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VNUE to acquire livestreaming company Stageit

Music technology company VNUE will acquire livestreaming platform StageIt in a deal that will allegedly add over $9 million in revenue and access to performers and creators.

The deal brings fans and technology to VNUE’s portfolio, in addition to boosting the company’s Soundstr platform with music recognition technology.

The companies expect to close within 60 days, pending the completion of diligence and the required financial audit. Stageit will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of VNUE. Further terms of the deal were not disclosed.

According to the announcement, StageIt, launched by musician Evan Lowenstein in 2010, hosted 6,280 shows in 2020 and paid out over $7m to artists. The platform has over 58,000 performers and over 900,000 users from 135 countries.

The platform is complimentary with VNUE’s set.fm ‘instant live‘ mobile and web service, and the company will add a feature that allows fans to enjoy a livestream and purchase the audio of the performance immediately afterwards.

“The addition of StageIt will enable the first full monetisation suite for venues, festivals and events”

Zach Bair, CEO of VNUE, says: “The acquisition of StageIt represents the first step in a multi-pronged plan to grow the business and enhance shareholder value, as I have committed to since day one.

“The company will pursue both organic and inorganic opportunities that are synergistic, and with StageIt, we have incredible synergy not just with the StageIt platform and how we can integrate with our existing content platforms such as set.fm, but with the incredible leadership and talent pool that we will now have access to in order to move our Soundstr technology forward.”

Stephen White, Stageit’s CEO since 2020, says: “VNUE, as their name suggests, has been creating a platform for artists, labels, rights holders and venue operators that enhances revenue and helps resolve complex rights compliance.

“The addition of StageIt will enable the first full monetisation suite for venues, festivals and events that will make it simple for our clients and operators to generate more revenue and embrace the hybrid future that livestreaming provides. We couldn’t be more excited to join Zach and the VNUE team and to help push this vision forward.”

 


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Pride & prejudice: Promoting behind enemy lines

Palestinian artist Bashar Murad is used to risking his life to perform. As a queer Arab and a resident of East Jerusalem, Murad has learned to live with oppression and the threat of violence, both onstage and on his doorstep. Neither, however, has deterred him from openly addressing loaded issues such as the Israeli occupation and LGBTIQ+ rights in the Middle East. “But the more vocal I become about these issues, the greater the danger is,” he tells IQ.

In 2019, Murad took one of his most daring steps when he performed in a wedding dress at an event in Ramallah, a Palestinian city located in the central West Bank. While the West Bank’s biggest draw for promoters is that it’s the only place where Palestinians from both sides of the barrier can meet, Murad says that the mixed demographic is also where the danger lies.

“Probably the biggest risk is if someone in the audience doesn’t like what I’m doing. Audience members could be from anywhere, from all over the country. There are different kinds of mentalities, people who are extremely open-minded but also people who are uneducated and attached to the traditions and the customs that we are taught in this quite patriarchal society,” he says.

Murad explains that each city in the Palestinian territories has different variations of laws relating to queer people. Jerusalem, where he lives, is under Israeli law but the West Bank is under Israeli military law as well as Palestinian civil law, which presents varying degrees of discrimination and legal challenges for queer people. To make matters more complicated, Murad says, some of the laws aren’t representative of the reality on the ground.

This minefield of laws across the territory means Murad is forced to make a risk assessment before booking a gig. While agents and promoters in liberal nations may book shows based on venue capacities, fees and convenience, Murad has to weigh up how dangerous each city is, the make-up of the audience, and how provocative his show should be. However, Murad has found refuge within the realms of the music industry, “the safe place,” having built relationships and established trust with promoters and record executives.

The international showcase at which Murad performed in the wedding dress, the Palestine Music Expo (PMX), is one such stronghold. Though Murad would not generally view Ramallah as 100% safe for queer artists like himself, PMX is something of a haven “free of oppression, for all human beings.”

PMX co-founder Rami Younis has been something of an outspoken ally for oppressed artists and is eager to give queer artists like Murad “a free and fair platform to do the show they want.” When IQ asks what he thought of Murad’s 2019 performance, Younis says: “I absolutely loved it. In general, we encourage our artists to be as creative and free as they can and to not be afraid to experiment. Murad’s show was a big success and a great example for that.”

Murad says he depends on support from alternative organisations like PMX, as the culture ministries are “too scared” to back queer artists like himself – though his talent has been verified by international press including CBC, The Guardian and the BBC. “They don’t show any support towards me because they’re worried about me being gay,” he says. “They fund music videos and productions for artists who have taken part in competitions like Arab Idol but forget about other artists who are carving their own paths and doing things their own way.”

