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A call for help from Hungary

Hungary has one of the highest rates of VAT in Europe. Here, value-added tax is charged at – you’re going to want to sit down for this – 27%!

There are some exceptions, for sure, but this is the normal VAT. Books, for example, have had only 5% VAT for quite a long time, and recently some basic food earned the ‘privilege’ to be part of the 5% VAT ‘family’, but there are not that many. This is our starting point; factor in that this is the year of Covid-19 and you could say it’s pretty tough for Hungarian music right now.

I found myself in the Hungarian music scene in 2012 when I moved back from my second most-loved city, London. Over the past eight years I’ve seen quite a lot of changes.

A few days ago Viktor Orbán, our prime minister, made a stand for what he sees as Hungary’s interests, vetoing the next EU budget over concerns about migration – not only throwing away financial help, but denying it to all other EU countries. At the same time, in his own country he leaves those who are feeding our locked-down, under-pressure nation with intellectual nourishment – the artists and creative industries – without any support.

Let’s do the maths. Since March, the Hungarian cultural sector received €26.5 million in total, but the numbers are a bit fuzzy. Approximately €3m went to non-state-funded theatre, dance, circus and classical/folk/jazz music, and €23.5 million to popular music. Nothing really to film or fine arts. Additionally, there were three months (March–May) of relief from employer tax and KATA (is a fixed monthly tax for self-employed people and micro-enterprises, which is the most common way of paying tax in the music sector). Since the end of October, we have another lockdown, and since 11 November we have a 20.00 curfew too. For this, the government has decided to offer some relief for employers, but not for KATA payers.

It’s not just about money or numbers – in the long run, it’s about being a bit more crisis-resistant

But let’s go back to the €23.5m the music sector received. This includes the previously mentioned relief, some normal support handled by NKA, the National Cultural Fund (via applications, for example, for recorded or or livestreamed no-audience gigs); some extra support (for some extra gigs, with or without an audience) handled by PIÜ, the Petőfi Literary Agency; and the so-called “warehouse gigs”, for which €14.7m out of the total €23.5m, was allocated. These were handled by Antenna Hungária Zrt, a government-owned for-profit company, which is a broadcast company with nothing to do with live music.

The warehouse gigs were no-audience concerts at an unused warehouse (instead of any music venue) broadcast to a registration-only platform created by the same company. It was invitation-only for bands who would have played at at least 2–3 festivals this summer, and for ‘living legend’ musicians. Rumour says Antenna Hungária got the tender because the Hungarian Foundation Day fireworks had been cancelled this year, which was supposed to be their business, and cost approximately the same. It is also rumoured, if we do the maths with the bands who were accepted into this programme, that approximately 60–70% of this money stayed in the pocket of Antenna Hungária and its subcontractor, the close-to-government Visual Europe Group.

Just as a comparison, a couple of weeks ago, on 9–10 November, we held the eighth annual Music Hungary Conference. I had a panel with Neus López (Initiative Musik) and Helge Hinteregger (Music Information Centre Austria). We had been talking about state aid across Europe, and the numbers they used as examples caused the whole audience to fall into astonished silence. I didn’t even dare to ask their opinion on the difference in attitude: Angela Merkel, a couple of weeks ago, said culture and music is an important part of our society, so we must appreciate the artists and cultural workers; whereas in July, Gergely Gulyás, head of the prime minister’s office in Hungary, was asked why a concert is limited to a maximum of 500 people while a football game can happen with no capacity limit. He replied that there’s a big difference between a concert and a football match, and that is the consumption of alcohol.

If I can stop here for another example of comparison in attitudes, in most EU countries musicians and artists received aid with no strings attached, while here in Hungary there was no aid, only support which you had to apply for, based on tasks to do (eg no-audience gigs).

Come and enjoy the best we can offer, and in doing so, help us save our live music sector

At the conference, Dávid Szilágyi, lead analyst at PricewaterhouseCoopers Hungary, introduced the results of a new study about reducing VAT on live music ticketing from 27% to 5%. This study had been ordered and co-financed by Music Hungary Association.

To give an overview of our live music history in a nutshell: strong and brave Hungarian promoters were fighting for almost two decades to put Hungary on the international touring map, to mark us as a “trusted country” where artists can play in good venues and amazing festivals, get decent fees and experience warm hospitality. I strongly believe Sziget festival and A38 Ship were the flag-bearers in this fight, and they won. A strong industry lobby fought for 18% VAT on festival tickets and we got it in 2013, but the strict terms excluded many in the first couple of years. Then the good years came. Last year was probably one of the best. In 2019, the Hungarian live industry was worth an estimated €125m by net ticket sales.

