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Music venues turn blue for Europe Day

Music venues across Europe illuminated their facades in EU blue over the weekend in celebration of Europe Day 2021, which took place on Sunday 9 May.

Commemorating the merging of the French and West German coal and steel industries in 1951 – an event seen as marking the beginning of European integration – Europe Day was first celebrated in European Union countries in 1985.  The coordinated action by 15 venues – which included Ancienne Belgique (Brussels), Rockhal (Esch, Luxembourg), Kino Šiška (Ljubljana), Melkweg (Amsterdam), Village Underground (London) and Sala Apolo (Barcelona) – ran across the weekend of 8–9 May.

Kino Šiška, Europe Day 2021

All participating venues are members of the EU-supported Liveurope initiative, which has commemorated Europe Day since 2014. By again marking Europe Day, the venues “reaffirm[ed their] commitment to European collaboration”, according to a statement from Liveurope, which provides financial bonuses to venues which book overseas emerging European acts.

“The severe restrictions on free movement has made us all the more convinced about the importance of European collaborations,” says Tom Bonte, general manager of Ancienne Belgique (2,000-cap.), which coordinated the Europe Day action.

“We wanted to reaffirm our commitment to continue strengthening our ties with our peers”

“With this symbolic gesture, we wanted to reaffirm our commitment to continue strengthening our ties with our peers and boost European music diversity and talent. This is the only way we can achieve a full recovery of the live music sector.”

Each venue recorded a showcase with emerging artists which are being broadcast by public radio stations across the continent, including WRD’s 1 Live in Germany, RTVE’s Radio 3 in Spain, Radio France’s FIP in France, Polskie Radio’s Czwórka in Poland and Radio Beograd in Serbia.

The gesture also aimed to raise awareness of the importance of live music after more than a year of venues being closed, says Liveurope’s general coordinator, Elise Phamgia.

“This period has opened the door for innovative experimentation, but it has also shown the irreplaceable value of live music, and its ability to create connections between people over borders,” she says. “And it’s definitely something we will need more of to recover from the past 15 months of social isolation we have all been facing.”


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Mental health influences the success of the entire industry

I probably was the best example for the lack of awareness about mental health and its challenges that can be found anywhere in our industry. Yes, I always considered mental health a very important issue but of course for those with issues and not for me. That is probably why I never let it get closer to me. Well, until I had my own.

Those incidents happened five years ago and it took about three months of uncertainty until I was diagnosed with panic attacks and able to start working with the issue (and for the record: I was successful). Unsurprisingly, only then do you begin to appreciate the luxury of everything going normally until it is no longer the case – especially when it comes to one’s own health.

During this time, I found out how little it takes to fully question business as usual, or at least to mess it up almost completely. I sometimes felt unprofessional because I suddenly had to spend valuable working time on myself and my health but it simply takes its time and effort to address these things.

I always considered mental health a very important issue but of course for those with issues and not for me

And I found out that there were many situations in my private life but also in my professional life that added up to the point that “the pot finally boiled over”. To name just a few: The disappointments of a musician who never was able to take the decisive step. The boss who, in passing, gives the wisdom that in our job you cannot have a regular private life, let alone a relationship. The responsibility for all public communication around a tragic death within a festival without being trained in any way for such a case. The effects that a tense working atmosphere on a very personal level leaves behind in the context of a project running for decades.

All of this I would have approached or processed differently knowing what I know now. It is of course utopian to think that we can prepare for all possible cases, but I am convinced without any doubt that more knowledge, understanding and acceptance of circumstances make an enormous difference.

The responsibility for mental health issues does not necessarily lie within the person experiencing them

And that is the reason I embraced the idea of my friend, psychologist Prof. Dr Katja Ehrenberg, to create a book that helps raising awareness. It is called Stay Sound & Check Yourself and is intended to help ensure better understanding and appropriate attention to a topic that has a decisive influence on the success and creativity of the entire industry.

The two of us took a glimpse behind the scenes of the European live music, festival and event sector. Together with inspiring interview partners we turned the spotlights on the people behind the stages. We were happy to gather experts from eleven European countries to talk in often very personal individual interviews about their experiences with stress and mental health issues, the love for their job and what motivates them.

