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Let us offer credit for cancelled shows, say assocs

As the coronavirus crisis continues to exert financial pressure on the live sector, industry associations and businesses in Europe, Asia and North America are asking for changes in the way refunds are issued for cancelled events.

In Europe, research shows digital footfall to event ticket sales sites has collapsed in recent months, with only travel agencies harder hit by concerns over the virus. According to Comscore, visits to ticketing sites fell by 47% in France, 12% in Germany, 52% in Italy, 55% in Spain and 26% in the UK between 17–23 February and 9–5 March.

The figures come as associations in the the UK warn of a cashflow “crisis” amid widespread concert cancellations – with British artists and managers alone expected to lose more than £60 million should a ban on mass gatherings last for the next six months – and other sectors, including cinema and aviation, similarly grapple with an unprecedented drop-off in ticket sales.

In countries including Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal, the UK, Russia and Kazakhstan, associations representing cash-strapped local operators are pushing for an extended refund grace period (up to 365 days), to be permitted to give vouchers in lieu of cash refunds, or a combination of the two.

“If you can afford it, you should consider whether it is really necessary to return your ticket for a refund,” reads a blog from Ticketmaster Germany, which is supporting the European Association of Event Centres (EVVC)’s #keepyourticket campaign. “Every ticket that is not returned helps organisers, venues and [sports] clubs, even after the coronavirus has passed, and enables them to be able to organise great events in future.”

The EVVC, which represents arenas and conference centres in central and southern Europe, is inviting its members to support the campaign by sharing text and visual materials calling for solidarity with promoters and venues. “For organisers, suppliers and cultural professionals, the corona pandemic is a threat to their existence,” says the association.

“If you can afford it, you should consider whether it is necessary to return your ticket for a refund”

Promoters’ association BDKV – which estimates its ~450 members will lose a combined €1.25 billion from March to May as a result of Germany’s event ban – is asking the German government to extend temporarily, to 365 days, the time within which a refund must be paid, as well as offer credit for tickets instead of cash refunds (a solution it says would especially benefit members sitting on large ticket inventories, such as theatres).

The former request (a grace period for refunds) is also believed to be the option preferred by Britain’s UK Music and Colisium, which represents promoters in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus.

In Spain, newly launched umbrella body Esmúsica (which includes the Association of Music Promoters) is also asking for a grace period, lasting until 31 December, for cancelled events. For postponed events, however, “given the exceptional situation”, the organisation says promoters must not be obliged to offer a refund, instead offering only a new ticket for rescheduled date(s).

“Several organisations and municipalities are cancelling events on a daily basis. Shows on sale for the end of the year and early 2021 are not selling. We have to work together on a reimbursement policy for postponed and cancelled shows that helps to minimise catastrophic losses,” says Portugal’s APEFE, which backs Esmúsica’s position on no refunds for postponed shows, suggesting that “purchased tickets must be valid for postponed shows without mandatory reimbursement”.

Both Esmúsica and APEFE (Association of Promoters of Shows, Festivals and Events) are also calling for a temporary reduction in VAT charged on tickets, among other relief measures.

In the Netherlands, meanwhile, the associations’ counterpart there, VVEM (Association of Event Producers), appears to be making headway with its campaign for ticket vouchers, with the Dutch cabinet discussing the issue this week.

“It is currently impossible for us to offer immediate cash refunds to all buyers”

Dutch culture minister Ingrid van Engelshoven has previously asked ticketholders not to request cash refunds, while VVEM has also reportedly found a sympathetic ear in the form of economy minister Eric Wiebes, who has said the government will provide further “strong help” for the sector (though it remains to be seen in what form).

While European associations focus on lobbying their respective governments, US secondary ticketing giant StubHub has taken the matter into its own hands, announcing that – where legal – it will no longer provide refunds for cancelled events to its American and Canadian customers. Instead, ticketholders will receive a voucher worth 120% of the original value of the ticket.

The change in policy comes as StubHub, which is in the process of being acquired by European rival Viagogo, lays off as much as two thirds of its workforce, in what it calls a “difficult but sensible decision”.

Explaining the shift in its refund terms, a StubHub spokesperson says: “In normal times, we’ve made the decision to refund buyers before collecting money from the seller to offer buyers more convenience. And under normal circumstances, this works well, even with StubHub taking the risk of timing delays and some losses when we are unable to collect from the seller. With the coronavirus impacting 28,000+ events and the associated magnitude of challenge in recouping monies owed by sellers over the coming months, it is currently impossible for us to offer immediate cash refunds to all buyers.

“When the volume of cancellations accelerated a few weeks ago, we were the first in our industry to offer a coupon worth 120% of the ticket value. This will now be our default option in Canada and in the US. Outside of the US and Canada, fans are defaulted to a refund.”