Not only has PMX provided Murad with a safe space in which to deliver his most thought-provoking show, it has also given him a rare gateway to the international live music business and a world outside of conflict-ridden Palestine.

But establishing a platform like this, which has invited 150+ international music industry professionals each year since 2017, is no mean feat in a state where promoters, agents – and even performance venues are few and far between. “People must understand that we never had a chance to develop a proper industry simply because we never had the proper infrastructure,” says Younis. “Developing art industries organically in war zones is near impossible. So, what we do is push back against that and lay foundations for a proper and healthy infrastructure in the future.”

While agents and promoters in liberal nations may book shows based on venue capacities, fees and convenience, Murad has to weigh up how dangerous each city is

From the ground up
“I can’t believe that any queer person who is living in Poland and looking at the news doesn’t feel personally attacked,” says Kajetan Łukomski, a queer Polish artist, promoter and Keychange ambassador who goes by the name of Avtomat.

Poland is one of just a handful of countries in Europe that is yet to legalise same-sex marriage, and already bans same-sex couples from adopting children. As of June 2020, some 100 municipalities, encompassing around one-third of the majority Catholic country, have adopted resolutions declaring themselves “LGBT ideology-free.”

In a campaign speech when he stood for re-election, President Andrzej Duda called the promotion of LGBT rights an ideology “even more destructive” than communism. Elsewhere, the Archbishop of Kraków recently warned of a neo-Marxist “rainbow plague.”

“We just don’t feel safe in our own country anymore,” says Łukomski. “I started carrying tear gas with me on the street, and every time I go out with my boyfriend and we hold hands, we have to keep looking over our shoulder because there have been occurrences of queer people getting knifed in the street. This is why we need to work so hard to change the status quo.”

According to Łukomski, a shift in paradigm is also needed in the mainstream music scene, which has eschewed queer artists like himself. This segregation has forced queer artists to adopt a do-it-yourself mentality and promote their own shows and establish their own performance spaces. Back in 2017, Łukomski co-founded the Warsaw-based Oramics collective, which acts as a promoter, in a bid to “level the playing field for under- represented groups.”

“No one had really thought of that. All of the line-ups were male and there was no real push towards making women and queer people and so on visible in the scene, so it had to happen as a grassroots movement,” he says. “We’ve had to carve out our own space in the music industry.” Developing their own queer underground scene has also been a means of protecting the artists and fans within it because, like Murad in Palestine, Łukomski has to be selective about where he performs.

“It would be easy to go ‘I’m playing in this huge prestigious club’ but then my community may be in greater danger of, say, harassment. I make it a point to play in spaces that I deem safe for my community,” he says. Łukomski says that as Oramics’ reputation has grown, they have had greater bargaining power to talk to clubs about their safe-space policies and line-up balances. The collective has even brought workshops to smaller, less tolerant cities to show queer people how to organise their own spaces – though Łukomski says they had to organise their own security for these visits.

While the queer community in Poland may be safer existing on the fringes, their exclusion from mainstream culture creates a glass ceiling for artists, which prevents them from performing at larger capacity venues, earning bigger fees or securing representation. On a broader scale, if queer people and creatives aren’t able to assimilate with the rest of society, the oppression will likely perpetuate.

Warsaw-based promoter Follow The Step (FTS), however, is sensing some progression in the acceptance of queer people, which is allowing them to expand their portfolio of queer artists. Next year, the company will promote its first-ever show by a queer artist – American drag star Sasha Velour at Warsaw’s Palladium (1,500-cap.) – which FTS’s Tamara Przystasz says has been a long time coming. “We’ve been trying very hard to promote queer artists, but a lot of agents were saying Poland is not ready for it. But finally, people are much more open-minded than they were before,” says Przystasz. “To do something for the first time, after so many hard months, was a huge risk, but we thought let’s just do it, and it’s going well already. We didn’t expect such amazing feedback,” she adds.

Przystasz says FTS are keen to use Warsaw as a litmus test before promoting queer artists in more rural cities. “We are so lucky because we are living in Warsaw and it always works differently with capital cities, but in the smaller cities, it is hard; we have to fight for their rights. Education via music; I think that is the best option for us.”

Kostrzyn-based festival Pol’and’Rock, which has been running for more than 25 years and typically attracts an audience of almost half a million people, has had a little more time to establish a portfolio of queer artists, and hopes to lead by example. Originally inspired by Woodstock, the community- based festival deems itself an outlier in creating a refuge within the country’s conservative society.

