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Big Concerts ‘ecstatic’ as SA drops restrictions

South Africa’s largest promoter Big Concerts has spoken of its relief after the government finally dropped the country’s remaining coronavirus measures.

Restrictions had included mandatory mask-wearing in indoor public spaces, border checks for Covid-19 and – most pertinently for the live music business – capacity limits of 1,000 people indoors and 2,000 people outdoors.

Live Nation-owned Big Concerts has upcoming dates scheduled with the likes of OneRepublic, David Gray and Foreigner, as well as two huge shows with Justin Bieber at Cape Town’s DHL Stadium (28 September) and FNB Stadium in Johannesburg (1 October).

“The road to economic recovery starts today”

“It was nerve-wracking because our timing was impeccable,” says Big Concerts CEO Justin van Wyk, reports Eyewitness News. “We had just announced Justin Bieber and two weeks later, our scientists announced Omicron. We are ecstatic with this news, it is going to be a great summer. The road to economic recovery starts today.”

According to Reuters, the lifting of measures followed a decline in the number of Covid infections and deaths.

Big Concerts has been involved in nearly every major international live event promoted in South Africa since the 1990s, including the 1992 concert by Paul Simon which marked the end of a 10-year international ban on foreign artists during the Apartheid era.

Live Nation acquired a controlling interest in the Cape Town-based promoter in 2016. The two companies have been working together since mid-2009, when Big Concerts became exclusive promotion partner for all LN tours in South Africa.

Ticketmaster expanded to South Africa earlier this year, opening a new headquarters in Cape Town.

 


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Prodiss challenges French presidential candidates

French music association Prodiss has posed a series of questions on the future of live music to the country’s presidential candidates in the run-up to next month’s election.

Prodiss president Olivier Darbois (Corida), general manager Malika Séguineau, and officials Marie Rigaud (Le Printemps de Pérouges), Olivier Cauchon (Diogène), Raphaëlle Plasse (Paris La Défense Arena) and Pierre-Alexandre Vertadier (Décibels Productions,) have now circulated six videos via its social media channels under the banner #6QuestionsPourLeLive, challenging the presidential hopefuls for concrete answers on specific issues pertaining to the live sector’s recovery.

Topics covered include The ‘Sound’ decree and its evolution; The return of the public to our rooms; The accessibility of presenters to performance halls, the territorial divide and access to culture; Fair treatment on security costs; Funding from the National Music Center; and The common future of live and digital platforms.

The series will conclude on Wednesday (30 March) with a question about digital platforms, asked by Séguineau.

“We are awaiting concrete answers concerning our professions, our sector”

“We are awaiting concrete answers concerning our professions, our sector,” says the organisation.

While concerts were able to resume at full capacity in France last month, the business previously joined forces with fellow cultural organisations SMA, SCENES, SNDTP, CAMULC, FESAC and Tous Pour La Musique to denounce the “stigmatisation” of live performance since the onset of the Covid crisis.

The groups claimed the industry had been “sacrificed” by the authorities after measures were re-imposed on the market amid the Omicron surge late last year.

The first round of the 2022 French presidential election will be held on 10 April. Prodiss sent an open letter to the declared candidates at the beginning of December 2021 in order to prepare the ground with the candidates.

A document of proposals is currently being drawn up to convey the needs and recommendations of the French performing arts sector for the next five years, which will formalise Prodiss’ five-year vision.

 


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NZ: Rollback of restrictions “too late” for festivals

Festival organisers and promoters in New Zealand say that the government’s rollback of restrictions is “meaningless” at this point in the events calendar.

Prime minister Jacinda Arden earlier today (23 March) announced the removal of vaccine pass requirements, most vaccine mandates, QR code scanning and outdoor gathering limits.

In addition, the limit for indoor gatherings will be doubled, from 100 to 200 people.

The mandate removal and end of the vaccine pass will go into effect from 5 April, while the other changes go into effect from midnight on Friday (25 March).

Splore festival’s John Minty told Stuff he is “bemused” by the timing of the government’s announcement, saying it had come “out of the blue” after months of uncertainty around when festivals could resume.

“It’s sort of like it’s coming out of the blue in a way”

“It hadn’t been indicated that if certain things happen, we would have less restrictions,” Minty continues. “So it’s sort of like it’s coming out of the blue in a way.”

