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Festival Focus: Tamás Kádár, Sziget

Since it launched in 1993, Hungary’s Sziget has evolved into one of Europe’s largest festivals, featuring more than 1,000 shows on six stages over six days. With a strong focus on diversity, it attracts people from more than 100 countries and includes a broad range of entertainment including circus, theatre, a museum quarter, and much more. In an excerpt from IQ and Yourope’s European Festival Report, CEO Tamás Kádár looks back at the festival’s return since the pandemic.

What was it like for you and the Sziget team during the pandemic?
First of all, it was a great pleasure to see so many happy faces again on Sziget, the Island of Freedom, in August this year. To be together again and to enjoy music and freedom is always the highlight of my year, but this edition was even more emotional for our entire team after almost three years of pause and waiting.

Financially, it was a very tough ride for our company because the Hungarian government wasn’t willing to provide sufficient support for the culture and live sector during the pandemic, so we had to rely on ourselves. We managed to keep the core team onboard and to somehow keep our heads above water, despite these huge financial and emotional challenges.

Sziget is renowned for its broad international audience – what do you think is the cultural value of attracting people from so many countries to the festival?
I think Sziget is really a Pan-European get-together where young people from all over the world become ‘Szitizens’ of the Island of Freedom. We welcomed fans from over 100 countries in 2022. The festival’s programming is a broad church, from the weirdest of the weird to the most mainstream acts on Earth. We welcome them all. We believe in embracing diversity, respecting human dignity, and looking out for each other.

“I don’t consider this season to be the first edition after Covid-19 but the last during the pandemic”

What trends do you think we will see play out in the next few years at festivals?
I don’t consider this season to be the first edition after Covid-19 but the last during the pandemic. The real comeback for festivals will happen next year, and I think that major festivals will become increasingly successful. I’m conscious of the humanitarian and economic impacts of the Russian aggression in Ukraine, but I strongly believe that festivals can provide a safe haven for our souls where we can enjoy life and hopefully celebrate peace very soon.

What challenges does the festival industry face? And how are you aiming to approach them?
Most of the challenges are things such as inflation, staff shortages, and increasing energy prices, but I think Sziget has learned to manage these things over the past 30 years.

What do you think is the importance of festivals to the cultural landscape?
I think festivals have proven not only to have a strong positive economic impact on local and national level, but they also add a lot [of colour] to the cultural landscape of a society. Sziget is not only a music festival with a very strong international line-up but also a place for local acts and world-class performances from all kinds of genres and artforms. So, it is really a 360-degree performing arts festival, way beyond music.

Read the European Festival Report in full below.

European Festival Report 2022 out now

The European Festival Report (EFR), a packed annual summary of the biggest trends, happenings, and initiatives on the continent’s festival scene, is out now.

A new annual publication from IQ and festival association Yourope, the EFR is available to read online for free.

The inaugural edition contains results of the European Festival Survey, with input from 200+ festivals, review of the 2022 festival year across the continent, in-depth Q&As with festival pros including Melvin Benn, Stephan Thanscheidt, Fruzsina Szép and Tamás Kádár and the latest sustainability initiatives and profiles of critical organisations pushing for vital change.

The review of the festival year also includes a look at the best brand partnerships and activations in Europe, the festival year in Health & Safety and Yourope working group updates and association news.

“Our European Festival Survey highlights just what it took to get through the last few years and addresses some of the challenges ahead for next year”

“It’s been a year of ups and downs – the spectre of Covid is not yet behind us, and there are plenty of challenges resulting from everything we’ve all been through,” says EFR editor James Drury. “But there is also much to celebrate and that’s thanks to the creativity and hard work of everyone involved in festivals.

“Our European Festival Survey highlights just what it took to get through the last few years and addresses some of the challenges ahead for next year. It also demonstrates just how important the sector is financially, as we take a look at some of the economic impact studies events have carried out.”

The EFR is a project of Future Fit Festivals, co-funded by the EU. Read the report below.


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OVG boycotts Russia, trade bodies condemn attacks

Global sports and entertainment giant Oak View Group (OVG) has announced it is boycotting Russia amid widespread outrage over the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

The UN estimates that more than 500,000 refugees have fled from Ukraine into neighbouring countries. Over 100 people, including children, are said to have been killed as heavy fighting continues in major cities.

OVG’s Climate Pledge Arena lit up Seattle Center in the colours of the Ukrainian flag in a gesture of support for #StandWithUkraine.

“In light of the tragic conflict rapidly unfolding in Ukraine, Oak View Group has pledged to not do business in or with Russia, nor will we serve Russian brands in any of our venues on a global basis, effective immediately,” says a company statement. “We stand with the people of Ukraine, we condemn the actions of Russia, and we hope our stance inspires others in our industry to take action where they can.”

A number of European live music trade bodies have also spoken out in condemnation of Russia’s actions.