Over the past three decades, the festival has played host to performances by queer artists such as Skunk Anansie and Polish children’s artist Majka Je owska, as well as Polish singers Ralph Kaminski and Krzysztof Zalewski – some of which have incorporated demonstrations for queer rights into their shows.

“We want to show Poland as an open place, a place where people can be themselves, which becomes more and more difficult each year,” says Olga Zawada from Pol’and’Rock. Zawada says that the festival has encountered many challenges since the recent government came into power, including reportedly being saddled with “high-risk” status four times since 2016.

The high-risk label, according to Polish law, applies to events where acts of violence or public disorder are expected to take place, though Pol’and’Rock has never encountered anything of the sort. Zawada believes that this is the government’s way of indirectly jeopardising the festival: “I don’t want to speculate on the government’s motivations, but we’re quite unpopular with the very conservative ruling party.”

The high-risk status means that Pol’and’Rock has been required to introduce different safety measures such as a fence around the perimeter, which Zawada says tarnished the festival’s aesthetic as a free and open festival and proved to be a “massive expense.” Does she think that the government was taking aim at the festival’s Achilles heel – its budget? “Yes. The fence was the biggest thing in our budget and from a crowd management point of view it was completely pointless. But the guests respected the fences and even used them creatively, to dry their laundry and things,” she says.

“We want to show Poland as an open place, a place where people can be themselves, which becomes more and more difficult each year”

Against all odds
“Turkey is a place where two times two doesn’t make four,” says queer senior talent buyer Bura Davaslıgil of Istanbul-based booking agency/promoter Charmenko. “On paper, it hasn’t been illegal to be homosexual since 1858, the Ottoman Empire, but it’s still a taboo.”

Taboo is a light way of putting it. Hate speech, violence, and discrimination have already put Turkey second to last on the advocacy group ILGA-Europe’s ranking of LGBTQ equality – no surprise considering that there is no solid law against discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation. Gay Pride has been banned in Istanbul for several years, on pretexts of public order. “Even if a municipality is pro-LGBTQ rights and they want to, say, put on a festival, they wouldn’t dare to do it because of the current political climate,” says Davaslıgil.

According to Davaslıgil, the conservative party, which has been in power for the last two decades, tends to “look the other way” about queer culture, as long as it’s kept relatively quiet. “The discrimination against queer people is not systematic. If Morrissey, Pet Shop Boys or Elton John performed, it wouldn’t be a problem; if an artist’s queerness is not too overt then it’s fine.”

The Boston Gay Men’s Chorus (BGMC), however, was one artist the government could not ignore. In 2015, the Chorus found themselves at the centre of a political storm ahead of their concert at Zorlu Performing Arts Center in Istanbul. Conservative Islamist papers described the group as “perverts” and thousands of people signed a Change.org petition calling on Zorlu’s owners to cancel the show because it would take place on the tenth day of Ramadan. The venue, reportedly owned by a close confidant to Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan who, at the time, was running for re-election and campaigning to get the conservative vote, had reportedly asked the chorus to take the “Gay” out of their name but the group refused. “We weren’t going to let prejudice win… visibility saves lives,” says Craig Coogan, executive director of the BGMC, adding that the group has had the same name since 1982.

The government withdrew their previously issued permit allowing BGMC to perform at Zorlu and no other government agency would issue one. In an admirable display of allyship, the LGBTQ student group at Bosphorus University – a privately held institution, which didn’t need a permit for performances – stepped in and offered the Chorus their outdoor space. In order to keep the group safe, the buses were unidentifiable and the routes that each bus took to the same destinations were varied. Members were encouraged to be cautious on social media, not posting location information in real-time. According to Coogan, the group even collaborated with the US secret service on security issues, and a diplomatic note was sent to the government underlining the importance of the group’s safety to US relations. On the day of the concert, sharp-shooters were stationed around the area, drones surveyed the crowd, and audience members had to go through airport-style security to get into the concert.

The media frenzy, the political tension, and the logistical rigmarole would’ve been enough to discourage any artist from going ahead with the concert but the group found allies in the most unexpected of places. According to Coogan, The Nederlander Organization, which manages Zorlu, were “mortified” that political considerations forced them to cancel their contract. “In fact, to prevent an expensive lawsuit, they paid for the production costs at Bosphorus,” says Coogan. It was not difficult to find supportive professionals to work with. The issues we ran into were political, not with the professionals.”

BGMC hasn’t returned to Turkey since 2015 – the group has been busy touring elsewhere, including other anti-gay territories such as Poland, the Middle East and South Africa. But IQ wonders: could an incident like the one with the Chorus happen in 2021? “As long as this government stays in power, yes,” says Davaslıgil. And would Charmenko ever book BGMC, in spite of all the political and logistical issues? “I wouldn’t think twice,” he answers, underscoring the importance of allyship in the industry.