‘Stay Sound & Check Yourself’ is intended to help ensure better understanding and appropriate attention to [mental health]

We are proud to have achieved a great mix of genders, age groups and many different positions in the industry from a young social media expert to a veteran festival director. Our book is meant to be an in-depth feature of personal insights on stress and mental health in an industry that never sleeps, enriched by background information on the issue as well as suggestions for prevention and intervention – thanks to Katja’s massive expertise. And yes, there is a full chapter on the unprecedented stress-test that the ongoing pandemic is presenting to our industry.

So, after spending centuries of hard work placing the topic of mental health in the taboo corner it is also up to us now to work on this corner to disappear and deal with the reality. A reality that means that these things happen, that they can happen to everyone, that the responsibility for mental health issues does not necessarily lie within the person experiencing them, and that people simply are different.

For some reason, they have different dispositions and are differently resilient in different situations, just as they bring different skills, talents and a kind of magic that only they can perform. That is why Stay Sound & Check Yourself is dedicated to the innumerable people who you normally cannot see, but without whom the stars could never shine on stage.


Stay Sound & Check Yourself is out now. Order via your local bookshop or the links below:
Austria | Denmark | Finland | France | Germany | Hungary | Italy | Lithuania | The Netherlands | Poland | Slovakia | Spain | Sweden | Switzerland | UK

All author profits from book sales will be reinvested to projects promoting visibility of the issue and building prevention and intervention tools.

Topics and timings announced for first Recovery Sessions

Details have been announced of the first IQ Recovery Sessions webinar, which takes place next Thursday (13 May).

Announced last month, the Recovery Sessions is a new monthly series of half-day webinars that will keep the live music industry updated about the international roadmap to reopening. All Recovery Sessions events are free to access for IQ subscribers, taking place here on the IQ site.

The debut Recovery Sessions event kicks off at 2pm BST (3pm CEST) on 13 May and continues until 5pm, with three hour-long discussions tackling the issues around vaccine passports, the takeaways from this year’s major pilot events, and the road to recovery from the points of view of industry leaders.

The full schedule for 13 May is:

Details of speakers will be announced early next week.

After 13 May, Recovery Sessions events will take place on 17 June, 15 July and 12 August, with the series continuing for as long as there is a need for it.

For more information about the Recovery Sessions, or to get involved, email Chris Prosser at chris@iq-mag.net. To subscribe to IQ for just £5.99 a month, click here.


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PRS for Music introduces 10% rate for live streams

PRS for Music has announced a discounted 10% tariff on ‘online live concerts’ for as long as artists and venues face restrictions on in-person shows.

The changes to the online live concert (OLC) licence, which covers ticketed rock and pop events, will apply while “the physical sector is facing material restrictions on its ability to operate”, according to the UK performance rights organisation. The new OLC follows earlier proposals by PRS for a new licence for both large and small-scale virtual shows – the former of which would have been charged at up to 17% of gross ticket sales – which met with a fierce backlash from the UK live music industry.

The interim 10% rate was reached following a consultation with nearly 2,000 stakeholders (80% of whom were PRS members, such as songwriters and composers) and apply for as long as “restrictions apply to physical live concerts”, after which a new permanent rate will be benchmarked against “premium video and streaming services”, in recognition of the nature of livestreamed shows.

Elsewhere, the exemption for artists performing their own material will be carried over the small-scale online live concert licence, while organisers of shows grossing less than £1,500 may choose from either a fixed-rate licence or a bespoke rate linked to specific event revenues. All OLCs will also allow viewing access for 72 hours, up from 24.

Additionally, PRS has pledged not to seek fees retroactively from livestream events held in 2020 that generated less than £1,500.

“As the rate is competitive with those charged in other countries, it will help ensure the UK remains a great place to host live online concerts”

A summary of the consultation, and FAQs about the new licence, can be found on the PRS website.

“We have had healthy debate on ticketed livestreamed events with key stakeholders across the industry representing venues, event promoters, digital platforms and PRS members,” says a PRS spokesperson. “Importantly, everyone agrees that songwriters must get paid when their songs are played and used.

“Nearly 2,000 people answered our call-for-views on the topic, 80% of whom were PRS members. More than half (54%) of these songwriters said their work had been performed by someone else as part of a livestreamed concert. Songs are the heart of the music industry.