The festival was originally scheduled to happen between 25–27 February at Tāpapakanga Regional Park but was canned after the government announced a move to the ‘red’ traffic light setting.

Minty said Splore organisers would now assess whether they could pull together the festival for late April.

The government’s announcement comes too late for Live Nation-owned Rhythm and Vines, after the traditional New Year’s event was postponed until Easter, and then cancelled for the first time in its 19-year-history.

“It’s a little too late for our events this summer… the heart has been ripped out of the events season,” says Rhythm and Vines co-founder Hamish Pinkham.

“It’s a little too late for our events this summer… the heart has been ripped out of the events season”

The Gisborne festival will celebrate its 20th anniversary at the end of the year instead.

Elsewhere, Auckland-based promoter Brent Eccles is pleased to hear that Covid-19 rules are set to be relaxed but felt the changes were “meaningless” at this point in the events calendar – a month into autumn.

“We don’t have any outdoor shows in winter, obviously, so that they’ve gone to one hundred per cent capacity outdoors for us right now is a bit meaningless,” said Eccles.

“It’s good for summer, because we have got the Foo Fighters, Ed Sheeran, and Six60 coming. So that’s good that there are no restrictions there.”

The government’s announcement comes too late for a slate of other festivals including The Other Way (Auckland), Outfields music festival (Auckland), Northern Bass (Northland) and Electric Avenue (Christchurch) – all of which have either been cancelled or postponed.

 


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Sweden to lift most Covid restrictions next week

Sweden has become the latest European nation to announce it is lifting coronavirus restrictions.

At a press conference yesterday (3 February), prime minister Magdalena Andersson, minister of social affairs Lena Hallengren and the director general of the Swedish Public Health Agency, Karin Tegmark Wisell, confirmed the government will remove most measures on 9 February.

Capacity limits and vaccine certificates for live events will be discontinued, while the government also intends to lift entry restrictions for the Nordic countries.

Live events in the country have been subject to a capacity limit of 500 people (or 500 per section if the organiser divides the room so that people from different sections do not come into contact with each other). The semi-finals of Sweden’s Melodifestivalen to determine the country’s entrant for the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest are proceeding with capacity restrictions at Stockholm’s Avicii Arena this weekend.

“The pandemic isn’t over, but it is moving into a new phase”

“It’s time to open up Sweden,” said Andersson. “The pandemic isn’t over, but it is moving into a new phase.”

The Swedish public health agency will also follow Denmark’s lead in submitting a request that Covid-19 should no longer be classified as a socially dangerous disease. On 1 February, Denmark became the first country in the EU to announce it was ending all coronavirus measures.

PM Mette Frederiksen assured Danish residents they will be able to look forward to “concerts and festivals again” this summer due to Denmark’s 81% vaccination rate and Omicron appearing to be milder than previous Covid variants.

Elsewhere in Scandinavia, Norway has lifted most restrictions but maintains 1m social distancing, hampering the live music sector’s efforts to return to normality.

Earlier this week, the Finnish government announced plans to relax its Covid-19 curbs from 14 February.

According to the cabinet, the number of Covid-19 infections nationwide remains high, but the number of cases requiring intensive care has “decreased considerably”.

Meanwhile, England’s Plan B measures, which included a mandate for facemasks and vaccine passports (or a negative LFT) at gigs, were dropped in January and other UK markets have been rolling back restrictions.

 


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France to rollback restrictions on live music

France has announced a gradual easing of restrictions on live events, starting from the beginning of February.

In the first rollback, the audience capacity limits for seated events will be lifted from 2 February. Currently, indoor seated events are restricted to 2,000 people and outdoor seated events are restricted to 5,000.

In addition, face masks will no longer be required from 2 February.

From 16 February, standing events will be permitted to take place and nightclubs will be allowed to re-open for the first time since 27 December. Eating and drinking will again be allowed in stadiums, cinemas and public transport.

From 16 February, standing events will be permitted to take place and nightclubs will be allowed to re-open

The easing of restrictions has been justified with the introduction of France’s new vaccine passport on 24 January.

From that date, the current health pass will become a vaccine passport for citizens aged over 16.

This means that only citizens who have received one or two doses (depending on the vaccine) will be permitted to attend leisure activities, restaurants and pubs (except for collective catering), fairs, seminars and trade shows as well as long-distance public transport.

