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French festivals reschedule as new lockdown looms

French president Emmanuel Macron is set to make a decision this weekend on whether to place France into a third national lockdown, in a move that could be a death knell for the country’s festival summer.

According to local media, Macron is leaning towards a so-called adapted lockdown (confinement adapté), rather than the strict stay-at-home measures seen in March in November, with recent polling suggesting a majority of French now oppose a third ‘hard’ lockdown. The last lockdown was eased just before the Christmas holidays as the number of Covid-19 patients in hospital fell; under two months later, however, and hospitals are now again at a nearly “100% occupancy rate” in some regions, health minister Olivier Véran warned yesterday (28 January) .

While the confinement adapté would allow some businesses and organisations to stay open – particularly schools, reports Le Monde – the move towards more stringent rules dampens France’s prospects for a more normal summer, particularly when it comes to live entertainment.

Several French music festivals, particularly those catering to local acts, have already postponed to later this year – among them early summer event Festival Papillons de Nuit (20,000-cap.) in Saint-Laurent-de-Cuves, which has moved to the end of August, and the multi-venue Bordeux Rock, which optimistically rescheduled from January to April – and it is feared that further restrictions, particularly the extension of France’s health state of emergency, will put further pressure on the live music sector.

Several French music festivals have already postponed to later this year

The French Senate voted yesterday to extend the Health Emergency Law, which grants the government special powers, including restricting freedom of movement or assembly, until 3 May (revised from 1 June).

More concerning, however, is the bill’s provision to postpone the end of the state of emergency’s “exit regime” (régime de sortie) – a vaguely defined transitional period designed to be a halfway house between the emergency and relative normality – until 30 September: well after France’s major music festivals and summer shows would have taken place.

Just 15% of France’s music festivals took place as planned in 2020, according to Quentin Thomé, who runs French festival site Tous Les Festivals, meaning operators are more determined than ever to go ahead in some this summer.

Sharing the site’s latest research on the health of the French music festival sector with Les Echos, Thomé revealed 95% of festival operators are counting on staging an event in summer 2021, despite the slower-than-expected vaccine roll-out in France.

“Cultural businesses are still awaiting decisions from the authorities”

The Tous Les Festivals survey additionally reveals that even some of the country’s biggest open-air music events, including the 65,000-capacity Vieilles Charrues, are prepared to go seated-only, with social distancing, if it means they can go ahead – while others, including Printemps de Bourges, have already reduced their capacities.

“Cultural businesses are still awaiting the decisions of the authorities on the resumption of live shows, capacities, health measures, social distancing, masks… so many elements that have still not been [addressed],” said a spokesperson for Papillons de Nuit, announcing its postponement earlier this week. “By organising the festival in August, we at least have the possibility we can do it in good conditions.”

It is hoped France’s festival promoters will have more clarity on what will be possible this summer after a meeting today (29 January) with culture minister Roselyne Bachelot. Among those attending the meeting are representatives for Au Foin de la Rue (2–3 July) and Hellfest (18–20 June), the latter of which wrote to Bachelot earlier this month begging her to “put an end to this unbearable waiting situation”.

The 2021 festival season will come under the microscope at the ILMC panel Festival Focus: Reboot & Reset on 5 March. Tickets for ILMC 33 are available at the discounted winter rate of £119/£139 until 14 February.

 


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NZ’s top artists speak out about sexual harassment

A slate of New Zealand’s top female artists including Lorde and Bic Runga have co-signed an open letter urging professionals across the music industry to assess their own behaviour.

The letter – penned by musician Anna Coddington and co-signed by the likes of Bic Runga, Lorde, Anika Moa, Tami Neilson, Hollie Smith and Mel Parsons – arrives after a report by Stuff detailed allegations of sexual harassment and exploitation experienced by women and non-binary artists in New Zealand’s music industry.

The investigation prompted an admission of guilty and an apology from former Lorde manager Scott Maclachlan who told Stuff: “I do accept the harmful impact of my past behaviour and I try every day to repair the damage and prevent it happening again.”

Maclachlan confirmed he lost his position as SVP at Warner Australasia and was banned from Warner Music’s Australian offices and gigs, after the company commissioned a sexual harassment investigation in 2018.