“We are shocked by this military invasion and will do everything we can to show our solidarity with the Ukranian people”

Germany’s Event Management Forum, which consists of five major organisations including live music associations BDKV and LiveKomm, denounced the “illegal and barbaric attacks on Ukraine by Vladimir Putin and his regime, which violates international law”.

“We are shocked by this military invasion and will do everything we can to show our solidarity with the Ukrainian people and to support them in their fight against this injustice,” says BDKV Pascal Funke.

The body is currently working on organising a benefit concert for Ukraine, the proceeds of which will be donated to the International Aid Fund for Culture and Education.

“By performing this task, we hope to be able to make a small contribution to the return of peace and freedom to the people of both Ukraine and Russia,” says Jens Michow, executive president of the BDKV.

Slovakia’s biggest festival Pohoda (Peace) held a concert yesterday (27 February) to show solidarity with the people of Ukraine. Featuring more than 20 artists, the ‘Concert for Ukraine’ took place in Bratislava’s Main Square.

“Sadly, in 2022, we still need to deal with tyranny, oppression and other types of aggression to democracy and freedom”

Pan-European festival association Yourope has expressed solidarity “with those who suffer from and disagree with this terrible aggression”.

“We have always strived to achieve the best together because we are convinced that only cooperation and exchange makes us stronger,” it says. “A healthy and vivid society depends on awareness and tolerance for all cultures, genders, races, religions, sexual orientations, colours and origins. We all should be the ambassadors of hope, respect and peaceful dialogue every day to make the world a better place for every single individual and for all of us.”

Why Portugal added: “There’s no room for aggression in every corner of the world. Sadly, in 2022, we still need to deal with tyranny, oppression and other types of aggression to democracy and freedom. In a world where borders should be diminished, it makes no sense to observe such an attack that Russia is undertaking towards Ukraine.

“We, within this community, must be focused on progression towards a much brighter future – not only in the creative and music industries but the entire ecosystem that surrounds us. We fully condemn these actions. In any circumstance, especially as we’re yet recovering from the economical effects of Covid-19, we can’t accept what’s happening.

“The Portuguese Music Export Office (Why Portugal) demonstrate full solidarity and support to our fellow colleagues from Ukraine: musicians, labels, the Music Export Ukraine, and the overall music industry in the country. Actions should be louder than a thousand words, so that’s why we’re completely open to supporting all Ukrainian musicians based in Portugal at the moment.”


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European Festival Conference returns to Barcelona

Yourope’s annual European Festival Conference (EFC) will return to Barcelona this November after two years off due to the pandemic.

The delayed fourth edition is set to take place between 23 and 26 November at Mas Salagros EcoResort in Vallromanes, 25 kilometres outside of Barcelona in Catalunya, Spain.

The two-day event comprises workshops, outdoor activity, networking excursions and seminars that will address issues such as post-pandemic challenges, health and safety, diversity and inclusion, sustainability, weather and insurance.

This year’s speaker line-up includes Claire O’Neill (A Greener Festival), Marta Pallares (Primavera Sound), Mikko Niemelä (Ruisrock Festival), Henrik Nielsen (Roskilde Festival & YES Group), Andreas Groth Clausen (Roskilde Festival) and Johannes Jacobi (Für Festivals).

The two-day event will address issues such as post-pandemic challenges, health and safety, diversity and inclusion

Participating industry associations are the Green Operations Group (GO Group), Yourope Event Safety Group (YES Group) and the European Marketing and Communications Group (EMAC), which was formed at the first EFC.

Michael Fritz (co-founder of Viva con Agua de St.Pauli) will deliver the EFC keynote speech, discussing 15 years of social activism at festivals (and beyond) that helped provide fresh drinking water for more than 3.5 million people in need.

Elsewhere, Johannes Jacobi (Höme – für Festivals) will present the results of Europe’s biggest festival survey so far and Prof. Dr Ralf Kitzberger, Yourope’s lawyer on standard terms, will answer questions on annexes, clauses and insurances.

Since launching, the festival has moved from Austria to Norway to Barcelona, hosting around 100 delegates at each conference.

Conference tickets are priced at €800 for a single room or €700 for a shared double room, with a €100 discount for Yourope members, and are available from


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Yourope restructures, relocates to Germany

European festival association Yourope, which represents 108 festivals including Sziget and Primavera Sound, is restructuring and relocating.

Founded in 1988, the association has ties with London, Roskilde and St.Gallen but as of April 2021, the organisation is based in Bonn, Germany.

The move comes as Christof Huber, director of festivals at the Swiss Gadget ABC Entertainment Group who is also responsible for Yourope member festivals OpenAir St.Gallen and SummerDays, moves from general secretary to working chairman.

Huber will chair Yourope’s executive board and continue to ‘actively steer the association’s fortunes from the top’.

“The importance of our organisation became more obvious than ever last year, because especially in times when major events are impossible due to the pandemic, the need of the actors in this cultural field for exchange, international cooperation and speaking with a common voice grew once again,” says Huber.

