Leadership / 05.12.20
Kim Tran Is Doing Her Best to Ensure Live Events Down Under Don’t Go Down or Under
This story is brought to you by the INTIX Women in Entertainment Technology Program.
Most of us would love to go back to the good ol’ days of, well, January and February of this year before the coronavirus pandemic took hold and nearly all live ticketed events were postponed or canceled. Australia didn’t even have such halcyon times. It’s easy for many of us to forget that it was just Jan. 2 of this year when the government of New South Wales, Australia, declared a state of emergency and the government of Victoria, Australia, declared a state of disaster amid large bush fires that killed over 500 million animals and caused mass damage.
The smoke had barely cleared when COVID-19 hit and everything from concert halls to theatres to sports arenas started closing indefinitely. One of the industry professionals at the center of it all has been Kim Tran of Live Performance Australia (LPA), a peak-body representing the interests of the country’s live performance industry.
She confirms that her business “was one of the first to be affected by government bans on mass gatherings due to COVID-19, and it will be one of the last allowed to resume operating.” She continues: “So many people and companies have lost work, lost contracts and are struggling to make ends meet. I am concerned about how many companies and contractors will survive this shutdown period and and whether the necessary skills and experience will be available when it comes time to restart."
But she is confident that it will all restart someday. Of course, the test will then be getting people to come back and fill the stadiums, performance halls and other venues. “The biggest challenge for the industry is the uncertainty about when events can resume and when travel bans will be lifted,” she says. “In addition, there’s likely to be an economic downturn. So, people may not be in a financial position to buy event tickets. And, of course, people may be nervous about going out before a vaccine is developed.”
The country will certainly count on such organizations as the LPA to help with the recovery. Its broad membership covers all performing art forms including contemporary and classical music, theatre and musical theatre, comedy, dance, opera, cabaret and circus/physical theatre, as well as organizations of all sizes from small not-for-profit groups to large commercial entities. Members include commercial and independent producers, music promoters, performing arts companies, venues, art and music festivals, and such service providers as technical suppliers and ticketing companies.
“The industry in Australia widely relies upon LPA’s Ticketing Code of Practice [a code that outlines consumers’ rights to a refund and protocols for handling ticket proceeds], and it’s because of this code that I regularly get invited to speak at conferences, which is how I met INTIX’s Maureen Andersen. Before I joined LPA, I didn’t know much about ticketing — besides occasionally buying a ticket to a show — nor did I work in the industry. My professional background is in public policy. And so, while in the beginning it was a bit daunting learning ‘ticketing speak,’ it has been an absolute joy getting to know people in the ticketing world.”
Tran’s responsibilities are many. For one, she is an expert when it comes to best practice guidance, or helping members understand what they need to do to comply with relevant laws. To this end, she continually develops guidance material that outlines best practice standards. She adds that her job also finds her “lobbying government for additional investment for the industry and ensuring any regulatory changes do not adversely affect the industry.”
Of all her duties, Tran most enjoys “answering member queries, knowing that the advice I’m providing is helping them in their day-to-day business operations. I also like the fact my role is ‘issues rich’ and has provided me with the opportunity to continuously learn new things. I have had to learn a diverse range of topics related to ticketing and consumer law, but also harassment and bullying, disability access, privacy and copyright licensing.”
At the same time, she says that government advocacy will likely always be a challenge for her. “It’s hard getting government to understand the importance and value of the industry,” she says. “Ultimately, we are looking to get government to either increase its investment in the industry or stop them from introducing ill-conceived laws. Sometimes we have some success. Other times, it’s a case of never giving up.”
When her job gets particularly tough or she becomes frustrated with the slow pace of bureaucracy, she recalls a pivotal moment earlier in her career when a supervisor asked her what proportion of her role, she should expect to be interesting versus boring. She answered 80% interesting and 20% boring. “She asked me to reconsider that response, and I revised it to 70% interesting, 30% boring,” Tran says. “She then went on to say that, in reality, it’s probably more like 20% interesting, 80% boring. I was shocked by this and have never forgotten it. It has helped me to maintain perspective. No job is perfect, and there will always be parts of a job that we don’t like or don’t want to do but have to.”
And now Tran is able to provide counsel to those who were once like her just starting out. She especially loves giving advice to young female professionals eager to achieve some of the success she has had. “If you’re new to a role,” she says, “don’t be scared to ask questions. Seek help if you don’t know how to do something. I like working with people who show initiative, so don’t be scared to have a go at something you’ve never tried before. Be willing to learn new things. And do not undervalue your skills and what you can bring to an organization.”
Looking ahead, Tran knows there is a sizable portion of the population that is looking forward to attending events again once the pandemic subsides. However, consumer confidence will play a huge role in whether venues will fill up quickly. The government will absolutely need to help the arts and sports and trade shows and so forth get back on their feet. “Businesses in the live performance industry are fighting for their survival right now,” Tran says. “Without direct support from all levels of government, the industry will look radically different following the pandemic. Support is urgently needed right now, such as cash injections to cover sunk and operating costs, and rebates on ticket transaction fees.”
Tran concludes, “The industry also needs direct investment or incentives to ensure productions can get off the ground. Australia’s arts funding body [the Australia Council] needs more money for its grants program and other activities. There needs to be a marketing campaign to rebuild consumer confidence and stimulus to entice consumers back out to live events. … It will be tough for the live performance industry in the second half of 2020. I don’t think things will be fully back to normal. Hopefully, events can resume later this year, but most probably only small-scale events.”
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Tags: Leadership , Women in Ticketing , COVID-19 , Coronavirus