The live music industry’s staffing shortage, returning customer confidence and no-shows at concerts were high on the agenda in IQ’s latest Recovery Sessions event.
Chaired by the European Arenas Association Olivier Toth, the webinar explored the recovery of the arena market with the help of a heavyweight line-up of executives, including Coralie Berael (Forest National Arena), Tony Goldring (WME), Steve Homer, (AEG Presents), Hans Dhondt (Rock Werchter) and Paul Twomey (Bio Security Systems).
A key issue of debate was the loss of seasoned backstage workers to other industries during the pandemic.
“All venues and festivals are going to come together at some point and try to find their usual people, but a lot of them have left that pool,” said Berael. “We’re going to have to replace people and they’ll need training. They don’t have the necessary experience.
“The loss of talent is quite a concern. I’m not only worried about the quantity of staff, but especially the quality of staff and we are having to start a lot more upfront in finding the right people. Usually, even a week before, you can make a miracle and find the right people, but now you might need to start a lot earlier… It’s a real risk to business continuity and it’s one of the challenges that we’re facing at the moment.”
Homer suggested the issue had been exacerbated in the UK by Brexit.
“We had some issue trying to secure catering companies because they were struggling with staffing,” he said. “We’ve got a double whammy here with Brexit having an influence on people leaving the UK as well.
“There was a severe level of burnout, because we went from literally nothing in venues to almost 80/90%. People had been working for supermarkets or courier services, and then all of a sudden they’re thrown back into working full time in venues, operating as security, or stewarding, or local crew. So it’s been a tough baptism, shall we say, to come back.
“Luckily, the people that are in the industry are determined to make it successful, so a lot of people have gone the extra yard, or the extra mile in a lot of cases, to make sure that events have been happening.”
We’re quite confident for the next few months, but it will take time
Berael reported that, after a slow summer, ticket sales for shows were on the rise, with younger people especially keen to return to live events.
“Since there are a few mass events happening, we can see that the trust is growing again,” she said. “We see that in the curve of the ticket sales. It’s like people were waiting to see whether it went well, and whether there were long queues, etc. So we’re quite confident for the next few months, but it will take time.”
She added: “We communicated probably 500% more with our audience than we used to, just to make sure, in the first instance, that they knew the show was going to happen, to reassure them in a way.
“All the emails about how [the entry system was going to work] came afterwards… explaining to them and educating them about how it was going to work, so that they could already imagine the journey.”
As revealed by IQ last month, promoters have reported the rate of no-shows by ticket-holders at concerts has been far higher than usual.
“At the start of September, we were experiencing quite high levels of no shows – anything between 25% and 35% in some markets,” said Homer. “It does seem to have settled down a bit better this month. The no-show rate is dropping to between 10% and 15%.
“I’ve often equated this whole experience to the feeling of if you go to an outdoor swimming pool. There’s always someone that will go in first, and when that person surfaces, everyone on the side goes, ‘what was it like?’ And I think there’s an element of that that comes along with shows as well.
“It’s all about confidence, and I think the longer we go on without any further restrictions imposed or anything like that, the more comfortable people will be going to shows, going into those indoor environments, with mass audiences.”
With shows that have been announced more recently, you would expect the no-show numbers to be a lot less
Goldring shared an alternative theory for the high no-show level.
“I think we have different situations,” he said. “With a tour that went on sale in 2019 and has been rescheduled a number of times, some people just kind of forget about it, or maybe they’ve lost interest. So I think you’re going to have that scenario.
“With shows that have been announced more recently, you would expect the no-show numbers to be a lot less.”
He continued: “The thing that’s really put a smile on my face is that artists have just loved performing again. They’ve been stuck at home like all of us and, suddenly, they’ve had that interaction with the audience that they haven’t had for so long, and they’ve loved it. So that’s very positive for all of us.”
The Recovery Sessions, supported by ASM Global and Goodtill, is a series of fortnightly webinars designed to keep the live music industry updated about the international roadmap to reopening. All Recovery Sessions events are free to access for IQ subscribers.
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