Prime minister Jean Castex said 93% of French adults have received at least one dose, and that the pass could even be suspended if the Covid-19 situation improved dramatically.

 


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More European markets set to relax restrictions

Several European countries have begun relaxing Covid restrictions amid hopes the Omicron wave has peaked in certain parts of the continent.

Large indoor events will resume and nightclubs permitted to reopen in Scotland from 24 January in acknowledgement of a “severe fall” in infection rates. Outdoor events were given the green light to welcome back spectators from 17 January.

The tightened measures had been in place since 26 December last year. First minister Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs the country had “turned the corner on the Omicron wave”, as reported positive cases dropped to 20,268 over the last three days compared to 36,526 in the same period last week.

In England, all remaining coronavirus measures – including mandatory self-isolation for confirmed infections – could be lifted as early as March under plans being drawn up by the government.

In Wales, the number of people allowed to attend an outdoor event rose from 50 to 500 from 15 January. From this Friday, crowds will be allowed to return to sporting events and there will be no limits on those attending outdoor events.

The developments provide renewed encouragement for the live sector after a growing number of early 2022 tours were cancelled or postponed over Covid fears

And from Friday 28 January, nightclubs can reopen and hospitality venues will be allowed to operate normally, although Covid passes will still be required for large events, cinemas, nightclubs and theatres.

The developments provide renewed encouragement for the live sector after a growing number of early 2022 tours were cancelled or postponed over Covid fears.

However, in Sweden, a 500 capacity limit is being imposed on live events from tomorrow (19 January), although an event is permitted to host more than 500 people if the organiser divides the room so that participants from different sections do not come into contact with each other. In such cases, the 500-person limit applies to each section.

Research from the Netherlands, meanwhile, suggests the country’s 2G (covering people who have either vaccinated or recovered from Covid in the past six months) and 3G (vaccinated/recovered/tested negative) restrictions are cutting cases by just under 10% and 5% respectively.

The Dutch live sector’s hopes for a swift reopening were dashed over the weekend, with a review on the reopening of cultural venues not due to take place until 25 January.

 


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UK markets announce plans to ease restrictions

Wales and Scotland have announced plans to roll back their Covid-19 restrictions.

In Scotland, restrictions on large outdoor events will come to an end on Monday 17 January.

The move will allow fans to return to outdoor concerts and football matches, after Covid restrictions were put in place on Boxing Day, reducing outdoor events to a capacity of 500.

Event organisers will now have to check the vaccine certification of at least 50% of attendees, rather than the current 20%, or at least 1,000 people, depending on which figure is higher.

From Monday the requirement to be ‘fully vaccinated’ for the purposes of Covid certification will include having a booster if the second dose was more than four months ago.

It will still be possible to gain admission to events and venues covered by the certification scheme by providing proof of a recent negative lateral flow test, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed.

Nightclubs have been closed since 26 December but the First Minister has said that all restrictions, including the closure of nightclubs, could be lifted from 24 January.

Scotland has said that all restrictions, including the closure of nightclubs, could be lifted from 24 January

In Wales, the First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced the relaxing of the rules and stated that the peak of the Omicron wave is now behind the country.

The relaxation will begin this Saturday (15 January) when the number of people allowed to attend an outdoor event will rise from 50 to 500.

From Friday 21 January, crowds will be allowed to return to sporting events and there will be no limits on those attending outdoor events.

From Friday 28 January, nightclubs can reopen and hospitality venues will be allowed to operate normally, although Covid passes will still be required for large events, cinemas, nightclubs and theatres.

From Thursday 10 February, Wales will return to a three-week review cycle as the country returns to alert level 0.

From 28 January, nightclubs in Wales can reopen and hospitality venues will be allowed to operate normally

Northern Ireland is also considering lifting some Covid-19 restrictions next week, First Minister Paul Givan has revealed.

Since 26 December, indoor standing events have not been permitted. For outdoor and indoor events, either proof of vaccination, a negative lateral flow test or proof of recovery from Covid-19 is required.

Nightclubs are currently closed while hospitality businesses are operating under a series of restrictions. Givan said businesses needed to be able to operate “normally”.

He added that relaxation would depend on health advice received by the executive ahead of its meeting next week, but stressed that so far the picture was “encouraging”.

