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Solidarity with Belarus: Thousands attend Poland concert

A line-up of popular Polish and Belarusian artists performed at Poland’s National Stadium last week as part of a concert in support of the protest movement against Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko.

Solidarity with Belarus (Solidarni z Białorusią) took place at the 58,580-seat PGE Narodowy in Warsaw – bedecked for the occasion in white-red-white of the pre-1995 Belarusian flag, used as a symbol by pro-democracy protestors – on 26 September. Performers included many musical veterans of Poland’s own struggle for democracy, such Chłopcy z Placu Broni, who performed ‘I Love Freedom’ in both Polish and Belarusian.

A total of 11,000 free tickets were available for the show, which was broadcast live on Belsat, a Polish government-owned channel aimed at Belarus, and Polsat, a private Polish TV station.

“Today the Belarusian people are fighting for their freedom”

Providing the visual the experience was Polish production company ARAM, which delivered almost 1,000m² of new Infiled AR-series LED screens, which were installed on layer construction.

To meet local Covid-19 regulations, attendees were obliged to sanitise their hands on entry and wear face coverings until they took their seats, with the requirements enforced by police.

Speaking at Solidarni z Białorusią, Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki told concertgoers: “We are here to be with Belarusians on their bumpy road to freedom,” adding that it was 40 years ago that the anti-communist Solidarity movement emerged in Poland.

“Back then, Poles had the courage to say ‘no’ to those who violated human rights and trampled on freedom. Today the Belarusian people are fighting for their freedom… Long live sovereign and free Belarus, and long live Poland.”


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Let us offer credit for cancelled shows, say assocs

As the coronavirus crisis continues to exert financial pressure on the live sector, industry associations and businesses in Europe, Asia and North America are asking for changes in the way refunds are issued for cancelled events.

In Europe, research shows digital footfall to event ticket sales sites has collapsed in recent months, with only travel agencies harder hit by concerns over the virus. According to Comscore, visits to ticketing sites fell by 47% in France, 12% in Germany, 52% in Italy, 55% in Spain and 26% in the UK between 17–23 February and 9–5 March.

The figures come as associations in the the UK warn of a cashflow “crisis” amid widespread concert cancellations – with British artists and managers alone expected to lose more than £60 million should a ban on mass gatherings last for the next six months – and other sectors, including cinema and aviation, similarly grapple with an unprecedented drop-off in ticket sales.

In countries including Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal, the UK, Russia and Kazakhstan, associations representing cash-strapped local operators are pushing for an extended refund grace period (up to 365 days), to be permitted to give vouchers in lieu of cash refunds, or a combination of the two.

“If you can afford it, you should consider whether it is really necessary to return your ticket for a refund,” reads a blog from Ticketmaster Germany, which is supporting the European Association of Event Centres (EVVC)’s #keepyourticket campaign. “Every ticket that is not returned helps organisers, venues and [sports] clubs, even after the coronavirus has passed, and enables them to be able to organise great events in future.”

The EVVC, which represents arenas and conference centres in central and southern Europe, is inviting its members to support the campaign by sharing text and visual materials calling for solidarity with promoters and venues. “For organisers, suppliers and cultural professionals, the corona pandemic is a threat to their existence,” says the association.

“If you can afford it, you should consider whether it is necessary to return your ticket for a refund”

Promoters’ association BDKV – which estimates its ~450 members will lose a combined €1.25 billion from March to May as a result of Germany’s event ban – is asking the German government to extend temporarily, to 365 days, the time within which a refund must be paid, as well as offer credit for tickets instead of cash refunds (a solution it says would especially benefit members sitting on large ticket inventories, such as theatres).

The former request (a grace period for refunds) is also believed to be the option preferred by Britain’s UK Music and Colisium, which represents promoters in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus.

In Spain, newly launched umbrella body Esmúsica (which includes the Association of Music Promoters) is also asking for a grace period, lasting until 31 December, for cancelled events. For postponed events, however, “given the exceptional situation”, the organisation says promoters must not be obliged to offer a refund, instead offering only a new ticket for rescheduled date(s).

“Several organisations and municipalities are cancelling events on a daily basis. Shows on sale for the end of the year and early 2021 are not selling. We have to work together on a reimbursement policy for postponed and cancelled shows that helps to minimise catastrophic losses,” says Portugal’s APEFE, which backs Esmúsica’s position on no refunds for postponed shows, suggesting that “purchased tickets must be valid for postponed shows without mandatory reimbursement”.