If we take the €125m in net ticket sales as starting point, reducing VAT from 27% (or 18% for festivals) to 5% would leave an extra €18.5m in the music industry is annually. Of course, on the other hand, this VAT reduction means a €18.5m loss to the central budget – however, if the Hungarian live music sector becomes stronger and more competitive on the European market, it would increase the revenues too, with the organisation of additional concerts providing the central budget with an additional €3.3m and local governments with an approximate €228,000 annually.

But it’s not just about money or numbers – in the long run, it’s about being a bit more crisis-resistant. It’s about having a better chance to keep the music professionals on their own playground, and having a better chance to keep jobs. It’s about keeping alive the social experience, and the culture itself, and providing the feeling of being together. We have an amazing music scene, an amazing nightlife, and not to mention our music and cultural festivals.

This article is a call for help to our government, and towards people all around Europe. Even if we have a competitive disadvantage due to the high VAT, please come here and play on our stages. Please come here, check out our festivals, and have fun. Enjoy the best we can offer – in Budapest and outside of the capital, too – and by doing so, help us save our live music sector.

 


Eszter Décsy is founder and artist manager at NOW Books & Music and PR and communication manager for Music Hungary Association. She is writing in a personal capacity.

New socially distanced outdoor venue opens in HK

The Grounds, Hong Kong’s first socially distanced outdoor entertainment venue, has opened at AIA Vitality Park in the city’s Central district.

Located below the Hong Kong Observation Wheel on the Central Waterfront, The Grounds at AIA Vitality Park is the first venue in Hong Kong purpose built for the pandemic. It can seat up to 400 people in 100 private ‘pods’, each equipped with two to four deck chairs, with eventgoers able to order food and drink to their seats by scanning a QR code.

Each pod is sanitised, and visitors will have to comply with a range of anti-Covid-19 measures, including temperature checks, pre-registration and health declarations, and the wearing of face masks.

“The Grounds is designed to allow guests to play, socialise and be entertained responsibly”

Entertainment at The Grounds, which opened on 6 November, includes live music, film screenings, game shows, stand-up comedy and health and wellbeing events, says The Grounds MD Simon Wilson.

“We want to give Hong Kong something new to look forward to, while at the same time creating an opportunity for the local entertainment and hospitality industries to engage with audiences in an innovative, comfortable and safe environment,” he comments.

New events and tickets for events at The Grounds are released at midday local time every Wednesday.

“As we navigate this new global normal, The Grounds is designed to allow guests to play, socialise and be entertained responsibly,” adds Wilson.

 


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

Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ IndexIQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Eventbrite: 30% of ticket sales still for virtual events

Eight months on from the shutdown of nearly all live events, a third of ticket sales on Eventbrite are still for online experiences, according to the US-based ticketing/event-management company.

Even as major events return to markets in Asia and Australasia – and following a temporary return to semi-normality in Europe and North America over the summer – up to 30% of Eventbrite’s ticket volume in the third financial quarter (Q3) of 2020 involved virtual events, says the company’s CFO, Lanny Baker.

Speaking to investors during Eventbrite’s Q3 earnings call, Baker said the continued popularity of online events could point to a “structural” change in the business, even after a vaccine for Covid-19 becomes available.

“When the in-person events have recovered and people have moved from their computer screens back into the real world, we’ve seen that next shift back [to physical], but we’re still talking about 10%, 20%, 30% of ticket volume being for virtual events,” he explained. “Whereas pre-Covid, that number might have been 2%, 3% or 4%.

“So I think there’s been a structural opening of a business opportunity and habit around online events. There are new creators [which were] not necessarily [in] the event marketplace in the past.”

“I think there’s been a structural opening of a business opportunity … around online events”

This continued demand for virtual experiences hasn’t, however, affected ticket sales for physical events: the company reported in September that it saw paid ticket volume grow 17% in August alone, as more fans went to Covid-secure in-person shows.

Eventbrite, which has offices in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Spain and the Republic of Ireland, reported a 75% year-on-year decline in revenue, to US$21.8 million, in Q3 – an improvement on Q2, where the figure was just $8.4m.

The company says it has also achieved expense savings “ahead of plan” for its $100m cost-cutting scheme, announced in April, reducing net loss to $19.1m, compared to $30.1m in Q3 2019.

