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Thu 3 Mar 2011 12:00 AM

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The blame game

When a concert falls short of expectations, which of the parties involved should shoulder the blame?

The blame game
The blame game

When a concert falls short of expectations, which of the parties involved should shoulder the blame? In the wake of Amy Winehouse’s performance at last month’s Gulf Bike Week, the public was quick to hold organiser Done Events up as the scapegoat.

Online forums, letters to the editor in Gulf newspapers and even the comments section of digitalproductionme.com were awash with disappointed and downright angry fans demanding refunds and slamming the organiser for the singer’s lacklustre performance and peculiar on-stage behaviour. It got pretty personal too, with Done COO Thomas Ovesen held up by many as the man responsible.

But is that really fair? Certainly not, according to those behind the scenes. The team from the event’s supplier Protec stand by Ovesen and Done Events, describing the wave of criticism levelled at the company as “outrageous”, particularly given the level of organisation and planning that went into ensuring all other aspects of the event went smoothly.

So who’s responsibility is it to ensure a performer turns up to a gig and gives 100 per cent? Some might argue that that responsibility lies solely with the artist themselves, but others would be quick to point out that it is their management that should shoulder the blame. At the end of the day though, concert-goers hand over their ticket cash to organisers, so it seems inevitable that they are held culpable.

Assigning fault is one thing though, but what about taking pre-emptive action to ensure a gig doesn’t descend to this level in the first place?

One suggestion is that an artist, particularly one with the widely-reported substance abuse problems and gig track record as Winehouse, shouldn’t be booked at all. The other side of this coin, however is that despite these issues, 10,000 people thought the concert a prudent gamble and bought tickets, surely in the knowledge that controversy could be on the cards.

Perhaps medical clearance by a subjective party should be required before a performance is given the green light, to ensure that the artist is good health and in the right mind to be on stage? A noble suggestion, but not a realistic one. Would Michael Jackson or any of the Rolling Stones ever have given a live performance if such a prerequisite existed? I think not.

Whatever the result of the blame game, one thing is for sure – booking Amy Winehouse may have been a gamble, but choosing not to take such risks leaves only one real loser. The Middle East concert industry.

Brooke Sever, is the editor for Sound & Stage Middle East.

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