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Irish concert businesses receive €25m summer funding

The government of the Republic of Ireland has announced recipients of its €25 million in to assist commercial venues, producers and promoters to plan live performances across the country over the summer months, with a total of 237 organisations benefitting from the scheme.

The live performance support scheme (LPSS) is part of a €50m suite of measures to support the live entertainment sector, and follows exceptional demand for a €5m pilot scheme in in 2020. The scheme aims to support live performances, particularly where capacity for live attendance is restricted due to Covid-19 and where funding will make live performances viable or alternatively make them available online if audiences cannot attend due to restrictions.

Among the companies to benefit from LPSS funding include Festival Republic, which has been awarded €423,000 for live shows in Stradbally Hall (home to its festival Electric Picnic) and the Olympia Theatre in Dublin; Aiken Promotions, which received €500,000 for its live performances at Dublin’s Vicar Street; and Pod, which has also been awarded €500,000 for Meadows Festival, a socially distanced festival of music, comedy and spoken word.

“The scheme aims to support live performances, particularly where capacity for live attendance is restricted due to Covid-19 restrictions”

Over 400 companies and businesses applied for the scheme. A Word document of all successful applications is available here.

Irish culture minister Catherine Martin says: “I am very pleased to announce this funding, which will encompass and support a wide range of performances over the coming summer months. I know this funding will assist in the employment of performers, artists, technicians, creative and performance support staff across the sector, bringing much-needed employment to many who have not had work for many, many months.

“I look forward to the high quality artistic output, as demonstrated in the pilot, which has been so important and enjoyed by so many.”

“I have recently provided a further €5m under the local live performance programming scheme for local authorities to engage local performers and crew to stage live performances in their areas,” she adds, “creating further employment opportunities over the coming months.”

 


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Aiken unveils new Vision for Dublin’s Vicar St

Ireland’s Aiken Promotions has unveiled Vision, a six-part online video series filmed at its 1,500-capacity Vicar Street venue in Dublin.

Partially funded with a grant from the government of the Republic of Ireland, Vision – hosted by comedian and TV presenter Tommy Tiernan – aims to celebrate Vicar St, says Aiken Promotions founder Peter Aiken. The venue, like nearly all others in Europe, has been largely closed since the dawn of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020.

“Opening the doors at Vicar St for those two weeks of filming and working together was great, even with only the performers, crew and venue staff present,” explains Aiken. “Ultimately, though, it was a bittersweet experience as it reminded us how much we all miss working at live shows – it’s impossible to recreate the buzz of an audience actually being the venue to witness another memorable performance.

“Aiken Promotions looks forward to a time when we can welcome everyone back to Vicar St”

“It was palpable how difficult things remain for everyone in the sector, so to have to turn the lights off again and walk away was heart-breaking.

“Obviously, there is no way to replicate the true essence of being at a live gig but with this special series, we hope we have created something that reminds us all of the magic we are missing.”

So far, two episodes of Vision have been released, the first featuring Christy Moore, Lankum and Lisa O’Neill and the second (embedded above) with Villagers, Cmat and comedian David O’Doherty.

“While the vision of future live entertainment might be still hazy, Aiken Promotions look forward to a time when we can welcome everyone back to Vicar St, along with all the other venues across Ireland,” adds Aiken.

 


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Irish cos receive funding from €5m support scheme

Aiken Promotions, Pod Festivals, MPI Artists and Body & Soul Festival are among the 58 concert businesses to benefit from Ireland’s new Live Performance Support Scheme, which aims to enable promoters, producers and venues plan to live performances in the coming months.

Catherine Martin, the Republic of Ireland’s minister for culture and the arts, announced the beneficiaries of the scheme today (2 November), with an announcement from her office explaining that the €5 million fund will allow “commercial organisers of live performances to commence preparations immediately and productions to go ahead, with either a live audience or to share content through streaming”.

Recipients of the funding range including concert and festival promoters, theatre and pantomime producers, and venues of all sizes, with individual grants ranging from €10,000 to €400,000.

“I am very conscious of the unprecedented nature of the challenge facing the live performance sector, not least from a financial point of view, and accordingly I’m very pleased to announce this funding allocation, which I’m sure will greatly assist in the employment of performers, artists, technicians, creative and performance support staff across the sector,” comments Martin.