“The continued improvement in our results reflects creators’ ingenuity and their confidence in our platform to deliver when it matters most,” comments Eventbrite CEO Julia Hartz. “Activity on our platform rebounded in the third quarter, as creators hosted more events than they did this time last year, and total consumer ticket volume began to approach pre-Covid levels.

“We believe that our platform is uniquely positioned to serve the needs of independent creators, helping them to grow their businesses and lead the recovery of live experiences.”

 


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

Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ IndexIQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Greatest Southern Nights an “incredibly powerful statement”

On 28 November and 5 December, Sydney’s Qudos Bank Arena will welcome thousands of fans for The Greatest Southern Nights, the first indoor arena shows in Australia since the coronavirus pandemic hit in March.

Here, Geoff Jones, CEO of co-promoter TEG, explains how the concerts came together, how fans will be kept safe, how it feels to co-promote shows with rival Live Nation, and why these “circuit-breaker” concerts aren’t about the money…


 

Q: These two concerts will be the first big indoor arena shows in Australia, and there has only been a handful of arena shows globally since Covid-19 struck. What was the genesis of these shows?
GJ: When Covid-19 shut down the live industry globally, we convened the Live Entertainment Industry Forum (LEIF) in Australia and spent several months working together to devise a set of very helpful guidelines to assist the return of live entertainment in a structured and methodical way. While these guidelines were developed for the entire live industry, increasingly we saw that major live sporting events and codes were getting the lion’s share of focus and support from governments, which is somewhat understandable given they mobilised so quickly to protect seasons in mid-flight or international broadcast rights. It seemed to me that the live music sector was at risk of being left behind and I wanted to do something about it.

So, in late April, I called my colleague, Tim McGregor, the managing director of TEG Live, and asked him to work on a plan to restart concerts based on the developing COVID Safe requirements of Australia’s public health authorities and the safety guidelines created by LEIF in consultation with those authorities. Initially, we explored (and continue to explore) a number of outdoor concert options as there was a lot of commentary and advice that events in these settings were likely to return sooner. But the LEIF experience made it very clear to me that the live music industry really needs its indoor venues to return to full mode capacity as soon as practicable in order to be financially viable.

TEG owns the biggest indoor arena in Australia, Qudos Bank Arena, and Tim and I thought it would be an incredibly powerful statement to somehow deliver some large-scale concerts in that venue before the end of the year. But we wanted to do it in a collegiate way with the industry, so I reached out to Live Nation Asia Pacific president, Roger Field, and invited them to join us in this venture. And so it all began to take shape.

“In the current pandemic context, and with all the work done together with LEIF, a collaboration with Live Nation just made sense”

I understand you all worked together on the Live Entertainment Industry Forum guidelines but did you actually expect to co-promote shows together with Live Nation?
In the current pandemic context and with all the work done together with LEIF, a collaboration just made sense to put the LEIF guidelines into practice and collectively shine a light on live music by working together to produce The Greatest Southern Nights. We’re supporting the artists, the production suppliers and crew, the event staff and many others, including, most importantly, the music fans who have been deprived of arena concerts since March. It’s the sort of industry leadership that we are proud to be a part of.

The New South Wales Government has shown strong support for the live music industry through its Great Southern Nights programme with the Australia Record Industry Association (ARIA). So presumably they were keen on the idea?
The New South Wales government, in particular minister for jobs, investment and tourism Stuart Ayres and Destination New South Wales CEO Steve Cox, and ARIA have shown incredible leadership and support for live music and, indeed, when I presented this concept to them, it was warmly received and we got to work immediately. I really have to applaud all three bodies and hope other governments roll out similar support to get live music moving in their markets.

How do the two “Greatest” Southern Nights arena concerts connect with the 1,000 smaller concerts being run under the “Great” Southern Nights moniker?
The 1,000 gigs for the Great Southern Nights is a superb concept, delivering shows of all shapes and sizes across New South Wales. It will hopefully create a lot of momentum for the industry and joy for fans as they get to see some of their favourite domestic artists in some intimate settings, in a Covid-safe format. So we just thought The Greatest Southern Nights was an excellent complement to the programme, but, of course, upscaled to the biggest capacity indoor arena in the country – Qudos Bank Arena – again with Covid-safe measures in place.

