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Dutch live sector report reveals corona impact

A new report on the Dutch live music sector has laid bare the dramatic impact of the Covid crisis on concerts and festivals.

The Netherlands’ touring scene enjoyed a record year in 2019, attracting 2.7 million visitors to events, but that figure plummeted to 328,000 in 2020 – with 94% of that year’s shows pre-dating the spring lockdown – according to the new Monitor Festivals & Concerts study published by Respons and the Association of Event Makers (VVEM).

In addition, the number of festivals fell from more than 1,100 in 2019 to a record low of 155 in 2020, before rebounding slightly to 343 in 2021.

“Festivals and concerts are the big corona losers”

“Festivals and concerts are the big corona losers,” says VVEM spokesperson Willem Westermann. “The figures for 2020 and 2021 are dramatic after the records of previous years.

“We hope that 2022 will be the year of recovery. We have seen that the sector has a lot of creativity, but you just have to experience concerts and festivals live.”

The best-attended concert series of 2020 was Holland sings Hazes, with 49,000 visitors. In 2019, the series reached fifth place in the ranking with 68,000 visitors.

In 2021, Dutch party act the Snollebollekes led the list, playing to 100,000 fans over four nights at the Gelredome in Arnhem. The report also notes that the 2021 Amsterdam Dance Event attracted 350,000 visitors across five days.

The Dutch government finally lifted all remaining Covid restrictions on live events in March this year after tireless lobbying from the sector.

 


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Second scheme to purchase music venues launches

A second scheme to purchase music venues in order to secure their long-term futures has launched – this time, in the UK.

Music Venue Trust (MVT), the UK charity that represents hundreds of grassroots music venues, today (23 May) announced an ambitious initiative to buy the freehold of grassroots music venue (GMV) properties.

A similar enterprise was launched in the US in 2020 by former WME music execs Marc Geiger and John Fogelman. Under the banner SaveLive, the pair amassed a multi-million-dollar war chest to “bailout” struggling US music venues.

MVT, on the other hand, has launched a Charitable Community Benefit Society (CCBS) named Music Venue Properties (MVP) in order to buy venues in the UK.

Unlike a charity, a CCBS can raise money through community shares purchased by, say, music fans and ethical investors. Anyone who buys a share will help raise funds to allow MVP to buy freeholds, whilst also receiving a 3% APR return on their investment.

Mark Dayvd, CEO of Music Venue Trust says, “This is the most ambitious initiative Music Venue Trust has ever undertaken. The long-term security and prosperity of grassroots music venues depends almost entirely on one thing – ownership. Too many have been at the mercy of some commercial landlords whose motivations revolve primarily around profit. We have lost over a third of our venues in the last 20 years and with over 90% having only 18 months left on their tenancies we are at the cliff edge and could see the decimation of our sector if we don’t do something radical about it.

“The Music Venue Properties scheme will allow ethical investors and music fans to invest in the future of live music while receiving a healthy return on their money. Our #SaveOurVenues campaign launched during the pandemic raised over £4.1m with more than 80,000 people contributing. We already have the crowd – we just need to ask them to invest from 23 May and are confident they will.”

“The long-term security and prosperity of grassroots music venues depends almost entirely on one thing – ownership”

MVP has identified nine venues for a pilot project that will allow the scheme to establish proof of concept; six venues in England; one in Scotland; two in Wales.

With an initial target of £3.5 million to purchase these venues, the first of these Community Share Offers will launch later this month on (23 May). MVP hopes to purchase these venues before the end of 2022.

Further venue freeholds will be identified and secured as and when they become available, and MVP will continue to raise funds through selling community shares and borrowing against the freeholds purchased. All rental income subsequently received from the purchase of venues will be reinvested towards the expansion of the portfolio.

MVP says that on completion of purchase, it will offer the majority of current operators an immediate rent reduction and help contribute to building repairs and insurance, while also “guaranteeing long term security and market resistant rents”.

According to MVT, the issue of ownership underpins almost every other challenge that GMVs have faced during the last twenty years including gentrification, noise complaints, under-investment, poor economic models, and an inability to plan for the future.

Over 35% of GMVs have closed in the last 20 years and 93% of them are tenants with the typical operator only having 18 months left on their tenancy. Since the start of the Covid crisis, the sector has acquired over £90m of new debt, yet 67% of Culture Recovery Fund grant aid was paid directly to landlords.

Elsewhere, Geiger and Fogelman’s SaveLive recently announced its first round of venue partners, as well as a $135m round of investment.

 


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Hans Zimmer Live: Claiming victory over adversity

When Hans Zimmer Live made its debut in Hamburg on 11 March, the wave of emotion across an audience who had been starved of live entertainment for the best part of two years was palpable. And those scenes were reflected by everyone involved in the spectacular production.

