Virtual Meets discuss COVID recovery and boosting female rolesRISE Spotlight: Live Events Experiences, Reinvented

Matthew Thompson
Matthew Thompson

The Road to Recovery and Diversity Backstage were the topics up for discussion at the two Watercooler Virtual Meets sessions that concluded RISE Spotlight: Live Events Experiences, Reimagined.

In the Road to Recovery session Sean Wargo, AVIXA’s Senior Director of Market Intelligence, was joined by Matthew Thompson, Managing Director of live event production company AVTEAMUK, to discuss how AV companies in live events have responded to the challenges of the pandemic.

Matthew highlighted the fact that it’s not always possible to pivot a physical event to online, with some clients instead feeling the need to scale back. For those clients that are embracing hybrid, the challenge for AV companies has been selling the higher production values that a professionally managed event brings.

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He said: “The democratisation of the technology that enables live events means that everyone is doing it themselves. We’ve invested in new hardware to deliver virtual production and virtual hybrid managed events with higher production values and we’re also looking at ways to engage users more when they’re in the room.”

This includes gamification, incentives to stay for the entirety of an event and experimenting with different content formats and lengths.

Looking ahead and while recovery is expected to be slow, hybrid events could provide an additional revenue opportunity. Sean shared his experience: “At AVIXA we recognise that digital engagement is much more relevant and that will stay with us. This creates an opportunity for live events firms to help clients mould content throughout the year, not just at a single event. There’s a lot being experimented with in the virtual format and it’s exciting to see how this will wrap around in-person events.”

Malle Kaas
Malle Kaas
Sana Romanos
Sana Romanos
Alanna Pepin-Danissen
Alanna Pepin-Danissen

In the Diversity Backstage session, Malle Kaas, CEO of Women in Live Music (WILM), was joined by freelance lighting and visual technician Alanna Pepin-Danissen and live sound engineer and tour project manager Sana Romanos.

While 7.8 million people work backstage in live events across Europe, WILM estimates the total number of women working in the live events industry is only around 100,000. As Sana, who holds the dubious accolade of being the only female live sound engineer in the Middle East, noted: “The industry wants more women but it’s not just music, it’s technology more generally that women tend to shy away from. We want to show them that it’s not scary and there are amazing women already doing it.”

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Although there are women breaking the mould, it’s not always an easy path. Sana added: “I had to work ten times harder to prove myself, or to disprove the low expectations people had of me.”

And the problem isn’t just fellow backstage crew, as Malle explained: “I’ve found that artists sometimes don’t feel comfortable with a female engineer, they don’t really have the trust and that comes from women as well.”

WILM is, however, working on increasing diversity and encouraging change. It has also commissioned a Motherhood Survey which highlighted the issues facing female professionals contemplating parenthood. As Alanna explained, some women had taken the decision not to have children because of their career, while others felt the need to hide their pregnancies out of fear it would mean they wouldn’t get any work.

“The survey identified possible solutions to open up the opportunity to have pregnant crew members on tour and babies on board,” said Alanna. “Firstly, women should share their experiences and how they managed. Venues and employers could also do a lot – make space to bring children, hire chaperones to take care of children. All of this costs money so the next step is to bring the discussion up to unions and governments to find funds for this.”

“This is all about inclusion, not exclusion. We just want to include those who are forgotten,” concluded Sana.

Read more about the work of Women in Live Music in our RISE Culture interview with Malle Kaas.