In England, restrictions were last updated on 15 December, from which point vaccine passports and facemasks have been required in order to attend concerts.

The wearing of face masks is mandated in all venues where crowds gather, and Covid certificates are needed for: venues where large crowds gather, including nightclubs; unseated indoor venues with more than 500 people; and unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people.

The introduction of a negative LFT in the certification scheme, meanwhile, followed extended lobbying by the sector to include the measure in any new restrictions.

 


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NL extends restrictions, announces €84m aid

The Dutch government has announced €84.5 million in emergency funding after extending Covid restrictions until mid-January.

Enduring restrictions include a 1,250-capacity limit for venues and a ban on events between 17:00 and 05:00. Covid entry passes are still mandatory for everyone aged over 13 to attend concerts in the country.

The measures came into effect on 28 November and will be in place until at least Friday 14 January 2022.

Of the €84.5m total, €59.5m is for compensation for the restrictive measures and €25m for the Cultuur+Ondernemen loan service.

Up to 85% of tickets for performances – including those cancelled – will be bought up by the Performing Arts Fund via the so-called renewed supplement scheme.

Up to 85% of tickets for performances – including those cancelled – will be bought up by the Performing Arts Fund

At Cultuur+Ondernemen, loans can be taken out on ‘favourable terms’ for the restart of productions and long-term loans for replenishing reserves. The cabinet is extending the loan facility up to and including the second quarter of 2022 with an additional €25m.

In addition to the measures mentioned, the cabinet will extend the event guarantee scheme (TRSEC) and the Supplementary Allowance for Events (ATE) until the third quarter of 2022. These schemes will come into effect if an event is banned by the central government during this period.

The cabinet will announce further conditions for these schemes at the beginning of 2022.

“I recently spoke with many people who work in the cultural and creative sector,” says minister for culture, Van Engelshoven.

“There is a great need for perspective to keep their people afloat so that creative processes can continue. Many institutions, both subsidised institutions and independent producers, also continue to pay their self-employed persons through the support measures.

“But unfortunately, the support does not reach them all. The extension of this support package will hopefully provide even more breathing room, so that more self-employed people can be reached.”

Other European markets including Sweden and Denmark have recently extended financial support for their live event sectors.

 


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NZ’s new traffic-light system causes first disruptions

The fate of New Zealand’s upcoming festival season is to be determined by a new traffic-light system, which came into effect last night.

Under the new system, each region in the country has been assigned a colour (green, orange or red) based on vaccination rates and the spread of Covid-19 in the community, as well as a set of corresponding restrictions.

In regions assigned ‘red’, venues using vaccine certificates are limited to 100 people with 1-metre social distancing.

In ‘orange’ regions, these venues face no limits on gatherings at events, retail, hospitality.

Venues that don’t use vaccine certificates are not permitted indoor or outdoor events under red or orange.

“Getting vaccinated is how we can return to the shows and festivals we love”

Auckland is among a number of regions in the North Island that have been assigned ‘red’. Wellington, Waikato and all of the South Island are among the regions moving to orange. No region starts at green.

The traffic-light system is bad news for Live Nation-owned festival Rhythm and Vines, which was scheduled to take place on New Year’s Eve in Gisborne – currently ‘red’ on the system.

Organisers yesterday announced that, for the first time in the festival’s 19-year history, the event will be rescheduled to 15 April until 17 April 2022.

In a statement, the festival organisers said: “Rhythm and Vines’ mission has [been] and always will be a safe and secure festival for all involved, and [we] believe this decision will allow us to keep delivering the best festival experience that over 400,000 young Kiwis have enjoyed since 2003.

Northern Bass refuses to pull the plug yet, even though the event site in Mangawhai falls under a ‘red’ light

“Rhythm and Vines would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to everyone who has continued to support this year’s festival including all staff, contractors, artists and suppliers who will have been affected by this decision.

“Getting vaccinated is how we can return to the shows and festivals we love and we encourage everyone to #vaxforlive.”

Elsewhere, New Year’s Eve drum and bass festival Northern Bass refuses to pull the plug yet, even though the event site in Mangawhai has been assigned ‘red’.

The festival organisers say they are crossing their fingers for an orange light status after the next update from the government on 13 December.