“The tour was originally scheduled for Spring 2020, so when we had our first show in Hamburg, somebody from our social media team found out that we had announced that show 858 days ago,” reports Christoph Scholz from Semmel Concerts, which is co-producing the tour with RCI Global.

“There were definitely people in that audience who had sat on their tickets for more than two years, so the sense of relief and enjoyment was immense.”With an office in Hamburg, Semmel Concerts promoted that opening night. “It was very emotional,” says Scholz. “There was enormous tension on stage and backstage. But the audience, the crew, and the artists were simply very happy to be together again, and the atmosphere was special.”

A world apart
At press time, Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine was still raging, and thoughts of that senseless conflict are never far from the Hans Zimmer Live touring party, some of whom were forced to flee their country following the Russian invasion.

“Our originally scheduled orchestra is the Odessa Opera Orchestra from Ukraine,” reveals Scholz. “Within the first 72 hours of the conflict, ten musicians and their families were able to make it out to safety. But that was only about half of the orchestra and the others were unable to leave Ukraine. As a result, we’ve renamed it Odessa Opera Orchestra & Friends because we cast musicians from elsewhere in Europe.

“We were following the IQ newsletter every day, monitoring everywhere that was closing the doors”

“On the opening night, Hans introduced the band first after his first song, and there were standing ovations. It was a very touching moment. But we’ve had lots of standing ovations, since. The support has been just phenomenal.”

Getting the tour out of the starting blocks has been a monumental task, especially with so many false starts to contend with. “At Semmel, we were already hosting arena shows for domestic acts in Germany last year – between the end of August to mid-November we had 430,000 people attend our shows,” reports Scholz.

“So, when we met Hans Zimmer for a production meeting in early September last year, we were confident we were all set to kick-start the tour and go full steam ahead.” But in November, everything ground to a halt. “Suddenly, Germany restricted events again; the Netherlands never really reopened; Belgium shut down… we were following the IQ newsletter every day, monitoring everywhere that was closing the doors,” says Scholz.

Point of no return
With Zimmer being one of Hollywood’s most in-demand creators, his diary is continually jam-full. But along with Semmel and RCI Global, he was determined to make the tour happen as early in 2022 as possible. “We gambled a little bit,” admits Scholz. “In early January, when all of Europe was really closed, we had a large production meeting with Hans, and everybody agreed that we should just pencil in the dates and go for it.”

“We lost a lot of freelancers [during the pandemic] because they had to move on and find other jobs”

Initially, the tour was set for a mid-February debut, but with many governments still reluctant to allow venues to reopen, those dates were delayed and simply moved to the latter part of the routing. Still, being one of the first tours out on the road means the supply chain issues that event organisers around the world are having sleepless nights about, were not such a problem for those involved in Hans Zimmer Live. But it doesn’t mean they were non-existent.

Sebastian “Deichkind” Bülowius of back-line suppliers Captured Live is providing all the backline gear, as well as four backline techs on the road. He tells IQ, “We lost a lot of freelancers [during the pandemic] because they had to move on and find other jobs. I would say about 10-15% have decided to stay in the [new] job rather than returning. That means we’re expecting 85-90% of people to return as freelancers, which is positive, but a 10-15% loss of staff is still significant.”

Highlighting the spiralling cost of even the simplest materials, Bülowius says, “We had to get a couple of cases built for equipment. But ordering wood is getting more and more expensive, so that makes it really challenging.” Prices are also high on the agenda for Oliver Rosenwald, who as senior project manager at Semmel booked the entire European tour for Hans Zimmer Live and is currently in charge of operations on the road.

“We’re facing big problems to get our crews together, and it seems many riggers have just gone missing,” Rosenwald reports. “With Genesis and some other productions out on the road at the same time as us – even though there are not many tours out there at the moment – trucks and buses are already getting rare, so it could be very tough when more productions hit the road.”

“We’re facing big problems to get our crews together, and it seems many riggers have just gone missing”

On that transport side, Leo Steffen of Germany-based Trucking Service says they are overjoyed at getting back to touring. “The drivers are extremely happy, even if there is still a bit of uncertainty about the next few months as far as Covid restrictions are concerned,” he says.

“But they are glad to be travelling, not only with their Trucking Service colleagues and familiar crews again, but also to be out around the continent meeting new faces and facing new challenges that have developed over the long touring break.”

Those sentiments are shared by Hannes Hauser of personnel transport providers Beat The Street. “Everybody that came back to take over their buses again has been very excited, as they were sick of just sitting at home or of the alternative jobs some of them did. I only hear very good feedback from the drivers to finally be on the road again, doing what they like the most.”

