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Biggest live music promoters and agents unite to advise cancellation of large-scale events as COVID-19 crisis grows

By | Published on Friday 13 March 2020

Live music

The biggest live music companies and booking agencies in the world came together yesterday to issue a joint response to the ongoing coronavirus crisis, recommending that all large-scale events due to take place this month now be postponed.

The statement from Live Nation, AEG, CAA, WME, Paradigm and UTA came as an increasing number of countries introduced measures to restrict or ban any public gatherings over a certain size in an attempt to limit and delay the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19.

Some countries that already had such restrictions in place have also reduced the capacity at which said restrictions apply. On top of that, the number of travel bans has increased, not least because of US President Donald Trump’s surprise decision to ban travel to the States from within the European Union’s Schengen Area.

The number of shows, tours, festivals and conferences choosing to cancel or postpone has increased greatly in the last week, of course, sometimes in response to government instigated restrictions, other times because of the concerns of artists, promoters and ticket-buyers.

However, until yesterday the major global players of the live industry hadn’t issued any formal industry-wide statements regarding COVID-19, beyond investor briefings from publicly listed entities like Live Nation.

Yesterday’s statement announced that the signatory companies have now formed a united taskforce to “drive strategic support and unified direction ensuring precautionary efforts and ongoing protocol are in the best interest of artists, fans, staff, and the global community”.

On that taskforce are Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino, AEG CEO Dan Beckerman, AEG Presents CEO Jay Marciano, CAA Managing Partner Rob Light, WME Partner Marc Geiger, Paradigm Chair Sam Gores, Paradigm Head Of Global Music Marty Diamond and UTA Partner David Zedeck.

They then stated that “at this time, we collectively recommend large scale events through the end of March be postponed. We continue to support that small-scale events follow guidance set by their local government officials”.

Assuring artists, investors and employees that the signatory companies were able to navigate the current crisis, the task-force’s statement continued: “We feel fortunate to have the flexibility to reschedule concerts, festivals, and live events as needed, and look forward to connecting fans with all their favourite artists and live entertainment soon”.

Although the taskforce is made up of global companies – hence its self-proclaimed ‘global’ status – it is, of course, somewhat US-centric and to what extent participating companies will follow their own guidance on a truly global basis remains to be seen.

Obviously the spread and extent of the virus varies greatly around the world, partly depending on when the earliest cases were diagnosed, so some regional and local nuance will definitely be required. And, as the taskforce notes, the approach taken by small-scale events will likely be different to large-scale events.

Although the taskforce’s recommendation of postponement currently runs to the end of March, it’s thought that policy will likely end up running very much into April – indeed some April events have already been cancelled.

Beyond that, sources say that bosses at the big live music companies currently hope that things will start to get back to normal in May, though there remain so many unknowns about how the disease will now spread it is hard to say how long the crisis will continue.

Here in the UK the government still hasn’t called for any large-scale events to be cancelled, insisting that expert advice says such measures are not currently required. Although in Scotland ministers has advised that events over a 500 capacity should be called off to ensure no unnecessary strain is placed on emergency services. UK-wide measures will likely change as the spread of the virus escalates.

Beyond live events, the impact of COVID-19 is being felt across the music industry in other ways too as an increasing number of companies call off face-to-face meetings and encourage – or insist on – more home-working for their employees. Meanwhile, publicly listed music companies – and especially those in the live sector – are having to fire-fight tanking share prices as investment markets go into panic mode.

Though ultimately the biggest impact will be felt by individual artists and the smallest independent music companies who are negatively impacted by all the cancellations in the live music market, and for whom sudden extra expenditure or lost income is a significant challenge. Various trade bodies and other organisations have now issued guidance to support their members. In the UK, that includes the following:

Help Musicians
PRS Foundation

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