 


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Virtual concerts raise money, spirits amid Covid-19 crisis

A whole host of virtual benefit concerts has seen significant amounts of money and awareness raised for charities and funds tackling the coronavirus crisis.

Perhaps the most prominent of fundraising events, the recent Elton John-hosted iHeart Living Room Concert for America saw acts including Billie Eilish, Dave Grohl, Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys, Sam Smith and Backstreet Boys perform from their homes.

Attracting more than 8.7 million viewers, the event has so far raised over $8 million for US charities Feeding America and First Responders Children’s Foundation.

British comedian James Corden last night (30 March) broadcast a similar event – dubbed HomeFest – from his garage with performances from BTS, Andrea Bocelli, Dua Lipa, Billie Eilish and John Legend.

Corden stated the aim of HomeFest was “to bring some joy and some music into your home at what is without a question one of the strangest and scariest moments in all our lives.”

Over the weekend, gaming-focused streaming platform Twitch hosted the Stream Aid 2020 charity event, including short performances from artists including Biffy Clyro, Rita Ora, OneRepublic, Sigrid, Diplo, Die Antwoord, Joe Jonas, the Lumineers, Lauv, Ellie Goulding and John Legend.

The event, which also saw celebrities compete against fans in a number of videogames, has so far raised over $2.7m for the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Covid-19 solidarity response fund.

“The generosity of our entire community resulted in a large donation to two non-profits that can ensure the stability of our world and our industry”

Twitch also partnered with electronic music platform Beatport for 34-hour live stream marathon ReConnect, which raised more than $180,000 for the WHO’s Covid-19 fund and the Association for Electronic Music’s (Afem) Covid-19 hardship fund.

DJs including Carl Cox, Bonobo, Pete Tong, Nina Kraviz, Griz, Rüfüs Du Sol, A-Trak, Nicole Moudaber and Chris Liebing performed live as part of ReConnect.

More than 8.5 million viewers tuned in across 150 countries, with 6,500 individual donors.

“We are deeply grateful for all the talented artists and their teams that made the ReConnect event possible, and equally impressed with the dedication and passion shown by the global electronic music community that tuned in for over 34 hours this past weekend to reconnect with their favourite DJs,” comments Beatport CEO Robb McDaniels.

“The generosity of our entire community, including so many great industry partners that donated products to give away, is what resulted in a large donation to two non-profits that can ensure the health and stability of our world and our industry in the months to come.”

Event discovery platform Bandsintown also joined forces with Twitch to host a live music marathon, with all proceeds going to the MusiCares Covid-19 relief fund. The Bandsintown Live channel is today hosting live sets from Imogen Heap and Flux Pavilion, among others.

Meanwhile, in Spain, the La Liga Santander Fest, organised by Spanish football division La Liga, Universal Music and technical services company GTS, has raised over €800,000.

“Together we can convince people of the importance of staying at home and achieve our aim of providing funding for essential hospital materials”

Hosted by Spanish actress Eva González and radio DJ Tony Aguilar, the virtual festival saw performances from Alejandro Sanz, Juanes, Luis Fonsi, Morat and Manuel Carrasco, among others, as well as appearances from Spanish footballers and tennis player Rafael Nadal.

The Santander Bank Foundation will dedicate the funds for medical equipment and supplies in conjunction with the health authorities and national sports council.

“This initiative has turned into something huge,” says La Liga president Javier Tebas. “We have the best artists, the best clubs, the best players and the best fans. Together we can convince people of the importance of staying at home and achieve our aim of providing funding for essential hospital materials.”

‘Secret gig’ platform Sofar Sounds is also doing its bit, launching a ‘Listening Room’ where artists can perform live and announcing all artists who had shows cancelled will be paid as normal. All upcoming Sofar shows were cancelled on 13 March, affecting 2,000 artists.

Sofar has also launched a Global Artist Fund, aiming to raise $250,000 for artists, which will be distributed in grants of $250 each.

In January, the platform paid out over $460,000 among people who worked its concerts for free between 2016 and 2019, after agreeing a settlement with New York state’s Department of Labor.

In Australia, acts including Casey Donovan, Dami Im, Courtney Act and Patti Newton have joined forces with the Australian Philharmonic Orchestra, or John Foreman’s Aussie Pops Orchestra, performing a rendition of ‘What a Wonderful World’ from their respective homes and encouraging donations to music industry charity Support Act.

The orchaestra urges the public to “stay home, stay safe and when the time is right, please support live performance.”

Support Act’s Covid-19 emergency appeal has so far raised almost AU$240,000 (€133,819) to help the music industry through the coronavirus pandemic. Read how Australia’s Michael Chugg (Chugg Entertainment/Frontier Touring) is coping with the challenges thrown up by the coronvairus pandemic here.

Tales from Covid: Michael Chugg Q&A

 


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Event production firms join Covid-19 fight

As touring grinds to a halt and festivals are put on hold, a number of event production suppliers and staging companies are trying their hand at a different kinds of work, delivering emergency supplies and manufacturing disaster relief facilities for those in need.