What are the Covid-safe measures that will be in place at The Greatest Southern Nights?
The safety of fans, artists and staff is always our top priority and we will work closely with and comply with the evolving requirements of the public health authorities in respect of the Greatest Southern Nights events. First and foremost, Qudos Bank Arena is a 21,000-capacity venue but will be capped at a fully seated capacity of around 6,200 for these concerts. This will allow for effective implementation of social distancing measures across all parts of the venue, including by way of chequerboard seating in the auditorium. There will also be an extensive cleaning regime and hygiene measures, a fully cashless operation and Ticketek’s fully mobile ticketing platform will assist with efficient ingress and contact tracing if necessary. Again, we will work closely with the public health authorities to implement these and other arrangements deemed necessary at the time to operate on a Covid-safe basis.

“These concerts are not designed to show how live music can recommence on a financially sustainable basis”

You have locked in some great acts for these concerts…
Yes, we had really overwhelming interest from artists wishing to be a part of these historic shows. We’re thrilled that Ocean Alley, Jack River, Ruby Fields and Jack Botts will play at the 28 November show and we have Bernard Fanning, Matt Corby and Merci, Mercy at the 5 December show. We’re so rapt with these two huge consecutive Saturday nights of live music to close out what has been a very, very tough year for our industry and we want them to provide some hope for a much better year in 2021.

Does this mean we will see more shows at Qudos Bank Arena in this reduced-capacity format?
Possibly – but, I can assure you, these concerts do not make a lot of financial sense and that’s not why we are doing it. Firstly, we will be operating with a reduced capacity, which obviously means lower ticket sales. At the same time, we need to use the entire venue, which entails a full deployment of ushers, security and other staff, in addition to all the Covid-safe measures I have mentioned. All of those things cost money. So we have reduced revenue and greater expenses to operate these shows.

Without the generous support from the New South Wales government and without Qudos Bank Arena being provided on a rent-free basis, these concerts would make even less financial sense (although we are going to explore this very carefully to see what might be feasible as we have some solid ideas).

The bottom line is that these concerts are not designed to show how live music can recommence on a financially sustainable basis. They are intended to act as a circuit-breaker to interrupt the near-paralysis that the large concerts industry has been experiencing since Covid arrived; to demonstrate how large indoor concerts can be operated safely and professionally in a Covid world.

Our hope is that The Greatest Southern Nights will generate some important momentum to help lift live music up onto the pedestal alongside sport, where it absolutely should be.

 


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

Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ IndexIQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Australia to host first arena concerts since March

TEG, Live Nation and the government of New South Wales (NSW) have announced plans for The Greatest Southern Nights, Australia’s first arena shows since the shutdown of the concert business in March.

Taking place as part of Great Summer Nights, the state-backed 1,000-show concert series running in NSW throughout this month, the Greatest Southern Nights shows will play to more than 12,000 fans at Qudos Bank Arena (21,000-cap.) over two nights in a seated, ‘Covid-safe’ setting.

Ocean Alley will headline the first gig, on Saturday 28 November, joined by Jack River, Ruby Fields and Jack Botts, with Bernard Fanning and Matt Corby, supported by Merci, Mercy, playing the second on Saturday 5 December. For each, co-promoters TEG Live and Live Nation will welcome more than 6,000 fans to the Sydney venue.

Geoff Jones, CEO of TEG and a key figure in the pan-industry Live Entertainment Industry Fund (LEIF), comments: “These shows are vital for our industry because they will show that we can stage big live concerts safely and that Australians cannot wait to get out and share great live entertainment experiences with their friends and family.

“We have seen the successful and safe return of large crowds to major live sport, and it is time for live music to make a return at scale at a world-class venue, Qudos Bank Arena, which we will operate in a reduced, Covid-safe capacity for these shows.”

Tickets for the Ocean Alley show cost A$91.60 (€56), while the Bernard Fanning-Matt Corby date is priced at $99.90 (€60). The shows go on sale at 10am local time Monday and Tuesday, respectively, via TEG’s Ticketek platform.

“After eight long months of zero arena shows, these concerts will see great musicians bring thousands of fans back together”

“After eight long months of zero arena shows, these concerts will see great musicians bring thousands of fans back together,” comments Roger Field, president of Live Nation Asia Pacific, who also serves on the LEIF executive committee. “Not only will these two wonderful nights of entertainment deliver significant employment but they are sure to inject a vital economic boost to our industry and the economy.”

The shows are supported by New South Wales’s tourism agency, Destination NSW. The state’s minister for jobs, investment, tourism and Western Sydney, Stuart Ayres, says: “NSW has led Australia in reigniting the live music industry through Great Southern Nights, and now we are excited to announce these landmark concerts that will be the hottest tickets in the country.

