Kilimanjaro boss Stuart Galbraith on the live sector's coronavirus 'catastrophe'

Stuart Galbraith

The entire world is grappling with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. But within the music industry, few have been hit as hard as the live business.

This week’s special Coronavirus Crisis edition of Music Week, available now, features several unflinching reports from the music industry’s frontline, as retail and label sectors also battle the effects of the pandemic.

But it’s the touring business that has borne the brunt of the crisis, with hundreds of events, from small pub shows to Glastonbury Festival cancelled, postponed or rescheduled as the UK and many international countries go into lockdown.

Stuart Galbraith, CEO of leading promoters Kilimanjaro Live, is one of those in what he calls “crisis management mode” as executives contemplate the wreckage of the sector. Music Week spoke to him about the effects of the pandemic – and plans for the fightback…

How bad is this for the live business?
“The situation that we’re looking at from a societal point of view has the capability for being catastrophic. In terms of the situation for our industry and our sector, it already is catastrophic.”

The government’s initial approach involved telling people to avoid mass gatherings, but didn’t order venues to close. Why did they do that?
“If you were being kind, they were just untogether and didn’t have enough clarification. If you were being very cynical, it was about protecting the insurance underwriting market.”

How big an issue is insurance in this situation?
“It really comes down to what an individual contract says and the wording of a particular policy. But the fact is that any closures with regards to Covid-19 are most definitely a force majeure event and then that triggers a whole other set of conversations. I think there will be a broad acceptance that everything that has been cancelled or is being postponed is as a direct result of the pandemic.”

It’s now virtually impossible to reschedule anything into the autumn because there is just not the venue availability

Stuart Galbraith

From a purely logistical point of view, is it possible to reschedule everything?
“We’re all rescheduling as much as we possibly can, but we’re already rescheduling into a very busy calendar, at theatre level, club level and arena level. It’s now virtually impossible to reschedule anything into the autumn because there is just not the venue availability. So a lot of these tours will now get rescheduled into 2021, for sure.”

What impact will the shutdown have on promoters’ finances?
“We literally, as of this week, will have no income. We’re postponing as much as we can until the autumn and next year and those shows will still take place. But there will undoubtedly be a significant number of straight cancellations and businesses such as promoters or agencies are staff intensive and work on low margins. And, like every other business that is in the press at the moment, it will have a profound effect on us.”

* To read Music Week’s full report into the coronavirus pandemic’s effect on the live business, see the new edition of Music Week, available now, or click here. To make sure you can access Music Week wherever you are, subscribe to our digital issue by clicking here.

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