“And despite these challenging times we succeeded in restructuring our organisation, expanding the network and securing even closer relationships with valued associates.”

“The importance of our organisation became more obvious than ever last year”

“I look forward to continuing to use my strength and experience for this purpose – together with our members and the new Yourope team.”

Assuming Huber’s former role as general secretary is Holger Jan Schmidt, who was previously anchorman and coordinator of Yourope’s sustainability-related working group Go Group (Green Operations Europe) and Take a Stand, the association’s social engagement initiative.

He will also run Yourope’s new office in Bonn, which will become part of the Bonn-based Compentence Network along with Schmidt’s Bonn Promotion Dept (BN*PD) and the IBIT (International Training Centre for Event Safety), which has been a key contributor to the steering committee of the Yes Group (Yourope Event Safety Group) for years.

“We have been a member of Yourope for almost twenty years – first with our festival, Rheinkultur, and for 10 years as an associated member with the Competence Network here in Bonn,” says Schmidt.

“I have identified with this institution from the beginning and travelled all over Europe with and for Yourope. To talk about festivals, to give festivals the opportunity to exchange, and above all to get to know and experience festivals and their philosophy.

“I couldn’t be prouder and happier to be trusted to take on this new role for Yourope and to continue to work on those issues that are close to my heart. And to do so from my hometown, which means a lot to me.”

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Yourope: ‘European festivals need strategy and bailout’

Yourope, the association of European festivals, has made the latest appeal for a clear perspective and a financial bailout plan to enable organisers to plan for the forthcoming summer season without the financial risk posed by a potential Covid outbreak.

In a statement, Yourope asks whether festival organisers can expect to be able to hold their events as normal and at full capacity, provided they ensure that additional protective measures are in place; what measures will they need to take in terms of guests, staff and suppliers; and whether international artists be allowed to travel as needed.

The appeal outlines key requirements for a full and safe return to live including a transparent roadmap from the authorities, which would inform a strategy with clear guidelines and coherent timeframes, and a proportionate relaxation of measures which are devised using the expertise of the international festival industry.

Yourope has also called for a financial bailout plan – similar to Norway’s NOK 350m scheme – in the event that stricter Covid measures mean it is no longer economically viable for an organiser to carry out their event as normal.

“Without this bailout, planning these events becomes a forlorn hope and will grind to a halt, as our badly battered and bruised industry can no longer bear the weight of these scarcely predictable risks alongside their normal financial risks alone,” the statement says.

“Now the time has come to develop a strategy for 2021’s summer of events”

In a final call to arms, Yourope says: “Now the time has come to develop a strategy for 2021’s summer of events. We owe it to the millions of visitors who have trusted us enough not to return their tickets, to our many thousands of staff and contractors, to big-time and lesser-known artists, and to our suppliers to preserve the cultural diversity we have created as event organisers.”

Yourope – whose membership includes Spain’s Primavera Sound, the Netherlands’ Lowlands and Serbia’s Exit Festival – joins dozens of associations and festival organisers across Europe in urging governments to provide clarity and contingency for the northern hemisphere’s festival season.

Last week, Swiss promoters’ association SMPA released a similar statement co-signed by 26 domestic festivals, while Danish festival organisers welcomed the news of the introduction of vaccine passports but called for a roadmap for reopening.

Elsewhere, Portugal is examining whether ‘safe bubbles’ of vaccinated festivalgoers could be the key to keeping fans and artists safe this summer, French festival operators ‘have 11 days to save festivals’, and the UK festival sector is waiting with bated breath for the prime minister to reveal a roadmap on the 22 February.

The lessons that can be learned from 2020’s lost festival summer will be discussed at ILMC during Festival Forum: Reboot & Reset, while leading festivals operators will be discussing the evolving passions, priorities and unique features of their events in Festival Futures: Core Priorities.


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European leaders join forces for Solutions for Festivals

Yourope, the European festival association, is working with the continent’s leading festival operators on a new initiative that aims to ensure outdoor events are able to return as soon as it is safe to do so.

At Yourope’s invitation, AEG Presents, Eventim Live/FKP Scorpio, Goodlive, Live Nation and Superstruct Entertainment have partnered for Solutions for Festivals, working to bring back “full-capacity outdoor live events at the earliest opportunity”.

To that end, the Solutions for Festivals work group is consulting with senior figures in production, the supply chain, and festival health and safety, as well as medical experts.

According to the association, the group’s focus is on “reviewing and coordinating efforts to implement best practices for the health and safety of fans as festivals return”.

More information about the work of Solutions for Festivals will be revealed soon.


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Learning & growing: 12 key lessons from the corona crisis

The latest issue of IQ Magazine features a bumper coronavirus special report that delves into the lessons learnt from the crisis, various governments’ responses to the pandemic, and predictions for the shape of the industry’s post-Covid-19 recovery.

