What’s the deal? A word about Mainz, wind, contracts and fans

The concert in Mainz last night had to be canceled due to strong winds. Or was it because of the stage? What is it all about? And what do you actually get when you buy a ticket, or even 100?

This is how it goes: You buy yourself a concert ticket, you go to the venue and then happens… nothing. Exactly that was the case yesterday in Mainz, Germany when Roxette were to play at the Nordmole/Zollhafen in Mainz. 5,000 people had gathered to see the band. What they got to see was the opening act Eskobar performing before the wind got stronger and Roxette’s performance first got postponed and eventually canceled. Of course people were unhappy. But whose fault was it actually, if there is anyone to blame for nature at all? Let’s look into the details:

When Roxette plans their tour there are a lot of people and companies involved. Apart from the usual talks about salaries for Marie, Per, the band, tour managers, the stage crew and stagehands, bus and truck drivers etc. many other contracts will have to be made: insurances, tour promotion, hotel and flight bookings, among many others. Tour promoters such as Live Nation, or in Germany Marek Lieberberg Konzertagentur, link the band with local organizers who provide a venue with a basic stage and who will organize the ticket sales. All Roxette and their crew have to do is to appear in time, apply their so-called stage production (light and sound rigs, cables, mixers, additional desks for artists and instruments, the background design with the blinds, the instruments, microphones, foot pedals, monitors etc.) and to perform. That’s about it. If the venue they arrive at is not up to agreed standards, for instance when there is no electricity or half of the stage canvas is flying right above your head, the band will have the right not to perform. This is what happened here, basically.

The stage in Mainz was built by the local organizer not only for Roxette to play there but a couple of other bands during this summer. As the local organizers were proud enough to tell, this stage was all new and windproof. As it turned out, it wasn’t. But can a stage like this be totally weatherproof? To a certain extent, yes. You can try this at home: take a paper box with one open side and blow into it. The box will move. Nothing else would happen with a stage if it wasn’t fastened to the ground properly when it’s stormy. This is usually achieved by attaching weights to either corner of the stage, this can be water containers or blocks of concrete. With your paper box, you would put rocks into it to make it heavier. Unlike the house you live in, a stage has no actual foundation to tie it to the ground. Now you can pile up as much concrete as you like, but when the wind blows strong enough, the metal structure of the stage will eventually give in and break. The canvas covering the stage on three sides and the roof work like a huge sail. It doesn’t take much wind force to apply such huge powers that the guy lines holding the ballast will snap and the stage’s metal structure will bend and eventually break. This is what happened in the USA in 2011 with fatal consequences. In other places, too.

When a concert is planned, there will always be people “in charge”. Some are in charge of the equipment to arrive in time, some will be blamed when the hotel is not up the standards agreed upon in the touring contract, or when the catering is too hot/cold/old/spicy and others will be sued when something goes wrong during the concert itself. For instance, when people get injured or even die. If you’re in charge for that portion of the deal, you’ll think twice what you are going to do. Also, local police authorities will have a say when they think that a situation becomes “uncomfortable.” So when there’s a warning for strong weather, you’ll have the local police approaching you, demanding to cancel whatever you’re going to do. You’ll have the decision to either do as they say and try to explain that to the tour promoter/insurance company/band/fans or face a couple of years in jail if something goes really wrong and somebody dies because of this and a jury finds you responsible.

I cannot say how strong the wind actually was but what I can see by the many videos and photos provided is that the wind was blowing too hard to call it safe. The rear canvas got loose or was (and that would have been the more professional approach) unfastened on purpose in order to prevent more damage. Once it’s loose you cannot control such a big area of fabric anymore but you take the force off the stage structure. In the videos you see the canvas waving in the wind back and forth, just a couple of meters away from where Pelle and Clarence would have their instruments and where the stage access for the artists would have been. Apart from the loud noise this produces it would have been hazardous for everyone on the stage. Also, when the wind turns, the canvas would have been blown into the stage itself. No, not safe at all.

The next thing to look at is insurance. Yes, insurance covers damages but you may know it already: their contracts are tricky. For instance, there will be clauses that will allow the insurance companies to refuse compensation when the stage is not properly protected against the power of nature, especially when it comes to wind-force. So when a band plays in spite of, let’s say, strong wind shaking the stage and something happens, they simply don’t pay. Knowing that the stage we’re talking about here is supposed to be worth one million Euro would you like to be the one making wrong decisions? Probably not. Yes, there are certain guarantees by the stage producer regarding the product they delivered but they won’t help you much if that company decides to go broke if needed. Also, there are more concerts already booked for this stage. Take your time to imagine how huge these consequences would be if you had sealed contracts worth a few million Euros in your pocket but you suddenly have no stage anymore?

Maybe you’ve seen other stages standing stronger winds. Where they as big as this one? Where they as freestanding as this one? Which side did the wind blow from (one of the most important aspects here, try your paper box at home)? Maybe the stage in Mainz had its weak points, maybe not. This is not about who’s to blame, this article is to show you who is involved and who has something to say. In the end, the concert was canceled and I think this was the only proper decision under these circumstances.

By the way, having a concert canceled before the the artist performs is the fairest way for the viewers. They bought a ticket to see the show. There were no details on how many songs had to be performed. If  the artists decide that two songs would be good enough it would certainly mean bad press next morning and moaning fans but artists’ part of the deal would be fulfilled – no cash back. Now with Roxette’s performance being abandoned before it even began, the ticket holders can either demand their money back or if there should be a another date for Mainz announced they would be able to attend it without further costs (except for transport and accommodation, maybe). The one who really has to carry the damage will be either the band, the tour promoter, the local organizer or the stage constructor, all depending on how strong the wind really was and what the contracts made between the different parties say about compensations and responsibilities. Also it appears that part of Roxette’s stage production may have been hit hard, it will turn out at the next gig how big the damages really are.

In a situation like this you can imagine that nobody is happy. Not the 5,000 people coming there (maybe having spent money on hotel rooms and train tickets even), not the organizer, not the stage crew and certainly not the band who as we have seen throughout this tour is so eager to play for the audience every other night. And here we come back to the deal again: You buy a concert ticket, you get a concert performance. Point. There are no deals included that the band has to be happy when they meet you on the street, in the hotel lobby, at airports after a maybe stressy flight or no matter where. Usually they are, and I tend to believe they enjoy spending time with fans and learning some inside facts about the town they are visiting. Why do I tell you this? Because obviously some German fans along with other followers decided that Mainz would have been their last Roxette concert ever (which I highly doubt, by the way) and that’s why Per has to be willing to see them, sign their umphteenth (or any) autograph at all, and pose on smartphone pictures with them. The problem was: Per at the same time decided that this is a pretty stupid idea because not so long ago, half of his stage was flying away, the band could not perform, they knew they have just unwillingly disappointed 5,000 people, the media would write about this the next morning, it’s not clear yet who’s going to pay for that and how all of this would affect further sales. Also, I’m a little disappointed seeing who actually filed and supported the complaint on this incident on Roxette’s Facebook page.

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July 6th, 2015

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This article was posted here on TDR in these categories:

TDR:Editorial, TDR:Live, TDR:Roxette.

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