June 21, 2023
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Understanding Event Insurance with Nichole Jensen

Chris Cullari
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Putting on a live event is a complicated and expensive undertaking. There are dozens of moving pieces to account for: from the venue, to the talent, to the lights and sound, all the way down to details like parking and security. 

If something goes wrong with just one of these, you could be out thousands of dollars or more. 

That’s why it’s important to protect yourself by purchasing live event insurance. To understand the costs, the benefits, and the ins and outs of live event insurance, we went straight to the source.

Meet Nichole Jensen

Wrapbook’s co-founder, Cameron Woodward, recently spoke with Nichole Jensen to talk all about her journey from live event production to her current position as a live event insurance salesperson for Higginbotham.

How she got her start

Uniquely, Nichole spent years working in live events before she started insuring them. 

Beginning as a runner for Live Nation, Nichole embraced her passion for live production and worked her way up through the ranks. Nichole explains:

“I always knew I wanted to advance so I spent a lot of time with the production coordinators and the local production management, asking questions and just being available to kind of be in earshot to what was going on.”  

This dedication paid off. She worked her way up to a production coordinator role for acts like Imagine Dragons, Janet Jackson, Neil Young, and Nas.

Understanding Event Insurance with Nichole Jensen - Wrapbook - Imagine Dragons
Nichole spent years putting together the kinds of concerts she now insures. SOURCE
“It’s all about being kind, but assertive and helpful. That seemed to get me pretty far.”

Why she transitioned to insurance services

Sadly, live touring took a huge hit during the pandemic. With coronavirus spreading like wildfire, the worst place people could be was stuffed shoulder to shoulder with thousands of strangers. Singing at the top of their lungs didn’t help either.

Understanding Event Insurance with Nichole Jensen - Wrapbook - Indoor Concert
The last place anyone wanted to be during COVID. SOURCE

At the same time, Nichole wasn’t receiving health insurance or retirement funds, and the 24-hour job of touring was starting to affect her mental and physical health.

“I was getting pretty sick and I needed to stabilize and have something that was always a constant in my world, but I still needed to be in the entertainment space.”
Understanding Event Insurance with Nichole Jensen - Wrapbook - Higginbotham Logo
When Nichole needed to pivot from 24-hour-a-day production, Higginbotham saw an opportunity to scoop her up. SOURCE

Luckily, Nichole’s mom worked at Higginbotham and knew the company was growing their entertainment division. Plus, Nichole shares with a laugh:

“My boss was [...] captivated by the tickets I could get him for a show.” 

How her background in live events has prepared her for this role

Of course, Nichole brought much more to the table than great seats. Her background in production brought her face to face with all kinds of difficulties that she now insures against.

She’s faced everything from total loss due to inclement weather to festivals that had to fire the person in charge. This wide variety of experiences helps her empathize with the events she insures. 

It also helps her act fast when there’s a problem, because she can put herself in the producer’s shoes. For instance, Nichole recently sold a cancellation policy to a festival that was in danger of having to cancel due to inclement weather.

Understanding Event Insurance with Nichole Jensen - Wrapbook - Muddy Festival
Inclement weather is one of the most common complications to insure against. SOURCE
“The second I hear that I'm on the phone with them being like ‘Okay, here's the insurance adjuster’s information. Let's start brainstorming ideas on what we can do [...] and hopefully salvage the festival.'” 

As an insurance company, there’s only so much assistance Nichole and Higginbotham can offer.

“We can't technically look at their contracts and give them legal advice, but we can [...] make suggestions on their contracts and point them in the direction of a council. Maybe reword things so that they're less liable and also look at their contracts and go on the grounds and meet and say ‘This is what we suggest is risk management to do for next year. This is how we can start preventing things.’”

Beyond bringing her experience as a live event producer to bear, Nichole has also developed an incredibly thick skin and doesn’t take no for an answer. There’s a solution to every problem and is eager to find it, no matter her role. 

The role of insurance in the live event industry

Despite the up-front cost of live event insurance, it’s a smart investment to make. Live events are expensive to produce, and you don’t want to be left holding the bill if something goes wrong. What if your lights cut out? Your sound system dies? What if your talent doesn’t show up?

Understanding Event Insurance with Nichole Jensen - Wrapbook - Empty Stage
Promoters can be on the hook for staggering amounts of money if talent doesn’t show up. SOURCE

Live event insurance covers all of these problems and more.

What determines insurance risk for live events

As Nichole explains, the way she determines the cost of a policy depends on multiple factors. 

First, she examines an event’s loss-run history. Loss-run is an insurance term defined as:

“a summary of a small business' insurance claims history, including the types of claims filed in the past, the frequency of past claims filed and the related costs.”

Much like getting in an accident can result in an increase in the cost of your car insurance, problems in your event’s past can result in increased live event insurance costs. On the other hand, if your event has run for ten years without a hitch, the risk to Nichole and her company is lower, resulting in a cheaper policy.

If an event is too new to have a loss-run history, there are other elements Nichole can examine to make risk determinations.  

“If [an event is] outdoor or indoor. The capacity. The promoter’s background. [...] It depends on the scale, but certainly knowing their evacuation process. The parking. General security.”

These variables are all examined so that Nichole can determine the level of risk Higginbotham is taking on by insuring your event. 