“The onus for change can’t sit with those of us who don’t hold that power”

Benee manager Paul McKessar was the second big name in New Zealand’s music industry to step down after he admitted “crossing professional boundaries” with artists he represented.

McKessar, who was last year awarded Manager of the Year at the Aotearoa Music Awards, resigned as a director at CRS Music following his implication in the exposé.

The group’s letter, also signed by Tami Neilson, Mel Parsons and Hollie Smith, says: “Men in the music industry have been operating in a safety-in-numbers scenario since forever. Young women, LGBTQ+ people, and other minorities stepping fresh into the music industry do not have that safety.

“We don’t want to be writing open letters about inappropriate behaviour. We want to be working on our music”

“We need better behaviour from those who hold power now, but ultimately we need more diversity in those positions of power so that the music industry as a whole can thrive and reap the benefits of different perspectives.

“The onus for change can’t sit with those of us who don’t hold that power. Everyone should want a better, safer, more productive industry. Artists are not here to help you make these changes. We don’t want to be writing open letters and talking to the media about the inappropriate behaviour of others. We want to be working on our music.”

The letter makes a number of suggestions such as “learn about boundaries and consent”, “diversify your workplace” and “do not accept the transgression of those boundaries from anyone you work with”.

Read the full letter here.

 


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D2C platform Townsend captures live streams on record

Townsend Music, the leading direct-to-consumer (D2C) platform, has been providing its artist clients with a new revenue stream during the pandemic by capturing their livestreamed shows on record.

The platform, which hosts over 1,000 artist D2C stores, has been converting its clients’ livestream recordings into one-off, collectable vinyl to be sold exclusively through the stores.

In December, British rock band The Darkness delivered a livestreamed concert from Indigo at the O2, London, in conjunction with Townsend, Live Here Now, AEG and Dice.

The ticketed performance, which took place under the banner of ‘Streaming of A White Christmas’, was transformed into a brand new live album, presented as a deluxe triple ‘sparkle green’ heavy vinyl with booklets and a deluxe double CD for £40 and £20 respectively – generating not one, but two income streams for the band.

“These campaigns have been a huge success and they’ve provided the artists with decent revenue streams and strong data”

Similarly, Townsend packaged Embrace’s greatest hits concert, livestreamed from their own studio during the pandemic, into a triple-coloured vinyl dubbed ‘Best Of Live From The Cellar Of Dreams’ which was informed by a fan-powered setlist.

“These campaigns have been a huge success and really enjoyable to put together. They’ve provided the artists with decent revenue streams and strong data capture,” says Bruce McKenzie, sales director at Townsend Music.

“It’s also been great to pay over some of the money to the band’s crew who are such an important part of the team who have been hit the hardest during lockdown.”

The company has also organised other exclusive D2C live albums using archive material from artists including Supergrass, James, Shed Seven and Bryan Ferry.

 


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Caroline Yim and Zach Iser join WME as partners

Caroline Yim and Zach Iser have joined WME as partners and co-heads of hip-hop/R&B, alongside James Rubin and Kevin Shivers, after nearly three years at CAA.

Yim and Iser joined CAA in 2018 after a long bidding war to land the two agents following their exit from ICM Partners.

The two agents brought SZA, Future, Anderson Paak, Daniel Caesar, Rae Sremmurd, ScHoolboy Q, Jhené Aiko, Kehlani, The Internet and Willow Smith to CAA in 2018. The pair are yet to reveal which artists will be making the jump with them to WME.

“Caroline and Zach reflect the future of the music business, having already built an incredible roster of artists through their entrepreneurial approach to client representation,” reads a statement from Scott Clayton, Lucy Dickins and Kirk Sommer, co-heads of WME’s music division. “Their addition underscores our commitment to the hip-hop/R&B space, and their energy will serve as a tremendous benefit to both our colleagues and clients.”

Yim and Iser say: “We are excited to bring our 25 plus years of combined experience to the innovative and forward-thinking music department at WME led by Scott, Lucy and Kirk.

“Caroline and Zach reflect the future of the music business, through their entrepreneurial approach to representation”

“We are blessed to represent extraordinary, ground-breaking talent, and we look forward to working alongside their management teams to guide their multi-dimensional artistry to the highest levels utilising the breadth of resources that WME has to offer. We are eager to continue to expand our business and build upon WME’s strength in the hip-hop/R&B space.”