Here, we look at the key business takeaways from the global concert business shutdown, with a little help from Paradigm’s Alex Hardee, Echo Location’s Obi Asika, Yourope’s Christof Huber and more…


1. Entrepreneurialism and creativity remain at the heart of the industry
While much of the debate in the live music sector in recent years has centred around independent versus corporate approaches, when the shit hit the fan the spirit of entrepreneurialism has shone through.

Artists around the world have been streaming live shows and content to maintain their relationship with fans, while companies big and small are thinking outside the box and going above and beyond to help out employees, crew and others in the business, financially and though other support packages.

“We adapt fast and we can deal with the curveballs,” comments Live Nation Belgium’s Herman Schueremans. “We are resilient and artists and fans will always find a way to connect.”

2. Technology makes mass home-working a possibility
The use of Zoom, Houseparty, Skype, FaceTime and other video conferencing platforms has helped millions of employees around the world to effectively communicate with colleagues, peers and clients in a way that many would have thought impossible a few months ago.

“Anyone who said home-working doesn’t work was wrong,” says Live Nation chairman of international music, Thomas Johansson.

3. The appetite for risk needs revision
The very nature of the live music industry had historically relied on a cash-flow wing and a prayer, with everyone in the chain relying to some extent on future earnings to pay for their latest projects. The sudden cessation of the business has put this situation into sharp relief, as thousands of event postponements and cancellations have highlighted that the global business could collapse if refunds were mandated internationally.

“You have to have reserves,” states Obi Asika of London-based agency Echo Location. “A lot of this business focuses on the future, prospecting and possibilities. We make bookings really far in advance and now this has shown that anything can happen.”

“This crisis has shown that anything can happen”

4. Every day brings new challenges
It seems that as long as the coronavirus pandemic continues, uncertainty will be the new norm. Agents, promoters, artist managers, venue operators and everybody in the production supply chain are working incredibly hard to make sure things are ready for business to resume, but with no concrete dates to work toward, the planning process is never-ending.

“We make plans and strategise and then overnight something happens and the next day we have to start all over again,” says Paradigm’s Alex Hardee. “When I’m doing my P&Ls at the moment, they are all Ls.”

5. Government intervention is crucial
The live music business has a long and proud tradition of policing itself and trying hard to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to issues like health and safety and self-regulation. However, it has become apparent in the coronavirus environment that businesses involved in the live entertainment sector need the co-operation of government and local authorities to survive.

At the time of writing, summer festivals in some countries are still waiting to announce 2020 cancellations because they have not been told by government that they cannot hold this year’s events, meaning that promoters could be liable to pay artist fees if they take that sensible decision themselves.

“There’s a fear among promoters when it comes to announcing festival cancellations, because nobody wants to lose the momentum when difficult decisions need to be taken,” says Christof Huber of European festival association Yourope.

6. One rotten apple can spoil the barrel
The domino effect of a cancelled show has never been more apparent than during the economic shutdown. Artists often rely on the revenues from certain key festival or headline dates to pay for visits to less lucrative markets, and the cancellation of one or more of those key dates can put the whole tour – and, therefore, other festival shows – in jeopardy.

With the pandemic amplifying this situation more than ever before, festival organisers who perhaps previously viewed each other as rivals have been working closely on key announcements and strategies.

“We make plans and strategise and then overnight something happens, and the next day we have to start all over again”

7. Honesty is the best policy
With millions of people suddenly and unexpectedly facing redundancy, business owners and senior management around the world have never been under greater scrutiny. However, early and continued communication has proved invaluable during the halt to commerce and, by and large, people who have been included in the hard conversations have accepted that everyone is in the same boat because of this global crisis.

“If you are transparent, honest and upfront with people, then when you have to make difficult decisions the reaction of people can pleasantly surprise you,” reports Paradigm’s Hardee.

8. There goes my hero, he’s ordinary
People that society has taken for granted are stepping up and putting the health of themselves and their families at risk to make sure the rest of the world’s suffering is minimised. Health workers, carers, supermarket employees, teachers, sanitation staff, pharmacists, truck and delivery drivers and many more ‘ordinary’ people are the true heroes of the hour.

9. Insurers need to take a long hard look at themselves
There’s no need to mention any names, but for reference have a look at Hellfest’s website about the small-print cowardice that has been manipulated to shirk responsibility. To quote our French comrades: “Fuck you!”

10. Coronavirus is kryptonite to the super-touts
As much as the legitimate live music industry is reeling from cancellations, postponements and having to deal with refunds and other unexpected costs, the situation for the secondary ticketing business is even more dire, as many super-touts have to deal with inventory they can no longer shift.

Having agreed a highly controversial $4 billion deal that would see it merge with Viagogo, in late March, StubHub announced it was furloughing two thirds of its staff, and company policy on refunds would change, whereby purchasers of tickets to cancelled events in North America would now be offered vouchers, rather than refunds. Cue class-action lawsuits.

