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Moving Forward

Live Nation’s new festival policies

LN sent a memo to talent agencies with new contract terms for its 2021 festivals in response to COVID-19. The memo comes following massive layoffs and furloughs made by the music giant in May, a move that was said to cut $600M from its budget and 20% of its staff.

Much of the new terms shift the financial risk from promoters to artists - an unprecedented move in these unprecedented times. Here are the key points:

  • Guarantees reduced by 20% from 2020 levels across the board.

  • Streaming rights held by LN, which can be used for live TV broadcast, webcast, or satellite radio broadcast, as well as on-demand streaming.

  • The promoter is not responsible to pay the Artist any portion of its fee if the festival is canceled due to weather or force majeure.

  • If Artist cancels, Artist pays promoter 2x Artist’s fee (now removed from the memo).

  • Promoters can terminate the agreement and get its money back if the venue can’t be used at full capacity either due to government or venue orders.

  • If a concert is canceled due to poor ticket sales, Artists will receive 25% of guarantee (instead of typical 100%).

(Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Not surprisingly, the memo wasn’t received well and many artists and fans are outraged, however, there are at least a few who think this is good for the music business. It's also important to understand LN's insights on the memo, which Charles Attal explains further with Pollstar. With the majority of touring still paused and the understanding that all contracts are negotiable, it remains to be seen how this will play out once LN events, as well as others, start up again. Will this move set the precedent for the entire industry?

Moving forward

To this day, we still don't have a clear picture of what the return to live events will look like in its fullest form. However, we can get started by learning from live industries globally on the steps being taken to progress in the short term. Further, the outcomes from such events are even more important to watch - what worked well, and what did not? Below are just a few of the guides provided so far, along with case examples from Festivals, Venues, and Conferences:

Further, OVG has launched a safety task force to "help establish safety protocols." The task force is made up of professionals in facility operations, food and beverage, sanitization, and more.

In terms of festivals...

Elements Lakewood, a house music festival originally slated for Memorial Day weekend, and later pushed to September, recently announced Elements Retreats for July 10-12th. The Retreat will be strictly limited to a 225 person capacity. Here’s how it’s going down so soon:

  • All guests, staff, talent, and vendors will be required to participate in 2-part testing (both at home and onsite). The at-home test will be witnessed via Zoom.

  • Guests have to sign a certification waiver.

  • Shared cabins will be operating at 50% capacity to allow for social distancing.

  • Food will be packaged/plated individually, but guests are allowed to bring their own.

  • Guests will be assigned arrival times with a 1-hour window, in which they will be tested and receive those test results back within an hour. See the full details here.

In terms of masks, their website states they are highly encouraged. Extensive testing measures have been put in place to ensure everyone on-site is COVID-free, but there is a lot of positive data surrounding mask-wearing. Should masks be required industry-wide instead of encouraged?

White Oak Music Hall
(White Oak Music Hall)

In the world of venues... As states begin to reopen, we see Texas begin to shift focus from essential business to live entertainment. With new orders, White Oak Music Hall opened last week. "Part of [this] is to normalize the precautions. Requiring seating at a show might be strange [and] avoiding the bar is weird, but a cocktail server will get you what you need. Much like pat-downs and bag checks felt awkward at first, but are now an accepted part of event safety, we have to focus on making our public health policies simple to understand and non-intimidating." Cap City Comedy, another Texas venue, follows the trend of reserved seating shows alongside other means, such as cashless purchases, temperature checks, reduced capacity, and heightened cleaning practices.

For outdoor venues and the quickly approaching football season, the Texas governor announced that sporting events are now able to increase fan attendance to 50% percent. Despite easing restrictions, we have seen sports leagues such as the PGA and IndyCar hold on allowing fan attendance until the league feels they are prepared to do so.

We Will Recover
(We Will Recover)

With venues beginning to reopen, communication between staff members and fans becomes more important than ever. Effectively explaining the policies to allow for the best health practices is key. Bella Center Hospitality Group released guidelines for the fan's journey in the new age of health and safety practices. Emphasis is put on the messaging provided to not only fans but the staff as well. Venues are encouraged to provide information “pre-arrival” to enforce the practices that will take place on-site. What about conferences? MIDEM Digital Edition, an event that brings together key players of the industry to collaborate and share solutions, had over 8,000 attendees from 48 countries attend their online conference earlier this month. Organizers recognize that the success and reach of this event are unprecedented, and makes us wonder whether this sets the stage for how learning opportunities in the industry will be presented in the future. We are all realizing the importance of working together and growing with each other - allowing all to partake in learning goes a long way.

While virtual festivals for fans or even drive-in concerts are more just a temporary solution (which can sometimes be super successful), virtual conferences for the industry worker could have a different ending.

  • Will virtual conferences be standardized after seeing the reach MIDEM achieved?

  • Is there a way to keep a free tier available to anyone that wants to tune in to encourage participation, allow more voices and experiences that we can all learn from?

  • Can we find a way to make these learning experiences more inclusive of all so that more creativity is workshopped, more inspiration is gained internationally, and we’re more innovative than ever to get the world back to attending live music in safe, productive, and enriching environments?

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