Artist manager Michael Lambert gives a 'younger' professional's view on the importance of live shows and the way we approach the most essential people: the fans
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With almost all of Europe’s live music business shuttered, IQ compares which governments are supporting their scenes…
By IQ on 17 Jun 2020
With the continent’s coronavirus peak having now passed, concert businesses and fans alike are increasingly asking when and how live music will return to Europe’s clubs, arenas and festivals.
For promoters, agents, venues and all those involved in putting on shows, when that moment comes will depend on when they are able restart their businesses safely and profitably. This, in turn depends on a whole range of factors – such as whether they will need operate at a reduced capacity, if events will need to be held outside and, crucially, whether social distancing will be enforced.
Some three months into the global concert shutdown, then, and things are – in many ways – more uncertain than ever.
There are glimmers of hope, but the level of support from governments is remarkably different between markets. From Germany’s recent mammoth €150m package for live, to some countries – including the UK – still awaiting any sector-specific support, here’s how Europe’s biggest concert markets (defined for the purposes of this article as those which feature in PWC’s top 20 live music markets 2019) compare…
Europe’s biggest live music market, which unveiled a mammoth €550 billion aid package at the start of the crisis, has in recent weeks announced more support for Germany’s SMEs, including those in the music industry.
In addition to the €1 billion Neustart Kultur (Restart Culture) scheme, which is worth €150m to the live music sector, the German federal government is also offering “bridging aid” (Überbrückungshilfe) for small and medium-sized businesses, which can apply for extra financial help if their turnover declined by at least 60% in April or May 2020 compared to the same period in 2019, or by 50% in June and August 2020.
“Although the music industry is not specifically mentioned, [concert] organisers, booking agencies, recording studios, music publishers, record companies, venues and affiliated companies in the event industry are likely to be among those who can apply for help,” notes Backstage Pro.
The Federal Association of the Concert and Event Industry (BDKV) welcomed the stimulus packages but has warned it will, in practice, be impossible to reopen with social distancing measures in place, as suggest by the government. “Protecting guests from infection must be the top priority for events,” says BDKV president Jens Michow. “However, if reopening is only be allowed with a minimum distance [between eventgoers], this would effectively mean that the current ban on events would continue.”
Increasingly frustrated figures from across the live business in the UK are still waiting for any sector-specific support from government. Many associations are calling for clarity as to when events will be allowed to return; a support package that includes VAT reduction on tickets sales and access to longterm finance; and the removal of social distancing restrictions for shows. None have been granted so far.
The UK Live Music Group – part of umbrella body UK Music – warns that the music business will lose a collective £900m (€1bn) if it fails to address these points, as well as an extension of existing furlough and self-employed schemes to stave of thousands of redundancies.
Read UK Music’s recent submission to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on the impact of coronavirus here.
Germany’s €1bn Neustart Kultur scheme is worth €150m to the live music sector
Building on previous support measures, including a ‘solidarity fund’ for small businesses, a short-term unemployment scheme for freelancers and a €50m music and festival fund, the French government is extending further aid to sectors of the economy which have suffered a “very sharp drop in activity” as a result of the coronavirus, including the live music industry.
The Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs announced on 10 June that “companies in the hotel, restaurant, café, tourism, events, sport, culture and related” sectors will continue to receive aid under the “partial activity” (ie furlough) scheme until at least September, while also benefitting from a lower bar to entry for the solidarity fund – which will be opened to companies with up to 20 employees, and with a turnover up of to €2m, until the end of 2020.
For non-leisure and tourism companies, pay-outs under the solidarity fund ended up 31 May.
Small and medium-sized businesses in these sectors will also benefit from an employer social security contributions holiday from February to June, while artists/composers will be entitled to a reduction in their contributions based on their 2019 income.