“Everywhere that we perform is an opportunity to dismantle prejudice and preconceptions about LGBTQ people”

Music as an act of resistance
Queer artists like Murad, Łukomski and the BGMC put their safety on the line again and again to perform in anti-gay countries, but what’s the pay-off?

“Everywhere that we perform is an opportunity to dismantle prejudice and preconceptions about LGBTQ people,” says BGMC’s Coogan. “Live music as a social activism tool works. It did in Istanbul, as it did in so many other cities around the world. I saw the joy and transformation on the faces of thousands of locals. “Music builds bridges, enhances communication, breaks down stereotypes and humanises the ‘other’ in powerful ways. It has the power to transcend boundaries and create connections among people from different backgrounds, languages, and beliefs, and has long been a central part of social justice movements.”

In all three stories, the live music industry has proved itself to be the antithesis of the political wars waging outside of it, thanks to real allyship from promoters and festivals like PMX, Follow the Step, Pol’and’Rock and Charmenko. But what they want, quite simply, is for their respective countries to be recognised for the budding talent, not the conflict. “I want people to know that Palestine isn’t just war, apartheid, and occupation; it’s also music, cinema, art; it’s life,” says PMX co-founder Younis. “There are actual people living here with hopes, dreams, and culture. There’s talent in Palestine and it is just waiting to be discovered. We don’t want to be seen as victims but as equal people who deserve to have their culture and music represented everywhere.”

Pol’and’Rock’s Zawada has a similar message for the international live music industry: “Poland is more than politics and oppression.

It’s important for us to say: ‘You know what? There is this community of people that has a different opinion. There are people who are tolerant and welcoming and accepting, and they would have your back, and everyone else’s.”

 


Read this article in its original format in the digital edition of IQ 101:

 


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The LGBTIQ+ List 2021: Zoe Williamson, UTA

The LGBTIQ+ List 2021 – IQ’s first annual celebration of queer professionals who make an immense impact in the international live music business – was published in the inaugural Pride edition (issue 101) this month.

The 20 individuals comprising the LGBTIQ+ List 2021, as nominated by our readers and verified by our esteemed steering committee, have gone above and beyond to wave the flag for an industry that we can all be proud of.

To get to know this year’s queer pioneers a little better, IQ asked each individual to share their challenges, triumphs, advice and more. Each day this month, we’ll publish a new interview with an individual on the LGBTIQ+ List 2021. Catch up on the previous interview with Austin Sarich, tour director for North America at Live Nation here.

 


Zoe Williamson
she/her/hers
Agent, UTA
Brooklyn, New York, US
zoe.williamson@unitedtalent.com

Tell us about a personal triumph in your career.
Working on and announcing Arlo Parks’ North America headline tour for this fall was a huge highlight. Seeing how much love there is in the US validated the incredible work that Arlo has poured into her music and into building an authentic and organic relationship with her fans.

What advice could you give for young queer professionals?
Ignore the people trying to tell you to act or behave a certain way to succeed. If we’re going to make a shift in the industry, I would encourage any young queer and/or trans professionals to help break the mould of the traditional perception of ‘leaders’. We are the new leaders, and so anything we do is what leadership looks like.

“I would encourage any young queer and/or trans pros to help break the mould of the traditional perception of ‘leaders'”

Tell us about a professional challenge you often come across as a queer person.
I’m sometimes put in situations where I’m asked to work with someone for the sole reason that they’re in the LGBTQIA+ community. It’s disappointing because at times it can feel as though I’m being paired with someone because of my identity, not because of my hard work or skillset.

Industry professionals often misgender and misunderstand sexuality, and we have to take time and energy to educate, which can be exhausting and daunting. I’m all about patience, but it’s hard to work in an industry that has been saying for years it’s going to do the work, yet year after year that work falls on us to do.

“I want [the LGBTQIA+ community] calling the shots; not just having a seat at the table but having a say in the decision making”

What one thing could the industry do to be more inclusive?
During the pandemic, I am proud to have been a part of the launch of Justice Now, a task force within UTA’s music department that aims to reverse systemic racism in the industry through four pillars of education, mentorship, empowerment and fearless imagination.

I feel lucky to work at a company that celebrates and embraces the LGBTQIA+ community, but I want to see more of my community in the industry. I want us calling the shots; not just having a seat at the table but having a say in the decision making.

