How the live event industry is fighting Covid-19

How the live event industry is fighting Covid-19
The road to recovery for the live event industry is undoubtedly going to be a long one. After several months of lockdown and a dramatic drop off in revenue for venues and events, the AV rental/live event field continues to bear the brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic; But with a bit of ingenuity, optimism and some stunning light shows, the sector is fighting back against the pandemic and its effects on the industry worldwide.

Kate Eve, CPL commented: "While we are still effectively open for business’ there have been no events since April, with jobs were already starting to cancel before the lockdown was enforced in March. Like everyone we’ve had to furlough 85% of the staff, and with little income and continuing outgoings like rent we are having to run on cash reserves.

"Currently we are receiving furlough payments but that’s due to change from August! We strongly feel that the events sector should be considered independently, and that there should be a per-sector extension of the furlough scheme in specific industries until we are able to get properly up-and-running again.We were one of the first industries to be affected and likely we will be among the last to reopen fully.We have had our rates reduced to zero for the year but are unable to receive any grant due to rateable value."

Jesper Laursen, AV Center reflected: “Business is very slow, there is nothing going on except drive-in events and screenings. We see it both in Denmark and across the board. We have been doing some jobs in Belgium, one of the hardest hit countries during the pandemic, and it’s very difficult to do things in the market right now.

“The problem is that, in the beginning, we didn’t know how to react because this is an entirely new situation. All the hotels and conference spaces had concerns as well. In the beginning, we were waiting to see what was going to happen and how the market reacted. We have built a huge studio in our warehouse so we can invite people into the studio with a big LED screen as a backdrop. We did the biggest beer tasting live event in Denmark and we’re going to do it for the third time this weekend.
“When we speak to our customers, they say that they would like to get projects started but they don’t want to start a second wave of infections so many of our customers are rescheduling events to 2021.”

The sector has been fighting back in a mesmerising way, starting with the Night of Light 2020 in Germany, where over 9,000 buildings, monuments, cultural sites and spaces were lit up in ‘emergency red’ by more than 8,300 companies with some lighting support provided by Robe. The light-up call to action was conceived as part of a direct-action campaign to highlight the immense impact on the events industry in Germany, as income losses for live event companies over the course of the eight-month shutdown period average between a staggering 80% and 100%. 
Night of Light red
Other companies in Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, Belgium, The Netherlands and the UK have also taken part in the campaign, with a second UK based event, Light in Red, set to take place on the 6 July 2020. The event aims to draw attention to the condition of the UK live event and entertainment industry and to encourage government funding for the sector as there is no proposed date for the reopening of live events and arts facilities in the UK. 

Plasa Events has also stepped up to the plate to raise awareness of the industry's plight with its #WeMakeEvents campaign, centered around a video aimed at highlighting the devastating impact that the pandemic and the response to the pandemic has had on the industry. 

Peter Heath, managing director, Plasa said: “The idea came about because we’ve been doing work with a number of people to highlight the challenges faced by our sector. It was clear that there are many areas of our sector that fall through the government [support] gaps so we decided to create a video that gives a visual representation of the supply chain and what it does. If you are a newcomer to the industry, you can see what goes into putting an event together. We wanted to support the video with some industry heavyweights that represent the supply chain because they are all part of the supply chain to making the event work.

“The response has been phenomenal, people have adopted the logo on social media sites, we’ve had encouraging emails from people and we’ve had an overwhelming amount of people sign up compared to what we thought. We’ve had a number of interviews on the radio to raise awareness of the plight of the supply chain, it’s gathering momentum.”

Heath added: "The whole idea is to raise awareness and to start a better conversation with government to ensure all these things are looked at, otherwise we are going to be threatening the very existence of what we do. There are so many iconic, cultural events like Glastonbury that we stand of losing.

"We’ve had great support from our members. We’ve had members come to us after struggling to get support from their local authority and we’ve found out where other members have been successful in getting support. There are a number of things that we are going to be adding to the campaign over the coming weeks so there will be opportunities for members and non-members alike."

"The industry is resilient and creative, but it’s an extremely tough time for many companies to survive for months on end with no cashflow." - Kate Eve, CPL
Ross Ashton, projection artist and designer, The Projection Studio, has an optimistic but cautious approach: “People seem to be preparing for the end of the year, so at least businesses seem to presume that they can start working again. The phone has started ringing, some of the projects that we thought were not going to happen at the end of the year have come alive to the extent that clients are starting to prepare. I think there’s at least cautious optimism that things will get back to normal in the next few months, but we’re playing it one day at a time.
“The Christmas period is at least starting to be planned, whether they actually invest in the hiring and creation is uncertain, but some major companies are at least making plans so if events can go ahead, they will go ahead.”

The Projection Studio has stayed active throughout the pandemic, producing a projection piece to thank Britain's National Health Service during the crisis. 

Maidenhead NHS 2020 edit from Ross Ashton on Vimeo.

Looking to the future, the live event space could be irrevocably changed. As virtual events and meetings have become the norm across the globe, it is hard to imagine a simple backtrack to business as usual in a post-Covid world. Instead, it is likely that there will be a larger focus on remote event attendance and increased use of virtual/live-streamed events alongside traditional live events. 

Laursen theorised: “The live event market is going to change. There will still be a lot of conferences, but there will also be a lot of virtual conferences as well. Hopefully in the next six to eight months we will see a bit more normality but it’s difficult to say as nobody has been here before.” 

Ashton added: “The way we work will change; People are going to be more wary of gathering closely together. Churches seem to have found that this is good for some, as there are some people who couldn’t get out of the house who can now dial in to a church and be part of a community. Churches have woken up to the ability to reach out to people in a way that they weren’t doing before. I’m sure other businesses will do a similar thing.”
Die Werkstatt
There is no question that the road ahead for the live event industry will continue to be rocky, however Ashton added that a clear route forward for the industry is in the interest of live event companies, organisers and the economy as a whole. 

Ashton said: “My biggest fear is that the virus resurges, and everything gets locked backed down again over an extensive period, potentially years. If you shut down, you’re not spending money and if you’re open, you’re earning money, but if you’re going in and out of lockdown then I presume that that’s the worst of both worlds. You’re building up stock, it doesn’t get sold and I hope we don’t do that.”

Eve closes: "The industry will pick up and it will return, but it’s a question of surviving from here to then! The industry is resilient and creative, but it’s an extremely tough time for many companies to survive for months on end with no cashflow."

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