“We won’t cancel [yet] – there’s no reason to cancel,” event organiser Gareth Popham told Stuff. “We’ve sold 11,500 tickets and currently have 10,000 kids on a waiting list wanting tickets.”

The sold-out event is set to be headlined by British DJ Andy C and electronic music duo Chase & Status.

Meanwhile, Auckland-born Lorde has postponed her Solar Power Tour until 2023, citing uncertainty around Covid and international touring.

Auckland’s Outerfields festival, originally scheduled for March 6th 2021, has been beset by Covid delays twice and is now tabled for 3 December 2022.

 


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Q&A: Move Concerts boss details LatAm’s recovery

As markets across Latin America gradually reopen, Phil Rodriguez of Move Concerts – the biggest independent concert promoter in the region – says he’s optimistic about the region’s recovery.

Emerging from the most difficult year in live music history, Rodriguez expects the industry to come out of the Covid-19 pandemic “stronger and wiser”.

However, according to the Move Concerts boss, there are a number of obstacles that stand between Latam’s industry and a full recovery.

Below, Rodriguez outlines those obstacles, reflects on the lessons learnt from the pandemic, and addresses “the elephant in the room”…

IQ: How is Latin America’s return to business going?
PR: It’s a patchwork of different sets of rules and regulations per country so it has been a challenge to get them all aligned to have a proper tour of the region. But we’re finally getting there!

In which markets are you now able to fully operate?
Puerto Rico was able to start at full capacity (with proof of vaccination) as of August and business has been incredible. Not only have the shows been selling out, but single dates became multiples. That market came back STRONG.

What’s the deal with vaccine passports and capacity restrictions in Latam?
As noted, it’s a patchwork. Brazil is operating at 70% capacity with proof of vaccination and will open to 100% this week. Argentina will open at 100% capacity with proof of vaccination and with requirements for face masks from 16 November.

Uruguay is at 55% without vaccination and 70% with vaccination. Colombia will be at 100% capacity for vaccinated people from 16 November. Chile is currently held to 40% and in some cases 60% capacity – vaccinated and socially distanced. The expectation is to be open at 100% for the vaccinated by January 2022. Costa Rica will be at 100% as of March 2022 for the vaccinated.

“The lack of cancellation insurance for Covid is the elephant in the room for all of us”

Where has Move’s focus been since markets started to open up?
Rescheduling, booking new tours for the end of 2022 and 2023. Plus our management company and indie record label, Grand Move Records, which are both at full speed.

What opportunities do you see during this recovery period?
The chance to reinvent ourselves and look outside our comfort zone. We all had to do this during the pandemic. We should not get complacent once we return to some normalcy and forget that.

What are the challenges you’re facing right now? 
The lack of cancellation insurance for Covid is the elephant in the room for all of us. The rest we can deal with but will still present a strong challenge such as inflation and devaluation of currencies – which have been hit hard by the pandemic – and the economic consequences of the lockdowns, etc.

How long do you think it’ll take for Latam to get back to pre-pandemic levels of business?
The Covid issue, in my opinion, has been both a health and political issue, unfortunately, and that has not helped us get a better picture of what is ahead of us. But if by the second half of 2022, we are not on a solid road to pre-pandemic levels, we will ALL have bigger problems to worry about. That said, I’m an optimist by nature and I think we’ll come out of this wiser and stronger!

“If by the second half of ’22, we are not on a solid road to pre-pandemic levels, we’ll all have bigger problems to worry about”

When and how do you see international acts coming back to Latin America?
In South America, we kick off with a-ha in March 2022 – Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil.

Move hosted Latam’s first drive-thru show during the pandemic. Is that a format you’ll be returning to?
Not really…we do not see the need nor demand for this any longer as live concerts startup.

What about livestreaming – is there still demand in that area of the business?
This has essentially stopped. With the return of live shows – with reduced capacities – streaming has lost its initial appeal. I’m sure it will still be a good tool to have in our toolbox for use in the future but in a different form… more related to marketing or a special event, etc.

What one thing are you most proud of doing during the pandemic?
That we kept all our team in place and did not have to furlough or lay off anyone. We all took salary cuts and weathered the storm together.

Also, our office in Bogota took the initiative and created an internet site with different content – entertainment, cooking, lifestyle, etc – that raised over US$10,000 to support the local production crews and their families in the middle of the pandemic. That was a fabulous effort that made me very proud of our team there.

 


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