For instance, an event inside a stadium is at less risk of being rained out than an event on the beach. Therefore, an inclement weather policy might be cheaper or unnecessary for the indoor event.

Common insurance coverage in the live event space

While every event is different and will require different coverage packages, it’s helpful to take a look at common types of coverage and how much they may end up costing you. Again, these prices aren’t set in stone. 

Nichole explains that which of these coverages you need really depends on the scope and scale of your production.

General liability

General liability is one of the most common types of insurance. It covers a broad range of damages and losses. 

You’ll want to have this to cover concerns like bodily injury and property damage at your event - everything from someone slipping and falling on spilled beer, to instruments and gear being damaged on stage.

Worker’s comp

This insurance covers all workers at an event, from stagehands to ticket takers to the people slinging popcorn and candy. 

Understanding Event Insurance with Nichole Jensen - Wrapbook - Snack Vendor
You need insurance to cover every employee at an event. Even this guy! SOURCE

It provides benefits for workers when their injury or illness arises out of or is caused by their work. Workers' compensation may also pay medical bills and benefits for temporary or permanent disabilities.

Cancellation and non-appearance

Nichole recommends that live music events should always have cancellation and non-appearance insurance to cover fans who want their money back if an artist doesn’t show up. 

Whether that’s because of illness or family emergency, or an artist refusing to get on a flight because they don’t like the plane (it’s happened!). 

The artists themselves also need these policies. If you’re a large-scale touring artist, your non-appearance and cancellation insurance can cost several hundred thousand dollars. 

If you’re an artist who is just starting out, you might be able to get a general liability policy for around two thousand dollars that covers a million dollars.

Errors and omissions

This is another common type of insurance that is purchased by anyone who provides a service in exchange for a fee. It covers any kind of negligence that could be associated with the service - in this case, a live event. 

This includes professional negligence, errors, mistakes, or oversights incurred during the course of work, or failure to meet a deadline or deliver a specific service promised to a customer.

Nichole provides an example of one of her clients paying $8,000 for a 3 million dollar E&O policy, which the client felt was a lot. $8,000 is a lot of money. But if he got sued and didn’t have it, it could ruin the client’s company and everything they’ve worked so hard for. 

Other types of live event coverage

Until recently, communicable disease coverage was a common type of insurance for live events. The prevalence of COVID changed that. Insurance companies stopped offering communicable disease coverage during the pandemic, and according to Nichole, have just recently started adding it back in.

Active shooter insurance is a heartbreaking necessity to have - not to mention expensive. That said, mass shooter events occur far too often in this country, and Nichole points out that if a tragedy were to occur, this insurance is essential to have.

In some foreign countries, such as Mexico, trucking and cargo brokers require ‌trucking companies to have armed escorts to protect production gear (wardrobe cases, instruments, lighting, office cases, etc). 

Typically, bands add an extension on their general liability to cover themselves. When an artist is traveling to Europe or otherwise, they also need foreign package policies, which can be extensions of their general liability, or they can get a separate foreign package policy.

What determines a successful event from a production and risk management standpoint

Nichole believes that the best way to make sure your event, tour, or festival goes off without a hitch is to make sure each of these elements is considered before tickets even go on sale.

“Understanding risk management and insurance is everything because no one is going to come to your event; no one will play your event if they suspect that it's a disaster walking in.”

Plan your festival wisely

Though everyone involved in an event shares this responsibility for safety, Nichole feels it begins with festival organizers.

“It starts at your stages, your barricade, the credentials that you're providing, the staff, the artist's compounds, the security that protects the backstage areas, to the outside, and the ticketing.”
Understanding Event Insurance with Nichole Jensen - Wrapbook - Festival Crowd
As a festival planner, everyone’s safety is your responsibility. SOURCE

Beyond that, she points out that you need to put care into who you hire for security. Are they a reputable vendor? Do they have a track record of keeping events safe? The same goes for medics and plans for medical emergencies.

“You have to have so much thought put into where you are going to take [a person] if they are dehydrated or hyperventilate or have a drug overdose.”

Make sure your artists share responsibility

Finally, she points out that some responsibility for the safety of an event falls on your performers. They are often the first people to see if something is going wrong on stage or in the crowd. 

“Make sure they aren’t inciting the riot. Make sure if they see something, they say something, because they can very easily stop a show and say - if they see a dangerous pit - say, ‘Stop. Pick that guy up.’” 

All of these elements work together to keep employees, bands, and fans as safe as possible at your live event. 

Wrapping up

Live event insurance doesn’t have to be a mystery. 

By listening to Nichole’s experience and taking her advice to heart, live promoters can be sure that they are covering themselves in the unlikely event that something goes wrong.

If you’re looking to learn more about different types of production insurance, be sure to check out our Essential Guide to Film Production Insurance or our guide to choosing the right insurance policy for your production.

Disclaimer

At Wrapbook, we pride ourselves on providing outstanding free resources to producers and their crews, but this post is for informational purposes only as of the date above. The content on our website is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for legal, accounting, or tax advice.  You should consult with your own legal, accounting, or tax advisors to determine how this general information may apply to your specific circumstances.

About the author
Chris Cullari

Chris Cullari is a writer/director based out of Los Angeles. His most recent film, THE AVIARY, is available for streaming on Paramount Plus and Showtime. You can find him tweeting about monsters, pro-wrestling, and horror movies.

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