Event infrastructure suppliers across the world including South Africa’s MGG and Upstaging, Choura Events and Gallagher Staging in the US, are aiding the public health sector as the demand for medical supplies and facilities grows greater by the day.

Mark Gaylard, the managing director of Johannesburg-based company MGG, found himself with 32 idle vehicles, following the implementation of a three-week shutdown of all non-essential businesses in South Africa last week.

After advertising the fleet’s availability to transport goods, MGG’s six full-time drivers and regular freelance staff have found themselves ferrying food, agricultural products, building materials and medical supplies – including much-needed hand sanitising products – from the docks of the coastal city of Durban to Johannesburg.

“I quickly realised that the general transport and freight business is radically different from moving and delivering goods and trucking services in our core entertainment industry world,” says Gaylard.

“What we are working on is to become an instant, rapid solution for hospitals, government agencies and test centres in need of facilities”

“It’s highly competitive and a lot of the work gets outsourced to those who don’t own their own vehicles. It’s definitely not an environment where you can just flip a switch and start moving goods as you might be used to. But it’s been extremely interesting.”

The manufacturing side of company has also kept busy, producing Covid-19 hazard warning signage.

In the United States, Choura Events, which typically builds tents, staging and facilities for events such as Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and South by Southwest, is also maintaining its production line, erecting heavy-duty triage tents and overflow facilities to help hospital handle increasing volume of patients.

“What we are working on is to become an instant, rapid solution for hospitals, government agencies and test centres [in need of facilities],” says Ryan Choura, CEO of Choura Events. “Usually, at this time of the year, we are building Coachella and Stagecoach and Grand Prix, and so many other things, and instead we are working to try and help in any way we can.”

So far, the company has built four “medical villages” in Los Angeles.

Another LA-based firm, Gallagher Staging, has taken a similar approach, offering disaster relief structures to hospitals across the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles. The company is renting out in-house equipment at no cost, charging only for trucking and labour fees.

“When we come through this I think there will be a massive demand. People will still need and enjoy getting together”

Fellow staging company, Chicago-based Upstaging, is manufacturing lightweight room divider panels for make-shift hospitals, face shields and social distancing floor signage, as well as offering trucking services.

Bon Jovi have tweeted their support for Upstaging’s efforts, writing: “Our long-time touring partner and trucking company has pivoted from Rock N Roll to emergency response services. They’re now working to manufacture high quality face shields at their facility outside of Chicago.”

Althought many event production companies have proved their versatility and shown how their skillsets can be applied to other sectors, MGG’s Gaylard believes the switch will only be temporary.

“Live events is a very vibrant sector, and people do love to congregate and enjoy each other’s company, energy and atmosphere,” says the MGG managing director.

“When we come through this I think there will be a massive demand. While there may be some changes in the way we use remote networking technologies, people will still need and enjoy getting together. We will bounce back!”

Do you know of a production company getting creative in the fight against coronavirus? Email anna@iq-mag.net to let us know about other industry efforts.

 


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Tales from Covid: Michael Chugg Q&A

The impact that the coronavirus outbreak is having on the industry is plain to see, but the road to recovery still remains somewhat unpaved. As governments around the world crack down on the spread of the virus, the return to some kind of business as usual is looming. But just what will that look like and just how hard will the vestiges of the virus be for the industry to shake?

IQ is catching up with major industry players to determine how they are coping with the drastic changes to both professional and personal life, the path they will take to help business recover from the crisis and the long-term changes that we can expect to see.

Up first is veteran Australian promoter Michael Chugg, founder of Chugg Entertainment and co-founder of Frontier Touring, who reflects on the resilience of the Australian live community, the potential pushback on international touring in the country and his love for British crime dramas…

 


IQ: What lessons have you learned from the coronavirus outbreak?
MC:
I have learned that taking care of one’s health with attention to personal cleanliness and home environment is a priority and a major helper of immunity.

What do you expect recovery to look like, both for Chugg Entertainment and the wider industry?
The Australian and state governments are very much on the ball after a slow start. With the border closures and great campaign to the public on how to manage ourselves in mandatory quarantine, together with the community social distancing efforts, we are seeing a drop in new cases daily which hopefully will continue.

We are optimistic that Australian live music events and other public gatherings could be back as early as October or November, but it could be as late as January. However, I think international touring could be back here a lot later than that. If we manage to clean up Australia, the government may be reluctant to take the risk on international visitors bringing the virus back to us.

“We are optimistic that Australian live music events could be back as early as October or November, but it could be as late as January”

How do you think this will change the industry in the long term?
We are very worried about the long-term effect on the hundreds of companies involved in the production, presentation and running of tours, festivals and events, as well as the thousands and thousands of contractors, crews, security and other workers who lost all their income immediately when public gatherings were banned.

