events, but nobody is buying at the moment. “I don’t see festivals happening in June or July in continental Europe,” he stated, adding that he believes a lot more events will cancel their 2021 events in the coming weeks. “We have to think about strategies to keep people on board to have the best possible outcome for 2022.”
“I don’t see festivals happening in June or July in continental Europe”
Jim King reported that AEG Presents took a view to pause and review what the situation was during the past year, while the company tried to be a voice to support the various organisations that have been lobbying on the industry’s behalf. “With the success of the vaccination programme in the UK, it’s giving us a foundation to build off,” he said. “What is important for us [in the UK] is that we now have these ‘not before’ dates which brings all the stakeholders together in the industry so everyone can align. That means that the planning side now becomes easier, although it’s still not easy.”
Jessica Ducrou of Secret Sounds explained that the company has recently rescheduled its 2021 edition of the Splendour in the Grass festival from July to November. “We’ve been offering refunds to people, but the retention is high at 90% despite rescheduling three times. So that shows that people are really looking forward to events reopening,” she said.
Tommy Jinho Yoon of International Creative Agency revealed that there are shows currently happening in Korea, but a travel ban means there are no international acts performing at the moment. “I’ve been doing the same as everyone else at the moment – basically putting out fires,” he said.
Explaining that his events generally twin with festivals in Japan to share acts, Yoon observed that optimism appears to be is higher in that country than Korea, which informed his decision not to plan any festivals in 2021. However, he revealed that the shows he is booking for Q1 and Q2 of 2022 are in conjunction with artists who are also confirming Australian dates, hinting that international touring could be on the way back sooner than some people imagine. “When our shows go back on, it’s going to be intense,” said Yoon. “Machines are not going to replace that.”
Exploiting domestic talent makes sense for the UK while there is a high degree of hesitancy for international acts to travel
For her part, Ducrou told her peers that Australia is gradually getting back to business. “Domestically, artists are touring not at full capacity, but the shows are getting bigger,” she said, noting that the government recently gave approval for a festival at Easter with a 50% capacity and other restrictions.
“Using domestic talent is where Australia is at the moment. Shows are getting bigger and density is getting higher, so I’m optimistic,” added Ducrou. But in terms of international acts, she stressed that the mandatory two-week quarantine for anyone entering the country remains the biggest challenge.
On a similar note, King said exploiting domestic talent made sense for the UK while there is a high degree of hesitancy for international acts to travel. Therefore any AEG events this summer would likely be dominated by UK artists.
However, Thanscheidt said that having only domestic artists would not work for some of Scorpio’s festival brands, where restrictions such as social distancing or zero alcohol policies wouldn’t be a good fit either.
But Thanscheidt also ended on a positive vibe, by repeating a theme that has run throughout the discussions at ILMC, thanks to regular calls that the FKP Scorpio team have had with the likes of AEG Presents, Eventim Live, Goodlive, Live Nation and Superstruct as part of Yourope’s Solutions for Festivals Initiative. “The teaming up by different companies in solidarity is, for me, a very astonishing and very good outcome,” he declared.
A long road to recovery: Promoters in Asia talk Covid-19
As some residents in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the disease now known as Covid-19 originated in November, leave their houses for the first time in months, IQ turns to promoters in China and the wider Asia-Pacific region to find out if this means a return to business as usual any time soon.
“People are cautiously optimistic,” Archie Hamilton, managing director of Shanghai-based promoter Split Works tells IQ, noting that some clubs – but no live venues – in Shanghai opened their doors for the first time in months last weekend. “We have a while longer until things open up properly.”
Although Split Works has projects ongoing in its brand business, which has been active in China for around 15 years, and is looking into moving into the livestreaming sector, Hamilton states that the core part of his business – live events – “is not coming back any time soon”.
Zhang Ran, director of international business at Modern Sky, echoes this sentiment, saying that “nothing has changed here yet for the music industry” and adding that “some venues likely won’t survive”.
Although the situation “is getting better” with regards to the virus, Zhang believes it will be a month or two until Modern Sky will be able to hold shows again and “probably longer for [shows by] international bands, given the virus situation elsewhere.”
Zhang says that Modern Sky is currently looking to book shows for November.
Elsewhere in Asia, Tommy Jinho Yoon, president of Korea’s International Creative Agency (ICA), says that everything “is calming down” in comparison to a lot of places around the world.
“We just need to band together as an industry and try to make things work, and be good humans at the same time”
Yesterday (23 March), South Korea reported the lowest number of new coronavirus cases since infection rates hit their peak four weeks ago. Although the virus has led to the shuttering of many events and venues in Korea, some popular musical theatre productions have continued to enjoy successful runs over the past few months.
“The Covid-19 madness is not completely over yet, but we are anticipating and hoping that the majority of this gets settled down by May or June,” Jinho Yoon tells IQ.
Matthew Lazarus-Hall, senior vice-president for AEG Presents’ Asia-Pacific division, states that, although China and other countries in Asia appear to be over the curve of the pandemic, the situation in many other parts of the world continues to put the brakes on international touring.
“The challenge is that a lot of artists can’t tour due to quarantine measures,” says Lazarus-Hall. “I anticipate that this situation will continue for many months, with everyone rescheduling tours until the back half of the year, and then maybe longer.”
With government restrictions on events and other public gatherings still in place across much of Asia, domestic touring remains difficult too.
China still has a complete event ban in place, whereas a surge in new cases of the virus led to a ban on gatherings of more than 250 people over the weekend in Singapore and a resumption of social distancing measures in Hong Kong.
“At AEG Presents, the plan is evolving every day based on government regulations, the industry and doing the right thing by our artists and staff, and we are reacting, and modifying our plans in real time,” says Lazarus-Hall.
“There’s no rulebook here, we just need to band together as an industry and try to make things work, and be good humans at the same time.”