Yim began her career at MCA Records, before joining ICM Partners. Alongside her work as an agent, Yim is on the board of Big Brothers Big Sisters LA, a community-based mentoring programme for young people, predominantly from low-income, single-parent households.

In early 2020, Yim co-founded the Asian American Collective, a community organisation that fosters growth, education and connection for current and future Asian American creatives.

Iser began his career as a talent manager and promoter in New York City before joining ICM Partners where he quickly became the youngest agent at the company.

Iser was named in Billboard’s ’40 Under 40 power list’; Variety’s ‘New Leaders’ list in 2016; Hollywood Reporter’s ’35 Under 35  Next Generation of Rising Executives’ in 2018 and for each of the past six years, has been featured on Billboard’s ‘Hip-Hop and R&B Power Players List’.

WME recently hired country music agent Aaron Tannenbaum as a partner based in its Nashville office.

Lucy Dickins, co-head of WME’s music division, will be participating in The Agency Business 2021 session at this year’s ILMC on Thursday 4 March.

 


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Study: Singing in some languages riskier than others

Researchers in Japan have found it is easier to spread coronavirus particles when singing in certain European languages than in Japanese.

By comparing performances of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and Verdi’s La traviata with a popular Japanese children’s song, scientists at Riken, the Kyoto Institute of Technology, Kobe University and the Toyohashi University of Technology discovered that singing in consonant-heavy German and Italian produced twice as many as per minute (1,302 and 1,166, respectively) as Japanese (580).

The study, commissioned by the Japan Association of Classical Music Presenters, recruited eight professional singers, four male and four female, take turns performing short solos without a mask in a “laboratory-clean room”, and follows an experiment by the Japanese Choral Association which pitted Beethoven’s Ninth against a Japanese graduation song with similar results.

Speaking to CBS News, Toru Niwa, director of the Association of Classical Music Presenters, and Masakazu Umeda, his counterpart at the Choral Association, say the studies reflect how Japanese is spoken, with soft, gently-voiced consonants in comparison to the European languages’ harder sounds.

Japanese has soft, gently-voiced consonants in comparison to the European languages’ harder sounds

The Choral Association additionally found that singing in nonsense syllables composed entirely of the Japanese vowels, “ah, ee, oo, eh, oh”, yielded almost no aerosol emissions at all.

Niwa adds, however, that while there have been coronavirus outbreaks at several amateur choirs, professional groups have yet to record a single community transmission event, regardless of the language being sung. “Classical music is basically the western canon,” he says. “If we stopped singing in French, Italian and German, we wouldn’t be able to perform anymore.”

The science on whether singing increases the risk of coronavirus infection, and the effect of singing volume on transmission, is unclear, with at least one study backed by the UK government finding last year that singing is no riskier than talking. However, with many major live music markets closed – and the majority of those that are open still mandating social distancing – it matters little to most artists and concert professionals.

 


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

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Exit Festival will go ahead in 2021 – organisers

Serbia’s Exit Festival will be held according to plan in July 2021, despite the cancellation of Glastonbury Festival and uncertainty over the festival summer elsewhere in Europe, organisers have said.

Dušan Kovačević, the festival’s founder, says he remains “optimistic” about celebrating Exit’s delayed 20th anniversary on 8–11 July, citing Serbia’s successful vaccination programme and the high proportion of the population who already have Covid-19 antibodies. Serbia is currently vaccinating around a million people, or 15% of its population, every month, and health experts say at least 40% of Serbs are likely already immune to the disease.

Exit was famously one of the last festivals to cancel last year, though it did still have a live audience for its hybrid (part-physical, part-livestreamed) Life Stream event.

Artists performing at Exit 2021, many of whom are rolled over from last year, include David Guetta, Tyga, DJ Snake, Eric Prydz and Four Tet, Nina Kraviz, Paul Kalkbrenner and Metronomy, with more still to be announced.

