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Sold-out Sportpaleis raises €50,000 for live biz

Fundraising initiative Lights for Live has raised more than €50,000 for Belgium’s live music industry after selling out the Antwerp Sportpaleis for the first time in 2021.

Over 5,000 people booked one or more virtual ‘seats’ at €2 each in the 18,400-seat arena to raise money for Live2020, a solidarity fund to support the industry during the Covid-19 pandemic. Previous fundraising events for Live2020 include the Live2020 Auction in November and last year’s Rock Werchter for Live2020.

The money raised by Lights for Live was handed over to Live2020 on Sunday (14 February), while at at the same time each seat in the Sportpaleis was illuminated to represent the fans who couldn’t be present.

“You can feel that people are really starting to look forward to concerts again”

“It is great to see so many people showing their solidarity with the live music sector through this action,” says Clouseau singer Koen Wauters. “You can feel that people are really starting to look forward to concerts again. It’s something I miss a lot myself at the moment.”

“I am genuinely touched by so much light and warmth,” comments musician and composer Miguel Wiels. “It sounds strange, but despite the fact that no one is here, you can still feel a kind of presence from the audience. Hopefully more actions like this will follow soon so that together we can lead the music sector through this crisis and we can make a new start without too much damage.”

According to Niels Destadsbader, another regular at the Sportpaleis, “I must say that I have mixed feelings being here today. On the one hand, it makes me a bit unhappy to see this beautiful concert hall empty, especially because I know from experience how this – in usual circumstances – is an insanely magical place. But on the other hand, I am very happy with the support of our fans and of everyone who supports and cares about music.”


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Flemish government earmarks €60m for festivals

The Flemish government has designated a total of €60 million to help the region’s organisers kickstart preparations for this summer’s festival season.

Flemish minister of economy, Hilde Crevits, has allocated €50m in repayable advances for the broader events sector to “to get the engine going and offer insurance against the risk of organising an event in uncertain times”, she says.

This is in addition to the €43m worth of repayable loans Crevits has already released, which went to 150 organisers including music festivals such as Sfinks, Laundry Day and Gent Jazz.

For the new round of funding, the maximum amount an organiser can apply for has been raised from €800,000 to €1.8m and larger organisations will be eligible to apply this time.

All events that secure funding must comply with the measures applicable at the time they take place and, according to Tidj, in most cases, the advance is non-refundable if the event is cancelled.

The remaining €10m from the €60m pot – allocated by Flemish minister of tourism, Zuhal Demir – will subsidise Covid measures for small music festivals, such as the construction of rapid test villages, additional entrances and exits, or the rental of a larger site.

“Flanders has the best festivals in all of Europe…it is in everyone’s interest that the festival summer can take place”

“Smaller events with a total cost of at least €250,000 can count on the support of up to €75,000, while larger players with budgets of at least €7.5 m can count on support of up to €500,000,” says Demir.

The application process for corona-proofing grants is already open on Event Flanders. Organisers can combine both types of support.

Demir is working with Event Flanders, which sets out the event policy for Tourism Flanders, along with virologists and festival organisers, to work out the conditions under which festivals can take place safely. The plan should be ready by the end of this month.

“Flanders has the best festivals in all of Europe,” says Demir. “From large mass manifestations to the more intimate niche events, it is in everyone’s interest that the festival summer of 2021 can take place in the best possible way, for organisers, for visitors and for the rest of Flanders.”

Flanders is one of three Belgian regions which encompasses major cities including Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent and Bruges, and is home to the country’s biggest festivals including Tomorrowland (pictured), Pukkelpop and Rock Werchter.

Last month, Flemish prime minister, Jan Jambon, also responsible for culture, announced that there will be clarity for festivals by mid-March at the latest.


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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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Tickets on sale for post-Covid rave in Belgium (date TBA)

Despite not yet having announced a date, tickets are selling fast for I Want to Dance Again, a Live Nation Belgium-promoted event billed as Belgium’s biggest “post-Covid party”, which will take place in Antwerp as soon as restrictions on major events are lifted.

I Want to Dance Again (IWTDA) – also the name of the the latest single by the Subs, the Belgian electro heroes co-organising the party with Live Nation and radio station Studio Brussel – will take the form of an all-night, celebratory rave held at Lotto Arena (5,218-cap.) at an unspecified time in the near future.

Describing the event as “a new year’s resolution you can finally keep”, organisers say: “Let’s dance together again in 2021. When? As soon as the current Covid-19 restrictions are lifted, we will schedule a date for the first post-Covid indoor rave without restrictions. A relief and reward for our massive efforts, after many months of dance deprivation.

“Together with the Subs, we will dance and party all night long at the Lotto Arena in Antwerp. The date is yet to be determined. The sooner, the better. Are you ready for a wild night out?”

Tickets for IWTDA are priced at €35.

Live Nation acquired the operating rights to Lotto Arena in 2018, when it took over Antwerps Sportpaleis group.


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