The Open Forum: Universally challenged
Chair: Paul Latham, Global Guinness Guru
Panellists: Emma Banks, CAA (UK) | Ashish Hemrajani, Book My Show (IN) | Phil Rodriguez, Move Concerts (Latin America) | Pino Sagliocco, Live Nation Spain | David Zedeck, United Talent Agency (US)
ILMC’s traditional opening session took the form of a game show, hosted by former Live Nation UK president (and current ‘global Guinness guru’) Paul Latham.
Following a quick-fire round of quiz questions, which touched on some of the biggest stories of 2019 with a game of fingers on buzzers, talk turned to more serious concerns – namely the coronavirus threat and its wider implications for the global concert business.
Emma Banks said CAA is “not taking any shows off sale unless we have to”, but that in some countries already “people aren’t parting with their money”, while UTA’s David Zedeck noted that Covid-19 – which began in Wuhan, China – is having more of an impact than it would have done 20 years previously, as China is now on most major touring routes.
Taking aim at the relatively small number of delegates who’d decided not to attend ILMC, Move Concerts’ Phil Rodriguez commented: “I’m blown away that some people in this business didn’t come here because of coronavirus, and at the same time we’re doing shows – what kind of message does that send?” He also shared statistics about the number of deaths from ‘normal’ flu, as well as car accidents and other injuries, to put the Covid-19 threat in context.
Speaking from the floor, Okan Tombulca from eps blamed the media for sensationalising the outbreak. “When you get on a tube in London, that’s far worse [for transmitting disease] than being at a show or at a bar or restaurant,” he explained. “We have to send the message that the show must go on.”
Ashish Hemrajani of India’s BookMyShow said his company has an office in Singapore with 27 staff. “Twenty days ago I went there, when many other people wouldn’t, and we closed four big contracts,” he said. “One of the outcomes is that we’re now the partner for the Singapore grand prix – because we showed up.”
Latham then steered the conversation towards email scams, which have been on the increase in recent years. “What stunned me about [some recent examples] was some of the people who were suckered by them,” said Banks. “These emails are supposedly coming from me or John Giddings or Summer Marshall or Steve Strange, but if you know us you’d know we would never write like that…
“Pick up the fucking phone! If an agent won’t take your call, I would say don’t do business with them. If you get an email about Lady Gaga, or Coldplay, one of these big acts, and you’ve never worked with the agent before, it’s probably not real.”
Zedeck said it can even get to the point where venues sells tickets and fans buy them before it becomes clear the act knows nothing about the show. “If a deal seems like it’s too good to be true, it probably is,” he added.
On, then, to Brexit, and a roomful of delegates who have yet to start feeling the effects (according to a show of hands). Panellists’ concerns largely centred on the logistics of touring once the transition period comes to an end on 31 December 2020, with Banks stating: “We have no idea how easy it will be to get trucks into Europe. […] I don’t know if I need to leave a week between London and Paris, or a day, or if we can still do it overnight…”
Manager and audience member Adam Parsons said, contrary to misleading media reports, visas shouldn’t be an issue post-Brexit: “COSes [certifications of sponsorship] aren’t a problem. But regarding equipment, merchandise, etc., we just don’t know.”
“We had our Brexit 70 years ago and we survived that!” joked Hemrajani.
The panel closed with a brief detour into secondary ticketing and the new money in the industry (previewing the Industry Investment panel later that day), before Latham brought the session to an end by asking panellists – in light of the corona scare – for one positive message for the assembled delegates.
“I’m extremely positive as a human being,” said Live Nation Spain’s Pino Sagliocco, “so I believe this is going to go away shortly. Artists are very conscious they cannot let the fans down.”
“This is a growth business,” added Rodriguez. “There is a lot of runway ahead of us in terms of international development. I’m bullish.”
Added Zedeck: “There’s never been a better time to be in our space. It [coronavirus] is a blip on the radar; let’s hope it passes quickly.”
“It will pass, and we’ll all be fine,” concluded Banks. “But in the meantime, we all need to look after each other. But I’m still not shaking anyone’s hand…”