Too many shows, too few staff. Welcome to the Pandemic Hangover

When it rains on Australia’s live music space, it collapses.

After two years of lockdowns, cancellations and frustration, the live music is booming. The wheels are turning at full speed, the pandemic feels now so last year

For promoters, a new set of problems.

Too much of the good stuff, too few hands at the pump and a change in mood where the tickets are usually picked up.

“The market is definitely saturated, we had two years of business flooding the market at once,” Susan Heymann, COO of Frontier Touring, told The Brag’s Fear At The Top podcast.

Michael Chugg
Michael Chugg

The concert giant has identified a tour for November 2022, but cannot get a venue, she continues. “Which means the market will be flooded with content.”

The warmer months will be hotter than usual for the living industry. “There’s too much on it. I think everyone is trying to make up for lost two years.”

Heymann and her colleague Michael Chugg, president of Chugg Entertainment, which operates in a joint venture with Frontier Touring, are optimistic about the prospects for their company and others working in live music.

It’s optimism, with caution. There are bumps in the road, the type the rest of us don’t see.

The headache is with the crew, or lack thereof. “Locations can’t get enough security, can’t get food and drink vendors. You can’t get enough crew to load and unload,” Chugg notes.

“Early next year there are still a few big tours to be announced, but we’re considering getting a stage from Atlanta to Australia just to have enough stages. It’s a nightmare.”

Getting road workers back together is ‘very difficult’, he admits. “You book 80 people to load and unload a show and only 46 come. Suddenly you’re paying locations overtime to stay on because the loadout takes six instead of two hours.”

Susan Heymann and Michael Chugg
Susan Heymann and Michael Chugg at The Brag Media in Sydney

After dealing with floods, wildfires and COVID-19, there’s a whole new set of unknowns to tackle.

One is that gamblers buy a ticket and not go to a show. Right now, Chugg estimates, at least 10% of cardholders don’t show up.

When concert-goers visit an arena and ‘stand in line for three quarters of an hour for beer, they’re going to stop. There are a lot of staffing issues.”

The industry lost many experienced hands during the health crisis, Heymann added, and the coming months will be tough for the risk takers producing the shows.

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Susan Heymann

“The behavior has changed, for whatever reason. Whether it’s financial pressure, or fear of getting sick, or just that they’ve gotten into the habit of being at home, and might rather have dinner than go out and put on a show,” she explains.

“We see a saturated market, two or three times as much content, half the number of people who want to leave the house. It will take some time to recalibrate.”

Stream the interview in full here.

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