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Jazzopen Stuttgart is very much alive and kicking

The festival's leaders Jürgen Schlensog and Sven Meyer explain why it was important for the German festival to take place in spite of debilitating Covid-related obstacles

05 Oct 2021

Sven Meyer, Jazzopen Stuttgart

We at jazzopen Stuttgart felt that it was hugely important for the festival to go ahead this year.

We did not want to call it two years in a row; we wanted to show our guests, partners, and sponsors that making this incredible event happen was possible and that we are, despite everything, very much “alive and kicking”.

Of course, getting the festival up and running was no easy task. First, we had to book a completely new line-up. When we went on sale it was an act of faith, we could not know what the pandemic might hold for us this September.

It currently looks like the jazzopen may be the only large-scale German festival to happen in 2021. Our restrictions on live music are different to other European markets that have already fully opened and enjoyed some semblance of a festival season.

Germany is a federal state and we experienced both the positive and negative consequences of that structure simultaneously.

It is very difficult for promotors to plan shows because the restrictions and regulations can vary from state to state. Overall, the German governing bodies were very cautious, and all their rulings were debated heavily.

Germany is a federal state and we experienced both the positive and negative consequences of that

However, the German state has put in place a system to cover any loss of revenue due to lower ticket demands. State cover guarantees 80% of lower ticket sales during the pandemic – cost free.

In the UK, the system arranged by the government and Lloyds does not and, moreover, costs 5% premium (of the insured limit) and covers only cancellation due to Covid.

Putting the festival on sent a message; it was important to fly our flag. This will bolster our reputation and stand us in good stead for the future. Those factors were more important this year than the financial side of things: we knew that we could survive until next year, come what may.

Naturally, we had to change the way that we welcome our guests. We had to impose “3G” (geimpft, genesen oder getestet, which means vaccinated, recovered or tested, in German) for our guests and implement intense controls, which required at least 50% more security, but it worked.

Our guests were happy overall and, crucially, felt secure. They were very patient and accepted the regulations, though we did notice reticence from some regular patrons about committing to the festival and buying tickets.

However, once they were onsite, they were thrilled to have live music again and reconnect with this almost forgotten experience. They had fun. Around 18,000 people attended the jazzopen rather than our usual 40,000.

Around 18,000 people attended the jazzopen rather than our usual 40,000

Our secondary venue sold fairly well, whilst at the main venue, sales were mediocre. Ticket sales were recognisably lower than normal, but the shows were spectacular. Every performance was special in its own way because we could feel how relieved and delighted both the artists and the audience were to enjoy live music once again. The first day or two felt unreal.

The process of making the festival happen this year felt special. There was a real common purpose that resonated throughout the whole industry; people wanted to help us make this work. We all love our jobs – even more so now that we have come to realise how fragile this industry can be.

Our colleagues in the industry had our backs and were as pleased as we were that jazzopen got up and running. The audiences were as hungry as the artists after such a long time without live music and the whole atmosphere was just electric.

Now that the last note has died away, we are left with a feeling of pride and relief. We made it – even in these weird times! We were fortunate to have a great team in place to al- low us to do what we needed to do.

The feedback from everyone underlines how important it is that people can access live music. We have missed it and its power. Our governments need to realise that culture is essential for all humans.

Perhaps something good that can come from this Covid experience is that they learn how our sector operates and what our needs are because our services are essential – both economically as well as culturally. Come to Stuttgart next year, we’ll be ready to welcome you!


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