Update: Ilan appeared with Edmonton radio station 630 CHED’s J’lyn Nye on October 5th, 2020 where they discussed the severe challenges in the live event industry. You can read Ilan’s original story below.
Your Event Has Been Cancelled
By Ilan Cooley
The live event industry is in serious trouble. It was the first sector to go dark due to the pandemic, and it is expected to be the last to be allowed back to work.
The people behind the scenes of your favourite events are the mavericks and risk takers you likely don’t know about. They create the events that make you smile until your face hurts, cheer until you lose your voice, and dance until you can’t stand up. They make the magic that fills your social feeds, and the moments that live in your memories.
You may have gotten an email saying “your event has been cancelled” – they lost their livelihood.
“People don’t understand how bullseye targeted this virus was at our industry,” says Jon Beckett, owner of Production World. “It was a 100% bullseye. You couldn’t hit it more dead centre. It’s not like it hurt us – it took it away. People don’t understand that until you talk to them about your industry.”
Beckett’s company used to employ 50 people. Having lost more than 200 events so far, they have laid off 35 people. Their 25,000 square foot warehouse contains almost seven million dollars worth of staging, lighting and other production equipment.
“We have to house that inventory,” he says. “It is not like we can sell it.”
Similarly, Fort Saskatchewan based Superior Show Service has two separate warehouses full of rental items nobody currently needs, plus tax bills and insurance due. As a 35-year-old family-run event rental company, they cater to tradeshows and large events. Some of the 35 staff they laid off in March have been hired back after accessing relief programs, but with more than 80 events already cancelled, owner Chris Sisson worries about the future.
“It feels like the carpet kicked out from under you,” he says. “I’ve always been able to provide for a great number of families, not just my own, and today I have no idea how to provide for my own. I have been in this industry my entire life, and now I have no idea what to do. It is truly humbling and dumbfounding.”
Event promoter Mike Andersson prefers not to dwell on what has been lost, instead focusing on building something consumers will want to come back to when it is over. He knows how to manage complex logistics and bring large groups of people together. Even when faced with severe restrictions for events, his company, Trixstar, was busy creating pandemic proof event manifestos, and blue-sky concepts for safe gatherings.
“When everything came crashing down we were putting up material about what events look like after this, and showing some optimism,” he says. “It is important to get people together and to celebrate.” He admits there are good days and bad days. “It is a rollercoaster of emotions,” he says. “Obviously we feel terrible. It affects us, but it affects so many companies. From the security companies, to the ticketing companies, to the tent company, to the production company – all those people are affected.”
Event photographer Dale MacMillan also worries about the people behind the scenes. He has lost more than 100 days of shooting for professional sporting events, large music events, festivals and fairs, which makes up about 60% of his income, and he knows others are in the same situation.
“There’s a guy sitting out there with probably a quarter section of land and he’s probably got 5500 porta potties that are out at ten to 20 events throughout the month, and he is affected tremendously,” says MacMillan. “I see some of the guys that are usually in the business of trucking the machinery to set up the fairs and festivals that are delivering for Amazon now. I look at all of those people who work the booths to break plates. They are not working at all. How else is a guy who owns a plate breaking booth going to get any other business?”
Even artists like Clayton Bellamy are wondering how to pay their bills. As a successful singer/songwriter and member of Canada’s top country band, The Road Hammers, he wishes the gold records on his wall represented a decent living, but admits there is no money to be made without touring. With up to 90% of his income derived from live shows, and almost no revenue from music streaming, he says he will do whatever it takes to feed his family.
“Obviously I have kids and that comes first before anything,” he says. “The main thing to do is to find work.” He also knows lack of touring impacts others. “Our band employs a lot of people. It is not just me on the stage – it is the tour manager, and the person in the office answering the phones at the management company, and the manager. We help employ 50 people. If you think about the industry as a whole, there are a lot of people relying on that trickle-down.”
Beckett says the model for live events has changed forever.
“If we are going to collapse, then we are going to give it all we can. Right now, we are optimistic that we can somehow find ways to juggle.”
Production World is streaming virtual events to online audiences, and delivering reimagined AHS compliant live events with a mobile stage, video wall, and in-car audio for things like graduations, weddings, movies, drive in music events, and even funerals. They are retrofitting churches for virtual services, and recording content to deliver music and sermons to parishioners.
