‘A Level Of Protection Is Comforting & Important’: Talking Insurance With Howden Group’s Charlie Connell

Charlie Connell
Charlie Connell, Head of Entertainment at Howden Group.

If COVID has taught us anything, it’s that the irreplaceable community experience of a live event can be taken away in an instant. Aside from the cultural losses, including an entire generation of fans missing out on their first live experiences, there are economic ones associated with the disruption only the pandemic could cause. But there are more eventualities that can cause events to be canceled, artists not to show up, and event partners to lose out on investment, not least of which is bad weather.

Insurance can help, but who on earth understands the policies in all their fine details? The answer: a broker. Pollstar sat down with one of them, Charlie Connell, head of entertainment at Howden Group, for an event insurance 101.

Pollstar: What types of events do you insure? Festivals, as well as individual concerts? Entire tours? Or is it easier to list the type of events you wouldn’t touch?
Charlie Connell: Probably the latter! Yes we insure festivals, concerts, tours, sports events, theatre events etc. Anything where there is entertainment and an audience, whether live or televised, we can offer an insurance solution for.

What are the most important types of insurance event organizers look for?
For an outdoor event or festival, weather is a major consideration with the unpredictability of weather these days. Terrorism, in some regions more than others, is an especially important concern. Sadly we are seeing more attacks whether politically, religiously or individually motivated across the world, and they can impact an event. Even if the attack is not at the actual event, but in the proximity of it, or in the supply line, it can have major effects on the successful running of an event.

For the artists themselves, the level of which can be determined by their contract, non-appearance cover is extremely important to protect their earnings. If they become sick, severely delayed for reasons beyond their control, just as two examples, artists can lose out on their income. So, that level of protection is comforting and important.

In addition, cover to protect any or all of the insured parties from civil commotion, strikes and/or riots, which would affect a show going ahead, is an important factor to
consider in some areas of the world. The strikes in France recently are a good example.

What exactly is it you cover? Refunds to fans? Do you refund suppliers that never got to provide their services, and are facing lost business?
We can cover anyone within the industry who has a financial interest in the event in question, whether it’s the promoter, the artist, the agent, the stage builders, riggers, lighting, etc. We don’t cover ticket refund direct to the fans but we do provide cover to the promoters that will in some instances provide a refund to their clients. We are
able to offer cover to suppliers should an event be cancelled and they lose income. Again, this is contract-dependent, as they may be still paid by the promoter dependent
on the causation of the cancellation. In this instance we would facilitate them being paid by way of the promoters policy.

During lockdowns, some insurance didn’t cover events that had to cancel because artists couldn’t perform due to a positive test result. What reasons that lead to event cancellations do you exclude from coverage?
As brokers, we don’t apply exclusions, they are imposed by the insurers dependent on the risk that we present to them. There are standard exclusions that would apply to any cancellation policy and, as you say, COVID is one of them. After the impact of lockdown, and the billions that were paid out by insurers, this cover is still not available in
broad format, but on an individual and risk dependent basis it could be considered in one way or another.

We have recently seen exclusions for cyber attacks causing cancellation, but again there are varying levels of cover that can be purchased to buy out this exclusion. There are other exclusions imposed, but these have been the most salient additions in recent times.

Is insurance against bad weather becoming more popular?
Weather has always been a consideration for outdoor events and has always been part of the cancellation insurance product; perhaps more focus has been put on it in recent times due to the unpredictability of the weather, and loss of events due to weather. Losses have resulted in a change in the terms offered within the insurance product and, of course, the pricing, putting more focus on this element of the cover.

What’s your general policy regarding force majeure?
The policy or advice would be to read the contract and/or provide it to the broker, so they can advise. Force Majure can be defined differently in every contract, and your insurance policy should be in direct response to that contract and the language within. The broker should provide as many options as possible to cover their clients against potential loss scenarios from a Force Majure event, and then the client can make the informed decision of what they want to buy.

What do you charge event organizers for insuring them? How are those prices calculated?
Tricky one, all events are priced individually based on loss history, time of year, location etc. For non-appearance, loss and touring history of the artist etc. There are many
factors that contribute to the pricing of an event, there isn’t a one price fits all answer.

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