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Thu 16 Oct 2008 02:21 PM

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Running on empty

The soaring global rate of inflation coupled with the economic downturn, has produced a tsunami effect that is now lapping at the shores of the entertainment industry.

The soaring global rate of inflation coupled with the economic downturn, has produced a tsunami effect that is now lapping at the shores of the entertainment industry.

While live touring productions are intensifying in their visual appeal and technological advances, the industry is being laden down by logistical constraints headed by the rising cost of fuel.

For a live performance to have a ‘dynamic atmosphere’ it requires a hefty rig of equipment and an arsenal of skilled touring personnel all being hauled across the vast touring landscape.

But, as the transport industry is facing unprecedented tough times, it is increasingly becoming more and more cumbersome for the entertainment industry to shell-out for these additional overheads. In the past the music industry has not had to concern itself too much in regards to commodity prices, but as fuel prices keep soaring, driving touring costs to an all-time high, the industry is now fully taking stock of economic activity. So, as diesel inflation and air-freight fuel surcharges are not looking to taper-off anytime soon what does this mean for the future of the industry at large?

It means that bands will have to think twice about how much gear they tour with and weigh up what destinations are the most viable.

Inevitably this will have a roll-on effect for the industry, from production staff and rental companies through to venue managers and ticket outlets. But what is more alarming is the possibility of the more medium sized touring productions drying up if conditions don’t improve, because for new bands that are coming onto the circuit they may deem touring to be a non-viable option.

In addition to the global fuel quandaries, every sector of the tour transport industry has its own obstacles to overcome – air-freight is no exception. Especially now with the push from aviation authorities to tighten industry-wide maintenance overhauls and further, for airline companies to fit the financial burden of upgrading seasoned fleet.

These factors coupled with the spike in fuel costs have seen air-freight costs go through the roof in recent times.

For global trucking and bussing companies the main non-fuel-related dilemmas are insurance costs, road tolls, emission zones, individual city taxes and new road regulations, which are restricting the amount of traffic flow.

In these uncertain times, where some transport fleets reserve the right to add a fuel surcharge if average diesel prices rise by more than 5% between the time of quoting and the start of the tour, its starting to look like a game of Russian roulette: to be in the game you have to play, but at what cost will it come?

Kelly Lewis is the editor of Sound & Stage Middle East.

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