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ARTMania’s Codruța Vulcu honoured in Romania

Codruța Vulcu, owner and CEO of ARTmania Festival, visited the Cotroceni Palace in Bucharest on National Culture Day to receive Romania’s Order of Cultural Merit.

She was awarded the prestigious medal on 15 January by Romanian president Klaus Iohannis in recognition of her services to the arts.

Vulcu is the director and founder of ARTmania Festival in Sibiu, the East European Music Conference and Showcase Festival, BlajaLive Festival and Romanian Music Export, as well as vice-president of the Romanian Association of Promoters of Concerts and Cultural Events (Aroc). In 2019 she also organised the official ceremonies for Pope Francis on the Field of Liberty in Blaj, Romania.

“This distinction that belongs to each colleague and collaborator that has been by my side during my 17-year career”

“I am honoured to receive this special distinction, unique in the life of a professional,” she says. “It is an acknowledgement that belongs to all those who believed in me and taught me; a distinction that belongs to each colleague and collaborator that has been by my side during my 17-year career in the music sector.

“Developing and launching international projects like ARTmania or BlajaLive, establishing a musical export bureau, and successfully organising the ceremonies during the official visit of His Holiness Pope Francis, are the results of not just one individual but of an entire team.”

ARTmania, Romania’s longest-running rock festival, won best small festival at the European Festival Awards in 2019, while Vulcu won the award for excellence and passion last year in a personal capacity. The 2021 edition of the festival takes place from 23 to 25 July.

 


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Festival bosses talk cash flow, artist fees

The second IQ Focus festival panel, Festival Forum: The Next Stage, saw festival leaders from around Europe discuss the thorny issues of refunds and insolvency, as well as the outlook for 2021, in what should have been the halfway point of the 2020 season.

Hosted by IQ Magazine editor Gordon Masson, the panel welcomed Mad Cool’s CIndy Castillo, Isle of Wight Festival/Solo Agency’s John Giddings, ARTmania’s Codruta Vulcua and Goodlive’s Stefan Lehmkuhl, two months on from the initial virtual Festival Forum session.

The current situation, said Giddings, has made it “blatantly obvious” that the business has an issue with cash flow and that many promoters don’t have any kind of “war chest to go forwards”.

“I don’t understand how you bankrupt companies by refunding tickets,” he said. “You shouldn’t be spending the ticket money on costs – you need to be in the position to be able to refund all the money. We have a responsibility to the audience.”

Giddings noted that some promoters have got into the habit of “taking money from the future to pay the past”, and it has become clear that this doesn’t work.

“This may teach people a lesson on how to run a business,” he said.

The other panellists agreed to an extent, but noted that a lack of support and clarity from the authorities has complicated matters in a lot of cases.

“This may teach people a lesson on how to run a business”

“Our government hasn’t even declared force majeure yet for live events”, said Castillo, who promotes Madrid’s Mad Cool festival. “This has put us in a very tricky legal situation.”

The Mad Cool team only started its refund period last week, explained Castillo, but is allowing people to make the decision on whether to hold onto tickets for next year or refund them until after the full 2021 line-up is revealed.

In Romania, said Vulcu, an immediate reimbursement “would have bankrupted many organisers”, as the government is implementing new restrictions every two weeks.

“There are companies with shows built up, everything ready and paid for, and then suddenly it had to be cancelled,” she said. A voucher scheme implemented by the government, allowing promoters to offer credit for shows or merchandise in place of cash refunds, has been a lifeline for many.

ARTmania did choose to offer refunds, but only received 43 requests. “Our decision to trust our audience really worked for us,” said Vulcu, adding that this tactic may “work for rock and metal audiences perhaps more than for others.”

Lehmkuhl, who runs German festivals including Melt, Splash, Superbloom and With Full Force, added that a lot depends on how long the shutdown continues for.

“So far, we have been able to spend our own money,” he said,” but the next step would be to touch the ticket money, then to get low-interest credit from the government in case it takes longer.

“What happens if it takes longer than a year?” he asked. “Few companies will be able to survive for longer than a year.”

“Our decision to trust our audience really worked for us”

Mindful of cash flow, Goodlive has asked for deposits back from acts it booked for this year. “There is mutual understanding there,” said Lehmkuhl. “We are trying to rethink our festivals for next year, adjusting dates and concepts. We will start from scratch in some ways next year.”

As the promoter of Isle of Wight Festival, Giddings said he also asked for deposits to be returned. “We are doing contracts going forward for next year and will pay the deposit then.”

