German industry warning over Covid winter plan
Live event organisers in Germany have issued a preemptive warning to the government over potential Covid restrictions in the autumn and winter.
Should containment measures be deemed necessary again due to a future surge in infections, the Event Management Forum says it is “imperative” they do not include capacity limits or social distancing requirements for concerts.
“Music clubs can only survive without capacity restrictions, distance rules and the obligation to wear masks,” says LiveKomm chair Axel Ballreich. “We can come to terms with the need for PCR tests at the highest risk level – if the hospital and KRITIS burden make it absolutely necessary. However, the cost of the tests must be borne by the state. The social and societal aspects of the pandemic must not be neglected.”
“Ticket sales are extremely poor for many events”
Marcus Pohl, chair of event industry trade body ISDV, underlines the need for “concrete talks” between the sector and the German authorities to formulate a plan for the autumn.
“The course must now be set so that the sixth-largest branch of the economy with 248,000 companies does not hit the wall for the hopefully last few metres and the previous aid thus misses the goal of preserving companies and jobs,” he adds.
Despite a number of successful music events going ahead this summer, BDKV president Jens Michow warns the overall economic situation remains precarious for the business.
“Ticket sales for cultural events are extremely poor for many events,” he says. “There are numerous reasons for this, such as the continuing uncertainty of the audience and now also growing fears due to rising inflation and the effects of the war in Ukraine.
“The industry is therefore still in a very desolate situation, in which it only takes a small gust of wind to finally tip it over.”
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German biz calls for clarity on Covid winter plan
Germany’s events business is calling for clarity on the government’s Covid containment plans for the autumn and winter period.
The Event Management Forum (EMF), which includes the BDKV (Federal Association of the Concert and Event Industry) and venue association LiveKomm (LiveMusikKommission), has welcomed recommendations drawn up in preparation for potential developments with the pandemic.
According to Die Welt, plans reportedly under discussion include considerations for masks to be made compulsory in all indoor public spaces during the winter months.
However, the EMF expresses frustration at the authorities’ continued reluctance to engage directly with the industry, and the lack of aid measures planned for the sector should a worse-case scenario emerge in the coming months, leading to the re-introduction of social distancing measures and capacity restrictions at concerts.
“Organisers don’t plan tours overnight and must therefore be able to anticipate the feasibility of their events in order to avoid damage,” says Axel Ballreich, chair of LiveKomm.
“Ticket sales for cultural events are already going extremely poorly because the audience first wants to wait and see whether events”
Having previously reported weak advance sales for shows planned for autumn 2022 and spring 2023 due to low consumer confidence, BDKV president Jens Michow reiterates the market is still plagued by uncertainty.
“Ticket sales for cultural events are already going extremely poorly because the audience first wants to wait and see whether events are taking place reliably,” says Michow. “Added to that, many fear the risk of infection or have changed their leisure behaviour due to the crisis.
“Also, the price increases that have taken place in all areas and the uncertainty as to what effects the war in Ukraine in the coming months will have is causing German people to limit their spending on leisure time.”
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German live industry reports sluggish return
Live music promoters in Germany have reported sluggish ticket sales for upcoming concerts, despite the lifting of Covid restrictions.
BDKV president Jens Michow reports weak advance sales for shows planned for autumn 2022 and spring 2023, exacerbated by staffing shortages and an oversupply of events, while no-show rates have ranged from 15-40%
LiveKomm chair Axel Ballreich tells Backstage Pro that outdoor gigs are proving significantly more popular than indoor shows. Older music fans have been more hesitant to return to shows since the restart, he adds, and at least a third of the workforce is yet to return since leaving the touring business due to the onset of Covid-19.
Ballreich says that his costs have already risen by 20-30%, and increases in catering and security are anticipated to be between 30% and 50%, with industry figures fearing the economic effects of the pandemic will continue to rumble on until 2024.
“Our dependence on state aid will not end anytime soon”
A special fund introduced for cultural events is currently set to expire at the end of June, but BDKV president Jens Michow stresses that some live music companies will not be able to generate income again until mid-2023 at the earliest.
“Our dependence on state aid will therefore not end anytime soon,” he says. “That’s why I make it clear to politicians every day that organisers cannot go back to 100% overnight.”
Michow also notes a lack of confidence among consumers due to repeat concert cancellations during the pandemic, while there remains uncertainty as to whether capacity limits will need to be re-introduced in the autumn.