“The discounted rate we are providing will ensure songwriters, composers and publishers are paid for their work, while allowing the emerging online live concert sector the freedom to innovate and grow. As the rate is competitive with those charged in other countries, it will help ensure the UK remains a great place to host live online concerts.

“Throughout 2020, nearly 8,000 songwriters joined PRS for Music, that’s 22 every single day, and over five million songs and compositions were registered. We will continue to do everything we can to protect the livelihoods of our members, ensuring that their music is valued, whilst at the same time, giving the market the freedom to evolve.”

This article will be updated with industry reaction to the interim OLC rate.


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LIVE survey: UK fans eager to return to shows ASAP

UK trade body LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment) has conducted a survey of 25,000 music fans, the results of which reveal an overwhelming desire for live music to return as quickly as possible.

More than half of fans are ready to attend music events right now if they could with a further 25% willing to come back with safety measures in place, according to the results of the survey.

The findings also show that the majority of fans (85%) are planning on attending either the same or higher numbers of live music events when they reopen than before the pandemic and more than half of fans (55%) have already bought tickets for live music events in the coming months.

Among those who are yet to buy their tickets, one-third are waiting for more gigs to come on sale rather than being deterred by the pandemic.

The top three reasons fans want to return to gigs are seeing an artist that they love (91%), the joy that live music brings (89%) and spending time with friends (69%). The majority of respondents (64%) stated that attending live music events boosts their mental health.

In further encouraging news, music fans are largely accepting of proposed Covid-prevention measures with 75% of respondents confirming they would be happy with the idea of Covid certification to attend an event.

“It’s great that the passion of live music fans has endured and after a long wait fans want to go to more shows than ever”

Hand sanitiser stations, temperature checking and one-way systems are the simple mitigations fans would like to see when events return, though 41% of respondents said they would be put off attending an event if they had to wear a face mask.

The survey is the most detailed research yet conducted on the attitudes of UK music fans towards the return of live events and how they want them to be run in a post-pandemic world.

“It’s great that the passion of live music fans has endured the pandemic, and after a long wait fans want to go to more shows than ever,” says Chris Carey, chief economist of LIVE. It is especially encouraging to see how quickly fans want to get back to live.”

Greg Parmley, CEO of LIVE, says: “After a devastating year for the live music industry it is fantastic to see the strength of feeling from fans across the UK who are desperate to get back to live music events. The industry has worked tirelessly to ensure that we can return as quickly and safely as possible.

“It is notable that fans are willing to live with short-term mitigation measures in order to get back to live music as quickly as possible, with three quarters saying that they would be happy with a Covid-certification system as part of those measures.”


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Norway tests would involve 15k people…staying at home

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) is proposing a number of test events that would involve a total of 30,000 people – half of which would not get to attend the concerts.

The Institute is envisaging several indoor concerts – which will most likely take place in Oslo in June – with up to 5,000 unmasked participants.

Both those attending the concert and those who are not will be tested before and after the event in order to compare infection rates at home and in the venue.

“We want a definite answer as to whether infection-testing the audience before they are admitted to a concert makes it as safe to go to a concert as to be at home and watch TV,” says Atle Fretheim who heads the research group at the NIPH.

Various other tests have taken place around Europe, including in Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and the UK.

“We want a definite answer as to whether it’s as safe to go to a concert as to be at home and watch TV”

Whether Norway’s test events can go ahead depends on the approval from the health authorities and the regional committee for medical research ethics.

According to Fretheim, the minister for culture’s working group – which includes Bergen Live and Øya Festival – and Norwegian Concert Organisers (Konsertarrangor) have backed the test series.

However, Konsertarrangor’s Tone Østerdal doubts the results will come back quickly enough to have an impact on Norway’s festival summer.

The Stavern Festival and OsloOslo have already been cancelled after the minister for culture announced preliminary guidelines which would restrict festivals to 2,000 attendees until June, 5,000 attendees until August and 10,000 thereafter.

The Danish government this week announced similar restrictions which will restrict events to 2,000 attendees until August, rather than June.


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More than 130 Belgian venues reopen illegally

Some 130 cultural venues in Wallonia and Brussels have reopened illegally after six months of closure, in protest of government restrictions.