However, if ever a reminder of the pandemic is needed, even as the first shows were entertaining sold-out arenas in Hamburg, Stuttgart, Dublin and London, in Italy restrictions were still limiting audiences to 60% capacity, while many other territories remain on a knife-edge and could be subject to restrictions being reimposed at any time, should Covid infection rates spike.

The spectre of Brexit also looms large. Border control issues have generated more paperwork, but one disappointing aspect experienced by the touring party was the number of Ukrainian musicians prevented from travelling to the UK.

“It was a very big challenge to get the Odessa orchestra and their families over the border to safety”

“It was a very big challenge to get the Odessa orchestra and their families over the border to safety, and we’ve rented houses and apartments for the families of our Ukraine musicians,” says Rosenwald. “Everywhere in Europe has been great, as they did not require any visas or work permits for our Ukrainian citizens. But that wasn’t the case with the UK, and we had to leave six or seven of our musicians at a hotel in Germany because they could not get their visas in time.”

Another supplier working hand in hand with the producers has been Satis & Fy – a longstanding partner for Semmel, according to project manager Lui Helmig. He explains that for the current tour, “All technical trades are controlled 360° from our house: lighting, sound, rigging and stage and scenic construction come directly from us for the Hans Zimmer tour, and for video technology we work with Video Bär.”

Helmig adds, “We put the crew together with the production management of Semmel Entertainment… when 15 [trucks] left our location in Werne for the start of the tour, it was a very emotional moment for all of us after two years of pandemic, because it’s finally really starting again.”

As good as it gets
With the tour effectively mothballed for two years, one of the producers’ biggest achievements was keeping the original production team and suppliers on board.

“With Hans, people are very loyal so we managed to keep everyone – suppliers, venues, promoters – who were originally working on the 2020 tour,” says Scholz. “Certainly there were changes within the crews, but every company stayed on board, even though we’ve all been extremely nervous. To be honest, we couldn’t fully guarantee that the tour would happen, but we’ve been welcomed with open arms because we’re the first large-scale arena show that many of venues have had for a long time.”

As the first post-Covid production to visit a number of arenas, the task of devising the tour’s hygiene concept fell to Rosenwald, who quickly realised that placing the tour party into a ‘bubble’ was not the solution. “The bubble is an illusion,” he states. “You cannot prevent people going for breakfasts in hotels, or going to bars and restaurants, so all you can do is take as many precautions as possible.”

“To be honest, we couldn’t fully guarantee that the tour would happen, but we’ve been welcomed with open arms”

Thankfully, Rosenwald was able to prove his hygiene concept with Semmel during a ten-city tour of France in autumn last year. “Basically, you cannot be part of the tour unless you are three-times vaccinated,” he explains. “FFP2 masks are worn by everyone in the tour party, and we’re also testing everyone regularly for the virus.

“Meanwhile, we’ve asked local promoters to test their own staff and wear masks when they deal with the touring party, and we have a hygiene manager on the road with us who makes sure that local crew are also tested.”

Despite the odd case, here and there, the plan has worked well. “It’s nerve-wracking,” says Scholz. “It was a lot of work for Oliver, but everybody was very flexible. It’s clear to everybody – each venue owner, each artist, each crew member, each supplier – that we work in uncertain times and that we all need to live with the unknown now. Covid can strike at any time – in the first week of production rehearsals in Berlin, for instance, we had three or four cases including two of our crew chiefs who were locked for almost ten days in their hotel rooms. But, just as Her Majesty the Queen did recently, they were able to do ‘light work’ while we conducted rehearsals and all that.

“It’s good that things are calming down because a couple of months ago one Covid case would lead to mass panic in production output – Broadway and West End shows would shut down, or film shoots would be postponed. But that seems to be changing.”

“We did The World of Hans Zimmer tour with five or six trucks… this tour has a total of 13 trucks”

It’s complicated
While the current tour has had numerous challenges to overcome, what many in the business may not realise is that the scale of the production is enormous compared to previous Hans Zimmer outings.

“We did The World of Hans Zimmer tour, which was a smaller production with five or six trucks compared to this tour, which has a total of 13 trucks,” reveals Trucking Service’s Steffen. “Logistically, Hans Zimmer Live is more of a challenge in almost every way. Not only is there more equipment and personnel on the road, but the tour in general is a lot longer and covers more countries. This was also the first time we’ve been in the UK, post-Brexit, with a production this size, which made careful planning and customs preparation even more important than usual.”

One newbie to the world of Hans Zimmer is lighting designer John Featherstone, who nevertheless has been a friend of the composer since before the pandemic. “We have a lot of friends in common, but I first met Hans when he was doing a bespoke private show,” he explains. “He is always looking for new and exciting ways to deliver his music and vision to the audience, so it was inspiring to work with him on the concept for this tour.”