Causes you support.
For The Gworls, The Okra Project, Marsha P. Johnson Institute, The Center, Trevor Project.

How could the industry build back better, post-pandemic?
We need to create a space for industry professionals within the LGBTQIA+ community to not feel targeted, isolated, neglected, and unsafe. Accountability means nothing without consequences. Basically, if we don’t start telling people “You are not above consequences for your actions” and actually walking the walk on that, I don’t see this industry changing at the rate it needs to.

 


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Rapino: Live business going to boom post-Covid

The live music industry is gearing up for a huge 2022 as the concert market explodes post-Covid-19, Live Nation president and CEO Michael Rapino has said.

Speaking to writer Bob Lefsetz, Rapino said Live Nation’s stock – currently priced at US$80.72, above its pre-pandemic high of $75.54 – remains so valuable because financial analysts are expecting a live entertainment boom as the final coronavirus restrictions are lifted in the US and internationally.

“Wall Street’s buying the future, not the present,” Rapino explained. “So if you’re an investor looking at Live Nation, you’re probably saying, ‘Well, I think this live experience business in general is going to boom. We see that happening.’” Wall Street would have been particularly encouraged by the low rate of people returning their tickets for cash and Live Nation’s extensive programme of cost-cutting (estimated at $800 million as of this time last year), he continued: “If you’re an investor and you’ve already valued me at $75 going into the crisis, you’ll be sat there saying, ‘What do I think about the future? I think they’re going to be leaner than they were before they went in, so they’ll make a bit more money. I think there’s a boom happening. And [I think] this thing called live must be really, really valuable to customers, because there’s not even cashing it in in one of the greatest crises in history. So I want to bet on this category, and I want to bet on the market leader.”

Rapino was the guest on the latest episode of the Bob Lefsetz Podcast, where the wide-ranging conversation with Lefsetz also touched on topics including sponsorship, secondary ticketing, global touring, the festival market and the uniqueness of the live experience.

Comparing recorded to live music, Rapino said: “I think live is, is very, very unique. It’s the only unduplicatable asset that’s really survived this entertainment revolution. Everything else pretty much got duplicated and digitised. And that’s great, but those goosebumps you get when you watch the Eagles, [for example], you don’t get that on an iPad. So we have this very unique industry that is not duplicatable. And in a world where everything else has become duplicatable and commoditised, I think this category has a long life.”

He elaborated: “You know, when the when the crisis happened, there were people on Wall Street and elsewhere that were saying, ‘Oh my God, no one’s gonna ever gather again, we’re all going to be living in our houses forever, no one’s going to go to a movie theatre or concert.’ But I always remember it was the May long weekend [in 2020] and there was a CNN report from the Ozark lakes, where everyone was partying like crazy, and in the middle of this crisis with no vaccine. That moment showed that, no matter how dangerous it was, people still wanted to gather people, they wanted to get out.

“We have this very unique industry … in a world where everything else has become duplicatable and commoditised”

“And the market started to realise: Wow, this is really going be a pent-up demand situation when when we can gather. People are going to want to come back to shows, to go to Disneyland, do all the good things they do when when life’s normal.”

In addition to speaking about the market and live music’s recovery, Rapino returned to a favourite theme: The need to more effectively price shows in order to minimise the secondary market, something he discussed during his keynote at ILMC back in 2016.

“There’s still billions of dollars in secondary business out there, so we know we’re not pricing the house right,” he told Lefsetz, “so we have opportunity to at least get some of that front-of-the-house economics for the artist. [N]inety per cent of the shows I’m dealing with in life are not selling out, so I don’t ever have a problem selling the front part of the house. I do have a problem selling the back part. It’s about pricing, not awareness, so I’m always going to try and convince an artist to redistribute the pricing to see how low can we get the back end of the house – and probably subsidise the back of the house from the front of front of the house – so we can get that perfect sell-out.”

On festivals, Rapino discussed how the market has evolved to a place where niche formats have become more important, accelerated by the pandemic shutdown. “A little bit of a shake-up happened, and probably Covid did help – we’ve even shook out a few; I think we’ve shut down 12 that weren’t working that we didn’t love,” he explained. “And I think you’re seeing the bar getting higher to make a successful festival work.”

Now, he added, “I don’t think all of a sudden you can just launch a main line festival with three different genres of music over the weekend and expect 100,000 [people] anymore. I think they became like any industry: they went out wide, then the big ones survived and the niche ones started to create their own space. We see it happening now: a niche idea in a good location, against a certain genre of music or a certain theme. […] I like the super-served ideas where they’re hitting a certain target, or a certain location, and they’re less talent-reliant because they have more of a thematic soul to them. And those ones tend to work.”

