Interview of the Week – Roshan Abbas, President, Event and Entertainment Management Association (EEMA)

According to Statista, in 2019, the Indian live events market was valued at 83 billion Indian rupees. It was estimated to reach 122 billion rupees by 2022, showing a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14 percent. But the year 2020 has put an unexpected spanner in the progress.

The live music industry has been on a standstill since the pandemic outbreak but is finally opening up again, albeit cautiously and with a lot of new Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). The Event and Entertainment Management Association (EEMA) has been at the forefront in helping and facilitating the live music industry to bounce back.

Where does the live music events industry stand now? And what seems to be its immediate future?

For our Interview of the Week we spoke to Roshan Abbas, President, the Event and Entertainment Management Association (EEMA) to know more about the same.

You became the EEMA President at a time when the live music events industry was at a standstill. How challenging has it been since?

It’s been quite challenging for everyone especially for music artists because they need a set up and multiple people to perform. In the days of social distancing this is extremely difficult to do. Although now there are some studios that are being set up to handle this. The other issue is that artists thrive on the energy from the audience and performing to an empty room or the camera just doesn’t cut it. The next big problem is that an entire ecosystem exists around music performance, be it the band, dancers, Pyro technique, technicians, and others. They have all been severely affected along with the organisers and ticketing agencies.

With unprecedented losses estimated, most event companies will have to raise capital to survive. What other measures do they need to undertake to get back on track?

Most agencies have cut back on stuff, they have also taken salary cuts and are barely surviving. Many have given up offices and are surviving on virtual events and a few off the smaller 50-100 people events. Though I am told by most people that they do this more for the moral of the employees then any profit.

What SOPs have EEMA suggested to the government? Is there a deadlock or the government is working with EEMA to lay out a plan for restarting onground events?

At EEMA we set up a COVID task force that has come out with elaborate SOP‘s. These have now been weighed by multiple stakeholders including government agencies who are looking at this as a positive gesture. We have to use these at live events to showcase how good and thorough they are. EEMA now has had most states including the center open up events for up to 200 people. We do believe this will be relaxed further.

How do you foresee the immediate future of live music events with social distancing and a general sense of fear still prevalent?

With the recently concluded Dussehra and Durga Puja, we have seen that people are only sticking to the essentials. Brand events are down, there is minimal sponsorship and so the confidence is very low.

Will the increasing popularity of online events affect events on the ground?

As soon as news of vaccines started coming you may have heard of how the share price of virtual platforms came down. People are dying to get back to physical events, we are social human beings and thrive in the company of others. A virtual meeting cannot replace the energy of a live event neither can you create the serendipity of a chance meeting. Innovative formats have already come up like balcony concerts. Socially distanced concerts using Zorbing balls or even beds. But these are few and far between. As soon as people get over the fear and we have a vaccine the market will shift back to physical events.

With SOPs in place how difficult will it be to organise onground events? Will it affect the ticket prices?

SOP’s are increasing the cost of events by about 30 Percent. The set up time is increasing as well as the staff as to follow the norms we need less people in longer schedules. However I have recently seen how people have put together hub and spoke events that are creating a new hybrid. The big advantage is that now you do not need to spend on travel and stay off international’s speakers and this is helping knowledge events a lot.

Normalcy is about 6 months away minimum. But we all are waiting to hear artists and sing and dance along. There is a power to collective gatherings and a joy that cannot be replaced ever. For we make memories for a life time

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