July 24, 2013 by Heather Moyer
As the weather warms up, music lovers anticipate festival season: the excitement, great music, and new memories. Most don’t worry about what can go wrong, and this is testament to the ability and experience of most concert organizers. Although they are complex to organize and to insure, from an underwriting point of view, the exposures are much the same for festivals of all shapes and sizes. A large claim can occur at an event of any size. The industry has learned a great deal from the mistakes of the past, but in recent years factors such as freak weather and the threat of terrorism have added new complexities to festival safety and insurance.
Unexpected events cannot be completely avoided, but advanced planning can reduce their likelihood and their impact can be minimized by proper risk management. This requires analysis of several elements prior to an event including: crowd management, temporary structures and equipment, weather, third party contracts, security, liquor service, general planning, emergency plans, analysis of hazards, and more recently, possible terrorist threat.
The nights in Canada are becoming hotter than ever before, causing a build-up of hot air that creates severe weather conditions when a cold front moves in. The resulting storms are notoriously sudden and difficult to predict, and few temporary structures can withstand the force of their winds. Such conditions occurred just prior to the stage collapse at the Ottawa Bluesfest in July 2011. It was extremely lucky that the stage fell back, rather than forward onto the fans. There was only one reported injury. The following year, Bluesfest hired a new stage company, an independent structural engineer to assess its stages and a weather service to supply specific weather reports daily.
Concert organizers must ensure that any temporary structures including staging, tents, seating and equipment are properly set up by experienced third parties with their own insurance. Some of the highest profile concert tragedies in recent years have been caused by stage collapses, most often due to unexpected high winds or a combination of faulty installation and wind. The importance of reviewing contracts, primary insurance and additional insureds becomes paramount in such a case. Setup of a stage may involve several different companies, hired by different parties, from stage and roof builders who work together with a structural engineer, to lighting and sound firms. It is important to schedule enough time for a proper structural assessment before the band’s technical crew arrives and rushes to prepare the stage.
Weather monitoring is also important as every minute of warning is crucial in the event of severe conditions. In 2011, weather-induced stage collapses killed seven people at the Indiana State Fair, and four at the Pukkelpop Music Fest in Belgium. Equipment must be properly secured as well as staging. When an LED screen came loose at the Ultra Music Fest in Miami this May, four people were injured, two of them critically.
One of the most famous examples of security gone awry was the unfortunate decision of promoters of Woodstock West in 1969, to hire Hells Angels as security—paid with $500 worth of beer—for a crowd of 300,000 at the Alamont Speedway music festival featuring the Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane, CSNY and more. The Hells Angels did little to control the crowd that many say was unruly from the start, and although there were four deaths and multiple injuries, many in attendance were surprised that the toll was not higher. In general, the ratio of security to attendees should not be less than one security person per 250 attendees, but the best ratio also depends on the nature of the event and other factors.
In general, the ratio of security to attendees should not be less than one security person per 250 attendees.
The promoter must hire an experienced third-party security company that is covered by primary insurance, and for larger events it is a good idea to supplement with off-duty police officers. Volunteer security is not recommended, as they are not properly trained, and do not have any primary insurance coverage to protect the promoter.
Entrance gates to large concerts should include multiple entrances where security can perform bag-checks on each person and allow them into the venue in a controlled steady fashion. Bag checks are important to limit access to drugs as well as weapons. In December 2004, the lead singer of Damage Plan was fatally shot by an enraged fan who managed to take the stage and kill four others before he could be stopped by police in a tragic shootout.
It is important that concert organizers obtain a comprehensive liability policy that will cover all exposures without any gaps in coverage or major exclusions. Too often, promoters are unaware of important exclusions. Some of these are relatively difficult to uncover in policy wordings. If one policy is significantly cheaper than another, a broker should search for major exclusions, which are not always readily apparent, such as exclusions for: injury to participants/third-party bodily injury, riot/civil commotion, liquor liability, performers, forcible ejection, vendors, or pyrotechnics.