“The NSW government is proud to be getting artists, roadies, venues, hospitality staff and tourism businesses back to work and we hope this heralds the safe return of major indoor arena events.”

Arena shows have already returned to neighbouring New Zealand, where Live Nation recently promoted a headline tour by local star Benee. At press time, Australia had just 12 new cases of coronavirus today (6 November), while NZ had one.

“I’m so happy to be part of the reopening of the live music scene in NSW,” adds Bernard Fanning. “It’s a great opportunity to get people safely together again, but just as importantly to give the music industry workers whose lives have been so upended by Covid a chance to get back to doing what they do best.”

 


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AI-powered screens detect mask wearing at venue

A North Carolina stadium is using artificial-intelligence (AI) technology to monitor for Covid-compliant public behaviour, such as social distancing and the wearing of face coverings, among fans arriving at the venue.

The 50,500-capacity Kenan Memorial Stadium in Chapel Hill, which is primarily used for American football, has installed ‘Health Greeter Kiosks’ to encourage anyone passing to wear masks and practice social distancing. The AI – specifically machine learning and computer vision – uses real-time data from a depth-sensing camera to detect if someone is wearing a mask and whether there is proper spacing between individuals. As people walk by the screens, a large display alerts them to either correct or continue their behaviour.

The technology was developed by the University of North Carolina’s Reese Innovation Lab, with support from Lenovo North America, and first deployed for an American football match (University of North Carolina vs Virginia Tech) on 10 October. The kiosks, which were placed at locations such as entrances, bag-check queues and ticket offices, “worked as intended, tracking and encouraging safe behaviour”, according to Lenovo.

“These kiosks will help us better understand human behaviour and encourage safe behaviour”

“We needed real innovation to meet this unprecedented challenge, and pushing the limits of technology is at the core of our lab’s mission,” says Steven King, chief innovation officer of Reese Innovation Lab. “Engineering a technological response to Covid-19 and event-attendance restarting is a real and rewarding challenge, [and] I’m grateful for the support of UNC-Chapel Hill leadership, our exceptional and inventive students and Lenovo.”

The kiosks, which use fully anonymised data, with no images saved or transmitted, may help shape safety protocol and provide insight on how crowds behave during the coronavirus pandemic, adds King.

“We see this as the starting point of wider deployment, with opportunities to refine and customise the technology,” he explains. “From campus hallways to outdoor events, these kiosks will help us better understand human behaviour and encourage safe behaviour, and I’m excited to see how we evolve and adapt this AI-powered solution.”

 


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

Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ IndexIQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Live streams exempted from new UK lockdown

The new lockdown measures which come into force in England tomorrow (5 November) will not affect upcoming livestreamed concerts, the UK culture secretary has confirmed.

In a Twitter thread, Oliver Dowden, the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sports (DCMS), explained that venues are places of work (people in England are still allowed to travel to work where necessary) and so are exempt from the restrictions, which come to an end on 2 December.



Venues are also allowed to open for rehearsals during the lockdown period.

Among the high-profile streaming concerts taking place in England during lockdown are Niall Horan and Kylie Minogue, a double header for concert streaming specialist Driift, which take place at the Royal Albert Hall London and in a specially created digital world, respectively.

ATC Management’s Ric Salmon, the CEO of Driift, tells IQ he’s “delighted livestreaming has an exemption, and that all Driift shows will continue as planned, including Niall Horan and Kylie Minogue this Saturday, and the Vamps on 21 November 21.

“Given the disruption everyone’s currently facing elsewhere, it’s absolutely crucial that artists, musicians, crew and all in the wider music sector can still have this outlet for work, and we can keep building what is proving to be a vibrant and long-term business that audiences love.”

 


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Shoot for the moon: Covid testing solutions for live

The desire of people to gather together, uninhibited, to see their favourite act or to discover a new band has never been greater, thanks to the coronavirus restrictions that have banned mass gatherings for the greater part of 2020.

With no end in sight to defeating the plague, the live events sector is exploring the possibility of opening its doors to fans who test negatively for Covid-19, and thankfully there are a growing number of companies around the world who are developing testing kits and protocols that might just allow promoters, festivals and venues to kickstart their businesses in the not too distant future.

Much as 2020 has been a year to forget, it’s likely to remain at the forefront of our minds for many years to come as a 21st-century reminder of how a virus can disrupt the lives of billions of people and bring everyday life to a shuddering halt.