While other film-score-based shows simply match images from the movies to the music, that was not going to work with Hans Zimmer Live, which with a stage full of virtuoso musicians was always going to be more of a live concert than a scripted set.

“This was also the first time we’ve been in the UK, post-Brexit, with a production this size”

“The way Hans composes and the way in which the musicians interpret their roles means it was never going to be as iterative as other shows,” continues Featherstone. “You have to lean into the movies, for sure, but it was interesting to hear the way Hans approaches projects in collaboration with the film’s director, and then devise the lighting design in a similar way.”

The result is amazing. With about 20 virtuoso musicians on stage, there are astounding solo performances constantly throughout the show, while the impressive video screens above the stage and projections behind the 20-something-piece orchestra complement Zimmer’s compositions, which touch on blockbusters such as Gladiator, Pirates of the Caribbean, Dune, The Last Samurai, The Lion King, The Dark Knight and others.

“Dark Knight is bombastic and tortured, whereas Last Samurai is far softer and melancholic, and Lion King is obviously completely different. But the lighting and images allow the musicians to do their own thing without having to stick to a script or in time with certain scenes on a video,” adds Featherstone, who also had to design a system that could be tailored to work everywhere from the low, 12-metre height confines of Stuttgart, through to the soaring expanses of The O2 Arena.

A league of their own
The show itself is extraordinary. Like a latter-day Prince, Zimmer surrounds himself with the crème de la crème of musicians and artists, while the tour is Zimmer’s first to involve dancers and even an aerial artist to wow the audience.

Zimmer and his business partner, Steven Kofsky were originally persuaded to take his music to the fans by legendary impresario Harvey Goldsmith, who promoted their first shows in October 2014 at Hammersmith Apollo in the UK. Now, while Semmel and RCI have taken over as producers, Goldsmith remains involved co-promoting the shows with Kilimanjaro Live at The O2 Arena and the AO Arena Manchester.

“Unfortunately, because of Covid, we had to postpone not once but twice”

“Unfortunately, because of Covid, we had to postpone not once but twice, so the fact that most people still had their tickets was a minor miracle,” states Goldsmith. “But they are a unique audience: very wide ranging but people who love the movies. The audience in London just went nuts.

“It is a big show, but then all of his shows are big, as he likes the spectacle of it,” he adds. “When you look at the quality of the musicians, that’s what makes it very unique – every one of them playing on that show is a star.”

Co-promoter Stuart Galbraith from Kilimanjaro Live says, “The Hans Zimmer Live shows in the UK were some of the strongest we have seen come through the pandemic. The fans were absolutely dedicated – 95% of them hung on to their tickets through the postponements and the tour, unlike many others, continued to sell strongly. But is it any wonder when Hans continues seems to release an award-winning soundtrack every month?!”

In Ireland, MCD’s Noel McHale who promoted the show at Dublin’s 3Arena, agrees. “It’s great to see crowds coming through the doors, all excited and buzzing to be going out to gigs again,” he says. “The Hans Zimmer Live show sold out two years ago and 99% held on to their tickets – people were really looking forward to this one.” And the fans were not disappointeded. “The show is genuinely spectacular – there were standing ovations: it was a sonic and visual feast,” says McHale.

But he isn’t surprised. “I go back a long way with Oliver and Christoph from Semmel Concerts, and I’ve promoted Hans Zimmer with them many times. They know how to put a great production team together and always find ways to improve on previous productions. Hans always finds the best musicians for his shows – stunning virtuoso players, every one of them.”

“The show is genuinely spectacular – there were standing ovations: it was a sonic and visual feast”

Another contributor keen to applaud the producers is Bülowius at Captured Live. “They’ve done a really good job: everything they did in advance to make sure that all these shows were going to happen the way they are – that was a lot of work. We’re showing everybody that it is possible, again, to just do it: to tour all over Europe,” he says.

That’s music to the ears of Rosenwald. “Hans Zimmer Live is a much bigger show and it’s been more challenging for everyone,” he notes. “People have fallen out of their routines because they haven’t done the stuff they were doing in the last few years, at least not in the in the way they’d done it before.” However, he notes that morale is high. “The entire feedback that I’ve had from the production side has been really good,” he tells IQ.

And that’s one of the reasons people are so happy to buy into Rosenwald’s hygiene concept. “As local promoters, we have a duty of care to Hans, his band, orchestra and crew to look after them when they come visit and keep them safe and healthy so they can continue to tour,” says McHale. “With over 250 people in the backstage area, everyone bought into our safety plans – everyone from the local crew to riggers to caterers and all production and venue staff wore masks all day, kept a safe distance, and continually used the sanitisers.”