“In the event that there are restrictions again, we need an economic rescue package now… that we can use if there are capacity restrictions again or even a new lockdown for our industry,” he adds.
“The industry is still a long way from the economic level of 2019”
Full capacity shows have been permitted in Germany since March, but the country’s much-trumpeted “freedom day” was met with a muted response from event professionals due to federal states retaining the power to impose “hot-spot regulations” to deal with future outbreaks.
“With the temporary end of the Corona measures, the event business is starting up again in small steps,” says Germany’s Event Management Forum, which includes BDKV and LiveKomm, among other cultural organisations. “However, the industry is still a long way from the economic level of 2019.
“Above all, there is a lack of sufficient planning security. The bridging aid expires at the end of June [and] a programme ‘Neustart Kultur 3’, which would be urgently needed in the coming year, is not yet being planned.
“The situation in the economic sector is made more difficult by the public’s considerable reluctance to buy, rising inflation and the expected economic effects of the war in Ukraine. And since nobody knows how the pandemic situation will develop after the summer, there is an urgent need for a rescue package that takes effect.”
Germany’s live biz says Freedom Day ‘not in sight’
Germany’s Event Management Forum (EMF) has warned of the challenges still facing the live music sector despite parliament voting to scrap most Covid restrictions.
Last month, the country confirmed a gradual approach to reopening, amid falling infection numbers. Limits on major outdoor events were raised from 10,000 to 25,000 (or 75% capacity) on 4 March, and clubs were allowed to reopen, with full capacity shows permitted from this Sunday’s much-trumpeted “Freedom Day”.
Though cases have since surged to record levels, with 297,845 new coronavirus cases and 226 deaths reported over the last 24 hours according to the Robert Koch Institute, lawmakers backed an amendment to the Infection Protection Act, which removes the need to wear face masks in most public settings.
“We can’t continue to put the entire country under a shield in order to protect a small group of people who are unwilling to get vaccinated,” said health minister Karl Lauterbach. “The balance is being shifted.”
However, the EMF, which includes live music bodies BDKV and LiveKomm, has raised concerns that, due to high case numbers, several federal states have announced they plan to maintain Covid restrictions even after the transition period ends on 2 April, and have the power to impose “hot-spot regulations” to deal with future outbreaks.
“The patchwork of measures is thus growing,” it says. “In addition, the regulations are limited until 23 September 2022 and dealing with a further wave in autumn is completely open.”
“The uncertainty remains as to what will happen in autumn”
Marcus Pohl, chair of the ISDV, the trade body for the event industry’s independent service providers, says the plans lack long-term perspective.
“If no further changes are made to the version of the present draft law to amend the Infection Protection Act, a return to normality is not in sight,” he says.
“Even if events will be possible in many places in the coming months and, for example, the clubs can govern at short notice, the uncertainty remains as to what will happen in autumn,” says LiveKomm chair Axel Ballreich, who is calling on the government to name a specific point of contact to restart a dialogue with the sector.
The organisation is also proposing the implementation of a nationwide, tiered process to protect against infection going forward.
“In the first step, an FFP2 mask requirement may be sufficient,” it says. “In a second stage, it must be possible that only 2G or 2G plus visitors, for example, are allowed access to the event. In the next step, a restriction to 3G and a seat plus mask in the aisles can represent the next higher measure without capping capacity.
“Only when the infection has exceeded a hospitalisation rate to be defined should a distance requirement be imposed. In this case, however, an economic aid must be granted for all types of events. In addition, there needs to be a clear, nationwide regulation on the required vaccination status for participants and guests of events arriving from abroad.”
“Events with capacity restrictions have not been economical in the past two years and will not be able to be so in the future either,” reiterates BDKV president Prof Jens Michow reiterated . “You cannot generate 100% costs with an income possibility of 75%.”
‘Many questions unanswered’ on Germany reopening
Promoters in Germany have warned “many questions remain unanswered” about the country’s reopening, despite the promise of a long-awaited “Freedom Day” next month.
A gradual restart is underway that will see capacity limits on major outdoor events raised to 25,000 (or 75% capacity) – and indoor events to 6,000 (or 60% capacity) – on 4 March, with clubs also allowed to reopen from that date. Most other Covid curbs will then be axed from 20 March, although “low-threshold basic protective measures”, such as mask-wearing, will still apply.
