Geckos, umbrellas and Rocks of Gibraltar may help differentiate companies, but for live events you call in the specialists
by Scott Carroll, EVP & Program Director, Take 1 Insurance
Have you noticed a lot more insurance company commercials on television lately? Progressive’s ruby-lipped Flo, AFLAC’s sputtering duck, and GEICO’s gregarious gecko have become celebrities in their own right, joining the stalwart tropes of State Farm’s good neighbors and Allstate’s good hands. Madison Avenue is responding to a crowded and competitive insurance market at the moment, one with high stakes — according to a U.S. Treasure Department report, total direct written insurance premiums reached $1.27 trillion in 2015, approximately seven percent of the United States’ GDP. But when you need to insure for large-scale live events, like concerts and festivals, and special events, like corporate product launches and so on, you need more than a cute gecko. Way more.
Live-event production is a complicated business, and the companies that support these events themselves have had to become more complex in terms of what they can offer their event clients. Lighting companies have evolved into becoming video projection vendors, as massive LED walls not only illuminate but also communicate. Sound-reinforcement providers now routinely offer backline and staging capabilities. Companies that produce events have grown to become the fabricators of many of the sets and specialty props that help make events unique and memorable.
One area that reflects this ongoing evolution vividly is in how the most sophisticated tools of production have become parts of larger toolkits. For instance, the kind of video equipment that were once found only on the lots of major film studios are now routinely part of the kit aboard remote production vehicles. Taking an expensive video switcher out of a controlled environment and setting it up on location for live events brings with it a certain kind of risk. An insurer who deals with fixed-location clients isn’t going to understand the potential pitfalls of taking it on the road when drawing up an event liability insurance or special event insurance policy.
This is something that the music industry encountered years ago, when live albums became very popular in the 1970s and ‘80s — remember "Frampton Comes Alive"? — and what had become very complex multi-track recording studios were now being packed onto 35-foot box trucks and taken to where the show was. An insurer who worked with vehicles might have trouble assessing the studio’s needs, and an agent versed in studio insurance might not fully understand the implications of putting one on the road. But that phenomenon spawned a corps of event liability insurance specialists who were able to address the converged needs of that hybrid sector.
What’s happening here is that as the media production sector evolves — as the lines between live events and pre-recorded media blur — those companies that support this protean industry have to adapt, adding services and technologies, and the expertise to operate them. That means that their insurance needs are changing, too. They’ll need insurance carriers that understand those transitions.
A contemporary live-event production can be vastly more complex than in the past, with far more technology involved. Fortunately, the insurance industry has adapted to this evolution, with agents, brokers and underwriters who monitor technological and economic changes in your industry. They also understand that the live-event industry is also subject to a new array of threats that didn’t exist a decade or two ago, from active-shooter situations to climate-driven weather volatility. Employee behavior has also become an area of potential liability, prompting the development of products like Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI), which has roiled the entertainment industry in particular.
Given the size of awards and settlements now, proper event liability insurance and special event insurance can be a matter of survival in the wake of a negative event. So when you look at the landscape of live-event production today, you can see why choosing an insurer with experience and insight into the particular needs of the entertainment business today is not just smart — it’s existentially smart.