“This scheme helps to de-risk the costs of running productions that may be postponed, cancelled or curtailed”

“I was also delighted to recently announce €50 million in support for the sector in [the] budget 2021, which will encompass a range of supports for live entertainment events to take place in venues next year across the country, and other measures to support music, and a new grant scheme for equipment.”

The Live Performance Support Scheme is similar to recent measures announced in Austria, where the government is acting as a guarantor for concerts, though the Irish scheme is paying out grants up front, rather than if/when a show is cancelled.

“This scheme, designed after consultation with the sector, helps to de-risk the costs of running productions that may be postponed, cancelled or curtailed due to restrictions to safeguard public health,” adds Martin. “The live events sector was one of the first to close and I want to ensure that it will be supported and there once again for musicians, artists and performers.”

A full list of recipients of the funding is available from the Republic of Ireland government website.

Irish promoters told IQ last week that while the live music industry is grateful for the €50m support package, it still needs clarification about when events may return in 2021.

 


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DEAG launches in Ireland with Singular Artists

Germany’s Deutsche Entertainment AG (DEAG) has launched in Ireland in partnership with veteran concert promoters Fin O’Leary, Brian Hand and Simon Merriman.

Through its UK subsidiary, Kilimanjaro Live, the Berlin-based company has established Singular Artists, a new company that will organise concerts in both Northern Ireland and the Republic. It also plans to expand its ticketing businesses, MyTicket and Gigantic, to Ireland following Singular Artists’ launch.

DEAG holds a majority (55%) stake in Singular Artists, with the remaining equity split between O’Leary, Hand and Merriman, all of whom most recently worked at Aiken Promotions. All bring from Aiken a diverse roster of touring artists and cultural events, including a growing portfolio of non-music events, including podcasts, YouTubers, comedy and spoken word.

Acts the trio have worked with include My Chemical Romance, Sufjan Stevens, Fontaines DC, Daryl Hall and John Oates, Yungblud, Tones and I, Jose Gonzalez, A-ha, Larking Poe, Clannad, Loyle Carner, Soak, the Dubliners and Girl Band.

“We are pleased that this expansion opportunity has opened up for us in these challenging times for the live entertainment industry,” says Kilimanjaro CEO Stuart Galbraith. “We are all looking forward to presenting concerts and events to our audience again soon.

“We’re very excited for the artists we’re working with, and for the new relationships we will be forging”

“[The Republic of] Ireland is an attractive market within the EU. We are starting off with a strong team and are now building the foundations to conquer the Irish market once the pandemic ends. The DEAG group’s strength also lies in the fact that it recognises such opportunities and has the ability to seize them.”

Kilimanjaro will provide Singular with “infrastructure, accounting and other relevant synergies”, according to the company.

“Singular Artists is incredibly exciting for all of us – Brian, Simon and I have worked side by side for a number of years, so it was natural that we would join forces to create something new, given the circumstances,” says O’Leary. “We always strived for an artist-friendly approach to music promotion, and we’re very excited for the artists we’re working with, and for the new relationships we will be forging. We are looking forward to building on this with Stuart, Steve [Tilley] and the Kilimanjaro team as Singular Artists.”

Adds DEAG’s Detlef Kornett: “DEAG is expanding despite the crisis. We are not only retaining our key personnel in the group, but even expanding it. The Irish market is extremely attractive. We will position ourselves there with top-class content and grow.

“Already, over 8,000 events are held in Ireland every year. Together with our own events, these form an excellent basis for the expansion of our ticketing activities to Ireland.”

 


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Ireland to permit some shows, festivals in August

The Republic of Ireland has released its roadmap for reopening society and business following the Covid-19 shutdown, which sees shows and festivals return from 10 August, provided that capacity restrictions and social distancing measures are complied with.

Under the five-step plan presented by Irish prime minister (taoiseach) Leo Varadkar, “festivals, events and other social and cultural mass gatherings” will make a comeback in the final stage, under certain constrictions.

The reopening of events will be contingent on “both indoor and outdoor number restrictions”, according to the exit plan, although the specifics of such capacity restrictions are not communicated.

It was announced last month, however, that events over 5,000 people would not return until after the end of August, leading to the cancellation of MCD Productions’ Longitude and Sunstroke festivals, as well as Pod/Aiken Promotions All Together festival.

Under the five-step plan “festivals, events and other mass gatherings” will make a comeback in the final stage, under certain constrictions

The plan also mandates that “social distancing” must be adhered to during events. Once again, the details of such measures are not laid out. Currently, social distancing in Ireland implies maintaining a distance of two metres between individuals.

