Ozzy Osbourne has the likes of Apple, Twitter, Facebook and TikTok in pulling out of this month’s SXSW conference due to concerns over the coronavirus.
The rocker had been due to attend in support of the world premiere of Biography: The Nine Lives Of Ozzy Osbourne documentary. The conference, which runs from March 13-22, is still scheduled to go ahead as planned.
SXSW said in a statement: "Regarding the current coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, SXSW is working closely on a daily basis with local, state, and federal agencies to plan for a safe event. As a result of this dialogue and the recommendations of Austin Public Health, the 2020 event is proceeding with safety as a top priority."
Facebook is closing its three London offices and telling staff to work from home after a worker tested positive for the virus, while in Germany, Messe Frankfurt has postponed the Prolight + Sound 2020 trade fair, which was originally planned for March 31 to April 3. The new dates for the show are May 26 to 29, 2020.
The outbreak was first reported from Wuhan, China, on December 31 last year, with worldwide cases now topping 100,000. More than 20,000 music events in China and Hong Kong between January and March have been cancelled or postponed, with acts including Stormzy, Khalid, New Order, BTS, Green Day, Slipknot and Avril Lavigne all pulling Asian tour dates. Mariah Carey, meanwhile, has postponed a March 10 concert in Hawaii until November.
In Italy, Europe’s worst-hit country, the live music business has been among the worst-hit sectors according to industry organisation Assomusica, which puts the current financial loss at €10.5m. Mabel and Louis Tomlinson among artists to have cancelled Italian dates.
“The sale of tickets has completely stopped, not only in the regions where the emergency exists, but at the national level, due to the widespread panic situation,” said Assomusica president Vincenzo Spera. “It is clear that live music is one of the weakest sectors from this point of view, because it does not have any kind of contribution and is faced with a whole series of difficulties that the other sectors of the show do not have.
“The risk, in particular, is that many of the companies and promoters active above all in the local and regional territories suffer a rapid collapse.”
In the UK, however, IQ reports that, in a conference call, senior government medical adviser Jonathan Van-Tam has told the domestic events industry that there “will be no ban on live events and other large-scale mass gatherings in the UK in the immediate future”.
Live Nation chief Michael Rapino and president Joe Berchtold played down concerns during last week’s earnings conference call. The promoter’s share price fell from an all-time high of $76.08 on February 21 to $57,96 at present amid the worst week for the major stock markets since the 2008 financial crisis.
“Cancellations have been minimal given our activity levels in China with 17 shows totalling approximately 75,000 fans,” said Berchtold. “Looking over the next three months our Asia activity is limited with 70 shows and 200,000 fans in the region. Second as it relates to Italy we have 30 shows booked over the next three months with approximately 125,000 fans. Collectively this accounts for less than 0.5% of our 100 million-plus fans we expect to attend our shows this year.
“More broadly, while we expect that there will be further areas of breakout over the next few months one of our strengths is that we are highly diversified geographically. Thus far we have seen no pullback in fan demand or ticket buying outside of the specifically affected areas. And overall our attendance is weighted toward the latter part of this year with over 70% of our attendance expected from June through the end of the year.”
We're confident long-term the show will happen, the revenue will flow and the fan will show up
Rapino added: “We don't pay an artist until they play. If we cancel a show next month in Milan we don't pay the artist. There's no cost incurred. And when the artist replays that show then we pay the artist. So these ones are actually the easier ones to manage.
“As Joe said, the good news is on the supply demand, the show is not going away; it's just moving to a different quarter. The artist will tour whether they have to jump off this quarter and go into fall or '21. We won't net lose the business.
“We're going to take this cautiously as we watch the markets and we assume a hotspot will flare up and a show will be cancelled here and there. But we're confident long-term the show will happen, the revenue will flow and the fan will show up.”
In France, meanwhile, live music industry association Prodiss has requested a crisis meeting with the country’s Ministries of Health And Culture after it placed a ban on gatherings of more than 5,000 people in confined places, putting thousands of concerts under threat.
“This ban potentially affects hundreds of concert halls in France with more than 5,000 seats, and therefore thousands of cultural events,” said Prodiss.
“The private performing arts sector is particularly responsible and attentive to the forecast of implementing an action plan in their companies, against the risks linked to the coronavirus crisis: spectator safety and health, risk management for their employees, and maintenance of activity, both on French soil and in the context of international artistic tours.
“Thus, in order to support our professionals, we urgently expect the government to let us know the official text giving the framework for the implementation of this cancellation decision.”
The Swiss government has also suspended events with more than 1,000 participants, leading to the cancellation of concerts by Alice Cooper and Carlos Santana, among others.