“The safety of all our visitors, artists and staff is of course a priority,”

“We are very optimistic about the possibility of celebrating Exit’s jubilee in 2021,” comments Kovačević. Given what we have all been through in the past year, the euphoria at this year’s festival can only be compared to the explosion of positive energy at the first international Exit in 2001, which occurred after a decade of isolation and conflict in the Balkans during the 1990s. It was this release of huge repressed energy 20 years ago that led to the creation of the legend of Exit as a festival with the most exciting atmosphere, where performers have some of the best performances in their careers.”

Other festivals to have already indicated they will push ahead this summer include Frontier Festival in the Netherlands and Albania’s Unum Festival, the latter of which will make use of mass testing for Covid-19.

“The safety of all our visitors, artists and staff is of course a priority,” adds Kovačević, who says Life Stream proved it is possible “to host a Covid-secure event with health and safety measures at the highest level.”

Exit 20 takes place 8–11 July 2021 at the Petrovaradin Fortress in Novi Sad. Tickets start at €109 for a four-day pass.

 


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Vrienden van Amstel becomes Netherlands’ biggest live stream

De Vrienden van Amstel (The Friends of Amstel), the long-running Dutch concert series, reached an estimated 1.7 million viewers from 120 countries for its first online-only edition, held on 16 January 2021.

Nicknamed ‘the largest pub in the Netherlands’, De Vrienden van Amstel is one of the country’s biggest concert events, usually attracting around 150,000 people to the Ahoy Rotterdam arena every year. The 2021 event – the first all-digital show in the series’ its 23-year history – became the biggest livestreamed show in Dutch history, with 750,000 people simultaneously streaming Armin van Buuren’s headline set, according to organisers.

The average simultaneous viewers throughout the entire show was 650,000, with fans watching over 1.3m hours of footage, reveals livestreaming partner Red Bee Media, who delivered the stream via www.vriendenstream.nl on behalf on Amstel, event agency Tribe Company and media production firm FabriQ Media Group.

“We are looking forward to delivering many events like this throughout 2021”

“When the largest pub in the Netherlands opens digitally for the first time, offering live entertainment from the biggest artists in country, you know that you can expect a lot of traffic on your platform”, says Tim Verhulsdonck, founder and managing partner of FabriQ Media Group. “With 650,000 tickets sold upfront, there is absolutely no room for mistakes, and after collaborating with Red Bee on SemiFest Live, we knew they were the right partner to deliver a flawless live stream to homes across the Netherlands and the world.

“Throughout the whole event they maintained a steady hand, delivering high-quality streams with no hiccups or interruptions.”

“I’m very happy that we were given the opportunity to showcase the full capacity of our OTT services through such a large-scale event as Vrienden van Amstel,” adds Steve Nylund, CEO of Red Bee Media. “The result truly shows the strength of our platform and our people, and we are looking forward to delivering many events like this throughout 2021 and beyond.”

 


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Vertical Theatre: Tourable socially distanced venue launches

The Vertical Theatre Group, a new company backed by leading production and theatre professionals, has unveiled the Vertical Theatre, a tourable, freestanding 2,400-capacity entertainment venue with built-in social distancing.

The modular Vertical Theatre is designed to be future-proof, say its creators, with the capability to separate audiences into Covid-secure household bubbles while restrictions are in place, but no requirement for social distancing when Covid-19 is a thing of the past.

The UK-based company’s founders are production director (and inaugural IQ Gaffer) Jake Berry; theatre producer Katy Lipson; Stufish Entertainment Architects’ Ric Lipson and Paul Preston; events and documentary producer Holly Gilliam; and Digital Theatre founder Robert Delamere. The six say in a joint statement that they are “very excited to be able to bring this innovative new venue offering to the live entertainment world at this pivotal moment for the future of the arts”.

Vertical Theatre Group’s ambition is to have multiple venues around the world, saying the Vertical Theatre is suitable for tours, festivals, comedy, theatre and circus, as well as televised events, with its inbuilt streaming functionality.

“We were excited to see what a new type of cross-arts collaboration could produce”

Inside the Vertical Theatre, eventgoers are seated on balconies which accomodate groups of 4–12 people (ie social bubbles), all with a good view of the stage. Optional open sides, meanwhile, allow for natural airflow, while a roof protects the audience.

Capacity is between 1,200 and 2,400 people, depending on social-distancing rules.

Vertical Theatre Group, which is is already in conversation with potential partners, says it is “optimistic” the project will be ready to launch in 2021.