A Monster in Paris
At IQ’s press time, the tour had loaded out of its three triumphant back-to-back shows at the Accor Arena in Paris and was on its way back to Germany for a date in Munich. Rosenwald comments, “I’m very proud that we managed to sell-out two nights at The O2 Arena in London, at the Hallenstadion Zürich, and at the Ziggo Dome in the Netherlands, but I’m even happier that we’ve sold out three nights at the Accor Hotels Arena in Paris!”

Friendly Fire promoter Rense van Kessel sold out the Ziggo Dome dates. He tells IQ, “We got so used to rescheduling things in the past two years that we all have become kind of experts on it. But we have been working so closely with the venue, ticketing company, our own staff, etc, on so many [events], that we worked out a very good functioning script [to communicate with ticket holders] which makes it all very smooth.”

“We got so used to rescheduling things in the past two years that we all have become kind of experts on it”

Unfortunately, a positive Covid test ruled van Kessel out from seeing the show himself. However, he reports that everyone involved with the Amsterdam dates was buzzing with excitement. “It is a great show of power from the Zimmer and Semmel teams that they managed to pull off a tour of this magnitude, production, number of people on the road, etc, in such challenging times,” he says. “Many would have pulled the plug, but they did everything they could to stay positive and do everything to get it on the road. And they succeeded. That is very impressive.”

By the end of the tour, the production will have played 30 dates to more than 300,000 fans across 15 nations, giving Hans Zimmer the undoubted title of biggest international tour since the pandemic closed venues more than two years ago.

Plans for the next part of Zimmer’s live career are still unconfirmed, but Los Angeles-based CAA agent Chris Dalston has been tasked with securing future dates. “The idea is to get the US tour, East Coast, on sale after the European tour finishes in June,” Dalston tells IQ, explaining that major cities like Miami, Tampa, Atlanta, Chicago, Washington DC, Montreal, Toronto, Atlantic City, Boston and New York are in the reckoning.

He reveals that further legs of the tour are being considered for Australia and Asia “at the end of ‘22 or early ‘23,” while a West Coast jaunt for North America could also be scheduled around that. Beyond then, promoters, producers and fans alike are already waiting in anticipation of what one of the greatest composers of our time will do next. “Hans has changed the entire genre of film music,” says Scholz. “It’s not the typical orchestra sitting in front of a screen and playing music to a film and the classic conductor. It’s a rock band, presenting the biggest film scores on Earth in a rock-pop show.”

The last word, however, goes to the maestro himself. “I try to write music in the studio that can live without the film, because I owe it to the director,” says Zimmer. Talking of the current tour, he states, “I don’t show a single frame of film because I am arrogant enough to believe that the music can stand on its own two feet.”

And noting that he shares the stage with musicians who are political refugees from South Africa and Venezuela, as well as the Ukrainian orchestral members, Zimmer concludes, “This orchestra is precious. It’s important that we get to go across the world with these people because it will remind you of all the times that art and artists are there to bring peace to this world.”

 


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US venues file lawsuits over rejected Covid relief

More than 60 lawsuits have been filed over the Shuttered Venue Operators Grants (SVOG), the $16 billion aid launched by the US federal government to help live venues survive the pandemic.

A year after the US Small Business Administration (SBA) rolled out the Covid-19 relief programme, the agency is facing dozens of pending lawsuits from companies who say they were unfairly denied millions in relief, according to Billboard.

According to the aggrieved venues, SBA has refused their requests without good reason or a proper explanation, putting particular companies at a huge disadvantage over rivals who have received aid. Attorneys involved in the cases claim that rates of refusal under SVOG “significantly exceed typical government grant programmes.”

Concert Investor LLC, a Tennessee firm that has produced shows for the likes of Twenty One pilots, Little Big Town, O.A.R., is among the companies that have filed lawsuits.

Citing a 94% drop in revenue during the pandemic, the company sought nearly $5 million in aid under SVOG. However, the SBA decided the company didn’t meet the criteria to be a concert producer, saying the company “at best” merely “serves the needs” of artists by providing lighting and sound tech.

At least 33 lawsuits were still pending in federal court as of last week, according to a court filing by the SBA

In a motion filed in court Monday (2 May), Concert Investor’s attorneys asked a federal judge to grant the company a final judgment in its case, arguing the SBA had “ignored” ample evidence about its eligibility and had unfairly awarded grants to direct competitors who provide the exact same services.

“This disparate treatment has placed Concert Investor at a severe and worsening competitive disadvantage relative to other concert producers that can use their SVOG awards to restore and grow their businesses while Concert Investor is deprived of the federal assistance for which it too qualifies,” the company wrote. SBA will soon file its own brief, and the judge will rule on the case in the months ahead.