With StubHub now reportedly struggling hard and Viagogo saddled with debt, the future for the world’s biggest secondary ticketing platforms looks precarious to say the least. “In the context of the unprecedented crisis being played out in all our lives, this could well be one the most poorly timed acquisitions in recent corporate history,” says Adam Webb, campaign manager for FanFair Alliance.

2021 could prove to be live music’s most important year ever

11. Trade associations and industry collectives are proving their worth
In days gone by – and they are not that long ago – the live music industry was a cutthroat, highly competitive battlefield where often ludicrous deals would price others out of the game, all in the name of market share.

Coronavirus has levelled the playing field somewhat, and it’s heartening to witness just how quickly previously warring factions have come around the table to collaborate and agree sensible paths forward to try to minimise the impact on staff, suppliers and, of course, the artists. Hats off to the many trade associations and organisations who are lobbying parliaments, government ministers and local authorities on behalf of the business – you have never been so important to the livelihoods of so many people.

“[The corona crisis has] certainly made me realise the huge importance of associations and representative bodies,” says Kilimanjaro Live boss Stuart Galbraith. “Government don’t want to talk to individual commercial organisations, but they will talk to the Concert Promoters Association, AIF, UK Music, etc., and there’s been huge co-operation between [the associations] as well. Because it affects everybody.”

12. It’s only rock’n’roll… but I like it
As lucky as we are to have careers in such a great industry, at the end of the day it’s only rock’n’roll. Yes, it’s important for culture and for people’s happiness and wellbeing, but people we know are dying – relatives, friends and neighbours – and the battle to minimise that death toll far outweighs any gig, tour or event (or shareholder expectations, for that matter).

However, the hundreds of musicians and artists who are livestreaming to entertain millions of fans confined to their homes shows that the power of music is as strong as ever. Once we emerge from this dark period, people will be clamouring to get out, socialise and see their favourite acts.

Twenty-twenty is undoubtedly going to take its toll, but for those able to remain in the business, 2021 could prove to be live music’s most important year ever.


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Covid 2020: The recovery position

Aside from parts of China, that are gradually reopening, and countries like Sweden, which has apparently adopted a herd immunity approach to the pandemic, almost everywhere else has seen live entertainment sectors shut down, with losses estimated as high as $9 billion until the end of the year, according to Pollstar.

Despite the uncertainty and lack of deals being agreed between the likes of agents and promoters, those at the sharp end of the business are working constantly to ensure that when business does resume, they are ready to act and kick-start the industry back into gear.

However, with teams of support staff either furloughed, redundant, or placed on indefinite leave, and production crews in similar situations, the live music sector is going to require a period to rebuild before any touring activity can realistically happen.

“The recovery is going to be slow and long; I don’t think the business is just going to bounce back,” says Paradigm Talent Agency’s Alex Hardee. “We had 15 years of straight growth and I thought we were peaking anyway. For a while now, breakthrough acts and those at the top have been doing well, while the middle tier was suffering, so maybe we can have some kind of correction there.”

“The recovery is going to be slow and long; I don’t think the business is just going to bounce back”

Obi Asika, who heads up London-based agency Echo Location also believes the pandemic may allow the business to reset itself. “There’s been too much money and domination in every sector of the music business,” says Asika. “The money and size of everything was getting outrageous. I think this will set us back in terms of 10-15 years, but this is maybe not a bad thing. It will be painful at first but exciting too. We can get back to business and be successful.”

For her part, CAA’s Emma Banks comments, “We must all accept that everybody is going to be away from the office and working from home for a really long time. We’ve just all got to stay a part of the music and touring business ecosystem, and we have got to be patient and understanding. We really must look after each other, and get enough sleep.”

And on the promoting side of the business, Live Nation’s Phil Bowdery says, “As chairman of the Concert Promoters Association, I am seeing that everybody is coming together at this time. Not only the promoters, but the artists rely on a huge workforce of production services; lighting and sound engineers; crew; security and hospitality staff ; musicians – I could go on.” He adds, “We will get through this together.”

“I am seeing that everybody is coming together at this time – we will get through this together”

Picking up on Hardee’s observation about what the rebooted international live music business is going to look like once the pandemic situation ends, it’s a fair assumption that the challenges will outweigh the opportunities as companies, big and small, and individuals try to figure out how best to ramp up their activities to pre-corona levels. So, what might the industry look like when it gets up and running again?

With scientists and government advisors forecasting that a vaccine for the virus realistically could take 12-18 months to develop, test in clinical trials, manufacture and distribute on a mass scale, even a partial lifting of isolation and social distancing guidelines will not appease everyone who used to enjoy the carefree joy of attending concerts and festivals, meaning that the pool of fans that artists and their promoter partners are targeting will be a fraction of their previous volume.

Looking at the agency business overall, Asika opines, “We will definitely see fewer people working in every company. I believe there will still be lots of business to do but the people might change.” And he hints that, for those  independent promoters whose businesses survive, the future could be bright.