Stufish partner Ric Lipson comments: “Creativity defines all the artists and partners we work with. At Stufish, we were excited to see what a new type of cross-arts collaboration could produce, as we build a new vision for the future of live entertainment: the Vertical Theatre.”

 


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Jens Michow on Germany’s event cancellation fund

In December 2020, the German federal government set a precedent for the European live music industry with the announcement of the biggest event cancellation fund yet.

The €2.5 billion government-backed insurance pot, which will allow event organisers to plan for Q3 and Q4 2021 without the financial risk posed by a potential Covid outbreak, was the second of its kind after Austria unveiled a €300m ‘protective umbrella’ in October, in what was believed to be a world first.

Similar guarantee funds have been set up in Switzerland and the Netherlands, while other nations including the UK and Denmark are lobbying for the same, especially with the European festival season round the corner.

While Germany is one step closer to a financially viable return to live, there is still a myriad of logistically challenging decisions to be made in a relatively short amount of time, Jens Michow tells IQ.

The managing president of Germany’s live association, the Federal Association of the Concert and Event Industry (BDKV), has been acting as a consultant to the German government on the implementation of the insurance fund. Here, he tells IQ about the considerations, logistics and hurdles to overcome in setting up an insurance fund for one of Europe’s largest live music markets.


The German government initially said it would like to reimburse all costs associated with cancellations in the second half of 2021. Is that still the plan?
JM: Although details are not secure yet, the government plans to reimburse the major share of all costs for future cultural events cancelled due to the pandemic. Additionally, they plan to cover the disadvantage organisers have if the government impose a capacity limit on venues.

So, for example, if you sold out a show with 1,000 people but later on you’re only allowed to get 250 people in the venue, the government will make up the difference. However, this “economic bonus”, as it will be called, will be limited to smaller events only. And, as I was informed today, it will only occur to events which are planned after this program has been announced.

Will there be a minimum capacity requirement for events to be covered by insurance?
As it looks now: no. Though, the ‘economic bonus’ shall be reserved for smaller events up to 1,000 people. The cancellation coverage is planned for all events, however with a certain limit, which has to be decided upon now.

“If all the events that have already shifted twice have to be cancelled again, then we might need the full €2.5bn”

How did the government estimate €2.5bn for the fund?
They made an admirable lot of investigation. As the fund is reserved only for cultural events which take place till the end of the year, it should be sufficient in my point of view. We are hoping that after such a long time, events finally will take place as they are planned. Maybe when the weather gets hotter in July, even some festivals may take place. We just hope that the British variant of Covid doesn’t arrive in Germany and that we don’t have the same situation as in Britain over here. If all the events that have already shifted twice – from last spring to this spring and then to this autumn – have to be cancelled again, then we might need the full €2.5bn but who knows.

Who will be responsible for granting and distributing any pay-outs?
Obviously, the necessary administration still will have to be established. We require that the system is planned as a common security coverage. We propose that a promoter announces his show in advance in order to be secured. Should the security event happen, the promoter must prove his costs. We also want to make sure that he is obliged to pay the fees to all of the service companies he charged so that everybody who suffers a damage due to the cancellation finally gets reimbursed.

“We’re very proud of our federal system but for the event industry it’s actually a big problem”

In Switzerland, each canton is responsible for distributing funds to its own region. Would the German gov consider doing the same thing with its federal states?
I think the same will happen here; there will be no central office and the federal states will be tasked with taking care of the administration and distributing. If that’s the case, I hope the states are informed as soon as possible so they can prepare themselves.

Would varying levels of restrictions in the federal states complicate this?
That’s a general issue since the beginning of the pandemic: every state does its own thing and has different regulations. One state might say, ‘we have loose regulations and a low Covid incidence rate so shows can happen’. And a couple of kilometres away, another state is saying ‘our Covid rate is high, we have to shut everything down’. We’re very proud of our federal system but for the event industry it’s actually a big problem. As long as we don’t have the same regulations all over the country, it will be impossible to organise tours.

“As long as we don’t have the same regulations all over the country, it will be impossible to organise tours”

If you plan a tour, where would you apply for the coverage – in every single town?
No. It must be possible to apply for the coverage in the town where you are based. If you have to apply in 14 different states, that would be a nightmare. If you don’t have the chance to apply in the first state the tour is taking place and then you have to apply in all the other states…that would be impossible.