Listen back to the full interview on the Bob Lefsetz Podcast.

 


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Benn, Koopmans line up for IFF 2021 keynote

Melvin Benn and Folkert Koopmans, two of Europe’s most successful festival promoters, have been announced for a unique double keynote interview at the International Festival Forum in London in September.

For the IFF Keynote, Benn, the managing director of Festival Republic, and Koopmans, who holds the same role at FKP Scorpio, will be interviewed by Maria May, head of electronic/international at CAA, who’ll quiz the two industry leaders on recent events, what shape the recovery will take and what comes next for the summer scene.

“Expect 60 minutes of deep insight and expertise,” say organisers, “in what is sure to be a standing-room only session” for which early arrival is strongly recommended.

After going online only in 2020, the International Festival Forum will return this September as a physical, non-socially distanced event, complemented by an online pass for delegates who are unable to travel.

The first major live music industry gathering in 18 months, IFF 2021 will kick off with the opening party on Tuesday 28 September and end late on Thursday 30 September. The invitation-only event for music festivals and booking agents will feature the usual mix of showcases, conference sessions, keynotes, pop-up up offices, networking events and more.

The two industry leaders will speak on recent events, what shape the recovery will take and what comes next for the summer scene

The first booking agency partners for IFF 2021 were announced earlier this month, with longstanding supporters United Talent Agency (UTA), X-ray Touring, Paradigm Talent Agency, ATC Live and Primary Talent International/ICM Partners all returning for 2021, while Earth Agency joins as a partner for the first year. All partner agencies will showcase their hottest new artists, festival-ready for 2022.

The provisional schedule for IFF, including details of conference panels, showcases and venues, is now live on the IFF website. Some 800 delegates, including all the major international music festivals and agents, are expected to attend this year’s IFF, which returns to Camden, north London, for the sixth year.

New for this year will be an online element which allows all delegates to watch back every conference session on demand for up to 30 days after the event. For anyone who can’t travel to London, meanwhile, an online-only registration is also available.

Over 120 music festivals have already confirmed their attendance at IFF 2021, with a quarter of tickets sold with nearly three months to go. Discounted summer rate passes for IFF, which include meals, drinks and more, are available now for £315, saving £30 on the late-summer rate. Click here for more info.

 


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Lessons learnt from ‘super-spreader’ festival

Verknipt, an outdoor festival in the Netherlands, has become a cautionary tale for the sector after it recorded more than 1,000 Covid infections among 20,000 attendees.

The two-day event took place in Utrecht in early July and all attendees were required to show a QR code that demonstrated that they were either vaccinated, had recently had a Covid infection, or had a negative Covid test.

Despite the festival’s entry requirements, the event recorded 1,100 infections among the attendees, prompting the municipal health service (GGD) of Utrecht to investigate the origin of the infections, as well as suspected large-scale fraud with test tickets.

The GGD checked the pathways of nearly 400 infected Verknipt visitors from the province of Utrecht and concluded that at least 34% of those surveyed were likely Covid-positive even before they arrived at the site, it was reported by de Volkskrant.

The festival accepted negative rapid tests taken up to 40 hours prior to the event, meaning attendees had a significant window in which they could become unknowingly infected. Experts said the timeframe was ‘far too long’.

“We should have had a 24 hour [period], that would be a lot better because in 40 hours people can do a lot of things”

Lennart van Trigt, a spokesman for the Utrecht health board, or GGD, previously said: “This period is too long. We should have had a 24 hour [period], that would be a lot better because in 40 hours people can do a lot of things like visiting friends and going to bars and clubs.”

According to the GGD’s research, about 90% of the infected festivalgoers surveyed had attended multiple other social events earlier that week at which they may have become infected – following the relaxation of nightlife restrictions on 26 June.

The GGD was not able to trace the other infected festivalgoers from other regions and stressed that the research is not complete. The health service found no indications of large-scale fraud involving test tickets.

Another issue was that residents in the Netherlands could get a Covid pass for the festival immediately after being vaccinated and didn’t have to show a negative Covid test, though research shows it takes several weeks for immunity to build following a Covid vaccine.

“It is striking that 34% of the infected festival-goers we examined were already infected,” says the spokesperson for the GGD region of Utrecht. You can’t blame the youngsters, she thinks. “They had heard from the government that they were allowed to party.”

Just over two weeks after the Netherlands’ rollback of restrictions, Covid cases increased exponentially and the Dutch prime minister acknowledged that the cabinet made an error of judgment.