Both Esmúsica and APEFE (Association of Promoters of Shows, Festivals and Events) are also calling for a temporary reduction in VAT charged on tickets, among other relief measures.

In the Netherlands, meanwhile, the associations’ counterpart there, VVEM (Association of Event Producers), appears to be making headway with its campaign for ticket vouchers, with the Dutch cabinet discussing the issue this week.

“It is currently impossible for us to offer immediate cash refunds to all buyers”

Dutch culture minister Ingrid van Engelshoven has previously asked ticketholders not to request cash refunds, while VVEM has also reportedly found a sympathetic ear in the form of economy minister Eric Wiebes, who has said the government will provide further “strong help” for the sector (though it remains to be seen in what form).

While European associations focus on lobbying their respective governments, US secondary ticketing giant StubHub has taken the matter into its own hands, announcing that – where legal – it will no longer provide refunds for cancelled events to its American and Canadian customers. Instead, ticketholders will receive a voucher worth 120% of the original value of the ticket.

The change in policy comes as StubHub, which is in the process of being acquired by European rival Viagogo, lays off as much as two thirds of its workforce, in what it calls a “difficult but sensible decision”.

Explaining the shift in its refund terms, a StubHub spokesperson says: “In normal times, we’ve made the decision to refund buyers before collecting money from the seller to offer buyers more convenience. And under normal circumstances, this works well, even with StubHub taking the risk of timing delays and some losses when we are unable to collect from the seller. With the coronavirus impacting 28,000+ events and the associated magnitude of challenge in recouping monies owed by sellers over the coming months, it is currently impossible for us to offer immediate cash refunds to all buyers.

“When the volume of cancellations accelerated a few weeks ago, we were the first in our industry to offer a coupon worth 120% of the ticket value. This will now be our default option in Canada and in the US. Outside of the US and Canada, fans are defaulted to a refund.”


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Controversy as Enrique Iglesias shows cancelled

Upcoming shows by Spanish star Enrique Iglesias in Croatia, Belarus and Latvia have been cancelled, as the artist’s representative, Creative Artists Agency (CAA), declares a lack of compliance on behalf of promoter Art BG.

CAA released a statement on Thursday (14 November) calling off concerts at the Zagreb Arena (16,500-cap.) on 1 December; the Minsk Arena (15,000-cap.) on 3 December; and Arena Riga (10,300-cap.) on 5 December, all part of the artist’s All the Hits Live world tour.

A person close to the situation tells IQ that shows in Greece, under the charge of the same promoter, have also been affected.

Art BG has promoted other shows on the All the Hits Live tour in numerous countries, including Bulgaria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and Poland.

However, according to Latvian publication Apollo, no information about the concerts in Zagreb, Minsk and Riga had been published on Iglesias’ official website. The concert dates are still advertised on the Art BG website, but the pages they link to no longer exist.

“Sadly and regrettably, after much careful consideration, and exhausting all possible alternatives, we have been forced to cancel the upcoming shows in Zagreb, Riga, and Minsk,” reads the statement that CAA issued to ticket sellers, and published by Latvian platform Bilesu Serviss.

“Art BG has not complied or fulfilled their contractual obligations with the venues or any of the production elements for these three events”

“Art BG, the concert tour promoter, producer and event organiser, has not complied or fulfilled their contractual obligations with the venues or any of the production elements for these three events. All of this makes it impossible to put on the show that our fans deserve.

“Safety for our fans and crew is paramount and we cannot guarantee this for everyone without the promoter fulfilling their obligations. It is simply too big of a risk.”

The agency adds that it is seeking new dates for the shows “in the near future”.

“Together, with vendors and venues, we are devoted to making the responsible party, Art BG, held responsible for their actions,” concludes the statement.

Ticketing platform Bilesu Serviss has approached the police to obtain a legal assessment of the situation and “possible fraud by Art BG”. Until more information is available, no refunds will be made for tickets purchased on the Bilesu Serviss platform. Details about refunds will appear on the ticketer’s website and sent to all ticket holders in due course.

IQ has contacted Art BG and CAA for comment.


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