As the country enters phase three of ending lockdown, the Italian concert industry – which achieved a major (if controversial) win in April by convincing authorities to write into law a ticket voucher scheme for cancelled events – is pinning its post-Covid-19 hopes on article 186 of the Relaunch Decree (Decreto Rilancio), which sets out stimulus spending ahead of Italy’s return to normality.
Among its provisions are an extension of the voucher scheme (which allows promoters to issue credit instead of cash refunds) for another six months, taking its duration to 18 months from March 2020, and an increase in financial support for the entertainment and media sectors, from €130m to €245 in 2020.
The ministry of culture has also been given control of a €210m emergency fund which will be distributed to those who have lost money as a result of the cancellation of “major events, fairs, congresses and exhibitions due to the Covid-19 emergency”.
Not everyone is happy with the content of the decree: Many in the Italian recorded music industry are concerned that it focuses too much on live music companies, with Dario Giovanni, of Carosello Records, saying record labels should also be included in the emergency fund.
French events businesses will continue to benefit from the partial-activity scheme until September
Industry associations in the Netherlands are in negotiations with the government about further financial aid for the sector, following the initial €300m support package for cultural businesses announced in April.
According to the new Alliance of Event Builders (Alliantie van Evenementenbouwers) – an umbrella organisation comprising promoters’ association VVEM, festival/venues body VNPF and more – the live industry is “positive about” a recent conversation with ministers, who invited the association’s representatives to “talk further about financial compensation” and discussed an initiative “to jointly investigate what is possible in the events sector”.
While gatherings of 100 people are set to be allowed from 1 July, industry representatives are also pushing for that cap to be raised, or abolished altogether, says the alliance, which notes that “museums, amusement parks, public transport and shopping centres” have no such limitation (beyond 1.5m social distancing).
“The Alliance of Event Builders is of the opinion that, with the proper precautions and a good event protocol, more is possible, and that customisation should be considered,” it adds. “For example, a football stadium, trade fair or concert venue has more square metres and facilities than a small theatre.”
Support for the industry has been slow coming in Europe’s sixth-largest concert market, with Chess & Jazz festival’s Nick Babin telling IQ last month that “we have [had] no support from the Russian authorities and no dialogue with the government”.
However, the Russian ministry of culture said last Thursday (11 June) that it will add to the 380bn ₽ (€49m) already allocated to state-owned theatre and concert companies with a fund to support “small private cultural institutions” when restrictions on events are lifted. This could – depending on how the government defines “culture” – offer a potential lifeline to the country’s hard-hit live music businesses.
Industry associations in the Netherlands are in negotiations with the government about further financial aid for the sector
While it says it values the government’s previously announced support for the events industry, Swedish live music association Svensk Live continues to push for an extension to a 500m kr. (€46m) scheme to compensate those forced to cancel their events.
The original cut-off date of 31 May, says the association, excludes festivals and open-air shows planned for the traditional “high season” for live music, which represents a large proportion of most companies’ turnover.
“The Covid-19 epidemic and the ban on public events have fundamentally changed this,” reads a letter sent to Sweden’s minister of culture, Amanda Lind, by Svensk Live’s Joppe Pihlgren.
“Particularly hard hit are the festival organisers around the country, preparing for their event on a yearly basis, and who finance one year of operating costs for their company with revenue from the festival, but have been forced to cancel the event,” writes Pihlgren.
As the “summer festivals that are organised after 31 May have not somehow got better conditions in order to cope with the financial situation they are in,” he concludes, the support scheme must be extended to cover the entire summer.
Although restrictions have been lifted on events of up to 300 people in Switzerland, the country’s live music sector says its needs significantly higher capacity limits – and continued support from the government – to make possible a return to normal.
Switzerland’s income support scheme for the self-employed ended at the end of May, leaving thousands of production staff, crew and other live industry freelancers without any means of support, according to Jörg Gantenbein, president of the Swiss Association of Technical Stage and Events Professionals (SVTB).
