From performer drop-outs to terrorism threats - insuring festivals

With often thousands of people attending, what are the perils of major music festivals?

From performer drop-outs to terrorism threats - insuring festivals

Risk Management News

By Lucy Hook

The music festival season is upon us. Some of the world’s biggest festivals, such as California’s big-hitter Coachella, draw international crowds in their tens of thousands.

But when it comes to insuring the event, many attendees also means many challenges.

“Anytime an event organiser welcomes the public to their premises, their event, that’s where the trouble starts – so to speak,” Warren Mead, senior underwriter in the special events program at K&K Insurance, which has a Canadian arm headquartered in Mississauga, told Insurance Business.

The number one risk from a claims standpoint is trips, slips and falls, Mead explained. Particularly with outdoor events, the natural terrain itself, plus the presence of simple objects such as cables can present hazards for event-goers.

Food stalls can also present a major risk – though Mead pointed out that most professional vendors will have their own annual insurance policy which they will bring to all events they work at.

But when it comes to the larger, more established events such as major music festivals, a new set of challenges emerge.

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“Unfortunately, in this day and age, what we’ve been seeing in the news, one of the primary concerns is an act of terrorism,” Mead said.

The 2016 attack in Nice, in which a truck was driven into the crowds at a Bastille Day celebration killing more than 80 people, is a recent example of an act of terrorism that deliberately targeted an event for its crowd numbers.

“That’s an example of things that have to be considered in today’s world,” Mead said, explaining that such risks translate into various risk management protocols such as barrier systems, metal detectors and entry points.

The logistics of this “relatively new concept” can be a nightmare for an event promoter, according to Mead, “but at the same time they realise why it’s necessary. So, it’s a balancing act.”

Another risk for festival organizers – and one demonstrated in the press recently – is the threat of a performer or act cancelling.

Earlier this month, punk band Told Slant pulled out of SXSW festival in Texas, US, after the organisers included a clause in the band’s contract stating they may notify US immigration authorities about any acts that “affect the viability of their official SXSW showcase.”

A member of the band tweeted segments of the contract and announced they would be cancelling their appearance at the festival, creating not just a PR disaster but a gap in the organizer’s roster.

A spokesperson for Aon Affinity, which offers event cancellation coverage, told Insurance Business that non-appearance coverage is offered by the firm as an add-on to the standard policy, but that a performer dropping out or being a ‘no-show’ would be excluded.

While sickness, accident, death and unavoidable travel delay or cancellation would be covered, no-shows would not, as the cause of loss under the policy “needs to be beyond the control of all parties,” the spokesperson said.

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