What do you think the market will look like in Q3 and Q4?
The fact is that, besides the festivals, more or less 100% of that which could take place till the end of the year is already planned. If you try to get a venue in this country for September/October, you won’t get it because they’re already booked up by promoters who shifted their date from spring to autumn in order to give the people who have already bought a ticket the show they paid for. The time to offer ticket buyers the show they’re owed is getting shorter and shorter because we are not allowed to do it at the moment… Another big question is: when will international artists be allowed to enter Germany without a quarantine period of 14 days?

“Germany should be proud to have politicians who care about the event industry”

Is it likely there’ll be an extension to the scheme?
We have to have something that lasts longer because organisers are planning now for 2022 and 2023 and nobody knows whether the pandemic will be gone by then. And if not, nobody will take the risk that their show will be cancelled.

When do you expect the government to make all of these decisions?
Germany should be proud to have politicians who care about the event industry. For months, I’ve participated day after day in Zoom discussions and other talks with politicians. They are really trying to help us as best as they can and we already achieved a lot.

Regarding the security scheme… they know we needed it yesterday. At the moment, all help was needed yesterday. But the politicians are totally aware of the pressure, which we are under due to the fact, that under the actual circumstances we are unable to prepare anything. They know that we must decide whether we’ll have to shift dates again. It’s the same thing for the festival organisers because you can’t decide in May that you’re going to do a festival in June.

Hopefully we’ll have something concrete within the next few weeks. The ministries are really focused on this. I mean, let’s face it, politicians are not promoters. They’re trying to understand our business. They’re trying to get adapted to all these bits and pieces, before they say ‘okay, let’s go’ – that’s difficult enough.

 


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LWE partners with Sansar for Tobacco Dock Virtual

London-based electronic music promoter LWE has launched Tobacco Dock Virtual, a virtual-world recreation of the Wapping venue of the same name.

Created by Sansar, the virtual live events platform behind other digital venues including Lost Horizon and Melatopia festival, Tobacco Dock Virtual replicates the 16,000m² Tobacco Dock in “minute detail, from the sweeping staircases to the cavernous dancefloors”, says LWE, which will organise shows, parties and interactive experiences in the new venue.

LWE has previous organised virtual concert experiences, taking its Junction 2 festival online first as J2v last summer and then as Junction 2: Connections earlier this month. The latter event integrated with popular racing game Asphalt, with Asphalt players able to stream DJ sets from within the game, and attracted an audience of 3.1 million people globally.

The long-term plan for Tobacco Dock Virtual (TDv) is hybrid, the promoter says, with a merging of “all three platforms: virtual, gaming and real” and shows taking place simultaneously virtually, physically and in mobile video games.

“TDv is our next step in the evolution of LWE and the development of our long-term event concepts, where we see virtual worlds sitting alongside the real world,” says LWE director Paul Jack. “Tobacco Dock has hosted some of our most exciting shows and led the way in the UK for vast daytime events.

“LWE is creating an entirely new event experience for fans”

“This next step on our journey will pave the way for hybrid events within a fully immersive digital and physical space, providing a huge new platform to showcase music.”

Sheri Bryant, president of Sansar, adds: “LWE is creating an entirely new event experience for fans with their series of epic 2021 shows in Sansar across multiple digital platforms and in real life simultaneously. They are leading the charge of innovation across the music industry. We couldn’t be more proud than to be their virtual event partner, providing them with the technology to do so.”

Details for the opening weekend at Tobacco Dock Virtual will be announced on Tuesday 9 February, promising “some of the planet’s biggest party brands and a programme of globally acclaimed artists and exciting new sounds” across mobile, PC, Mac and VR. In the meantime, fans are encouraged to create a TDv account at www.tobaccodockvirtual.com.

“Tobacco Dock is excited to be working alongside our long-term partner LWE to develop a cutting-edge virtual venue that will enable remote audiences to have a truly immersive, rich experience with the attributes of being present without the travel,” says Tobacco Dock commercial director Jonathan Read. “It is a bold new step on our journey to make Tobacco Dock a global destination for music, cultural, fashion and tech events.”

 


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