The easing has largely been reversed in the weeks following as the government this week extended its ban on multi-day events until September, resulting in the cancellation of major events such as Lowlands, Down the Rabbit Hole and Mysteryland.

More than 30 other event organisations including Event Warehouse/Paaspop, DGTL and F1 Dutch Grand Prix Zandvoort joined ID&T as co-plaintiffs in its legal proceedings against the Dutch government over the “carelessly prepared” restrictions.

 


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Spotify’s Daniel Ek: ‘Live is something we’re excited about’

Spotify co-founder and CEO Daniel Ek has said the leading music streaming service is “excited about” exploring further opportunities in live music, following a series of Spotify-branded live streams and rumours about an expanded role in the concert space.

Speaking during yesterday (28 July)’s Q2 2021 earnings call, Ek addressed recent reports that Spotify, which has more than 150 million subscribers globally, is seeking to establish a greater live events presence through livestreamed and, potentially, physical concerts.

Responding to a question from financial analyst Hamilton Faber about “how easy [it would be] to scale in this space”, Ek said: “Depending on [your point of] view, [we have] been involved in the live space now for many, many years, both having as a feature the ability for artists to post upcoming concerts on their Spotify pages and then subsequently with our own playlist and brands like RapCaviar which been doing some shows with tens of thousands of people in attendance… So we’ve been in this space for quite some time.

Ek added that while he “can’t really comment on [the] sort of product tests that we’re doing” in live music, the live experience “is a meaningful thing for many of our creators and it’s something that we’re excited about,” he said. Referring to its recent ‘virtual concert experiences’ in partnership with livestreaming pioneer Driift, Ek said: “In the past quarter […] we did some digital live concerts and tested that, and saw some really positive results from that, and lots of excitement from our artist partners about Spotify helping out during Covid and providing more meaningful ways for them to monetise their fan base. And I think that’s in line with our strategy.”

“We want to work with as many partners and provide as many opportunities for creators as we can”

At its core, said Ek, Spotify remains an “open” business willing to work with multiple partners, including in the live space. (It has previously partnered with the likes of Live Nation, Ticketmaster, Festicket, AXS, Eventbrite and more.)

“To the extent that live will have an even bigger impact, I think we’re still an open platform,” he explained. “We want to work with as many partners as we can and provide as many opportunities for creators to create; more ways to turn a listener into fans and turn fans into super fans and increase the monetisation for those creators.”

He added: “I think the most important thing really is we’re very, very creator focused. And so live, if you think about music creators, is today the vast majority of all the income that normally flows through to an artist. So, to the extent that Spotify can be helpful in driving live outcomes, that’s going to materially improve the earnings of an artist, and that obviously means that we can be an even more better partner to artists…”

Spotify stock fell 3% yesterday, despite the New York-listed company reporting better-than-expected revenue for the quarter.

 


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The LGBTIQ+ List 2021: Austin Sarich, Live Nation

The LGBTIQ+ List 2021 – IQ’s first annual celebration of queer professionals who make an immense impact in the international live music business – was published in the inaugural Pride edition (issue 101) this month.

The 20 individuals comprising the LGBTIQ+ List 2021, as nominated by our readers and verified by our esteemed steering committee, have gone above and beyond to wave the flag for an industry that we can all be proud of.

To get to know this year’s queer pioneers a little better, IQ asked each individual to share their challenges, triumphs, advice and more. Each day this month, we’ll publish a new interview with an individual on the LGBTIQ+ List 2021. Catch up on the previous interview with Raven Twigg, promoter assistant at Metropolis Music in the UK here.

 


Austin Sarich
he/him
Tour director – North America touring, Live Nation
Los Angeles, US
Linkedin.com/in/austin-sarich-193a2265

Tell us about a personal triumph in your career.
It was a true privilege to be a part of Oprah’s 2020 Vision Touring Team. It was meaningful to me to help successfully grow a project that aimed to inspire people through personal growth and self-discovery.

What advice could you give to young queer professionals?
Your sexual orientation will always be a part of your identity, however, it doesn’t have to be what defines you. Let your work, passion, and drive be your great impact on the industry, regardless of your sexual orientation.

“Your sexual orientation will always be a part of your identity, however, it doesn’t have to be what defines you”

Tell us about a professional challenge you often come across as a queer person.
Working in a male-dominated industry, I would often find myself internalising that my sexual orientation would put me at a disadvantage when I first began navigating the relationships I was making.

What one thing could the industry do to be more inclusive?
Leading through empathy – knowing everyone has their own personal and professional challenges, which could help unify us as a whole.

