Five Things I Know: Roger Field, Live Nation Asia Pacific

‘No jab, no entry’. A looming skills vacuum. Domestic touring without disruption. Live Nation Asia Pacific president Roger Field talks to NME about the rocky road ahead for Australian live music and whether we’ll be able to go to gigs again in 2022

1. Live music in Australia in 2022? Jury’s still out

From a global perspective, we anticipate 2022 is going to be enormous – and we’ve already seen signs of a strong return with a busy summer in the US and UK, and some really strong fan demand here. Artists want to show their work and they want to perform, and they haven’t been able to do that. It’s a very big champagne bottle that’s having the cork very slowly eased out of it.

How this part of the world – Asia, Australia and New Zealand – will reemerge, I can only speculate based on what we hear and what we know. The first thing we’ve got to sort out as a country is the ability for anyone to be able to move around without disruption. That’s a really challenging proposition and something that I think has to be the number one priority. We’ve had tours during times where the majority of the country has not been in lockdown, but they have been disrupted because we can’t get a drummer out of one state into another.

If we can get things in place during the rest of this year, then Australia will be in a really good position to be digging into the content that we see in the pipeline the middle of next year onwards.

2. A skills vacuum is a serious concern

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There are some skilled workers who have waited around for the industry to come back with some sort of consistency, and it hasn’t for various reasons. They’ve had to work so they’re diversifying or going off into other areas.

It’s a concern for us, because so much of what people in our industry do is learned – as in practical, on-the-job learning over years of commitment. It’s not going and getting a degree and then suddenly, you can go and work in any part of the business.

We’re going to need to get those riggers, loaders, sound techs and all of those on-the-road people, entice them back into the industry and have them re-engaged with enough lead time to be able to build the tour parties around the tours.

Roger Field, Live Nation
Roger Field. Credit: Press

3. The live music industry has to advocate for itself

Something positive that has come out of the pandemic is that the industry has learned we need to work much more on our brand and profile. I think we take it for granted, possibly everywhere in the world, that people understand what we do because we do the big shows. But we’ve realised that people come to these shows and they don’t have any cause to think about what goes on in the background.

To the public, organising concerts and promoting tours must seem like a bit of a dark art. When we’re trying to explain to governments how important we are and why we need certain things like critical worker permits, they’ve really got no concept of what we do. So we’ve now got ourselves in a position as an industry where we work together to be able to measure our economic benefit and social contribution.

4. Promoters have had to experiment to adapt

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We’ve done some things that we never thought we would do, and with great success, which has been encouraging. We’ve been working with Australian acts, many of whom handle touring themselves, roping them into standalone events we’ve created that they can participate in alongside their tours.

There was the concert series April Sun on the St Kilda foreshore. Banking on indoor venue capacity restrictions not being lifted, we thought: let’s build an outdoor space which is variable in size that can hold a variety of different types of events and gives artists somewhere to go. Then we engaged with a bunch of local acts that were already touring under their own steam, but also created some great events to book into that space.

One of our big success stories was in New Zealand, where we got The Lion King production into the outdoor Spark Arena, which broke records. It was the fastest-selling musical theatre show in the country and had a phenomenal season – hundreds of thousands of tickets in a period where there was dust.

We’d be in a different situation, potentially, if touring had been able to continue in parts of Australia and New Zealand for the rest of this year. But clearly, these lockdowns have disrupted that.

GFlip at April Sun
GFlip performing at April Sun. Credit: Richard Clifford

5. ‘No jab, no entry’ in Australia isn’t that straightforward

One thing we’re benefitting from is case study after case study coming out of what’s happening in the Northern Hemisphere, where there are a variety of different tools being trialled. Lollapalooza is a really great example where a number of different tools can be applied to give people freedom, but also deliver what is our number one priority: a safe and great event. 12 per cent of the Lollapalooza attendees who got vaccinated said they did so because they wanted to go to the festival.

A lot of different things will have to fall into place to determine how event entry is managed without a hard and fast company or industry position in place. In some countries around the region, the governments have been very clear and mandated proof of vaccination to participate in a whole range of activities. New South Wales is another interesting case study, where there will be a two-tier system of access in the lead-up to getting 70 per cent of the population becoming fully vaccinated.

Keep in mind: a significant number of tickets have already been sold for events that have moved to as late as next year. If a vaccination mandate for events were to come into place, how do you handle the fact that there are some people didn’t expect that mandate at the time they bought their ticket?

So a ‘no jab, no entry’ policy is not a path Live Nation Asia Pacific is taking, though that’s subject to the specific requirements (if any) of each market. We will look at the data and the artists’ riders that come in, some of which are very clear about what they want their arrangements to be. And then we will work with what tools (check-in apps, testing regimes, proof of vaccination) we have as approved by the relevant drug administrations.

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