In terms of being an agent, Giddings said he is not going to take a fee reduction for artists. “I would rather they didn’t play than take a reduction on my act,” he said.

“As an agent I wouldn’t book an act for festival next year unless they’re going to pay me the same money,” he said, “and we’ve done the same thing as a festival.”

Ticket prices will also have to stay the same, as so many fans are rolling over their tickets to next year. “Anyone raising ticket prices is insane,” said Giddings. “We need to get an audience back first before charging more.”

Vulcu, who said she left the money with the agencies when rescheduling, agreed that she will not be paying artists less money, “but we will definitely not pay more”.

“Romanian audiences will have a lot less money and the priority will not be going to festivals,” she said.

“As an agent I wouldn’t book an act for festival next year unless they’re going to pay me the same money, and we’ve done the same thing as a festival”

Castillo said her experiences have been “positive” with every agent. “We are looking out for each other to prevent the industry collapsing,” she said.

The Mad Cool booker admitted that it will be “really hard” to get the same audiences next year, “so we need help with fees to make things happen”.

“We are running a big risk with the festival next year”.

The recovery of the music business in Spain “hasn’t event started yet”, said Castillo, as “you first have to understand our business model, identify problems and offer solutions – and we haven’t been offered any solutions yet.”

Vulcu added that support packages offered by governments in western European countries such as Germany and the UK may put newer markets at a disadvantage, as they are less likely to receive support.

Giddings replied that, although the recent culture funding package announced by the UK government is sizeable, “we have no idea who it’s going to go to and how it will work”. He added that it was more likely to benefit venues than agents or promoters.

Sponsors are another issue for 2021. “Investing in events is risky now,” said Castillo, “and this is definitely affecting us.”

Vulcu said that, while ARTmania has secured its main sponsor for next year, “it is very difficult to get new sponsors”.

“Investing in events is risky now, and this is definitely affecting us”

Most Isle of Wight Festival sponsors have also “stuck with us” said Giddings, who believes that sponsors will start to come back in once it’s clear the event is going to happen, although they may be “different kinds of sponsors relating to our changing normal”.

Giddings added that he is “praying” for some direction on what will happen next year by Christmas, with clear information needed by March at the latest.

For Lehmkuhl, the key for the “new normal” is a high level of flexibility and an ability to keep running costs very low.

The Goodlive co-founder said that the idea of testing at festivals “is one of the few realistic plans [for getting event up and running] nowadays”, provided that the government is able to provide tests for free.

“It is hard for me to imagine that we will be able to do festivals as normal next year,” he admitted, “but one thing’s for sure, I will not be doing them with social distancing.”

The next IQ Focus session State of Independence: Promoters will take place on Thursday 16 July at 4 p.m. BST/5 p.m. CET. To set a reminder head to the IQ Magazine page on Facebook or YouTube.

Watch yesterday’s session back below, or on YouTube or Facebook now.


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IQ Focus returns with ‘Festival Forum: The Next Stage’

After a week’s break, IQ’s virtual panel series – IQ Focus – is back with Festival Forum: The Next Stage, which sees representatives from a handful of European festivals give an update on the state of the sector.

The ninth panel of the popular IQ Focus series, the session will be streamed live on Facebook and YouTube on Thursday 9 July at 4 p.m. BST/5 p.m. CET, building on a previous Festival Forum panel almost two months on.

Midway through what would have been this year’s festival season, it’s a summer like no other. But are we midway through the crisis, or is there still further to go before the festival sector can confidently progress into 2021?

How confident are promoters feeling about next year, and are artists and audiences ready to return?

With a number of government support packages in place, and much of this year’s line-ups transplanted to next year, how confident are promoters feeling about next year, and are artists and audiences ready to return?

IQ Magazine editor Gordon Masson hosts this IQ Focus discussion with panellists Cindy Castillo of Spain’s Mad Cool festival; John Giddings of the Isle of Wight Festival and Solo Agency; Stefan Lehmkuhl who promotes Splash, Melt, Superbloom and With Full Force festivals at Germany’s Goodlive; and Codruta Vulcu of Romania’s ARTmania Festival.

All previous IQ Focus sessions, which have looked at topics including diversity in live, management under lockdown, the agency business, large-scale and grassroots music venues and innovation in live music, can be watched back here.

To set a reminder about the IQ Focus Festival Forum: The Next Stage session on Thursday head to the IQ Magazine page on Facebook or YouTube.