The UK government’s chief of test and trace, Baroness Dido Harding, recently said that on-the-spot tests might have to be the cost of doing business for venues and event organisers. Given the project name Operation Moonshot, the plan would involve businesses paying for mass Covid-testing schemes, but they could prove vital if hopes to test up to 10 million people each day are to come to fruition.

However, with tests currently priced in the region of £30 per swab and some systems requiring significant infrastructure investment, innovators around the world are working hard on new rapid testing methods to bring costs down in an effort to make mass testing viable.

Now, IQ looks at some of systems developed in the UK (please note that being featured here does not necessarily mean these tests are approved for use in all territories).

 


Chronomics
Noting the possibility that a vaccine could be 12-18 months away, Chronomics states that the ‘new normal’ could be in place until 2024, leading to the company’s development of a simple spit test for coronavirus that can be used for mass testing.

The Chronomics Covid-19 saliva testing kit is easy to use and painless, and can be sent to people’s homes rather than requiring members of the public to attend hospitals, labs or testing centres. Completed tests can be courier-collected and brought to Chronomics labs for testing.

The Chronomics test is highly specific to SARS-CoV-2, meaning it won’t be confounded by other human viruses, and it will detect all strains of the virus that have evolved to date.

Although the company has not divulged pricing, it claims that the test analysis can be automated, making it scalable for mass testing. As a result, Chronomics is marketing its testing system to companies, hospitals, laboratories and governments around the world.

The test can be sent to homes rather than requiring members of the public to attend hospitals, labs or testing centres

DNANudge
London-based DNANudge takes nostril swabs and can scan for the coronavirus in just 75 minutes, thanks to a handheld device that analyses the swab.

The test, developed by Imperial College London’s Chris Toumazou, is based on the design of a DNA test, but significantly cuts down on the 48-hour wait for a laboratory diagnosis.

The company quotes £28 (€31) per test on average, and the UK government has reportedly ordered 5.8 million tests, plus 5,000 of the portable machines, as part of a £161million (€177m) contract.

DNANudge claims its tests can also detect mild and asymptomatic cases of the virus. It boasts 100% specificity, meaning it can tell the difference between a person who doesn’t have Covid-19 and a sample that was not correctly processed, thereby eliminating the possibility of any false negative results.

The DNANudge ‘lab in a cartridge’ machines are reportedly limited to 15 tests each, per day.

DNANudge takes nostril swabs and can scan for the coronavirus in just 75 minutes, thanks to a handheld device

LamPORE
Biotech company Oxford Nanopore has developed portable swab-recording machines that use the firm’s LamPORE tests and can determine whether a user has Covid. The devices, which are the size of desktop printers, take 90 minutes to give a result and can process more than 9,000 samples a day.

The LamPORE procedure involves taking a sample of saliva, which can be barcoded, analysed and recorded by the devices. Analysis must be done in a laboratory, but the company’s labs can be mobile and installed into vehicles or pop-up test sites, with a portable version of the LamPORE device measuring around the same size as a CD player.

The UK government has ordered 450,000 of the tests for trial, but millions more could be purchased if those trials prove fruitful. The Oxford Nanopore Diagnostics LamPORE Covid-19 Test Kit 96 Plex is intended for use by trained laboratory personnel experienced in the conduct of in vitro diagnostic procedures.

The devices, which are the size of desktop printers, take 90 minutes to give a result and can process 9,000+ samples a day

HALO
The Halo team is led by EpiPen inventor Craig Rochford, alongside biotech and computer scientists from Oxford University. Halo says it is already working with a number of professional services, transport and other organisations to roll out its testing services.

Halo’s saliva test kit allows people to test at home by spitting into a tube and sending the sample off for processing. The company says it can turn around results in as little as seven hours and claims 100% accuracy. Test results are communicated through a phone app.

At press time, Halo says it can process more than 250,000 tests per week in a testing module. The company has a lab at Imperial College London, but says its capacity can be quickly increased by scaling up its number of labs. Prices are believed to be lower than £25 (€28) per kit.

The Halo test is similar, but less invasive, to the PCR test used globally for testing people for the coronavirus using a swab. Halo purifies the genetic material from saliva and uses polymerase chain reaction to detect the virus in a lab. The company claims people should never get a false positive result if they don’t have the virus.

Halo’s first customer was a UK university, but it is also reportedly in discussions with a global airline, a medical research facility, and a variety of financial institutions and businesses.

The company says it can turn around results in as little as seven hours and claims 100% accuracy

Nonacus
During the current pandemic, Nonacus has diverted resources and expertise into developing simple, low-cost and scalable testing products for Sars-CoV-2. These products are only available for testing laboratories or third-party providers who wish to use the Nonacus service facility.