The doubt about when or if live entertainment can recommence is causing a lot of stress and depression worldwide, and I’m sure the industry will be a lot more cautious and careful about saturating the marketplace from now on.

First the bushfires and now Covid-19, the Australian live industry has had a tough few months – how has the industry coped as a whole?
It has been a tough six months and to cop corona on top of the bushfire season, which is right up there with the most disastrous fires ever, I think everyone is coping well. My partner and friend Michael Gudinski’s calmness and leadership has helped to keep the entire Frontier/Chugg family together and has been a great vibe for many people in the industry.

My partner and friend Michael Gudinski’s calmness and leadership has helped to keep the entire Frontier/Chugg family together

Organisations like Support Act, Sound Of Silence, I Lost My Gig, CrewCare and many others have done an amazing job dealing with many individuals and families in need.

This week, the federal government – who had already been offering tax breaks, freeze on loans and mortage payments, no evictions by landlords and other economic measures – came up with their JobKeeper Payment, which is a AU$130 billion (€72.4bn) fund basically covering the equivalent of 50% of all Australian salaries for the next six months. This is taking an incredible amount of pressure off everyone.

Finally, how are you keeping busy in self-isolation?
Being a lover of books, movies and music, there is plenty to keep one occupied. I am mad for British crime and mystery shows, so there is a ton of them. I am spending a lot of time on video calls through Zoom with the teams at Frontier/Chugg Entertainment and Chugg music, as well as with my family. I also loving cooking and now I’m able to do it every day.

 


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No rhythm in the algorithm

As I said at the time, when I received word of Viagogo’s plans to acquire StubHub, it was one of the worst pieces of news I had received in my more than 40 years in the business.

First of all, the fact that Viagogo can spend US$4 billion in cash is very worrying. Secondly, that Viagogo has bought a competitor that operates in most countries means we are still really far from winning the battle against this cancer – and I do truly believe it is a cancer – which has been eating away at the live music industry for far too long now.

I am sure Viagogo has made this deal because they absolutely know it means they can carry on doing secondary ticketing in the majority of countries in the world and circumvent the laws in place. This is very bad for the future of the industry; for music, for punters and for overall quality. Music is in danger of becoming only for rich people and hardcore fans – the only people capable of or prepared to pay inflated secondary prices.

We need to do something to combat this, otherwise live music as we know it will die. Hugely inflated prices would mean no new acts either, which means no future for the business.

I truly believe the audience and the industry needs waking up from a long sleep. The music business has clearly been “drugged” by this system, which has inflicted damaged on the audience, who are, ultimately, our main shareholders.

What’s at stake, in fact, is not just the chance for punters to buy tickets at a decent and sustainable price, or attend several different shows, or even for newcomers to the live music industry to freely decide whether they want to be an independent entrepreneur or an employee of one of a few major companies… What’s at stake now is the future of our kids and, ultimately, their relation to culture and live music and the role it plays in their lives.

The future should depend on our own talent, courage, respect, work ethics and professionalism

With the dawn of dynamic pricing, which uses software to price tickets automatically based on popularity, we have taken yet another step towards the algorithmisation of the live music industry. Are audiences of the future going to be able to grow their identities and personal tastes organically, rather than artificially following algorithms that decide – what they listen to, what they see, what they buy and so on – for them?

The music business has to walk to the beat of its own drum, the way it has always has.

This means making your own choices based on whether you believe in an artist and like their material, not because an algorithm tells you that a particular song is what ‘X’ amount of people will love or that this is how much a ticket should cost.

It means challenging convention and creating our own future based on our own feelings. What really scares me is that if we don’t act now, in the very near future people will no longer trust their own feelings and make their own decisions.

The future should not be dictated by a computer. The future should depend on our own talent, courage, respect, work ethics and professionalism.

The huge personalities that have influenced the industry, like Bill Graham, certainly didn’t use algorithms, and we are all in the industry because of their talent and charisma. Maybe it’s time we remembered that.

 


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Livestreaming platform LiveFrom Events launches

LiveFrom Events, a new ‘streaming-as-a-service’ platform that aims to make it easy to livestream concerts and other live events, has launched.

“Livestreaming, as well as recording and serving up video on demand, is here to stay,” explains the company. “Right now it’s proving to be a vital lifeline, and creating a whole new ecosystem for the live music and events industries.

“Our vision is for artists, DJs, venues, clubs, producers and festivals to easily use the power of HD live streams to put their performance and events in the hands of fans wherever they are globally.”

“All you need is a laptop and internet”

As a software-as-a-service company, LiveFrom Events provides all the software and bandwidth needed to broadcast shows – whether free or paid, on a single channel or as a multi-‘stage’ festival.

LiveFrom also has the capability for private fan-club events, merch sales, sponsor presentations and more.