A cause you support.
Today, I’m Brave, which is an organisation that focuses on empowering underserved youth to be brave and unlock their best potential.

“Leading through empathy – knowing everyone has their own personal and professional challenges”

What does the near future of the industry look like?
An industry filled with gratitude and prosperity. After a year of uncertainty, I confidently believe we are all grateful to have live events back, with fans who have more of an appetite than ever to see their favourite acts live in concert.

How could the industry build back better, post-pandemic?
I would hope that post-pandemic we can all operate efficiently with patience, kindness, and appreciation for each other and the hard work we commit to.


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Move Concerts partners with Brazil’s DC Set Group

Move Concerts, the largest independent promoter in Latin America, has partnered with DC Set Group, one of Brazil’s leading live entertainment companies, in a deal that sees DC Set partners and co-presidents Dody Sirena and Cicão Chies acquire a stake in Move Concerts Brazil.

The two companies have a history of collaborating on co-promoted tours in Brazil, including Faith No More in 1991 and Shakira in 2018. In the US, Miami-based Move Concerts USA has promoted stateside shows by Brazilian icon Roberto Carlos, who is managed by DC Set Group.

Led by company founder and CEO Phil Rodriguez, Miami-based Move Concerts has offices in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru and Puerto Rico. Commenting on the new partnership, Rodriguez says: “I have known Dody Sirena and Cicão Chies for a long time. Over the years we have worked together on some tours in Brazil and have been friends for decades. In 1991, I worked with Dody Sirena on Rock in Rio’s lineup.

“I am thrilled to welcome DC Set to the Move Concerts family”

“I have enormous respect for how they turned their company, DC Set, into a powerhouse that covers artist management, venue management, touring, publishing and esports. I am thrilled to welcome them to the Move Concerts family as they take a stake in Move Concerts Brazil, and look forward to growing our Brazilian operation together.”

Founded in 1979 by Sirena and Chies in Sao Paulo, DC Set Group has promoted numerous international superstars in Brazil, including Michael Jackson, Van Halen, Luciano Pavarotti, Julio Iglesias and Rod Stewart. Move and DC Set will produce concerts and international sporting events initiatives under the Move Concerts Brazil brand.

“The partnership with Move Concerts is the result of many years of partnership, friendship, and respect,” says Sirena. “For the group, it is a privilege to announce this partnership at such an important moment, when major live events are being resumed. There is no doubt that it will be a very successful path.”

 


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UK open for business as quarantine axed for int’l artists

International performers who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 in the United States or European Union will no longer need to quarantine after entering England from Monday, the British government has announced.

The change, which comes into force at 4am BST on 2 August, will see the replacement of mandatory quarantine with a single Covid-19 test before departing their country of origin and a PCR test on the second day after their arrival in England. The new rules apply to all countries rated ‘amber’ for coronavirus risk, with the exception of travellers from France, who will still be required to quarantine.

In addition to the pre-departure test, arrivals from the US will also need to provide proof of US residency.

In a statement, LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment), which represents the UK’s live music business, welcomes the move, saying it will enable foreign artists to play shows and festivals in England in the coming months.

“We are extremely pleased to see that government has taken the decision to allow people into the UK without the need to quarantine if they have been fully vaccinated in Europe or the USA,” says a LIVE spokesperson. “This will allow international artists to perform at our world-leading festivals and venues over the coming months and will provide a vital boost to our iconic live music industry as we come out of lockdown.”

To take advantage of the changes, artists will need to have taken a vaccine approved by the European Medicines Agency or the US Food and Drug Administration (ie Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson) and been vaccinated in either the EU or US.

“This will allow international artists to perform at our world-leading festivals and venues over the coming months”

UK transport secretary Grant Shapps says: “We’ve taken great strides on our journey to reopen international travel, and today is another important step forward. Whether you are a family reuniting for the first time since the start of the pandemic or a business benefiting from increased trade, this is progress we can all enjoy.

“We will of course continue to be guided by the latest scientific data, but thanks to our world-leading domestic vaccination programme we’re able to look to the future and start to rebuild key transatlantic routes with the US while further cementing ties with our European neighbours.”

It is not known when Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland (which, unlike England, have devolved local governments) will follow suit in doing away with mandatory quarantine.

A Scottish government spokesperson tells the Scotsman it will wait for a whole-of-UK solution before opening Scotland’s borders, and warns against travel for leisure: “We aim to come to a four-nations position on international travel restrictions wherever possible. However, our current position remains international travel for holidaying purposes remains risky and subject to sudden change.

“We have said before people should think very carefully about travelling, and especially so given the prevalence and unpredictable nature of variants of concern.”

 


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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