Since 30 April, the venues have been welcoming the general public for a number of cultural activities including concerts, screenings, shows, debates, performances and public rehearsals.

The nine-day protest, which is being held by the campaign group ‘Still Standing for Culture’, culminates on 8 May when 50-capacity outdoor events are permitted.

According to the group, all activities will be carried in accordance with the health protocol, which includes social distancing, mask-wearing and the separation of household bubbles.

“We will do this without underestimating the dangerousness of the virus, but we recall that experiments and studies show that the opening of cultural places has only a minimal impact on the contamination curves in the face of the effects attributed to the activities. businesses, shops and services,” reads a statement on the Still Standing for Culture website.

“We will do this to defend the diversity of places and practices”

“We will do so to refuse that certain sectors of activity and certain categories of the population are the only ones to carry the weight of measures on their shoulders. And to defend the diversity of places and practices.”

Brussels venue Koninklijke Vlaamse Schouwburg (KVS) was the first Belgian venue that pledged to open its doors regardless of any restrictions in place but ultimately, the government agreed to turn its scheduled performances into test events.

According to Flemish business newspaper Tidj, the Flemish region is not participating in the demonstration as the regional government has provided a range of support measures for affected culture workers, artists and cultural entrepreneurs – including a €60 million safety net for festival organisers.

However, the Flemish events sector may be inclined to join the demonstrations if the regional government does not provide a reopening plan after the next meeting of the Consultation Committee on 11 May.

The full programme of activities for the Still Standing for Culture protest can be found here.


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Tim Westergren: ‘Sessions Live is gamifying livestreaming’

Ex-Pandora founder and CEO Tim Westergren has unfinished business. Despite co-founding the US’s largest music streaming provider – and changing the face of radio and streaming in the process – with his new venture, Westergren is hoping to achieve what Pandora couldn’t: a business model that generates meaningful income for artists.

Powered by that motivating factor, Westergren, along with serial game entrepreneur Gordon Su, launched Sessions Live in April 2020.

The livestreaming service utilises aspects of the gaming business model in order to shift the entire economic equation for the average working musicians – and it seems to be paying off.

Below, Westergren tells IQ how Sessions Live is learning from Pandora’s mistakes, why he’s injecting $75,000,000 into a marketing fund for musicians and what he believes the competition is doing wrong.


IQ: What is the modus operandi of Sessions Live?
TW: I spent a lot of time in digital music and there’s still this unsolved problem in the industry of how to bring compensation to musicians. There are a lot of successful services that generate a fair bit of money but there hasn’t been a platform – including my alma mater, Pandora – that is actually generating significant income for the average working musician.

It seems like it’s always feast or famine and the spoils of the industry go to a very select few – to the companies and the shareholders of those companies. We tried [to avoid that] at Pandora but, like most other companies, the business just wasn’t structured to generate meaningful income for musicians. Solving that problem has been the motivating factor for me.

I met my co-founders a couple of years ago, who come from the gaming side, where they really figured out how to generate income for lots of people. After a long discussion and a lot of brainstorming, we realised that if we took a lot of the learnings in gaming and brought them into music, in the context of live streaming, we could create a platform that would generate significant engineering revenue for a large population of artists – and it’s proving to be true.

“What gaming has really mastered is turning engagement into money”

What exactly are those learnings from gaming and how do they manifest in Sessions Live?
What gaming has really mastered is turning engagement into money. Music has been notably bad at that. People spend a lot of time listening to music but don’t pay a lot of money to the creators. The genius of gaming is how you turn engagement into a game and make paying part of that game.

There are lots of different ways that gaming companies have managed to translate time spent into a sort of ongoing patronage. It’s really about understanding those dynamics. It’s an art to turn an audience of 200 people into a kind of social gaming experience where value is trading hands. That’s really what my co-founders understand; how you set up the environment, how you create payment mechanisms, how you create competition, and how you create a sort of status and various things that people will pay for, in addition to communication. And that’s what really makes Sessions Live hum.