For a major event, an experienced insurer will review the event plan from setup to tear-down, review third-party contracts and responsibilities, and analyze the exposures. In evaluating the liability exposure, insurers will consider the audience size and type of event, the experience of the promoter, the music genre, target audience, bio of the performers, the type of venue including its staging, seating and fixed versus temporary structures, the quality of third-party vendors hired, the type and number of security, and the additional exposures involved.
Some unique additional exposures may include portable climbing walls, bungee jumping, contests, inflatables, pyrotechnics, shuttle service, and vendor markets. Mobile equipment must be insured by the promoter or rental house providing the equipment. Band equipment is normally insured by the performers’ touring company but may instead be covered by the promoter’s policy.
If the festival uses volunteers, they should be included as additional insureds or in the definition of insured. Festival directors should also purchase directors liability insurance. For small non-profit festivals, it can often be added inexpensively as an endorsement to the CGL policy. Other coverages that promoters should contemplate, and may require, are event cancellation (including coverage for adverse weather and possibly non-appearance of performers), workers compensation for employees and volunteers, hired and non-owned auto liability and excess liability.
Organizers should also take into consideration which parties will require additional-insured status on the policy. All too often, an insured’s event policy is bound and put into effect for them only to realize that a required party—such as a performer, a company travelling from the US, or a police services board involved in event security—cannot be added by the current insurer.
Most organizers purchase policies with general liability limits of $2 million to $5 million for smaller festival venues, whereas a concert organizer with larger attendance at a major venue will often purchase $10 million to $30 million in coverage.
An event organizer may choose to be responsible for food, liquor and security, or these services may be provided by the venue or a third party that is providing its own certificate of insurance, preferably adding the organizer as an additional insured. Even if a vendor has taken on responsibility for their services through the indemnity agreement portion of their contract, and provided evidence of insurance, the promoter’s policy should cover the exposure contingently. Most incidents at concerts are due to a variety of factors and all parties are bound to be named in a lawsuit.
Some exposures, such as setup of a temporary stage, or providing security, are difficult to insure unless the vendor provides primary insurance. It is ideal for third parties to provide evidence of insurance if they are providing these services, as well as pyrotechnics, amusement devices, or inflatables.
Promoters, legal counsel and the broker should review third-party insurance policies fully to identify exclusions that may be adverse to the promoter and do not appear on certificates, such as a bodily injury exclusion on the rental of an inflatable amusement device or the provision of security services. Wherever possible, promoters should be added as an additional insured to third party policies.
Many event cancellation policies include coverage for cancellation due to terrorist attacks or threat of terrorist attacks. However full terrorism coverage for events is increasingly requested due to the recent events such as the Boston Marathon bombing. While insurers consider the feasibility of removing their terrorism exclusions, some Lloyd’s syndicates are responding with new terrorism insurance products that protect organizers, sponsors, venue owners and hosting cities from liability resulting from a terrorist attack or threat of an attack. Such policies include broad form contingency, general liability, accidental death and dismemberment, and cancellation coverages, along with pre- and post-event crisis management advisory services.
Recently, Lady Gaga cancelled a sold out concert in Jakarta, Indonesia after the hard-line Islamic Defenders Front (IDF) began threatening her publicly, comparing her performances to Satanism, and causing local police to advise that they could not guarantee her protection.
Gaga’s production company and promoter are currently embroiled in a legal dispute with three Lloyd’s syndicates for denying coverage under the terrorism policy purchased for the tour. The lawsuit states that the claim was denied “based on language and purported conditions that are not contained in The Terrorism Policies.”
Event organizers face a whirlwind of details and contingency planning before any event, but their ability to manage crowd safety is the greatest predictor of success for a festival. Promoters and their lawyers must fully review all pertinent contracts and should engage a broker and insurer that understand festival insurance. There is no greater predictor of event success and receipt of competitive insurance quotes, as proper emergency response, and full understanding of all insurance coverages and third party risks.
Heather Moyer is marketing manager for Everest Insurance Company of Canada. She can be reached at Heather.Moyer@everestcanada.com.
Copyright 2013 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the June 2013 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine.
This story was originally published by Canadian Insurance Top Broker.