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Arena Market: Netherlands

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The industry has rapidly recovered from Covid-19 and is looking to the future with positivity.

From Amsterdam, Ziggo Dome director of commercial affairs Danny Damman says, “International tours are running in full force again, and our bookings for 2023 show that this will remain the case for the foreseeable future.

“Our most significant challenge right now is finding enough staff to be able to maintain the high service level our guests are used to. The whole industry in The Netherlands is struggling with shortages of bartenders, security, service employees, and so on. We are working hard to rebuild the employee pool back to the level where it was before the pandemic.”

“International tours are running in full force again, and our bookings for 2023 show that this will remain the case for the foreseeable future.”

He says concerts that are performing particularly well are the newer generation of artists. Billie Eilish, Harry Styles, and Dua Lipa, all sold out rapidly.

The venue recently upgraded its backstage area, including the dressing room hallway, which is now filled with music- related paintings by Dutch masters. “The first phase is now finished, and we are about to start upgrading the dressing rooms themselves and our production offices,” says Damman. “We want to create an inspiring and pleasant place to stay.”

Audience members who bring their cup back to the bar are given a €0.50 discount on their next drink, in an effort to improve recycling rates.

Fans can now pre-order merchandise online ahead of concerts and skip the queues at merchandise desks on show day when collecting items. “We recently had great success with this concept during the concert of Harry Styles,” says Damman.

“Our most significant challenge right now is finding enough staff to be able to maintain the high service level our guests are used to.”

The venue can be configured for between 7,500 and 17,000 people. Acts include Bryan Adams, The Cure, and Justin Bieber.

Rotterdam’s Ahoy Arena has been a staple of the international touring circuit for over 50 years and has forthcoming shows with 50 Cent, Panic! At The Disco, Hans Zimmer, and Fred & Friends. Arnaud Hordijk, head of entertainment and sports, says with the pressures on staffing, cooperation is key.

While some acts want to retain their own individuality, there are plenty of artists who are open to sharing production, which is proving to be a good way to get round the shortages.

The multi-venue complex opened a new state-of-the-art arena in 2020. RTM Stage is now the largest mid-size arena in the Netherlands, with a maximum capacity of 7,842. The new stage is also designed to transform into an auditorium, with a capacity of 2,816 or a configuration for 4,174 seats.

“We have invested heavily in sound and light equipment for RTM Stage,” says Hordijk. “Lights are specific for the theatre setting and the sound is scalable per setting. It’s a good addition given the challenges related to the scarcity of material and personnel.

“We are working hard to rebuild the employee pool back to the level where it was before the pandemic.”

“In combination with the Ahoy Arena and the Exhibition Halls, RTM Stage can facilitate indoor festivals – we already have one being planned and several others are being explored.”

The arena recently installed 8,700 m2 of solar panels and 1,300 m2 of moss roofs. Hordijk says during the most recent De Vrienden van Amstel LIVE shows, 85% of the used plastic cups were recycled – a record number. In an initiative with the city government and its cleaning supplier, the Ahoy is using an urban water buffer system in which rainwater is being collected, retained, filtered, stored, and reused.

Forthcoming acts at RTM Stage include Editors, Tedeschi Trucks Band, and comedian Russell Peters.

“One of our main challenges at the moment is staffing. There is a nationwide staff shortage in the Netherlands.”

Amsterdam’s AFAS Live (3,500-6,000 capacity) is looking ahead to a busy period, says director Birgitte de Winter. “You won’t hear us complaining though,” she says. “We’re very happy to be able to do this again.

“One of our main challenges at the moment is staffing. There is a nationwide staff shortage in the Netherlands. We therefore put a lot of effort into showing job seekers that AFAS Live is the ideal place for a (side) job. Live music at work is the best thing there is, isn’t it?”

She says the venue team is focusing on improving the operations side of the business, concentrating mostly on drinks, food and service. “For example, we want to replace the installations in our bars for a more comprehensive and futureproof solution.

Not only will this will save a lot of time, space and maintenance costs in the coming years. This will also contribute in our vision for working in a more sustainable and durable way. We also want to invest in a new food experience in our foyer.”

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