“The show” as they say “must go on”, however, these days, in the post COVID-19 world, trying to deliver live events to a paying audience, is an even more complicated business.
Media & Entertainment Insurance

Socially distanced shows require organisers to navigate a tightrope of issues ranging from public health edicts, trying to maintain the value and potency of the fan experience, to the outright financial feasibility of low patron, high overhead shows, all coupled with the ever-present danger of outright cancellation with little or no insurance backstop to compensate.

With COVID-19 still preventing much of the world from enjoying the buzz of live music in person, artists have been experimenting (with mixed results) in various forms of digital or constructed live performances. Be it via Zoom, or while observing social distancing, forming bubbles with musicians and other performers, or through advanced digital wizardry.

The creativity and technological prowess demonstrated in Billie Eilish’s ‘Where do we go?’ (entirely virtual, 3D rendered) live stream, showed paying audiences just what can be achieved when needs must. The 18-year-old megastar staking her claim as ‘Queen of digital concerts’.

The South Korean leviathans, ‘BTS’, have of course set an unparalleled bar in streaming revenue for ticketed events in recent times too. The appetite from fans in certain genres, as well as the financial efficacy, therefore is no longer in question.

The highs however, are also balanced with some frustrating lows. There have also been some publicly cited examples of the (paid) streamed event not going to plan. Fans of Sam Smith may be aware of the frustrations encountered by the team and fans in ‘delivering’ his recent Abbey Road Studios, live streamed gig and interview. From the outset, the published 8pm start did not go well, with many fans unable to gain access with the codes delivered. Further headaches arose when the site host’s own platform went down. Those fans taking to social media, soon realised they weren’t alone in these hurdles with many calling for refunds and being less than complimentary about the experience. This PR nightmare intensified when it seemed, to many, that the stream transpired not to be ‘live’ at all, but pre-recorded and many realising that the feed had already started without people able to get in. Some reports suggest a wait of well over an hour from their first attempt logging in, to finally being granted access by which time only a handful of songs remained, or worse… they were stuck on an error page.

This is not a new problem by any means, and others have had their own technical dilemmas such as with Live Nation’s presentation of the TV chef James Martin’s ticketed ‘Dine In with James Martin’. Again, the issues experienced here produced a poor customer experience and gave unwanted press and social media attention to their plight1.

It is clear then that whether live, or pre-recorded, unexpected issues can arise that add financial loss to the list of issues. Just as is the case with live event insurance, the perils of artist or key speaker illness, accident and other traditional causes of loss remain.

That said, cover exists to help protect against Transmission Failure for online events as well as the traditional perils you would associate with cancellation/abandonment. In a world where direct revenues are key to an artist’s financial health, the cost of insurance remains a wise investment in sustainability.

The insurance market for Contingency insurance remains active and new entrants are coming in all the time, but pricing and conditions are toughening up in light of the heavy losses from COVID-19.

1. https://www.entertainmentdaily.co.uk/news/james-martin-quits-social-media-after-vile-comments-over-technical-issues-during-his-live-cookalong