“The whole world and industry had gone a bit crazy – I booked 90% of shows with indie promoters back when I tarted, now that takes up 10%, and then it’s fighting for festival slots. This [situation] will take us back to basics a bit,” he contends. “A lot of good things and opportunities could come from this, and it will give a chance to new players – everyone will have to show their value.”

“A lot of good things and opportunities could come from this, and it will give a chance to new players – everyone will have to show their value”

Noting a more collaborative, less aggressive business environment, Hardee also believes that the crisis might oust some of the more unscrupulous players from the industry. “People who do not act responsibly will be exposed quickly,” he says.

Kilimanjaro Live boss Stuart Galbriath agrees, noting that cooperation has never been as prevalent. “There’s no such thing now as normality or precedent. We’ve been having conversations that cut across any normal relationship – whether it’s with a manager, an agent, an ad agency, venues – and asked to do things way outside of what the contracts say, because needs must.”

But, like Asika, Hardee believes that the number of shows and events will take a severe hit. “If we can come back to 50, 60, 70% in terms of business volume, I think we’ll be doing well, but we have to work together to not turn the tap on full, all at once,” he says. “I think it will take at least a couple of years to return to the same level of business we were doing before the virus shut things down.”

On the other side of the planet, veteran Australian promoter, Michael Chugg, has similar concerns about the industry flooding the market with events, once restrictions are lifted.

“We are very worried about the long-term effect on the hundreds of companies involved in the production, presentation and running of the tours, festivals and events, as well as the thousands and thousands of contractors, crew, security and other workers, who lost all income  immediately when the public gatherings were banned,” Chugg tells IQ. “The doubt about when or if live entertainment can recommence is causing a lot of stress and depression worldwide, and I’m sure the industry will be a lot more cautious and careful about saturating the marketplace.”

“We’ve been having conversations that cut across any normal relationship and asked to do things way outside of what the contracts say, because needs must”

Despite such concerns, Live Nation Belgium’s Herman Schueremans is trying to remain upbeat and believes that pent-up demand for live entertainment will ensure positive results once venues reopen their doors. “We’ve seen demand for the on-sales for shows being scheduled the other side of the ban,” he says.

Christof Huber, who heads up European festival association Yourope, contends that the number of tickets in  irculation from postponed tours and shows will help reignite interest among fans. “There will undoubtedly be a period of recovery before people want to spend money on going to see concerts; young people will be quicker because they are all desperate to go out and enjoy themselves,” says Huber. “But there are a lot of postponed shows, so people already have the tickets for those. The big question is over the new shows that go on sale.”

On that note, Ticketmaster UK chief, Andrew Parsons reports that on-sales during the pandemic lockdown have been encouraging. “Live events have always been incredibly resilient,” he says. “We’re still seeing demand for the shows that have been on sale during this time, which only tells us that the power of live entertainment and its innate human connection always endures. Artists will want to get back out on the road and fans will want to be there to see them.”

In the meantime, Parsons says the Ticketmaster team is working hard behind the scenes to prepare for a return to normality. “We’re making the most of the situation and have focused our technology teams on creating and rolling out more features across the board at a faster rate than ever before – ready to hit the ground running when the time comes,” he says. “While we are certainly living in extraordinary times, it has been incredible to see the industry come together to ensure that we are all working for the benefit of one another, artists and fans. Personally, it’s been a proud moment to see how the Ticketmaster team has responded – as resilient and positive as ever.”

“We’re still seeing demand for the shows that have been on sale during this time”

It’s the multibillion-dollar/euro/pound/peso/ruble etc question that everyone is desperately seeking an answer to, and, at press time, there were ‘green shoots’ (to quote government parlance) of hope that some countries are cautiously looking to relax lockdown rules for certain citizens.

With China already phasing out restrictions, on 13 April scientists observed the rate of new infections slowing down in Spain, prompting the country’s politicians to ease lockdown measures by allowing some construction and manufacturing workers to return to their jobs. The same day, French president Emmanuel Macron told the country’s citizens that restrictions would last until 11 May, and further added that festivals would be banned until mid-July, giving hope to organisers whose events are due to take place later in the summer.

Such steps are heartening, but balanced by bans on large gatherings until 2021 in cities like Los Angeles, and a number of predictions by health officials that concerts and festivals won’t return in full until well into next year.

“Our business will be last in line,” states Huber. “First they will allow shops, small bars and restaurants to reopen, probably under strict hygiene rules, but music events, and festivals, in particular, will be last in the chain.”

Turning to the crucial question of exactly when the live entertainment business may be able to resume, Switzerland-based Huber states, “I personally still have hope that we will see shows in the autumn, but others I have been speaking to think there will be nothing for the remainder of 2020. At the same time, a few believe we’ll see live music in June. So, nobody really knows.”

