Solving the touring supply chain crisis

The supply chain crisis is leading to soaring costs and a number of high-profile tours moving into 2023, production professionals have revealed.

Speaking on the closing day of ESNS 2022, Martina Pogacic (Show Production), Willem Westermann (VVEM), Okan Tombulca (eps), Maarten Arkenbout (Pieter Smit) and Ollie Gardiner (Vespasian Security) discussed the myriad of issues that hamper the efforts of the sector. to regain its full power.

Asked about FKP Scorpio CEO Stephan Thanscheidt’s assertion that two and a half years of shows are being squeezed in the next eight months, Tombulca said the bottleneck this year is starting to ease somewhat.

“There are already a lot of changes,” he said. “A lot of tours are now postponed to ’23, like Bruce Springsteen, Beyonce…AC/DC hasn’t even started because they see the problems coming. There’s already a shift from ’22 to ’23, so I think it’s getting a bit better.

“The problem we see on our side is not that there are more festivals than before. The big difference we see on our side is that local artists from different countries like Sweden, the United States , Italy and Germany are all going on tour at the same time.

“In addition, international artists go on tour. So it’s not like there’s a lot of festival tours, it’s not more than before, it’s just that usually you have this rhythm of going on tour every three or four year. But now everything is compressed, because everyone now wants to come out in the same year. And I think that’s a big problem.

Tombulca spoke of a “really big band” who were basing their European tour plans for next year on stage availability.

“They have dates, but before putting them in the routing, they check if the stages are available or not,” he said. “And if the stages are not available, they change the date, which is a very new situation.”

“Everyone was thinking, ‘We’re still making this happen somehow. But for the first time, as we saw with Adele, we’re not always going to make it.”

He also referred to last week’s postponement of Adele’s entire Las Vegas residency, just 24 hours before the scheduled opening night, as indicative of a shift in perception. The singer told fans on social media that “half of my team has Covid and it was impossible to finish the show”, adding that “delays in delivery” had also impacted her plans.

“What has happened now is that several great artists [haven’t been able] to get a scene,” Tombulca said. “Everyone was thinking, ‘We’re still making this happen somehow. But for the first time, as we saw with Adele, but also in other areas, we will not always succeed. So artists, managers, agents, promoters need to involve the supply chain more in their planning. It’s a big change in attitude. »

The Covid-19 pandemic and other complications such as Brexit have put unprecedented pressure on those behind the scenes. A new report from the UK’s Professional Light And Sound Organization (PLASA) has shown that the lack of work during the 2020 and 2021 shutdowns has caused an exodus of the company’s freelancers, with 64% finding work in other sectors. A total of 69% of companies reported a skills shortage, with site crews, fitters, engineers and technicians being the most cited. To compound the problem, 50% of freelancers have not returned full-time to the company.

Gardiner noted that security and crowd management costs had increased in the wake of the pandemic due to demand exceeding supply — and would only continue to rise.

“The promoters we worked with told us that safety and crowd management were in their top five. [costs]. And it’s been a very long time, in our experience, that we’ve been close to the top five,” he said. “In the UK it took Covid to allow us to move those fares north. They actually started to realize that the staff just wasn’t there.

“Whether for good reason or not, rates are going up, but they’re not going to stagnate. Inflation in the UK was 5.4% last year, so people have to be prepared for a rate hike, unfortunately.

Arkenbout suggested developers should just get used to paying higher prices.

“It sounds a bit rude, but it’s realistic,” he said. “We understand their problem, but if we want to continue, we must take action together. I am sure we will find solutions.

“The promoters will increase the price of tickets as much as they can”

“One of the countries where we hosted events last year was England,” Tombulca noted. “And I know some festivals couldn’t get equipment in the UK, so they started bringing in equipment from the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Germany. Even with incredibly high costs, they agreed to pay it, because they realized they had no other choice. It was no longer about negotiating the price, they were so desperate to make it happen.

Pointing out that festival ticket prices have increased “by €20 to €30” in the Netherlands due to rising costs, he added: “I think it’s a logical next step. Promoters will raise ticket prices as much as they can.

Westermann added that growth in other industries was not reflected in the live music business.

“Our Ministry of Finance says things are growing and we say, ‘Hey, nothing is growing with us.’ And that’s a problem,” he said.

Pogacic, meanwhile, described the situation in the Balkans.

“Of course, staffing has always been more or less of an issue and now I would definitely say more,” she said. “Over the past three years, more than 300,000 people have left Croatia and gone to other countries. And [others] just changed jobs. Then there’s the education element – ​​for the past two years we haven’t had the platform or the shows to educate the next generation.

“We have a lot of festivals during the summer because of our coast – summer sea, sun, what we like to sell – but I’m really curious how it’s all going to turn out.”

The ESNS European festival and conference has moved fully online for the second year in a row, in line with the Dutch government’s latest Covid-19 rules.

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