“All you need is a laptop and internet and you could be livestreaming right now,” the company adds. “And if you already have a video and audio set-up ready to go, even better.”

For more information, or to submit information about your event, visit www.livefrom.events.

 


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“A rescue umbrella”: New funding offers biz financial boost

As the coronavirus does its best to ensure venues remain shuttered for as long as possible, a range of organisations are stepping in to ease the financial pressures faced by live entertainment businesses worldwide.

In Europe’s largest live music market, Germany, the government has dedicated €50 billion to its creative and cultural industries. The financial aid consists of grants for small companies and the self-employed to cover overhead costs such as renting venues and studio space, and loans for business premises and leasing instalments.

A further €10bn will be provided to facilitate access to social security for self-employed workers for a six-month period, including unemployment insurance and expenses for housing.

Culture minister Monika Grütters calls the aid package a “rescue umbrella for the cultural, creative and media sector”. All cultural institutions in Germany remain closed until 19 April.

“The cultural sector, in particular, is characterised by a high proportion of self-employed people who now have problems with their livelihoods,” says Grütters. “These multilevel protection measures show that the Federal government is determined to do everything possible to counter the devastating consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic in the cultural and creative fields. We won’t let anyone down.”

The funding is part of a wider €750m aid package, approved by the German parliament on Friday, to protect the country’s economy from the effects of coronavirus.

“A high proportion of self-employed people now have problems with their livelihoods”

Other aid set to benefit the creative industries includes short-term work benefits, tax liquidity aids and €550 billion worth of loans, available from state business development bank KfW, with no upper limit set on credit offerings.

The government in Switzerland has also recently announced a targeted package for the cultural sector, totalling CHF280m (€264.6m). The funding has been welcomed by Swiss promoters’ association SMPA and the wider cultural and events sector.

The financial support comes after the Swiss government unveiled a CHF20bn (€18.8bn) emergency loan programme for companies affected by the coronavirus outbreak at the end of last week. After a quick initial uptake in loans, the government is already in talks to increase the available funds.

In the Netherlands, the government is working with industry representatives to potentially bring in legislation to allow event organisers to refund ticketholders with vouchers to spend on future events, rather than cash refunds.

Dutch promoters’ association VVEM recently sent a letter to the government estimating the damage done to the industry by Covid-19 could be as much as €1.5bn over the summer months, and asking for more concrete support with regards to finance and cooperation from local governments.

Rights societies have also been playing their part, with the German music licensing society (GEMA)’s €40m crisis fund for song writers and the UK’s PRS for Music offering grants of up to £1,000 to each of its members.

“We know we need to get money into the pockets of our members quickly and efficiently”

Recent support for the sector in Australia has come from Apra Amcos (Australasian Performing Right Association and Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society), which is bringing forward its live performance royalty payout from November to May.

Members will receive a full year’s worth of royalties using data from last year’s reports.

“The Covid-19 crisis has hit every segment of Australia and New Zealand’s music sector,” comments Apra Amcos chief executive, Dean Ormston.

“From our songwriter, composer and publisher members to the venues, events and festivals and the managers, crew and SMEs of the industry, the impact of necessary government regulations has been immediate and devastating.

“We know we need to get money into the pockets of our members quickly and efficiently.”

The news comes as Australia’s three biggest live companies, Live Nation Australasia, TEG and Frontier Touring/Chugg Entertainment, form a music promoters’ taskforce to call for government aid for small- and medium-sized businesses during the coronavirus shutdown.

“As industry leaders we want to ensure the survival of the many small and medium-sized businesses that support our industry, so that we can continue to make a significant contribution to the Australian economy when we eventually emerge from this crisis,” reads a letter from the taskforce.

“As industry leaders we want to ensure the survival of the many small and medium-sized businesses that support our industry”

Performing rights organisations in France have contributed to the National Centre for Music’s €11.5m emergency fund for the entertainment sector, with Sacem, Adami and Spedidam, each adding €500,000 to the centre’s initial €10m funding package.

Industry body Prodiss had previously deemed the government’s targeted funding for the music and performing arts sectors – which totals €15m – “completely divorced from reality”, although it welcomes the government’s wider €45bn aid package for businesses.

The French government has also dedicated €22 million to support the “intermittents du spectacle”, or freelancers working in the entertainment industry.

Funding for the UK’s cultural sectors has come from a range of places, including significant funding from Arts Council England, which has dedicated a £160 million package for cultural organisations, freelancers and individual artists, £5m from the Help Musicians’ coronavirus financial hardship fund, plus a £500,000 boost from the Royal Society of Musicians of Great Britain, and £1m from the Musicians’ Union’s coronavirus fund.

New Zealand music industry charity MusicHelps has launched MusicHelpsLive, an appeal to support those facing hardship due to the Covid-19 outbreak. The charity aims to raise NZ$2m (€1m) for workers in the live industry.