 


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EEMC enjoys second successful year

The Romanian city of Sibiu hosted more than 30 industry delegates from around the world for the second annual East European Music Conference (EEMC), 26–28 July, where artists expanding their careers outside of Romania’s borders featured heavily on the conference agenda.

Organised with the support of the Romanian Association of Concerts and Cultural Events Organisers (AROC) and sponsors Kaufland, and financed by Sibiu Municipality, the event provided a day-time programme for delegates attending ARTmania Festival, promoted by AROC chair Codruța Vulcu, who is also one of the leading exponents of the country’s new export office.

International producers, booking agents, promoters and showcase event organisers were among those who witnessed the first Romanian Music Export’s showcase, where five acts chosen by an international jury performed on the eve of the ARTmania festival.

The conference schedule included discussions involving the Take a Stand and Music Moves Europe campaigns; initiatives to improve event sustainability; how to make the most of showcase events; and how to set up an export office, while attendees were enthralled by keynote interviews with promoting legend Laszlo Hegedus and Exit Festival founder Ivan Milivojev.

“The business is becoming more professional and artists are being introduced to all sorts of new opportunities”

But with an emphasis on helping Romanian talent to establish meaningful careers, EEMC also featured networking and mentoring sessions for musicians and their representatives, while workshops on subjects covering the live, recording, publishing and branding side of an act’s activities were led by International Music Managers Forum policy advisor Jake Beaumont-Nesbitt, whose presentations captivated the many artists at the conference.

“The Romanian music industry is still in it’s infancy, but thanks to the many experts that have given up their time to come to EEMC over its first two years, I’m happy to say that the business is beginning to become more professional and artists are being introduced to all sorts of new opportunities to help them make a career from music,” says Vulcu.

“The launch of Romanian Music Export is another significant step toward developing our country’s vibrant cultural scene. More than 200 acts applied to take part in our first showcase event, highlighting the importance of creating such a support network for artists and those working in the local industry.”

 


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Blaze destroys ‘unlicensed’ Bucharest club Bamboo

Bamboo, the Bucharest nightclub which burnt down early on Saturday morning, injuring more than 40 people, did not have an operating licence, a local government spokesman has revealed.

According to eyewitness reports, the blaze – which has echoes of the deadly fire at the Colectiv club, which lacked the proper fire permits, in October 2015 – was sparked by clubgoers smoking inside the venue. In a statement, Romanian president Klaus Iohannis said the city had been “very close to another big tragedy. Rules and laws have apparently been broken again.”

A number of Bucharest venues lacking fire exits were shuttered in the aftermath of the Colectiv disaster, which left 64 dead, and several more, including Expirat, La Bonne Bouche and Biutiful, were forced to close by a new law forbidding public gatherings in buildings considered to be unsafe in the event of an earthquake. Smoking was also banned indoors.

Speaking to Mediafax, a spokesman for Sector 2 – one of six administrative units (sectoare) of the city of Bucharest – said Bamboo had recently been fined for operating without a licence. “The club had a building permit for an expansion, which had been issued in 2012, but the work hadn’t been finalised,” he explained. “The club didn’t have an operating licence and was fined last year. This year, they were going to be fined again.”

The 2,000-capacity club, one of Romania’s most famous, opened in 2002 and was rebuilt after being destroyed by fire in 2005.

“The club didn’t have an operating licence and was fined last year. This year, they were going to be fined again”

The blaze comes after a series of early victories for fledgling Romanian promoters’ association Aroc. Founded in September 2016 – partly in response to the Colectiv fire – its members include ARTmania Festival, Emagic, Electric Castle Festival, Summer Well Festival, Sunwaves Festival, Twin Arts, Metalhead, Amphitrion, Wise Factor, Plai Festival and Mozaic Jazz Festival.

“Romanian promoters have never been actively involved in the process of regulating or controlling it [the industry], Aroc chairwoman Codruţa Vulcu, of ARTMania, says. “What became clear after the Colectiv fire, where we all lost friends and colleagues, is that we need to be better organised so that safety is improved everywhere and the professionals who work so hard in this country to put on concerts and festivals are not associated with those elements who cut corners and ignore regulations just to make a quick profit.”

Aroc has already helped block legislation that would have seen 5% of gross ticketing income diverted to a private association – run by the parties who introduced the legislation. Noting the private sector’s outrage, Vulcu says: “How can this even be a discussion in parliament? To tax the people who are investing in the cultural sector and centralise funds, with this private association having the legal right to use the money as it pleases?”

Vulcu vows Aroc’s members are determined to stand their ground and keep pushing for a “less corrupt sector, equitable legislation and a safer industry.”

 


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