Subs manager on selling out an arena show…without a date
Earlier this month, Ghent-born electro trio the Subs, one of Belgium’s most successful domestic dance acts, announced I Want to Dance Again – “the first post-Covid indoor rave”, taking place in Antwerp on an unspecified date in the post-pandemic future.
As a symbolic, cathartic celebration of a return to normal life, I Want to Dance Again (IWTDA) struck a chord with the both the music industry – quickly winning the backing of Live Nation Belgium and popular radio station Studio Brussel – and ticket buyers, who snapped up passes in their thousands, despite not knowing when the event would take place.
With tickets priced at €35, IWTDA sold out its original home, the 5,218-capacity Lotto Arena, in the space of a week. Now taking place at the arena’s bigger brother, the 18,400-seat Sportpaleis, organisers are similarly confident of selling out the new venue by the time the show goes ahead, the Subs’ manager, Alexander Vandriessche, tells IQ…
IQ: Tell us about the genesis of the event. Whose idea was it, and how did it progress from there?
AV: We initially thought up the event when we were brainstorming about the roll-out for the single release of ‘I Want to Dance Again’ by the Subs. We thought: “Wouldn’t it be cool to throw an event – the first major post-pandemic event – at full capacity without social distancing?” We felt like there was a vital need for a sign of hope during the dark winter months, flanked by coronavirus restrictions and semi-lockdowns. A message, spurring people to hang on during these final moments, so we can come together again when this horrible pandemic is under control.
We then pitched the idea to Live Nation, to see if they’d also be up for this idea. We definitely needed a trusted and experienced promoter to piece this together. After researching the feasibility of this event together, we approached media partner Studio Brussel to join us in this unique event. Being a key media partner, rooted in youth and music culture, they too felt that this would be a positive message of reconnection and were extremely excited to get on board. We’ve been enthusiastically working together ever since.
How did you bring Live Nation on board? Did they take much convincing?
We pitched the idea to the promoters at Live Nation almost as soon as we came up with the idea. They were instantly charmed by the idea and started researching the feasibility of the budget and logistics. They’ve been a strong partner in this event since then.
“We felt like there was a vital need for a sign of hope during the dark winter months”
It’s a unique, perhaps unprecedented, challenge to go on sale without even having an event date. Why did you decide to announce it now, rather than wait until you had a confirmed day?
It definitely is a challenge, but, partially due to this peculiar situation we currently find ourselves in, we are confident that we can face the challenges regarding production and artist booking. Calendars and schedules are pretty much open at this point; vendors and crew are more than eager to pull this together; artists are yearning to get back out there.
The health and safety of the visitors, crew and artists are paramount, so it’s essential that we coordinate with local government as to when we can start preparing this event. Therefore, clear and open communication from, and with, local government is essential to move forward and successfully reconnect audiences with artists – something they’re clearly yearning for immensely.
How are ticket sales so far? Do you expect to sell out?
We initially started the event in the smaller, 5,000-capacity Lotto Arena, but after one week we had already sold out. So we moved it to the biggest indoor venue in Antwerp: the Sportpaleis!
Tickets sales are strong, with 10,000 tickets sold to date. We’re optimistic about achieving a sell-out.
“We feel like we’ve been treated as … hobbyists who should find alternative employment”
How do you see the night panning out? Is it a concert, a party, or something in between?
It’ll be an extended event that will go on to the early hours, with a combination of live shows and DJ sets. More than anything, it should be a celebration of reconnection after months of social isolation.
Speaking of social isolation, how do you feel the government has handled the pandemic in Belgium?
Like many organisations across Europe, we feel let down by our governments. While we understand that this is an unprecedented situation – with a pandemic that moves unpredictably, and that the general health and safety of our societies are paramount – we feel like we’ve been treated as a second-class economy, a collective of hobbyists that should just accept that their livelihood has been put on hold and find alternative employment elsewhere in the meanwhile. Whereas we are a strong industry, populated by healthy mid-size companies which are of great importance and deliver a huge social relief to the general public. Culture, arts and a social life are more than simple pastimes – they are essential for the public’s mental wellbeing.
As a sector we feel like we’ve been open-minded and constructive in researching and finding solutions, and would like to keep urging our governments to not forget us. We can work constructively together to organise a safe reconnection, and collaborate to create a positive outlook for culture in the coming months. We owe this to the public.
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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