Associations like the SVTB and Swiss Music Promoters Association (SMPA) have called – unsuccessfully – for compensation for the scheme to be extended for those working in the events industry until the end of August, while the SMPA is additionally asking for emergency aid for creative-industry business and professionals to be extended until the resumption of “normal” business (ie the end of the coronavirus crisis), among other measures.
Sweden’s Svensk Live is pushing for an extension to €46m compensation scheme for those forced to cancel their events
Good news in Denmark, as Sunday 14 June saw the government confirm that the phasing out of existing relief packages would be accompanied by the introduction of a targeted scheme to help companies affected by a ban on events that lasts until 31 August.
The initiative – which kicks in on 9 July and lasts until 31 August – allows for compensation of up to 100% of expenses for companies which have no revenue and which are prohibited from opening by the restrictions, up to a maximum of 60m kr. (€8m). The scheme will be reviewed in September.
The government is also extending the existing support scheme for freelancers and the self-employed; launching a new aid scheme for artists; and providing 700m kr. towards organising a series of summer events, towards which promoters’ association Dansk Live will contribute.
Norway’s compensation scheme for concert organisers, as well as support for freelancers, must be extended “as long as there is a prohibition on gatherings with large audiences”, says Ole Henrik Antonsen, chair of the Norwegian Music Industry Council. (Concerts are currently capped at 200 people.)
While no new sector-specific initiatives have been announced in recent weeks, the Norwegian Live Music Association (NKA) recommended its members apply for funding to Arts Council Norway, which has a specific grant or concert promoters. “It is more important now than ever that the organisers seek support from this scheme,” says NKA GM Tone Østerdal.
In Denmark, a new scheme will benefit companies affected by the ban on major events, which lasts until 31 August
According to umbrella organisation Music Austria, the help available to music professionals in Austria finally reached the “minimum level” needed to support the business at the tail end of last month, in the form of various initiatives including fixed-cost subsidies. a hardship fund and a “bridging fund” for artists.
Not everyone agrees, however: a rally on Heldenplatz in Vienna on Sunday (15 June) called for a “special support package for our entire industry”, in the words of Stiletto Stohl, founder of production business IG Event Technicians. The rally – dubbed ‘Ohne uns’ (‘Without us’) – saw protestors demand from the government what they say is long-overdue assistance for the live business, especially compared to the help that has been given to other industry.
Stohl said the industry is a net contributor to the economy, and does not need special treatment – merely targeted help and relief in dealing with the crisis. “We do not need 600 millions euros donated for 1,000 jobs, like at AUA,” he said, in reference to the recent €600m bail-out of Austrian Airlines.
In Belgium, live events companies have similarly been largely forgotten, with companies who organise concerts and other live events eligible only for a one-off compensation payment of €3,000, according to the newly formed Alliance of Belgian Event Federations (Alliantie van Belgische Eventfederaties).
“There are good tax measures in the pipeline. But, for now, the event sector is completely outside the support measures,” says federation spokesperson Bruno Schaubroeck, who is calling for a concrete date when major live events may restart in Belgium.
“With the continuing uncertainty, the risk of bankruptcies increases every hour,” he says. “We are ready for a safe restart.”
Spain’s Es Música is asking authorities to set up a ‘state compensation fund’ to cover Covid-19-related losses
Beyond a wider campaign that seeks to extend Spain’s furlough scheme until 31 December, the Spanish live music sector, through umbrella organisation Es Música, is asking authorities to set up a ‘state compensation fund’ that would cover losses incurred by companies as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
This fund, the organisation suggests, should be accompanied by other “financial incentives”, such as a temporary reduction in VAT and corporation tax, which would put the industry on a solid footing as it moves towards reopening.
Es Música – of which the Association of Music Promoters (APM) is a founding member – has put its proposals in a ‘recovery and reactivation’ roadmap it has sent to the Spanish ministry of culture and sports.
This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times. Is anything in this article incorrect or out of date? Email [email protected] with any updates.
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