Festival insurance: Is It Difficult To Get and Do I Need It?

July 15, 2022
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With secured entertainment and venue, and many tickets sold, it means just one thing for Canadians: festival season is upon us.

Like many festival managers, insurance is likely on a high-priority list of things to acquire before soundcheck. However, many managers, including Dauphin’s Countryfest in a recent article in a recent CTV News, have expressed that obtaining coverage for the event was “an uphill battle.” As festivals enter a new time of securing insurance, we spoke with Matthew Leishman, branch manager of Gifford Carr Burlington, to understand the intricacies of festival insurance.

Before we begin, it is helpful to note that festival and event insurance differ in definition and coverage. Festival insurance is considered for any special event that is longer than one day in duration. An example of this is Ottawa BluesfestEscapade, or Calgary Stampede. Similarly, the thing that really makes festival insurance unique, is cancellation coverage, as festivals have a broader scope of offerings and multiple days making the reasons for cancellation coverage more important. 

For example, if a music festival has booked several performers, and one cancels, fans may feel inclined to press for a refund. Additionally, chance of storm and damage to a stage increases a festival’s risk in the eyes of an insurance provider. Situations like the infamous FYRE Festival can make it more difficult for festivals to acquire cancellation coverage. This is why it is crucial for festival managers to provide as many details as possible to an insurance broker or provider, so they may understand what is happening day-to-day, and set up coverage accordingly.

Should festival managers consider any additional enhancements? 

Not really. Many factors are taken into account when assessing a festival’s risk, such as land vs. water, the duration, if alcohol is served to patrons, size of the festival, location, as well as activities and events that will happen during the festival’s duration. However, depending on the festival’s activities unique factors may need to be considered. Each festival is unique, so there is no one-size-fits-all package for this type of coverage.

Why is obtaining festival insurance difficult this year?

We wouldn’t say it’s difficult, rather we are in new times for events and festivals, so festival managers may encounter more questions when applying for coverage, versus previous years. However, obtaining coverage is quite possible. This highlights the importance of working with a broker that understands your festival and event goals.

What are some trends you have seen in 2022 for festivals?

Volume. After many cancelled events over the last two years, we notice many fans are returning to festivals, and many more are supporting local events for the first time. We see the turnout for festivals like Bluesfest hosting a crowd of 30,000 people for Luke Combs on July 9th, these sellout events indicate attendees want to return to these in-person festivals. 

Why are camping festivals more difficult to insure?

It is difficult to monitor attendees 24/7 at camping festivals, which makes instances such as monitoring liquor consumption more difficult – and the risks involved increase.

Do vendors or contractors require independent insurance if they are on-site for the festival?

Yes, any vendor or contractor on site requires their only liability coverage. Typically, a festival manager would request a copy to confirm this coverage.

Why have insurance premiums risen?

In the last few years, we have been in a hard market for insurance among other economic factors so insurance premiums have really risen across the board. Learn more about what is a hard market here.

Do first-time festivals have a more difficult time getting insurance?

Yes, any new venture will encounter difficulties obtaining insurance as they do not have the history or background to credit what they are trying to accomplish. Whereas annual festivals like Bluesfest, which has operated for many years has built up a history of successful festival executions, will have an easier time securing coverage. That saying, it is not impossible for new festivals to get insurance as long as they are forthcoming with the level of detail required and work with a broker to help tell their story in insurance applications. 

What types of events are covered under festival insurance?

So many. Music, health and wellness, religion, sports, Comic Con, food, are just a few examples of the many categories and styles of festivals.

And finally, do you need festival insurance?

It is highly recommended that you obtain festival insurance. We will repeat for the nosebleed seats in the back, very HIGHLY recommended. Likely, the venue where you are hosting the festival will actually require you to obtain and will request proof of insurance, even if it is not a legal requirement. Ultimately, festival coverage can save you from substantial exposure to risks. Festivals see large crowds (of all ages), which come with large exposure risks. With so many moving parts to events, it is in your best interest to always protect your bottom line.

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