Some of the lawsuits, however, maybe in the process of getting resolved. Last week, the SBA said it would reconsider refusing $497,000 in aid to Superfan Live Inc., which offers VIP experiences at concerts from artists like Bon Jovi, Genesis, and Journey. The agency asked a federal judge for extra time so that it could “thoroughly examine the allegations in the complaint prior to issuing a new decision”.

At least 33 lawsuits were still pending in federal court as of last week, according to a court filing by the SBA.

Since it debuted in April 2021, the SVOG has handed out just over $11 billion to more than 13,000 businesses in a first wave; a second round of supplemental grants awarded an additional $3.4 billion to more than 9,000 businesses.

The SVOG, also known as the Save Our Stages Act, is part of a $1.9 billion American Rescue Package which was signed into law by President Joe Biden in March 2021.

 


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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.”

 


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IPM 15: Production heads on perfect storm of Covid and Brexit

The IPM programme concluded with what organisers referred to as the mega panel – a session that revolved around the current industry conditions, summed up by the strapline Covid & Brexit: The Perfect Storm.

Split into two parts, the mega panel involved multiple guest speakers from around the world, with Bonnie May from Global Infusion Group chairing part one and applauding those businesses who managed to get through the survival period by adapting their operations to negotiate two years of severely impacted activities.

Indeed, with the war in Ukraine adding to that ‘perfect storm’ analogy, hiking costs even higher and exacerbating the supply chain crisis, May turned to a plethora of experts to tell their stories over the past two years, as well as citing their early experiences of the industry recovery.

Singapore-based Paul Sergeant (ASM Global) underlined the fact that a lot of debt had been incurred during the Covid pandemic and that would continue to impact the live entertainment sector over the coming months and years. He advocated the pandemic’s effect on improving communications from top to bottom in his company as a massive tool in motivating employees.

Sergeant also talked up the Venue Management school in Australia that has been running for about 30 years and awards people diplomas when they graduate. He said that numerous sectors across the live entertainment business in Australia had bought into that programme and market its benefits to their various audiences.

“I’m still now educating people who have only started getting back out in the road”

José Faisca from Altice Arena in Portugal highlighted the importance of everyone in the live entertainment ecosphere that make the industry work – and the fact that those at the bottom of the food chain need more help and support than those who are at the top, if they are going to remain part of the business, rather than taking their skills elsewhere.

“We are better together,” he stated, adding that treating the freelancers and suppliers as part of his company’s extended family – eating together, inviting everyone to team meetings, and investing in training – encourages an atmosphere where everybody is happy to work for the health of the company. “We sometimes invite the families of our suppliers, the riggers, etc, to events so that they can see what their loved ones do and the results they help produce,” he revealed.

Asthie Wendra, a show director and stage manager from Indonesia said her team was almost back to full strength post-pandemic, despite the fact that many found work elsewhere, suggesting that lot of people want to return to the live entertainment environment in her country. Wendra also highlighted the importance of education and training in the workforce. “They need to get something other than money, but education and helping them return to the industry and see that they can have a career there helps us to do that,” she said.

Lisa Ryan (EFM Global) said Covid was a blessing for the Brexit factor, as the industry probably would not have coped had there been the normal level of events through the red tape nightmare, carnets and other new regulations thrown up by the aftermath of the UK leaving the European Union. “I’m still now educating people who have only started getting back out in the road,” she said, hinting at the carnage that could await the business when the busy summer season kicks in. She adds, “I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I’ve never seen anything like this [situation].”

Ryan and May agreed that improving the conditions for employees was a crucial part of keeping people motivated and retaining their skills in the industry, with both citing pay rises, better holiday terms, facilitating people to work from home on flexible hours, and even allowing staff to relocate abroad to fulfil life ambitions. However, they acknowledged the difficulty of recruiting new people to the industry, as well as attracting people back who may have found work elsewhere that offer them a more settled life-work balance.

“I don’t think the artists have realised yet that the costs have gone up and the profits will be less”

Part two of the mega panel was chaired by eps holding chief Okan Tombulca who explained that he has been on a number of conference sessions during the past year to specifically address the supply chain issues that are beginning to hit the international industry, both in terms of personnel and equipment. He voiced his personal opinion that the business is continually in a perfect storm, in terms of spiralling costs and pressure.

Andrew Zweck (Sensible Events) suggested it’s too early to know if artists have changed their views because of the various limitations that are hitting the business post-Covid. “I don’t think the artists have realised yet that the costs have gone up and the profits will be less. It’s unfolding now as we speak and that problem is not fully understood by the artists.” He added that the fact there are no double drivers this year is having an impact on tour plans, including at least one stadium show he had to cancel because they could not get a stage for that date.

“Artists are going to have less and I’m not sure they know that yet,” Zweck added, noting that he did not know who was going to tell them.