 


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Tom Watson named new UK Music chairman

UK Music has appointed former shadow culture secretary Tom Watson as its new chair, replacing outgoing founder and chair Andy Heath. Watson starts in his new role next month.

Watson, also a former deputy leader of the Labour party, stood down as a member of parliament at the December 2019 general election. He says his chief priority in his new role at UK Music, the umbrella body representing the UK music industry, would be secure maximum government support for the sector amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

“UK Music speaks with a powerful voice for the whole of the UK commercial music sector,” comments Watson, a former colleague of outgoing UK Music CEO Michael Dugher. “And at the heart of the sector are the songwriters and musicians, many thousands of whom stand ready to serve in the national effort against the coronavirus.

“In ordinary times, the UK’s commercial music sector contributes £5.2 billion to the UK economy and supports 190,000 jobs. The cancellation of live music events has devastated the sector. Thousands of jobs are now in peril and threaten the long-term bottom line of the UK economy.

“There will be much to say […] in the months ahead, but first, let’s deal with this crisis

“Our urgent task is to work with our colleagues and partners in government to support the national effort to defeat coronavirus, whilst protecting the jewel in the crown of British culture: commercial music.

“When we’re through this crisis, UK Music has an important part to play in Britain’s developing new role in the world. We believe we can be the prime minister’s calling card to every country on the planet.

“There will be much to say about this in the months ahead, but first, let’s deal with this crisis. I will be seeking urgent talks with ministers and officials to ensure that we support the music-makers of Britain and the industry that always sustains us through the good times and the bad.”

UK Music’s acting CEO, Tom Kiehl, remains in his role during the recruitment process for Dugher’s replacement.

 


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Berlin’s Verti Music Hall appoints first GM

Verti Music Hall, the 4,350-capacity venue at AEG’s Mercedes-Platz in Berlin, has appointed its first general manager, 18 months after opening.

Dirk Dreyer joins AEG as Verti Music Hall GM, reporting to Uwe Frommhold, VP and COO of AEG Germany, and working alongside Michael Hapka, VP and managing director of AEG Operations Berlin. Prior to joining the Verti team, Dreyer was managing director of the 25Hours Hotel Bikini Berlin.

“The Verti Music Hall has had an extremely successful first 18 months. Nevertheless, we have recognised that in order to further establish the Verti Music Hall in the venue market, we need to employ a general manager,” explains Frommhold.

“It feels a bit like coming home”

“Due to the current governmental ban of events, Dirk Dreyer will be joining us under the most challenging of circumstances; however, we are convinced that his presence will notably impact the Verti Music Hall in the future.”

Before moving into the hotel sector, Dreyer had a long career in the music industry, working at Sony Music, EMI and management company 313 Music, among others.

He comments: “I am really looking forward to this new challenge. As I have spent some years working in the music business previously, it feels a bit like coming home. With the Verti Music Hall, Berlin has gained a great venue with the best sound in town; this makes me even more proud to be the general manager for such a premium product.”

 


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Covid-19 news in brief: 30 March–3 April

 

Friday 3 April

Rock in Rio Lisbon 2020 cancelled
Rock in Rio has postponed its ninth visit to Lisbon, due to take place this June, to 19–20 and 26–27 June 2021.

Any tickets already purchased for this summer’s event will remain valid for 2021, and day ticket purchasers have the option to choose their preferred dates when the full line-up is revealed.

In a statement, Rock in Rio Lisbon vice-president Roberta Medina emphasises Rock in Rio’s ‘firm commitment to keep Europe smiling’, telling fans: “It is through smiling together [that] we will enjoy music, entertainment and culture again in the near future”.

Arctic Monkeys, the 1975 play Estéreo Picnic from home
Colombia’s Estéreo Picnic festival, which has been postponed to December 2020, is marking its original dates (3–5 April) with an online streaming event, dubbed #UnMundoDistintoEnCasa (#ADifferentWorldAtHome).

#UnMundoDistintoEnCasa will see artists including Arctic Monkeys, Sam Smith, Interpol, Rüfüs du Sol, Years and Years, Tiësto and the 1975 performing live from their homes, reports El Tiempo, with fans able to register to ‘attend’ via their Facebook on Google accounts on the festival website.

Estéreo Picnic 2020, headlined by Guns N ‘Roses, the Chemical Brothers, the Strokes and Wu-Tang Clan, takes place from 4 to 6 December at the Briceño 18 golf course in Bogota.

United We Stream Berlin raises €300k
United We Stream, Berlin Club Commission’s 24-hour ‘virtual club’, has raised around €330,000 for Berlin’s nightclubs in the past two weeks, Musik Woche reports.

The initiative, since copied in Manchester (see Monday), has so far racked up more than five million streams, with many fans buying ‘virtual tickets’ to support the shuttered venues.

