US/UK: The untimely death of Michael Jackson could cost the London economy hundreds of millions of pounds - not counting the _300m promoter AEG Live is thought to have been left exposed to following the collapse of the singer's tour, writes Robert Ashton of Pro Sound News Europe's sister title Music Week.
With around 750,000 fans expected to see their idol on one of the 50 O2 dates of the This Is It tour starting July 13 (and running to March next year), one ticketing expert believes that hotel bookings, travel, restaurant reservations and spending at the shows themselves could easily have eclipsed _1bn.
Suppliers to The O2, such as drinks and catering companies, merchandisers and others will also be hit in the pocket. "I think those people going to the concerts would easily spend hundreds of pounds a piece, but now that's not going to happen," he says. "It's a massive loss."
But London's hospitality industry is not the only big loser. Tour promoter AEG Live will be counting the cost of the O2 residency for months, if not years to come. And ticket sellers are also being deluged by anxious fans, some of whom paid _75 through the official ticketing agency Ticketmaster and anywhere up to _1,000 and beyond on the secondary ticketing market.
It is expected the AEG Group will reimburse the estimated 500,000 tickets they have already released to the market worth around _30m. On top of this 10,000 tickets were sold through the secondary ticketing company Seatwave and a further 50,000 through the agency Viagogo.
Seatwave CEO and founder Joe Cohen says his insurer Mondial Assistance will cover the cost of tickets bought through his company and booking fees and postage. Viagogo CEO also issued a statement saying, "All Michael Jackson tickets purchased through viagogo will be refunded directly to fans. No forms, no fuss, just refunded. We will be in touch with everyone in due course."
AEG Live, which also operates The O2, will face a massive challenge in recouping costs because it will be very difficult to find replacement acts to fill in many of the dates. "It's going to be really difficult to fill those dates straight away," says another source.
Worse, AEG Live had reportedly only managed to secure insurance for a limited number of dates and Phillips has gone on record to say AEG Live would "self-insure" some of the dates should there be a shortfall in coverage. The whole policy had been shopped for around _300m with just _80m of that thought to have eventually been covered by the London insurance market.
The deal is understood to have been brokered by Robertson Taylor, but a director of the company would only offer a "no comment" to questions.
Hire specialist Major Tom won the tender to provide sound equipment for all 50 shows. _His death is very sad, of course,_ Major Tom_s Lars Brogaard told PSN-e. _And it_s not good for anyone. We will lose money for sure, and we_ve spent a lot of time and effort on the shows._
Brogaard commented that many vendors had been _very kind_ and taken back equipment that had been bought specifically for the shows - though there was obvious dismay in his voice when he reflected that Major Tom had won the contract for the _biggest concerts in the world_ but was not going to have the opportunity to prove itself. On a positive note he added that the company was more than busy, with imminent gigs for Rod Stewart, Judas Priest in the US, and Spinal Tap.
Meanwhile, members of the pro-audio community have paid their respects to Jackson.
"Michael Jackson had many mysteries and rumours that surrounded him, but my experience of working with him can only be described as an unbelievable opportunity to work with one of the greatest performers that I have ever witnessed," FOH engineer Paul 'Pab' Boothroyd told Pro Sound News magazine in the US.
"His death is a huge loss to both the music and live production industries, and we are proud to have had him as a long-standing member of our client roster," said Troy Clair, president of US touring giant Clair, in a statement.
Bruce Swedien, who recorded and/or mixed many of Jackson's albums including Thriller, Bad and Dangerous, told Pro Sound News in the US: "Michael was, in my estimation, the greatest musical talent I have ever worked with. And I have recorded all the major artists over the years. Michael was in a class by himself."