The fifth phase of Ireland’s recovery will also see pubs and nightclubs open their doors, “where social distancing and strict cleaning can be complied with”.

The capacity reductions and social distancing measures referenced in Ireland’s reopening roadmap are akin to those imposed on venues in Spain, which released its exit strategy last week. Spain’s plan indicated that concerts could return as early as May with certain capacity and distancing restrictions, but was criticised by members of the live industry for being “unclear” and unrealistic for many promoters.

Photo: Peyton Edward/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0) (cropped)

 


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Festivals cancelled as Ireland outlaws events over 5k

The Republic of Ireland’s major summer festivals, including Longitude, All Together Now, Life Festival, Body & Soul and the new-for-2020 Sunstroke, have been called off after the Irish government confirmed there would there would be no licences issued for events over 5,000 people until the end of August.

A statement issued by the Irish prime minister (taoiseach), Leo Varadkar, says while licensing decisions in Ireland are usually reserved for local councils, local authorities “have been advised by government that event promoters should be informed that events requiring licences in excess of 5,000 will not be considered for the period up to the end of August”.

MCD Productions, which promotes Longitude (3–5 July) and Sunstroke (13–14 June), as well as Electric Picnic on 4–6 September, says while it is “obviously devastated” Longitude isn’t going ahead, “the health and safety of our fans and staff is paramount and we fully respect the government’s decision. We would like to take this opportunity to thank the frontline workers currently giving their all to keep us safe.”

Longitude’s 2020 line-up featured headliners Kendrick Lamar, Tyler the Creator and Asap Rocky, along with Mabel, Young Thug, J Hus and Charli XCX.

As for Electric Picnic, MCD head Denis Desmond says: “It’s a long shot. The chances of it happening are not good.”

“The health and safety of our audience, team and performers takes total precedence at this time of global crisis”

Restrictions on major events are also in place in the Netherlands, where large events are banned until 1 September; GermanyBelgium and Denmark, where a ban is in place until 31 August; and Luxembourg and Finland, which have prohibited mass gatherings until 31 July. France, meanwhile, has given mid-July as the earliest date when events could go ahead, while Austria has identified the end of June.

The restrictions across Europe are in line with the latest European Union guidance.

“Like everyone across the world, we’ve been watching the ongoing effects that Covid-19 is having on our everyday lives,” say All Together Now (31 July–2 August) organisers Pod Concerts and Aiken Promotions, which had booked Iggy Pop, Lauryn Hill, Mura Masa, Goldfrapp and more for its third edition. “The health and safety of our audience, team and performers, plus the extended communities to which they belong, takes total precedence at this time of global crisis.

“Being ‘All Together’ has never been more poignant. While for now, we can’t be together physically, we must be together in spirit by following HSE [Health Service Executive] and government guidelines [and] supporting frontline staff, our local communities, independent businesses and artists who need our support more than ever.”

Avril Stanley, promoter and festival director of Body & Soul (19–21 June), says: “While we may not be able to gather in person this summer, we are with you in spirit. We’re not going anywhere.”

 


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Irish biz divided on secondary ticket regulation

Concert promoters, ticket agents, lawyers and sporting organisations are divided as to the need for regulation of secondary ticketing in the Republic of Ireland, as MPs debated a new bill aimed at capping resale prices at 10% above face value.

Maurice Quinlivan, the TD (teachta dála) for Limerick City, yesterday evening presented his Sale of Tickets (Sporting and Cultural Events) Bill 2017, which would make it an offence to “sell or offer for sale a ticket for a designated event at a price greater than 10% above the face value of the ticket”, for its second reading in the lower house of Irish parliament, the Dáil Éireann. Quinlivan’s bill follows a similar piece of proposed legislation by Noel Rock TD, which was rejected by the Dáil in January in favour of a period of consultation with leading Irish music industry stakeholders.

While Quinlivan’s bill won some support, mostly from his own Sinn Fein party – Sinn Fein TD Sean Crowe spoke of the need to “tackle the ticket rip-off chancers”, while Martin Kenny TD suggested that “everyone agrees there is a major problem here” – an amendment by government minister Sean Kyne delayed the process of the bill by nine months to allow for further scrutiny.

