August 16, 2021

Aussie live sector amps up calls for Government-backed insurance after UK move

Aussie live sector amps up calls for Government-backed insurance after UK move
A mega-festival in Perth

The Australian live and entertainment sectors have amped up calls for a government-backed insurance scheme to bring certainty to events.

It would avoid “a very quiet and sad summer”, they stated, adding that this plan would not be a hand-out but something that promoters would pay for so they could confidently plan for the future.

Trade associations APRA AMCOS, ARIA, PPCA, Live Performance Australia, Live Entertainment Industry Forum and the Australian Festival Association made the appeal after the announcement of the Live Events Reinsurance Scheme, a new partnership between the UK Government and giant Lloyd’s of London insurers that is worth over £750 million (A$1.41 billion)

The scheme, which the sector has been fighting to get for over a year, will be available from September 2021 for concert and festival promoters, among others.

It runs until the end of September 2022.

The Government guarantees policies issued by commercial insurers to live events that are open to the general public, including festivals and business events.

It will cover costs incurred if an event is forced to cancel due to Government COVID restrictions.

The entire UK live events sector is worth more than £70 billion ($132 billion) annually to the economy and supports more than 700,000 jobs, including small businesses and the self-employed.

Similar business interruption initiatives are also in place in Germany, Austria, Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Denmark and Estonia.

The Australian call

ARIA and PPCA CEO, Annabelle Herd, said the UK scheme was a template for Australia’s Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments.

“We need the confidence that this provides. Without a scheme like this it is going to be a very quiet and sad summer,” she said.

LPA’s chief executive, Evelyn Richardson, added: “The UK example shows there is a solution that can be developed in conjunction with industry on commercial terms.

“We’re not looking for a handout, promoters are willing to purchase an insurance product.

“A scheme underwritten by government just makes it viable for insurers to put policies in the market.”

The bid comes as more and more small and large-scale events are called off in Australia.

Many musicians are slowly announcing tours, but others complain they are reluctant to do so without insurance – which is inevitably too expensive if they can get it.

APRA AMCOS CEO Dean Ormston, argued that the industry “urgently” needs the confidence to plan and invest in its future.

“The UK Government’s partnership with the insurance market and the live events industry does exactly that,” he pointed out.

“Our proposal is for a similar scheme that will ensure the industry moves from the current position of crisis, to one of building capacity and delivering great events as we emerge from COVID.”

According to Australian Festivals Association GM Julia Robinson: “An insurance scheme will ensure that the $200 million in RISE funding together with state and territory initiatives will deliver the maximum benefit for the country.

“Governments don’t want to see these investments go to waste, and neither does the industry.”

In the latest results of I Lost My Gig Australia, 99% of those behind the 23,100 shows cancelled since July 1 were uninsured.

The UK response

Glastonbury Festival

While politicians and insurers hailed the scheme as a sensible and practical one, many in the music industry were appreciative but felt it could have come earlier.

“For months, UK Music has been warning about the catastrophic impact of the market failure in insurance for live events,” said Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, chief executive of UK Music.

“The inability to obtain insurance has already caused many cancellations this summer – these have been devastating for the entire music industry and there were fears that without action we would have seen major cancellations continuing well into next year too.”

Others were annoyed that the live sector had to play catch-up to the country’s film and TV industries.

A £500 million ($943 million) Film and TV Production Restart Scheme was put in place in July 2020 and has provided insurance cover to more than 600 independent film and TV productions so far.

Live Nation, Association of Independent Festivals, LIVE, Night Time Industries Association and the Concert Promoters Association were appreciative that the scheme would create work for thousands of musicians, managers, agents, crews and others on the supply chain.

In a survey published in June by the Association of Independent Festivals, more than half of all UK festivals set for 2021 were cancelled because of COVID.

At the time, 78% of those still planning were either not going ahead or were unsure about going ahead without the hoped-for cancellation insurance.