Sisson suggests his industry should collaborate with government and other industry professionals to develop a plan, like doing events by the hour to control occupancy counts, disinfecting surfaces, contact tracing and testing, and utilizing existing technologies like temperature checks and facial recognition.
“I will be ashamed of our industry if we cannot have something that is approved and a way to conduct ourselves by October,” he says. “At the end of the day there are a lot of livelihoods that need to get looked after.”
MacMillan says the advice his parents gave him to plan for a rainy day was valid. He will get creative with other revenue sources and try to take advantage of programs and subsidies.
“If it helps you along one more month, it is one more month that you can make it until things open up again.”
Bellamy tries to keep his mental health in check by maintaining a rigorous schedule of practicing, writing, and working on existing projects. He plans to finish a new record so he can hit the ground running when touring resumes.
“Right now, I have no income,” he says. “I don’t have a safety net. I don’t have a plan B.”
He says if people want to support their favourite artists they should buy music and merchandise directly, like and share posts and music on social media, and send a letter to the government to help change laws that impact fair pay for artists’ streaming rights.
A return to “normal” is a long way off, and no matter when life starts to feel unrestricted again the world will be altered, and things will be different. Behind the scenes, the event industry not just trying to reinvent itself, it is fighting for survival.
“People don’t think about the human side of it and all that goes into it and all the different companies that come together to produce an event,” says Anderson. “Nobody in the entertainment industry is making a dollar right now. Everyone has to figure out how to survive this, and survive it together. So, my optimism is, I think a lot of companies are going to survive this because they are working together. They are going to support each other once we come out the other side.”
On September 22nd Canadian event industry technicians, suppliers and venues from across the country will Light Up Live events in red to raise awareness for the live event industry – which is still dark.
This article was originally published on September 22, 2020.
Read more on Todayville.
DISTINGUISHED & EMERGING ARTIST AWARDS JUNE 2022
Lac La Biche County and Portage College have been making plans for a community celebration to honour three new 2021 Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Distinguished Artists. Given the ongoing COVID-19 related challenges of convening in person, Portage College, Lac La Biche County, and the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Awards Foundation have moved the celebration to June 11, 2022.
This change has provided a new opportunity: for the first time in the Awards’ history, the host community of Lac La Biche County will celebrate both the 2021 Distinguished Artists and up to 10 new 2022 Emerging Artists.
Her Honour Salma Lakhani, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta, says she is looking forward to honouring the Distinguished and Emerging Artists next summer in Lac La Biche.
“I appreciate the tremendous work that the community has already invested into this special celebration, and I know that the 2022 awards will be well worth the wait. In the meantime, I offer my heartfelt thanks to all of the artists, administrators and patrons across Alberta for everything that you are doing to keep the arts a vibrant part of our lives and our communities during this extraordinary time.”
The organizers look forward to hosting this prestigious event and showcasing Alberta’s diverse arts scene. Their June 2022 plans include opportunities to chat with artists, outdoor community celebrations featuring an Art Walk and Market, art classes and demonstrations, an artist retreat, and a celebratory awards gala.
Click to learn more about the Foundation.
Update: Virtual concert raises more than $40K for Cancer Research
This weekend’s Jammin’ For a Cure concert raised more the $40,000 for Cancer Research, with funds raised being earmarked for the work of Dr. Michael Chu, a clinician scientist at the Cross Cancer Institute. His research is for a new treatment known as Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy.
The 18 hour live performance was a great event. If you missed it, we have the links right here for you.
Friday: Click here
Saturday: Click here.
If you missed the show on the weekend, check it whenever you wish, and share it. The concert featured some really good performance from local, regional, national, and international artists. A highlight for me was El Niven and the Alibi. After doing some crazy tours, one from Tijuana to La Paz, performing fully amplified street concerts, and another from Edmonton to New York, across to L.A. and back to Edmonton. More than 400 shows over 3 years hones your skill, and this trio has a ton of skill.
Here’s a video they recently released called Likker. If you like the thoughts of a mash up between a 6’5″ Freddie Mercury, Frank Zappa, Commander Cody, and then you put an old worn telecaster in this volatile combination of a man’s hands, and say to him, go out and do something magical, and maybe just a bit crazy, then El Niven should appeal to you. Click here to learn more about El Niven and the Alibi.
