Live Event Producers and their Insurance Providers Must Adapt to New COVID-19 Landscape

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It’s undeniable. COVID-19 has taken an unprecedented toll on the live events industry. A sector that at one time was growing exponentially was put on hold in an instant. But this isn’t the end for live events, not by a longshot. Until some sense of normalcy returns, every single person looking to stage a live event, experienced or otherwise, must creatively adapt — with their insurance agents following suit. 

I believe that the live events industry will come back stronger than ever thanks to an unprecedented pent up demand for live entertainment. As a whole, the industry has been lucky enough to navigate many of the previous national and global tragedies — and emerge relatively unscathed.

For instance, in the aftermath of 9/11, people continued to attend movies, concerts and sporting events. In fact, a recent report from Investopedia found that despite the lasting impact on the American psyche, the economic and financial impact of the attacks were fairly muted, with markets bouncing back months after. So of course, much like today, many Americans were mentally exhausted, but at least had the ability to distract themselves through live entertainment. The impact of COVID-19 has altered that reality so drastically, such that I believe there will soon be more live event options than ever before, and people will eagerly attend.  

With that being said, until the time when COVID-19 becomes an accepted reality of our society on the level of the regular flu, the live events industry will have to adapt and so will their insurance providers.

What the concert industry is already doing serves as a prime example. Many artists are presenting “streaming” concerts where fans pay for tickets just as they would at a regular venue. However, when concert-goers return in some form, I expect some virtual element to remain. Given capacity limits and social distancing guidelines, concerts will continue to be streamed online, at least for the next several months, so as to not lose out on a significant form of revenue.

What that means relative to live event professionals is that they must be prepared for streaming risks i.e. internet crashes, malicious hackers and more. Back in late June, a free virtual concert staged by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO) was disrupted by a suspected cyber attack, preventing tens of thousands of viewers worldwide from watching and participating in the event. Just imagine if those virtual viewers had paid their hard-earned money to attend. With that in mind, I encourage event organizers to consult with insurance agents before engaging in any form of virtual streaming.

Event managers should also be prepared to answer more of their agents’ questions. Most notably, what are they doing relative to their duty of care in managing the pandemic? This way, the agent or risk manager could provide you with areas of safety that you may not have thought of. This is a critical service that your insurance agent can provide in navigating such uncertain times.

Furthermore, on a business level, it’s a beneficial positioning tool for the insurance agent when pitching the insured to the insurance company. In other words, when an insurance agent submits an account to their higher-ups, it’s never submitted blindly. Rather, they spend some time discussing what the insured is doing to manage risk — especially if they’re in the public view. If a venue, for example, is taking all the necessary precautions, that becomes a bargaining chip for the insurance agent. When an insurance carrier likes what they hear, they become more comfortable insuring a particular client, raising the likelihood of that account being accepted.

But of course, live events often go beyond the traditional venue. Prior to COVID-19, the live event industry was growing and expanding at an unprecedented rate all across the world. Citing an August 2019 report from Allied Market research, the global events industry was valued at $1.1 billion in 2018, and expected to grow 10.3% to reach $2.33 billion by 2026. The purposes for staging an event are wide ranging. It can be an increase in business profitability, celebratory, entertainment, and community causes, among others. This reality applies across the board: from a massive corporation down to the local carnival.

One such local example is a large, Tennessee-based brewery that our company insures. Before the onset of the pandemic, they routinely staged concerts for around 1,000 people per show. This brewery also happens to own a large piece of land not far from their location. When COVID struck, they got creative. They contacted an event service firm to provide a stage and began hosting a series of “socially distant” concerts with each party confined to their own individual squares — distanced six feet apart.

From our perspective, as live event insurance providers, this was anything but ordinary. This really isn’t a venue, and we’re not dealing with a concert promoter. But this was a forward-thinking entrepreneur who saw an opportunity to fulfill a consumer need. They were willing to provide detailed answers to the areas of concern we identified, and together we made the concert work safely for everyone involved.   

Even though all the things you normally look for from a risk management perspective weren’t there, we were still able to work side by side to manage this event as effectively as possible.

My message to anyone looking to stage a live event is that we’re here to help. This is a service we are happy to provide and will work with you to capitalize on a nationwide desire for safe and engaging entertainment options.

Scott Carroll is the Executive Vice President and Program Director of Take1 Insurance, the Entertainment brand of U.S. Risk Insurance Group. He is an experienced entertainment insurance thought leader and has spent years as a broker/underwriter focused on live event safety. 

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