Other cities reportedly interested in hosting their own United We Stream events include Vienna, Amsterdam and Munich.

 


Thursday 2 April

EMI announces three-day Lockdown Live fest
Vivendi’s Virgin EMI Records has announced Lockdown Live, a three-day online music festival featuring 32 of the label’s artists.

Running from this Friday to Sunday (3–5 April), the livestreamed festival features Alessia Cara, Tori Kelly, the Vamps, SG Lewis and more, and aims to raise money for Global Citizen’s Covid-19 ‘solidarity response fund’.

The event will be split across three virtual ‘stages’: the pop-themed Rhapsody stage on Friday, the alternative Fools’ Gold stage on Saturday and the urban-themed Encore stage on Sunday.

Events, venues, festivals and crowded space webinar
Mind Over Matter Consultancy (MOM) is staging a free online webinar with European venue and festival personnel this Friday (3 April).

The WebEx workshop will focus on the effect of the coronavirus on participants’ workstreams, programmes and futures. Speakers are the O2 Arena’s Danielle Kennedy Clark, Wembley Stadium’s Liam Boyland, Paleo Festival’s Pascal Viot, Roskilde Festival’s Morten Therkildsen and the Roundhouse (London)’s Sam Oldham.

To learn more, go to the Mind Over Matter website.

Sony Corp announces $100m Covid-19 fund
Japan’s Sony Corporation has launched a US$100 million fund to support people affected by the coronavirus worldwide.

With the fund, Tokyo-based Sony – whose subsidiaries include Sony Music Group, which, in addition to a record label, owns venues across Japan and UK promoter Senbla – says it will provide assistance for first responders, support for children and their teachers, and aid for members of the entertainment community.

“In order to overcome the unprecedented challenges that as a society we now face around the world, we will do all we can as a global company to support the individuals on the frontlines of the battle against COVID-19, the children who are our future, and those who have been impacted in the creative community,” says Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida, according to MBW.

 


Wednesday 1 April

Rick Astley to play free show for health workers
SJM Concerts has announced a free Rick Astley concert for all UK National Health Service (NHS) frontline staff, primary care workers and other ‘blue-light’ staff on Wednesday 28 October 2020 at Manchester Arena (21,000-cap.).

“Our NHS and emergency services are amazing. This concert is a thank you to all those fantastic frontline staff,” says Astley. “I promise my band and I will give it everything to give you a great night out.”

Tickets will be limited to two per person (eligible staff plus one guest) and go on sale tomorrow (2 April) at 7pm via Ticketmaster.

Esports events continue unabated
Despite wreaking havoc on traditional sporting events, coronavirus has left esports largely untouched, with competitive videogaming living “on in the age of social distancing”, reports Time.

“Sports are out and something needs to fill that void,” says Chance ‘Maux’ Moncivaez, who plays Call of Duty: Modern Warfare on the Florida Mutineers, an esports team. “I think esports is perfect to fill that void because of the ability to play online competitions.”

According to Time, viewership on Twitch, the go-to site for game streamers, is up 31% in March, by one estimate, as people stuck inside play – and watch – more video games.

DanceSafe introduces at-home harm reduction
Denver-based charity DanceSafe has launched Party in Place, an at-home harm-reduction initiative that seeks to address the impact of Covid-19 on the electronic music community.

Party in Place will focus on social distancing, mental and emotional health, and harm reduction for people who use drugs during “this unprecedented time”, explains DanceSafe founder Emanuel Sferios.

“It is incumbent upon each of us, as individuals, to do the right thing to protect our communities,” says Ferios. “And this means staying home and only going out when necessary (groceries, laundry, emergency medical needs). […] Remember, this isn’t just about protecting yourself; it’s also about protecting others.”

MM Band Services offers coaches to NHS staff
MM Band Services, a Hull-based provider of coaches for touring artists, is offering its 15 sleeper buses for the use of NHS staff across the UK.

In a tweet, Ian McCoid, MM’s national sales manager, explains: “We have 15 sleeper buses with 16 beds on each available for NHS staff anywhere in the UK for accommodation or office/admin/welfare areas.”

McCoid can be reached on enquiries@mmbandservices.co.uk,+44 01964 563 464 or +44 7376 383 485 (mobile).

 


Tuesday 31 March

Buma Stemra brings forward payments
Dutch copyright collection society Buma/Stemra will bring forward its payment date for 2019 performance royalties, from September to April–May 2020, to ease pressure on musicians.

The move means Dutch artists will receive a collective €12 million three months earlier. Buma/Stemra is also making available a €2.75m emergency fund for members who are struggling.

Buma/Stemra chairman Bernard Kobes tells NRC: “When prime minister [Mark] Rutte three weeks ago announced he had to close restaurants and nightlife, a significant portion of our revenue dried up in the space of half an hour. The emergency fund is really meant to help smaller composers who are in acute trouble due to the sudden disappearance of much of their income.”