Original story from March 26, 2021
I think we can all agree that few of us have been touched more by cancer than any other disease. One of the organizations trying to make a difference is the Cure Cancer Foundation, founded by a group of volunteers with a desire to more directly fund research and treatment programs.
And, what better way to raise money than with live music. Let’s face, it’s been an awful year without clubs and bars open, and no concerts and festivals. So maybe take a break from Netflix this weekend and take some time and catch some amazing talent, many of whom you’ve listened to in your favourite venue over the years. Many have been very busy creating new work during this last year and I’m sure you’ll hear some excellent new music throughout the weekend. In fact, here’s something recent from Brett Kissell.
Jammin’ For a Cure is a live concert event taking place over 18 hours, starting tonight at 6 PM when Alberta’s own Brett Kissel kicks off a night of great music with artists that include Clayton Bellamy, Martin Kerr, and Jesse Roads. (The full list of talent and the schedule is below).
Saturday, the music begins at noon with Confounded Dials. Some excellent solo artists and bands will perform throughout the day, including Josh Sahunta, Dahlia and the Villains, Stephanie Harpe Experience, Maria Dunn, Stevon Kayla, and John Hewitt.
Alfie Zappacosta kicks of the evening slate of acts Saturday night at 6 PM followed by artists like Hailey Benedict, Bardic Form, Amy Metcalfe, Kesara Kimo and guest Evrlove, and runs right through to 11:40 PM with Canadian Coldwater Revival closing the show.
I have been invited to appear on this bill as well and I’m pretty pumped to strap on a guitar and perform on Saturday at 3:40 PM for a 20 minute set. Having lost my mom to ovarian cancer in 1994, I do what I can to help.
And a big shout out to Jon Beckett and his talented, experienced team at Edmonton’s Production World for making all of this possible.
Remember these are free concerts.
Here’s the link for Friday (tonight).
Here is the link for Saturday.
Friday Line up
6-6:40 PM Brett Kissel
7-7:40 PM FKB
7:40-8 PM Olivia Rose
8-8:40 PM Clayton Bellamy
8:40-9 PM Stevon and Kayla Artis
9-9:40 PM Martin Kerr
10-10:40 PM Jesse Roads
11-11:40 PM Guitarface
Saturday starting at noon
12-12:40 PM Confounded Dials
12:40-1 PM Tracy Lynn Byrne
1-1:40 PM Josh Sahunta
1:40-2 PM Brenda Dirk
2-2:40 PM Dahlia and the Villains
2:40-3 PM Kaylee Caura-Lee
3-3:40 PM Kane Incognito
3:40-4 PM Lloyd Lewis
4-4:40 PM Stephanie Harpe Experience
4:40-5 PM Maria Dunn
5-5:40 PM Stevon Kayla and the Heavenly Band
5:40-6 PM John Hewitt
6-6:40 PM Alfie Zappacosta
6:40-7 PM Hailey Benedict
7-7:40 PM Bardic Form
7:40-8 PM Amy Metcalfe
8-8:40 PM El Niven and the Alibi
8:40-9 PM Darrell Barr
9-9:40 PM Kesaro and Guest Artist Evrlove
9:40-10 PM Danny Floyd Cole
10-10:40 PM Jusjrdn and DJ Kwake
10:40-11 PM Mightberea
11-11:40 PM Canadian Coldwater Revival
The whole purpose is to raise money. Here’s the link to make a donation right now.
As well, there’s a host of great silent auction items you can bid on, from autographed jerseys to signed guitars. Click here to get started.
About Cure Cancer Foundation
Cancer doesn’t stop. No matter what’s going on in the world, Cancer is always there, hurting those we love. Jammin’ For A Cure will be raising money for Dr. Michael Chu, a clinician scientist at the Cross Cancer Institute, who is leading the charge with a new treatment known as Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy.
This therapy turbocharges the immune system to create killer immune cells that can wipe out cancers. This alters the patient’s own cells to be a new “barcode reader” and find the hiding cancer cells. This treatment is predicted to make the most significant difference in blood cancers such as multiple myeloma, leukemia, and lymphoma patients, even those with multiply relapsed cancers.
We want to help fund great research like this to help Albertans, and people everywhere, receive the treatment they need. Your support will provide hope to people who would otherwise die of their cancer – despite all the best-known treatments. You are giving people a better chance of a cancer-free outcome and more time with their families, friends, and loved ones.
Todayville is very happy to support this event. Click here to read more stories on Todayville.