Earlier this year, the UK-based company’s Covid-19 spit test received a share of a £40million (€44m) government grant to speed up development work. The test involves spitting into a tube, which can be delivered to individual homes. The test is then sealed and sent to a laboratory for analysis.

Nonacus says samples can be examined by a significantly higher and broader number of labs than those processing existing swabs because a solution in the bottom of the tube inactivates the coronavirus, avoiding potential contamination or spread of the virus.
Chris Sale, CEO and co-founder of Nonacus, says the government grant is being utilised to make the product commercially available later this year.

The Covid-19 spit test received a share of a £40million (€44m) government grant to speed up development work

OptiGene
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, biomedical company OptiGene has developed a swab test that takes just 20 minutes to diagnose people.

The system requires patients to undertake nasal and throat swabs, which can subsequently be loaded into the company’s automated Genie HT machines, which can detect tiny traces of the virus in a patient’s DNA.

The Genie HT devices use chemicals to amplify the DNA billions of times so that any sign of Covid-19 can be identified with extreme sensitivity. The machines can also reportedly be used with saliva samples, potentially meaning a less invasive testing procedure.

In contrast to the widely used PCR tests, which require processes to be conducted at different temperatures and have a slow turnaround time,theGenieHTdoesnot require a change in temperature, allowing it to deliver results in as quick as 20 minutes.

The OptiGene system is being trialled by the UK government in a number of hospital accident and emergency departments, doctors’ surgeriesandcarehomesinEngland.

OptiGene has developed a swab test that takes just 20 minutes to diagnose people

Randox
Developed by Northern Ireland-based healthcare specialists, Randox, the portable Vivalytic antigen testing system takes around 12 minutes to process results.

The device relies on nasal and oral mouth swabs and, operated by a healthcare professional, each machine can deal with five swabs per hour. Randox says its device works by “identifying SARS-CoV-2 and differentiating it from nine other respiratory infections with similar symptoms, including influenza and all known coronaviruses.”

It is thought the Vivalytic devices are still in the trial stage, but they have reportedly been introduced in multiple hospitals across
Northern Ireland.

In July, hundreds of thousands of swabs were recalled after they failed rigorous safety requirements. However, Randox said the problem was with the swab supplier, rather than its testing procedures, and the machines that carry out the tests were not found to be unsafe.

The portable Vivalytic antigen testing system takes around 12 minutes to process results

Rapid Lamp Testing
Rapid Lamp Testing was established in May this year when its founders took an interest in Melvin Benn’s full-capacity plan but quickly realised the existing tech and testing would not support those ambitions.

Rapid Lamp Testing, it says, meets the accuracy criteria of the full-cap plan through a combination of highly accurate early-stage testing and encrypted data management to allow gatherings of people in safety, with a temporary suspension of social distancing, if needed.

In addition to the testing protocol, Rapid Lamp Testing can provide event management support through the monitoring of squads and support staff in a secure working bubble.

The Rapid Lamp Testing process does not need laboratory conditions – the company says testing can be done at venues – and results can be returned in 45 minutes. Those results can be delivered via an app.

The company says its specificity is 100%, with zero chance of false negatives, while the test sensitivity can detect one virus-cell per micro-litre of test liquid.

It has been working with film production companies, #wemakeevents planning, athletics meetings, and commercial occupational health companies.

Its point-of-care-testing analytical machines cost £9,000–15,000 (€9,920– 16,530) depending on spec, while test kits are priced at £38–40 (€41–44) per test, with self-testing a possibility when its saliva test is developed.

The test was established in May this year when its founders took an interest in Melvin Benn’s full-capacity plan

Samba II
Developed by University of Cambridge spin-off company, Diagnostics for the Real World, Samba II is a nose-and-throat swab that claims to have a testing turnaround time of 90 minutes.

The portable machines required to process the swabs have a capacity limit of 15 tests per day but the 90-minute analysis time places them ahead of a number of competing Covid-testing systems. Priced at £30 (€33) per test, Samba II is reportedly 99% accurate through its ability to scour DNA in the throat and nose to detect the virus.

Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge has been trialling the device since April, and its success rate has resulted in the hospital switching the majority of its coronavirus testing to the Samba machine system.

The tests have been validated by Public Health England and shown to have 98.7% sensitivity and 100% specificity, while the Samba devices are already used to diagnose other blood-borne diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C.