“Our business will be last in line. First they will allow shops, small bars and restaurants to reopen, but music events, and festivals, in particular, will be last”

That June deadline seems very optimistic, but it’s certain that domestic acts in small venues will be the first to benefit as guidelines are eased. The question of a timeline for international tours is much more complex. “How do you route a European tour if the countries don’t all open their borders at the same time?” asks Hardee.

Promoter Galbraith says, “Realistically, we’re going to lose everything we have through June to August. And because the [spring/summer] sales window has completely gone, I think you’re going to see a lot of shows that postpone until next year.”

The Royal Albert Hall is currently dark for the first time since World War II, with many staff furloughed. Artistic and commercial director, Lucy Noble, who also chairs the UK’s National Arenas Association, ddresses some of the trials that venue operators may have to confront: “Every venue is different, and some will be able to withstand this crisis more easily than others,” she says. “The biggest challenge may well be getting audiences to come along. The public will still be nervous about venturing out, and it may take time to build their confidence.”

Addressing some of the trials that venue operators may have to confront, Noble continues, “Every venue is different, and some will be able to withstand this crisis more easily than others. The biggest challenge may well be getting audiences to come along. The public will still be nervous about venturing out, and it may take time to build their confidence. This is going to impact on concert attendance and ticket sales.”

“How do you route a European tour if the countries don’t all open their borders at the same time?”

Highlighting some of the angst that billions of people around the world are enduring because of the uncertainty surrounding the length of the lockdown period, CAA’s Banks says, “We have no idea what timeframe we are on and this is impactful on so many people’s lives – especially those working on zero-hours contracts and freelancers, they are really going to be hit hard.”

Northern hemisphere markets that share the same summer months have been hardest hit, but nowhere is so far unscathed. With a business that concentrates on Latin American events, Move Concerts founder, Phil Rodriguez, says, “We are much luckier because our touring cycles are at the beginning and end of the year, so we did not get hit hard with cancellations or postponements in April/May/June.”

“It’s way too soon to project the future of our business,” he continues. “When will shows return? How will they return? Well, just like there was a before and after for 9/11, there will be the same with Covid-19, unfortunately.”

In Australia, Michael Chugg finds himself in a similar position. “We are optimistic that Australian live music and public gatherings could get back as early as October/November, but it could be January,” he concedes. However, he adds a significant caveat. “International acts touring here could be a lot later: the government would be reluctant to take the risk of international visitors bringing the virus back to us.”

In addition to such political hurdles, those working in the planning side of the live music industry acknowledge that many artists either won’t want to travel, won’t be allowed to travel because of border control policies, or, in a bestcase scenario, might be otherwise engaged fulfilling commitments on rescheduled tour dates.

“The public will still be nervous about venturing out, and it may take time to build their confidence”

“We are all postponing shows to a point at which we think it will all be ok,” says Banks. “There is no point just pushing things back by a couple of months, but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be anything in the interim.

“We are taking the worst-case scenario until we all get to grips with it. The most important thing is to pay attention to government advice, because it’s the scientists that are behind it. Let’s all be sensible, and we’ll wait and see.”

In Germany, Deutsche Entertainment AG (DEAG) boss Peter Schwenkow is optimistic that we will see concerts before the end of the summer, if steps can be taken to allay people’s fear of catching the virus. Speculating that medical testing is about to become more efficient, he says, “By taking the fear away, we might be able to reintroduce shows for up to 1,000 people.” He believes the UK will lag some weeks behind Germany reopening for concerts, while the Americas will be “much later.”

On a macro scale, however, he is painfully realistic. “The open-air season is destroyed,” he says. “We have been postponing about 85% of our events for next year.” And for those businesses that find themselves in financial trouble, he offers a lifeline: “In-between there is a window of opportunity for those who have willing investors.”

With a comprehensive insurance policy that covers DEAG for costs incurred during the coronavirus pandemic, Schwenkow finds the company in a privileged position to help others. “We work in a people business and our company, like many others, depends on people and other small companies. But at the moment, many of those smaller businesses and operators are in danger of going bust, so while we’re not involved in putting on shows, we’re looking at this as a time to buy other companies, both so we can save them, but also so that [DEAG] can expand and put us in a stronger position for the future.”

“We are taking the worst-case scenario until we all get to grips with it”

While everyone that IQ spoke to for this article agrees that international touring cannot practically resume until social distancing guidelines are lifted across multiple countries – perhaps continents – there are numerous plans afoot to reintroduce live music into people’s lives as soon as possible.

Live Nation chief Thomas Johansson says, “It looks likely that the recovery will follow the pattern of the spread of the virus, with Asia opening up first, Europe next, hopefully over the summer. Of course we are planning for the other side. I’ve every faith in our business. It’s resilient and adaptable. I’m pretty sure that demand for live music will be stronger than ever when we get there.