“It’s an art to turn an audience of 200 people into a kind of social gaming experience where value is trading hands”

How does Sessions Live turn engagement into money for artists?
We call it ‘giving love’. You spend money to have a basket of love that you can give in the form of emojis – whether it’s sending a bouquet of flowers or a trophy or applause. The mechanism itself is a form of gaming. There’s engagement too so when people are watching they can request songs or that can be something that somebody pays for. If you’ve got a very active audience that is chatting and communicating a lot, you can auction the ability to chat.

We’ve seen some amazing results when you have an artist whose fanbase just really wants to talk to them. We had an artist who had 4,500 paid chats in one hour – people wanting to spend small amounts of money to have their chat show up so the artist would see. We have competitions where the artists perform and it’s about who generates the most love during their performance but it’s not just the Battle of the Bands but a battle of the fans.

“We had one band make $350,000 in an hour”

What are the primary sources of revenue for Sessions Live?
Sessions Live usually takes a 25–30% commission of all revenue. There are two primary forms of revenue: digital ticketing which is kind of a commodity which a lot of people are doing and then there’s giving ‘love’. We generate more money from the latter.

How much has the platform grown since you launched in April 2020?
We now get about 3,000 artists performing a week and that number is growing very rapidly. We’re adding around 600 artists a week at the moment and their earnings are going up too. Right now, the average musician across that entire population earns a lot more than an Uber driver earns in a year. That’s kind of poetic because one of the things people used to say is ‘something’s wrong when a musician can make more money as an Uber driver than as a performer’ – which has been true for a long time. We’re seeing artists making anywhere from $50, $100 an hour to literally hundreds of 1,000s of dollars in a single hour. We had one band make $350,000 in an hour.

The other really exciting part of this platform it’s global. We’re in more than 200 countries and our musicians come from everywhere. I think only 20% of the artists are in the US. So there are artists living in rural India and Sub-Saharan Africa and are earning US dollars, which, in the local economy is worth way more and so the actual financial impact of that is tenfold what it would be for someone in a developed country.


“There are a lot of livestreaming tools around… but that doesn’t matter if people aren’t watching”

The livestreaming market has become rife with competition since the pandemic hit. What sets Sessions apart?
I think that what artists have learned the hard way over the last 10–13 years is that there are a lot of livestreaming tools around – Facebook Live, Instagram, Twitch, Veeps, etc – that offer all the capabilities to stream. But that doesn’t matter if people aren’t watching. And if you don’t have an audience, you’re just a tree falling in the forest.

The question every musician should be asking any site that contacts them about live streaming is: ‘What are you going to do to market the show?’. And if they’re not going to market it you have to be very sober with yourself and ask: ‘Are we capable of doing that ourselves?’. I think the answer for most bands is they can’t afford to do it. They could bring people but they’d spend more bringing them they would then they would make on the event. And so, there are bands for whom the formula works but I think that this space has been much more characterised by streams that just don’t pay for themselves. Facebook Live and Twitch have gargantuan volumes of people playing and no one’s there.

“We’re actually spending money to market every show”

Is this an issue you’re hoping to address with the $75,000,000 marketing fund for musicians Sessions recently launched?
Yes. There has been a wave of streaming in the last year with Covid in particular but I think, for most musicians, livestreaming has been an unsuccessful experience. I think that’s largely because people don’t show up and the artists don’t make money from it. So, there are a lot of artists who stream once and don’t do it again. We’re actually spending money to market every show. Underneath this whole system is a growth engine – a software that was built 15 years ago and has been optimising and learning for a long time that enables us to find fans really efficiently for artists. That’s how artists start making money because you can’t make money if no one’s there. We’ve also committed to driving one billion-plus impressions to the platform within six months.

“Livestreaming doesn’t involve jumping in a van and driving 1,500 miles or spending six hours setting up and breaking down”

What kind of value will Sessions Live provide to artists once touring has restarted?
I think artists who have really healthy touring careers will go back to that and hopefully, a portion of them will understand that touring and livestreaming can coexist. But for the thousands of artists that we are currently hosting who don’t have the opportunity to play in clubs, it’ll be no different so I’m not concerned at all about that.