Samba II is a nose-and-throat swab that claims to have a testing turnaround time of 90 minutes

Virolens
Already touted as a potential solution for stadia and arenas, Virolens has been trialled at Europe’s busiest airport, London Heathrow, prompting the airport’s chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, to urge UK government to fast-track clinical trials to speed its adoption for widespread use.

Virolens uses a digital camera attached to a microscope to analyse saliva samples, and delivers results in a remarkable 20 seconds.

Developed by British start–up iAbra, Virolens uses technology powered by Intel, and does not require medically trained operatives. People swab saliva from their mouth before placing the sample in a cartridge that can be immediately analysed by the Virolens device, dispensing of the need for a laboratory.

The Virolens system reportedly has a 99.8% sensitivity, which means almost every single person who tests positive is truly infected, and there are no false negatives.

At the same time, it reportedly has 96.7% specificity, meaning three in every 100 people might get a false positive result stating they have the virus when they do not. Those results, at the doors of a venue, for instance, might merit more thorough testing before access was denied.

Virolens says its screening devices can each carry out hundreds of tests per day and it is believed the company is in the process of manufacturing thousands of the testing machines.

 


 


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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Fan tents and sanitiser showers at 1,200-cap K-pop show

An estimated 1,200 K-pop fans attended an innovative socially distanced live show intended to offer a blueprint for how live events may continue in South Korea while Covid-19 is still a threat.

The Live in DMZ concert, held as part of an annual event promoting peace in the Korean peninsula, was organised by the government of the province of Gyeonggi as a means of providing “comfort” to people who are tired of ongoing coronavirus restrictions, according to local media.

For the show, fans were placed in 300 clear dome-shaped tents, specially constructed for the occasion and capable of seating four people (from a single household/bubble) apiece. According to organisers, the tents aim are the first of their kind in the world, and prevent the transmission of potentially disease-carrying droplets between fans.

In addition to the unusual seating arrangement, the Gyeonggi authorities installed an ‘air shower’ gate that sprayed a disinfecting mist at the entrance to the concert, as well as a thermal temperature-checking system and a ‘distancing fence’ to prevent household mixing in the waiting area before fans took their seats, reports the Gyeonggi Daily.

In addition to the unusual seating arrangement, authorities installed an ‘air shower’ gate that sprayed a disinfecting mist

For the purposes of contact tracing, all attendees were required to fill in a health-check questionnaire and provide their details in advance of the show. After filling in the form, ticket buyers received an automatically generated QR code to use for entry into the concert.

Explaining the concept to Cities Today, Lee Jae-gang, Gyeonggi’s vice-governor for peace, says: “By operating a web-based access system that enabled entry using QR codes for confirmation, the Gyeonggi provincial government was not only able to implement rapid and accurate quarantine procedures, but [can] also undertake follow-up management by once again sending self-health-check questionnaires to concert attendees two weeks after the event.”

Held from Friday 23 to Sunday 25 October at the 41,000-seat Goyang Sports Complex in Goyang (a satellite city of South Korean capital Seoul), the Live in DMZ show featured performances from local stars including Monsta X, Mamamoo, Itzy, Loona, (G)I-dle, and Oh My Girl’s Seunghee and Yooa.

According to Cities Today, the novel set-up gave the stadium a capacity of 1,200 for Live in DMZ, while an additional 400 people watched the concert online.

 


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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Locked and loaded: Read IQ 94 now

IQ 94, the latest issue of the live music industry’s favourite monthly magazine, is available to read online now.

November’s IQ Magazine checks in with Aussie music legend Michael Chugg – who shares his views on the pandemic and a possible timetable for touring to resume – as well as London’s leading independent booking agencies, who discuss the effect the events of 2020 have had on the indie agency sector.

Elsewhere, our friends at Hungarian music export office HOTS reveal the acts they will be showcasing as export-ready for 2021 and beyond, and we look at some of the laboratories developing rapid Covid-testing kits that could provide some kind of early solution for venues to reopen their doors in the absence of a vaccine.

Plus, we analyse the latest big-ticket livestream events, including BTS’s Map of the Soul One and Billie Eilish’s Where Do We Go?, the latter of which delivered a critically acclaimed 55-minute set with production values akin to a state-of-the-art arena show.

That’s in addition to all the regular content you’ve come to expect from your monthly IQ Magazine, including news analysis, comment and new agency signings, the majority of which will appear online in some form in the next four weeks.

However, if you can’t wait for your fix of essential live music industry features, opinion and analysis, click here to subscribe now.


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