Production manager Phay Mac Mahon reported that the production side of the industry has lost about 30% of its workforce. “It’s the vendors’ time – they don’t need to reply to you because they are so busy trying to fulfil the contracts that they have,” said Mac Mahon. “With larger artists it’s planned further ahead, but for the younger artists it’s tough because their production manager might not be able to get the answers and therefore they may not be able to get the suppliers.”

Julia Frank from Wizard Promotions in Germany revealed that she started calling around a year ago for a certain tour for summer 2022. “I’m now just six weeks from that tour starting and I’m still ten riggers short,” she said.

“I’m now just six weeks from that tour starting and I’m still ten riggers short”

Anna Golden of UK promoters Kilimanjaro Live revealed that the company’s focus was on UK touring artists and outdoor shows. “We’ve been in constant communications with our suppliers so that at least they know these shows will definitely happen,” she said. “One of the festivals that Kili owns has actually bought its own stage because we have a five-year plan and that was financially more viable.”

Tombulca pondered whether that might be a new concept for promoters to own the infrastructure. Mac Mahon countered that the artist ego and ambitions for bigger and bigger shows might work against that. “Artist ego is the vendor’s best friend,” said Mac Mahon.

Zweck noted that the likes of the Royal Albert Hall has its own in-house lights and PA that it encourages bands to use, which also helps with sustainability. And he told IPM that in Australia, agreements are in place that equipment will stay in specific cities this year for artists to share, rather than shipping that kit on long journies for days at a time between venues. And on a similar theme, Tombulca says Live Nation has set up 28 stadia across America with exactly the same stages and kit for the summer.

Delegate Bryan Grant from Britannia Row noted that there is not enough equipment in the world to supply all the tours that are going out this year, revealing he had tried to fly in kit from South Africa for some of his events, only to be told it had already gone on rent in Germany.

Tombulca also touched on the impact of the war in Ukraine. Frank said the cost of fuel was the obvious impact, but she had not seen any difference in ticket sales in Germany. However, Zweck said it was another doubt to plant in the mind of the ticket seller for festivals and tours in the latter part of this year, going into 2023.

We’re in for a tough year, but humans are resilient and we will find a way”

Lisa Ryan from EFM Global noted that many of the Antinov aircraft that might be used for bigger tours are grounded in Russia and the Ukraine, while the biggest of all was recently destroyed in the conflict.

And speaking from the point of view in the Baltics, Renatas Nacajus from ISEG in Lithuania reported that ticket sales dropped immediately when the Ukraine war started, as confidence disappeared from the market.

Golden concluded that this summer is just about surviving and getting through 2022 as best as possible. Frank agreed. “It’s like going back to the 90s – it’s not going to be pretty, but it will do,” she stated.

Zweck commented, “We’re in for a tough year, but humans are resilient and we will find a way. Market forces will have a correction in terms of giving more money to the people at the lower end. But overall I’m pessimistic and I think when we look back in two years, we’ll struggle to see what we learned from Covid and we’ll be back to the greed of the big promoters and that will become rampant again.”

 


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Prodiss urges Macron to support live’s recovery

Live music association Prodiss is urging Emmanuel Macron to remove obstacles to the French live sector’s recovery following his re-election as president last weekend.

Prodiss representatives united with theatre organisation SNDTP to publicly back the centrist politician “in conscience and responsibility” ahead of his run-off with far-right candidate Marine Le Pen.

However, which congratulating Macron on his victory, Prodiss stresses its support is “not a blank cheque”, and has reminded the government of the assistance still required by the cultural sector as it emerges from the Covid crisis, particularly when it comes to live performance.

“In the immediate term, it is important to ensure a sustainable return of the French to performance halls and festivals, by removing the obstacles to a serene recovery, such as the sound decree [noise restriction],” says the organisation.

“It is important to encourage investment and initiative in a sector that was once competitive and dynamic”

“It is also important to encourage, from now on, investment and initiative in a sector that was once competitive and dynamic, by making the sector attractive again, despite the crisis it has suffered, punctuated by stop-and-go and after two years of heavy restrictions.

“In the medium term, we will make sure to maintain the permanent link with the government and the elected officials, like the one that has been ours throughout the period of the health crisis to face the major challenges that will be ours in the years to come.”

Earlier this year, Prodiss posed a series of questions on the future of live music to the country’s presidential candidates in the run-up to the election.

While concerts were able to resume at full capacity in France in February, 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 pandemic.

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.

 


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South Korea lifts ban on cheering at concerts

South Korea has eased its coronavirus protocols and lifted its ban on clapping and cheering at gigs.

Fans were handed plastic clappers to emulate crowd noise at BTS’ Permission To Dance On Stage – Seoul three-night residency last month, which marked the K-pop group’s in-person concert return in their homeland.

