Sex, Drugs and Public Liability

Information: An article about public liability insurance in the music industry, which includes a quote from Mark Seymour.

Author: Sarah Whyte, The Age.

Date: 27 November 2011.

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Article Text

The Who would smash guitars, the Sex Pistols would have on-stage brawls and Australian band Airbourne will scale any pole in sight with a guitar in tow.

Yet in an age of excessive insurance claims and increased security, how far can a band go before they are blacklisted by promoters?

Sydney band Jinja Safari went wild during their sold-out Metro show this month.

Free falling … onstage antics like those of Jinja Safari’s frontman, Marcus Azon, have become rare.

Guitarist Cameron Knight swung across the lighting rig as if it were monkey bars, while lead singer Marcus Azon clumsily climbed the PA stack midway through a song, to the delight of the ecstatic all-age crowd.

“There is a lot of tumble that happens every night … It sounds pretty wild but it’s mainly to gee up the crowd but it’s also therapy for us,” Azon told The Sun-Herald.
“I have fallen over speaker stacks and slipped off lighting rigs,”

“I actually got the boogie board out the other night and literally crowd surfed,” Azon said.

But such antics don’t make the band “cool”, he said.
“Nowadays it is expected that young indie bands are supposed to look at their shoes and grumble their way through their set.”

Azon said he had often been taken aside by other band managers who had given him a “stern word” for their outrageous stage behaviour.

The band’s co-manager, Matthew Nielsen said the band’s behaviour was often “worrying”.

“We find it very stressful. At the Metro show when Cameron was walking on the PA, I was the one getting him down, holding his legs,” Mr Nielsen said.

“Even though we have public liability it doesn’t help if one of the band members hurts themselves. We actually have, to tell you the truth, one of the band members on crutches.”

The band didn’t get any negative feedback from the event.
“I think it was because it was our show and we hired our own security,” Mr Nielsen said. “But if we had been the support band we would have been told off.”

Music insiders say young bands are increasingly axing the crazy stage antics, in fear of ruining their band’s ‘brand’ amid hefty insurance claims.

Matthew Lazarus Hall, chief executive of the major music promoter, Chugg Entertainment, said his main concern when bringing out international live acts to Australia is to ensure “safety first”.

A promoter, who asked not to be named, said he did not stipulate what a band can and can’t do at performances but always chose bands based on their performance history.

“As soon as you start dictating the rules, the bands will go wild,” a spokesperson said.

“We had [a band] come out and said you can’t be racist or make homosexual comments. As soon as the band came.”
But music insiders say a number of bands are now considering their career, before going wild on stage.
Former Australian Crawl lead singer, James Reyne said young bands are playing with “less risks”.

“In your 20s we did it crazy, silly things to get people going well before moshpits,” he said. “A lot of it when this was late ’70s punky, a lot of that around and people were absolutely insanely reckless. You’re young and you’re bullet proof, we’re lucky to be alive.”

“People are tamer … [they’re] weak as Milquetoast pretenders and little wimps.”

Richard Clapton said the regulation and security of the music industry was increasingly becoming “over the top” and a real “vibe killer”.

“How did we manage to crowd in an over-the-limit audience … I don’t know. But they were all packed to the rafters. A lot of drinking went on … my point being I never saw anyone get hurt. The community attitude, there is a different kind of angst,” he said.

But Mark Seymour, former lead singer of Hunters and Collectors doesn’t believe bands have altered their antics.
“Insurance affects our lives in every place and form,” he said.

“Public liability attracts a lot more money … [it is] a lot more substantial area than it used to be.”

According to an insurance broker, who asked not to be named, clubs and public spaces such as shopping centres, increasingly require bands to present a certificate of insurance for liability.

“More venues are covering themselves,” a spokeswoman said.

Without liability insurance, if the band injures an audience member or cause damage, they will have to pay for this out of their own pocked, she said.

“Defence costs … can add up to a very sizeable amount.