Live Nation colleague, Bowdery comments, “I really believe that as each territory comes through this, all genres will be eager to get out and enjoy the live music scene, including concerts and festivals. Music fans are extremely social creatures and they will respond to the return of live music as they have done for hundreds of years, with high energy.”

Indeed, tapping into the connection that fans have for their favourite acts, Paradigm’s Hardee has a plan to get bands back on stage that will both mark the return to normality, as well as reward fans for their patience and loyalty.

“I’m talking to my bigger acts about playing small venues – often their favourite venues – to celebrate the return of live music and people being able to go out and socialise,” Hardee reveals. And he divulges some of the details he is using to persuade his clients to buy into the idea. “I’m telling bands that we have to cut their production and cut costs down and by playing smaller venues we can work to keep the ecosystem alive.”

“Music fans are extremely social creatures and they will respond to the return of live music as they have done for hundreds of years, with high energy”

Hardee’s plan takes into account the reticence some people may have about voluntarily placing themselves in crowded situations. “Veteran acts might suffer in terms of their audience being reluctant to come out to concerts, but young people think they are indestructible and robust, so the younger acts should be ok,” he says.

Johansson warns that it’s not just companies who will have cashflow issues. “We’ll need to bear disposable income in mind,” he says, “but we also need to remember that live music is a major tonic and the whole world needs that. I have immense faith in the fans.”

Like Hardee, Asika is musing similar low-key relaunch strategies. “If we can only do 500-capacity shows for a bit, that’s fine, you can adapt and it will grow again. We’re going to face a recession on steroids after this, but everyone is going through it at the same time, so this could push us back on an even keel. Emerging with your health is the most important thing right now.”

Indeed, the pandemic’s devastating effect on society has many people re-evaluating more than just their careers. “I will make changes and make sure I don’t work too much, as this has shown that we need to focus on other things too,” says Asika.

Noting that the pandemic could spell the demise of companies at all levels of the business, he adds, “With my small-to-mid-sized company, I can make decisions quickly and adapt. My risk is spread out and I am making it effective, even if I have lost a lot of future earnings. It’s the bigger companies I feel worried for, with huge offices, workforces and debt. It is going to be a scary time.”

Far from rubbing his hands at the thought of his multinational rivals faltering, Asika admits, “It’s frightening, as we are all connected – we are part of the same system and we want everyone to make it through.”

Read more expert coronavirus coverage in the latest edition of IQ Magazine below, or subscribe here.

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The recovery starts here: IQ 89 out now

IQ 89, the latest edition of IQ Magazine, comes packed full of expert commentary, insight and analysis on the pressure the Covid-19 pandemic is exerting on the live business, as the industry braces for the uncertainty of the coming weeks and months.

In the midst of unprecedented times, IQ 89 includes a bumper coronavirus special report, delving into the lessons learned from the crisis, different governments’ responses to the pandemic and the plan for the live business going forward.

Leading industry figures have contributed to the report, which includes comments and predictions from Live Nation’s Phil Bowdery, CAA’s Emma Banks, DEAG’s Peter Schwenkow, Rock Werchter’s Herman Schueremans, Paradigm’s Alex Hardee, Yourope’s Christof Huber, Move Concerts’ Phil Rodriguez, the Royal Albert Hall’s Lucy Noble and more.

Long-form versions of these interviews, as well as the full coronavirus report, will appear online over the coming days.

As well as analysing what the recovery of the industry may look like, the latest edition of IQ Magazine also looks at some of the ‘good news’ stories that have emerged from the global shutdown, as many in the live events sector pivot to assist the medical sector, dedicate talent to boosting morale or use their platform to raise funds and awareness.

Continuing the coronavirus theme, the rise of livestreaming is also explored, as writer Derek Robertson turns to those enabling live performance to endure the shutdown across a variety of digital platforms.

As well as analysing what the recovery of the industry may look like, IQ 89 looks at the ‘good news’ stories that have emerged from the global shutdown

Casting the mind back to what now seem like distant times, highlights from the 32nd edition of the International Live Music Conference (ILMC) and Arthur Awards also appear in the magazine. Taking place just as the global impact of the virus was beginning to be events, this year’s conference was characterised by a heightened sense of industry camaraderie and solidarity.

Elsewhere, IQ 89 celebrates the life and career of veteran promoter Ossy Hoppe, who turns 70 later this month, recalling his early days as part of his family’s touring circus troupe, to his founding and running of Wizard Promotions, now in the hands of Hoppe’s son, Oliver.

The emergence of the Gulf States as a major touring market – put on hold temporarily by the global pandemic – is also examined, with promoters in the region optimistic for what the future may hold.

The coronavirus special also comes filled with some regular features, such as the newly established Readers’ Lives page featuring the favourite hobbies of top industry figures, and the Your Shout page, with live event professionals sharing their most unusual lockdown pastimes.

As always, most content from the magazine will appear online in some form over the next few months. However, if you can’t wait for your fix of essential live music industry features, opinion and analysis, click here to subscribe now.

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