As the Association of Independent Promoters (AIP) prepares to host its first promoter masterclasses, designed to help develop the careers of new and emerging promoters, Christopher Barrett speaks to AIP chair John Rostron about the challenges involved in being a promoter and how Covid-19 could have a positive knock-on effect.

Much has changed since Sŵn Festival co-founder and AIP chairman John Rostron launched the Association in October 2018 but unarguably the most dramatic development has been the Covid-19 crisis.

According to an ongoing AIP survey of promoters about the impact of the crisis on their businesses, which had been completed by 150 promoters at the time of going to press, 53% of the shows they had rescheduled had been been rescheduled more than once.

While Rostron is grateful for the Government support so far, including the £1.57 billion rescue package, he would like to see more clarity as to exactly how the money will be spent and a clearer timeline of when events can be reopened.

“We feel that independent promoters are not represented,” he says. “We have a package of support but who is that going to and for how long? It is 10 days since £1.57 billion announcement was made and we still don’t have any clarity on that. It is very difficult when promoters are losing money daily and have zero income. If you are planning a festival your timeline is at least a year long and in the concert business it is at least four or five months.”

He notes that many promoters have had unrecoupable costs from the period shortly before lockdown began, with some venues having spent the ticket revenue due and no longer being in a position to issue it. Meanwhile, there is the ongoing cost of rescheduling and remarketing shows.

Despite the many challenges, Rostron says that one of the most obvious results of the pandemic is that it has emphasised the vital role played by promoters, and that some industry practices will have to change in order for the industry to bounce back.

“Covid-19 has illustrated that shows don’t happen without promoters, and at the heart of the job is the financial risk; the investment in artist guarantees, paying for the venue hire, hiring the crew – that all sits with the promoter.”

One of the first things Rostron expects to change once the crisis is over, is promoters no longer being required to pay artists 50% deposits on shows.

He says, “If deposits were reduced to 10% it would mean five shows could be booked instead. Deposits will dramatically reduce, as a result of Covid-19, in order that promoters can spend that money on booking more artists and getting more tours lined up. That is what everyone wants, whether you are the venue, artist, the promoter or suppliers.”

“Being at such high risk of going out of business is not good for anyone. We need good people booking shows across the country and we need them to be able to build lasting careers.”

Roston says the industry will also have to find other ways to mitigate risks for promoters: “Being at such high risk of going out of business is not good for anyone. We need good people booking shows across the country and we need them to be able to build lasting careers.”

With the aim of “filling knowledge gaps” for existing promoters and encouraging newcomers to take the plunge, the AIP masterclasses will be presented live on YouTube and Facebook on 27 and 31 July. Participants include Communion Music’s Maz Tappunni, Clémence Godard from Bird On the Wire and Conal Dodds of Crosstown Concerts, whose long career includes two sell-out, 125,000-capacity, shows by Oasis at Knebworth Park in 1996.

Launched in partnership with Atom Promotions, the masterclasses will be presented by Rostron. He says, “We want to provide promoters with tips and tools to help them on their way, wherever they are on their journey.”