I do think we’ll hear more artists say ‘we made this much money last weekend when we streamed from our trailer or ‘we were rehearsing and then we just did a live stream after in the rehearsal’. It’s a really easy, lucrative thing to do and it doesn’t involve jumping in a van and driving 1,500 miles or spending six hours setting up and breaking down at a club. Furthermore – maybe more importantly – it’s a great marketing vehicle because there are so many things you can do with a live stream that help your career writ large. It’s not just about the live stream itself, it’s a way to introduce new material and connect directly to fans.

The other thing about performing live is that it’s geographically constrained obviously so if you play a club in Atlanta, you have to fill the club with people who live in Atlanta. And that means that you have to have a lot of fans in Atlanta. And it takes a long time for bands to build up audiences that are large enough to fill a local venue. The great benefit of a virtual venue is you can fill it with 300 people from all over the world so you don’t need to have that kind of fan density. It’s not an easy jump from online to the physical world but I think people will be able to build healthy sustainable careers just virtually performing.


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4,000+ socially distanced gigs to be held in UK in May/June

A new survey has revealed the full extent to which grassroots music venues in England plan to reopen their doors from 17 May.

The survey, commissioned by Music Venue Trust (MVT) among the nearly 1,000 members of its Music Venues Alliance (MVA), reveals that 2,534 socially distanced shows are already on sale in 266 venues from 17 May 17 to 21 June, with more than 4,000 shows across over 400 venues predicted to take place across the period.

17 May begins the penultimate stage in the UK government’s roadmap to ease Covid-19 lockdown restrictions in England before a planned return to full-capacity social activity on 21 June.

By the end of September, the survey indicates that over 17,000 full-capacity shows are confirmed to take place, with nearly 30,000 shows likely to take place in front of a combined audience of nearly seven million.

With support artists factored in, it is estimated that there will be 91,500 individual live performances during the period, offering over 300,000 work opportunities for musicians as they finally get the chance to return to paid employment.

“The grassroots sector is stepping up and putting its own time and money into answering the demand for live music”

Beverley Whitrick, strategic director of MVT, says: “It’s incredible to see the enthusiasm for getting live music back into our towns and cities being shown by venues, artists and crew. These socially distanced shows aren’t being delivered for financial return – in fact precisely the opposite. The grassroots sector is stepping up and putting its own time and money into answering the demand for live music in our communities.”

According to MVT, the grassroots music venue sector turned over £360 million in 2019–20 (prior to the pandemic), delivering over 200,000 events and more than half a million performances to 33m ticket holders. The sector provides full time employment for 10,000 people, with approximately 150,000 musicians, crew, sound engineers, lighting engineers, security personnel, bar staff and other casual employees working in grassroots live music.

“As we emerge from the darkness of the last year and move towards our plan to revive live it is incredibly exciting and heartening to see the positivity with which UK grassroots music venues are approaching re-opening their doors,” says MVT CEO Mark Dayvd.

“The fact that musicians can get back to work, music fans can start to enjoy a live music experience again and all the associated staff in the music venue ecosystem can go back to earning a living again is amazing news. There are still challenges to overcome – and, of course, the whole of this programme relies on the government sticking to its roadmap to allow us to reopen every venue safely. Audience safety continues to be grassroots music venues’ main priority, but this is hopefully the start of our much-anticipated road back to normality.”


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IQ 99 out now: NFT ticketing tech & more

IQ 99, the latest issue of the international live music industry’s favourite monthly magazine, is available to read online now.

In May’s edition, IQ examines the hype around nonfungible tokens and the exciting possibilities they can bring to ticketing, while news editor Jon Chapple discovers some of the ways that live entertainment can embrace sustainability in its return to action.

In comments and columns, the Australian Festivals Association’s Julia Robinson discusses how a lack of government-backed insurance could impact business confidence and Laura Davidson explains the driving force behind her new female-led live services consultancy, Amigas.

Following the inaugural edition of IPM Production Notes in IQ 98, tour manager Rebecca Travis reflects on 20 years on the road and one year off, while Mike Malak updates readers on the new technology impacting the music industry in Pulse.

Plus, enjoy the regular content you’ve come to expect from your monthly IQ Magazine, including news and new agency signings – the majority of which will appear online in some form in the next four weeks.

Whet your appetite with the preview below, but if you can’t wait for your fix of essential live music industry features, opinion and analysis, click here to subscribe now and receive IQ 99 in its entirety. Subscribers can log in and read the full magazine now.


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