Quinlivan this morning criticised “the government’s 11th-hour attempt to kick this legislation down the road for nine months”, claiming the bill was sabotaged by an allegedly bitter Rock.

“It has become clear that Noel Rock TD – who drafted a similar, but flawed, bill on the issue which has not moved from first stage – was upset with the decision that the government was to facilitate this Sinn Fein bill to address ticket touting,” he said, “and so an amendment was aimed at appeasing him and delaying the progress of my bill.

“It’s worth noting that Deputy Rock has gone out of his way to try and discredit the legislation over the past couple of days in the media, yet he made no personal contribution to the debate on the matter last night.”

“Where artists want to limit or mitigate resale, we provide comprehensive tools to achieve that”

The latest round of parliamentary debate comes after the conclusion of a public consultation on ticket touting by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. Those who responded included promoter Aiken Promotions; consumer groups ECC Ireland and the Consumers’ Association of Ireland; sports governing bodies GAA, FAI and IRFU; primary ticket agencies Ticketmaster Ireland and Tickets.ie; and several secondary sites, including StubHub, Seatwave and Viagogo.

Aiken Promotions MD Peter Aiken proved the most vocal in his support for new regulation, stating he “would like to see the resale of tickets by third parties criminalised”. “This,” he said, “would give the public the opportunity to purchase a ticket on a fair and equal footing for all.”

That view, predictably, is not one shared by Ticketmaster (which owns Seatwave) or the secondary ticketing sites. In its submission, Ticketmaster criticised the “media frenzy around ticket resale”, which has, it said, “only served to confuse the public and sensationalise the issue. Our data shows that less than 1% of the tickets that Ticketmaster Ireland sells on behalf of its clients are subsequently resold – a vastly different story to what is told in the Irish press.”

The answer, said Ticketmaster, lies not in legislation – which would “simply push the market underground or offshore” – but “in technology, and where artists want to limit or mitigate resale, we provide comprehensive tools to achieve that.” (Recent examples include Iron Maiden’s use of paperless and named tickets and its Verified Fan tech, as deployed for Linkin Park’s One More Light tour.)

Aiken’s position is backed by both the Football Association of Ireland (FAI), which says it “would be helpful for legislation […] to combat the sale of tickets by persons who purchase tickets with no intention of ever attending the event, but who resell the tickets at a significant profit”, and the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), which states “touting in its various forms should be classified as a criminal activity”.

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU), declined to pick a side but said it would “welcome the opportunity to enter into a further comprehensive consultation process”.

Despite its recent hiring of 20 people to battle ticket bots, Tickets.ie said the “presence of a secondary market is not detrimental in our view” – although it took a swipe at Ticketmaster by stating its belief that “the transparency of that market is a concern, […] and the vertically integrated nature of the largest promoter with the largest primary ticket agent, the largest secondary ticket agent and the largest venue owner does create an environment in which the smaller promoters and the consumer can be taken advantage of.”

“We would like to see the resale of tickets by third parties criminalised”

“We believe that the best means to protect the consumer is to properly enforce the existing consumer protection and competition laws,” said Tickets.ie CEO John O’Neill, “as opposed to the introduction of new legislation that will have limited impact in practice, be difficult to enforce and will ultimately raise costs for consumers and potentially reduce the number of live events in Ireland.”

Meanwhile, Tixserve – the mobile white-label ticketing platform launched at Omeara in February – said “the jury is out” on the effectiveness of legislation, instead highlighting the importance of ‘track and trace’ paperless technology to combat illicit electronic ticket sale.

Mary Mitchell O’Connor, minister for jobs, enterprise and innovation, says her department will now consider the responses before deciding on its position “on a complex issue with a number of different dimensions”.

“I would like to thank the individuals, sporting organisations, promoters, primary and secondary ticketing service providers and others who took the time and trouble to respond to the consultation,” she comments. “Their responses contain a considerable amount of interesting and informative material about the organisation of major entertainment and sporting events and the operation of the primary and secondary markets for such events. They cover a range of different views on the matters at issue and put forward a range of different, and in some cases, conflicting solutions as to what might be done to help ensure that ticket markets would work better for music and sports fans in the future.

“I would encourage everyone with an interest in the issue to read and reflect on the responses to the consultation. Before decisions are taken on a complex issue with a number of different dimensions, it is important that we have the fullest possible understanding of the issues and interests at stake and the widest possible debate on the policy measures that should be adopted.”

 


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