As live industry looks to hit restart button, launches COVIDSafe system

Three years ago is a lifetime in live music.

In 2018, Australia’s concerts industry was going gangbusters. Ed Sheeran smashed all the records when his Divide tour shifted more than 1.1 million tickets for Frontier Touring. Pink sold almost 560,00 tickets on her Beautiful Trauma Tour. Taylor Swift toured stadiums.

Ticket sales across the sector cruised past $2 billion for the first time, Live Performance Australia reported at the time.

Haydn Johnston and Alan James joined the party, rolling out the live industry communications tool with the 2018 Laneway Festival, which visited Auckland, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Fremantle and was promoted by Chugg Entertainment and Lunatic Entertainment as its largest ever line-up.

Three years on, the live sector is facing a long road to recovery. is rebuilt for the post-COVID landscape, and is along for the bumpy ride.

laneway 2019
Credit: Ashley Mar

During the forced closure, co-founders Johnston and James added COVIDSafe features and new BOH functionality. A new-look platform was presented on the one-year anniversary of the pandemic.

The revamped system should allow event organisers to collect, manage and access data while still remaining legally compliant.

We wanted to “ensure it is as useful to promoters as it can be when the comeback finally happens,” says Johnston, a live events veteran with more than 25 years’ experience.

James is the tech-side of the venture, a web developer and designer whose career highlights include building Siemens’ first website and Intranet in the U.K. and Expedia in Australia some 15 years ago.

Alan James(L) & Haydn Johnston(R) by Maclay Heriot.

Its updated features take out the grunt work in gathering all the requisite health-check documents, managing staff follow ups and customising passes with the necessary information ahead of show day, notes Johnston, and allows for multiple check-in points across large sites.

Since its initial rollout in 2018, has been used by a slew of events, from Mona Foma to CMC Rocks, Spilt Milk, RnB Fridays, Queensland Music Festival and more.

In the U.K., the platform supported Independent Venue Week, which gathers hundreds of venues for a week-long celebration.

The platform also partnered with Sounds Australia a couple of years back, explains Johnston, who began events work in the early days of Big Day Out and has served as Head of Production on Laneway.

With the vaccine rollout picking up pace, and the Australian government committing more than $130 million more in support for the ailing sector, the industry and music fans are hopeful a proper restart isn’t far off.

Without wanting to jinx the live industry, the question is put to Johnston: Will this COVIDSafe system become redundant when we’re finally free of the dreaded coronavirus?

“That’s a good question, and something we all hope for. This is our pivot and something we saw would help anyone who is doing a show in the foreseeable future,” he says.

“Who knows what the future holds? Contact tracing is key for the suppression of the virus, and it may be around for a while. But as a tool to enhance and simplify the comms between act and event. I hope that’s around for years to come.”

As live industry looks to hit restart button, launches COVIDSafe system