Tokyo gov. says venues spreading infection
Yuriko Koike, the governor of Tokyo, has pointed the finger at music venues, bars and nightclubs amid a spike in infections in the Japanese capital.

At a press conference yesterday, Koike said Tokyo’s small venues, many of which have floor space of less than 10m², are breeding grounds for coronavirus, reports AFP. The criticism follows a previous intervention from Labyrinth festival promoter Mindgames, which urged Japanese venues to close.

Japan, which still has fewer than 2,000 cases of Covid-19, has yet to issue any stay-at-home (lockdown) orders, and most venues and places of entertainment remain open.

Podcast downloads down 10%
Podcast listening, surprisingly, appears to be trending down while people are self-isolating.

According to WWD (via Music Ally), “downloads in the space overall have dropped about 10 percent since the start of March” while “total unique listeners also dropped roughly 20 percent in the same time frame”

In the last week alone, meanwhile, “the entire American audience for podcasts fell 8% after declining 2% the week prior”, indicating, perhaps, that podcasts better suit commuting than sitting at home.

 


Monday 30 March

Big three Oz promoters form corona taskforce
Australia’s three biggest live companies have formed a music promoters’ taskforce to call for government aid for small- and medium-sized businesses during the coronavirus shutdown.

In a letter to Australian prime minister Scott Morrison, Roger Field, CEO of Live Nation Australasia, Geoff Jones, CEO of TEG, and Dion Brant and Susan Heymann, COO and MD, respectively, of Frontier Touring/Chugg Entertainment, say that while they “fully support the government’s ban on mass gatherings from a public health perspective”, the measures have hit the live sector particularly hard.

“This is not a letter asking for an industry package to support our own businesses,” write the four (although they stress that “overnight, we lost all revenue for at least the next six months”), “but for the people and businesses that we are unable to support during this time”.

They add: “As industry leaders we want to ensure the survival of the many small and medium-sized businesses that support our industry, so that we can continue to make a significant contribution to the Australian economy when we eventually emerge from this crisis.”

Leading UK venues to become hospitals
A number of music venues in the UK are being converted into temporary field hospitals, joining the ExCel Centre in London, Madrid’s Ifema and many other arenas, conference centres and large venues around the world.

Manchester’s 190,000-square-foot Central Convention Centre, Birmingham’s 15,685-capacity National Exhibition Centre (NEC), Glasgow’s Scottish Events Campus Centre (SECC) and the 74,500-seat Principality Stadium in Wales will all serve as hospitals.

The venues will accommodate between 1,000 and 5,000 hospital beds each, adding to ExCel’s 4,000.

Midem 2020 cancelled
The 2020 edition of music industry conference Midem has been cancelled. The event, scheduled to take place from 2 to 4 June in Cannes, France, will this year take the form of a digital conference, with livestreamed keynote sessions, talks, presentations and online speed meetings.

“In the rapidly-evolving context and with the various government guidelines on travel, public gatherings and home confinement, coupled with companies’ concerns for their staff, holding Midem in June is simply not possible,” comments Midem director Alexandre Deniot.

Midem is among a number of industry conferences to cancel or postpone because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The conference will return in its normal capacity from 1 to 4 June 2021.

Music Venue Trust’s £1m call to action
The UK’s Music Venue Trust has called on the music industry, the cultural sector and the UK’s most successful musicians to come together to create a £1 million ‘fighting fund’ to prevent the permanent closure of hundreds of grassroots music venues.

The Grassroots Music Venue Crisis Fund (GMVCF) will, says the association, give MVT the funding it needs to place its existing Emergency Response service on a crisis footing amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. Last year, Emergency Response Service prevented 91 closures in 12 months.

Donations to the Grassroots Music Venue Crisis Fund can be arranged by contacting Beverley Whitrick on beverley@musicvenuetrust.com or +44 (0)7809 155 388.

United We Stream expands to Manchester
Following Berlin’s example, Manchester, UK, has announced plans for its own ‘United We Stream’ initiative, with venues across the city, as well as artists’ homes and gardens, set to livestream music and other live performances every evening.

Launching next week at unitedwestream.co.uk, it is hoped United We Stream will benefit the city’s dormant night-time economy. The streams are free, but fans will be encouraged to make a donation in the form of a ‘virtual ticket’.

“I want to keep our vibrant music and entertainment scene active”, says Greater Manchester’s night czar, Sacha Lord. “Over the last few weeks, I have been contacted by many grassroots venues, bar owners, artists and freelancers, and the main thing I’ve heard is how difficult this period is and will be for them. Many of them are in dire financial straits and at risk of never recovering.

“Together with the GMCA [Greater Manchester Combined Authority], we have been working hard to create opportunities and hope for these people, and I am delighted to confirm that what started as an idea last week is now about to come to fruition.”

 


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