The Event Management Forum has expressed its relief at the “steps back towards normality” being taken by the government, but says the plans require “considerable clarity” and currently appear to fall short of the industry’s needs.
“Should it mean that capacity restrictions are perhaps only reduced but basically continue to exist, the event industry would still be a long way from a ‘Freedom Day’,” says Prof Jens Michow, president of live music association BDKV. “Cost-efficiency presupposes that we at least have the chance to generate 100% income with 100% costs. To do this, we must be able to use the hall capacities to the full. As long as we don’t have this chance, we will still not be able to speak of normality in our economic sector.”
“Many questions remain unanswered,” adds Linda Residovic, MD of VPLT (Association for Media and Event Technology). “What happens in the fall when the incidence rises again? What help will continue to be available for the fall should it be needed? The events industry still can’t rely on anything and that’s why the opening in March will not bring about a restart in all areas.”
“Renewed lockdowns and closures must be prevented”
LiveKomm chair Axel Ballreich warns: “It must now be ensured that outdoor events can take place in summer without any restrictions. This includes standing room, without a mask, dancing and partying. If we do not receive this security immediately, we will have to cancel events now out of fairness to our guests, but also in the interest of minimising damage.”
Last week, venues association LiveKomm made an urgent appeal to policy makers under the motto “Dance out and quiet. The end of club and festival culture as we know it.” It has warned that clubs and festivals are concerned there is still a lack of knowledge about the planning effort required to run them.
“Door checks are part of everyday club life, which is why measures such as 2G-plus are easier to implement there than a mask requirement, which does not go together with club life and drinking,” says executive director Steffen Kache. “There shouldn’t be any talk of distance. Below 50% [capacity], every opening is like a lockdown – unless clear help is provided – at 75-80% there is at least the hope of self-sufficient operation again.
“Furthermore, the club and festival industry is demanding a confrontation with further threatening corona waves for the coming autumn. Renewed lockdowns and closures must be prevented, after two years politicians can be asked to take preventive measures and plans that start before the wave to protect the cultural industry. Anything else would be a total failure.”
German live biz calls for five-year recovery plan
Germany’s Event Management Forum (EMF) has presented a series of demands to government, amid concerns no major tours will be able to take place in the first half of next year.
The EMF alliance, which consists of five major organisations including live music associations BDKV and LiveKomm, is calling for a tailored support scheme for the sector to run until the end of 2022, as well as a five-year recovery plan for 2023 to 2028, and a special representative for the industry in politics.
It is 12 months since the German federal government set a precedent for the European live music industry with the announcement of a £2.5 billion insurance pot. Speaking at a digital press conference, BDKV president Jens Michow acknowledged the “considerable” funding provided up to this point, but said the current assistance does not go far enough.
“If, however, an economic sector is so badly affected by an economic crisis, a comprehensive special programme tailored to specific needs is required in order to save its economic survival,” he said. “Such a programme must then run until the end of 2022.”
A time like the one we experienced live in 2018 and 2019 has moved very, very far away
Estimating that sales were down by 80 to 100%, LiveKomm chair Axel Ballreich said the existing live music business model was increasingly being called into question. He also shared his fears that no major tours will be able to take place in the first half of 2022.
“A time like the one we experienced live in 2018 and 2019 has moved very, very far away,” he said. “It will take a few years of development work.”
Michow put the loss of income for the industry during the coronavirus crisis at €10 billion, and noted that while aid programmes had been useful, some were not geared towards the needs of the business and, more pertinently, were not designed to last for such a long time.
Warning the live business was fighting for its very existence and had “run out of time”, Michow said the situation had become one of “desperation and hopelessness”.
“There is still no opening strategy,” he lamented. “In the current situation, we cannot plan tours. The countries have to agree on uniform regulations.
“Since the coronavirus will not simply vanish into thin air in the coming year, we finally need comprehensible, standardised criteria for a nationwide opening perspective. ”
The one-hour press conference on 16 December began with a lecture by Klaus Wohlrabe, the deputy head of the Ifo Institute for Economic Research, who stated the event industry was the sector hardest hit by Covid-19 infection protection measures.
Wohlrabe asserted that the industry’s business climate index fell from minus 2.2 points in October, to minus 26 points in November.
“Until October there was still hope for improvement,” he said. “This disappeared in November.”