Just 15,000 people per night were permitted to attend the 70,000-cap Jamsil Olympic Stadium in Seoul on 10, 12-13 March due to social distancing restrictions. But with the number of Covid cases stabilising, most measures have now been dropped, although the indoor and outdoor mask mandate has been retained for the time being.

The news coincides with the release of a report by the Korea Culture and Tourism Institute, which estimated the huge economic impact when BTS perform in South Korea.

“Holding K-pop concerts can have a huge impact on our economy”

“If BTS normally holds a concert in Korea during the post-coronavirus period, the economic ripple effect will reach 677.6 billion won ($550 million) to 1.22 trillion won ($989m) for one performance,” it concluded, according to Allkpop.

The study also referred to the group’s 2021 run at Los Angeles’ 70,000-cap SoFi Stadium, which marked the first time they had been able to be face-to-face with fans since the 2019 BTS World Tour. Internal data showed that more than 70% of the attendees at the LA concerts were from states outside California or overseas.

“This analysis took BTS concerts as an example, but it shows that holding K-pop concerts can have a huge impact on our economy,” it added.

 


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New Zealand removes indoor capacity limits

Indoor concerts in New Zealand can now go ahead without capacity restrictions after the country’s traffic light system switched to ‘orange’.

The system, which came into effect last December, assigns 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. It was previously set at ‘red’, meaning venues using vaccine certificates were limited to 200 people with 1m social distancing.

However, a “sustained reduction” in Covid infections has prompted the move to orange, which means venues face no limits on gatherings at events, retail and hospitality.

“Over the past few weeks we’ve seen a sustained reduction in cases and hospitalisations despite the relaxation of settings”

“Over the past few weeks we’ve seen a sustained reduction in cases and hospitalisations despite the relaxation of settings, so we’re confident a move to orange can lock in those gains while helping the country return to a greater degree of normality,” says Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins.

“Under orange there are no indoor capacity limits and the seated and separated rule for hospitality venues lifts, so bars, cafes and restaurants are able to fill up again.”

Last month, prime minister Jacinda Arden announced the removal of vaccine pass requirements, most vaccine mandates, QR code scanning and outdoor gathering limits, while doubling the limit for indoor gatherings from 100 to 200 people.

However, festival organisers and promoters argued the rollback of restrictions was “meaningless” at that point in the events calendar.

Live Nation-owned Rhythm and Vines was cancelled for the first time in its 19-year-history and will now celebrate its 20th anniversary at the end of the year instead. Elsewhere, Auckland’s Outerfields festival, which has twice been beset by Covid delays, is now scheduled for 3 December and Lorde’s Solar Power tour has shifted to February/March 2023.

 


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John Giddings on getting Genesis back on the road

Solo boss John Giddings has told IQ how Genesis’ The Last Domino? Tour has navigating the challenges of Covid to triumph over adversity.

The legendary Phil Collins-fronted band last toured in 2007 before announcing a reunion in 2020. The European leg of the tour is due to finally wrap up at the fourth time of asking with a three-night stand at The O2 from 24-26 March.

The London arena dates were originally scheduled for November 2020 before being postponed multiple times thanks to the pandemic, including last October, when they were due to wrap up their UK run.

Giddings, who will appear alongside Paradigm agent Alex Hardee as part of ILMC’s popular Dragons’ Den sessions at next month’s conference, explains the course of events.

“Last November, two of the band got Covid the first night in Glasgow, so we had to cancel the second night in Glasgow and postpone the three O2s,” he says. “So I postponed the three O2s to the end of March and suggested to the band that we play some European shows prior to The O2 – because you can’t just do it on its own – as a farewell thank you to all the European fans.”

However, the emergence of the Omicron variant late last year – and the subsequent tightening of restrictions on gatherings – threatened to derail plans once again.

“Getting it all together at two weeks’ notice was pretty hard”

“We sold all of the tickets, then something called Omicron came along and all the countries kind of closed down again,” sighs Giddings. “So three weeks ago, we had three shows at The O2 [lined up], but we couldn’t play France, Holland or Germany.

“I think the first country that opened up was France, so we could play two Paris shows and three Londons, with a week in between, then Holland said it was looking likely.”

But going ahead with the German stretch – two nights at each of Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin, Hanover’s Zag Arena and Lanxess Arena in Cologne – was not as straightforward.

“I wrote a letter to the minister of culture in Germany asking for special dispensation because they said we could the play gigs, but only to 60% capacity,” says Giddings, “and anybody in the music business knows that just pays for the costs of the show.

“Germany consists of five different countries really, five different states – so we had to go to the local governments of each of them and beg to be able to do them, saying everybody has to wear a mask, tests have to be shown, anything to make the shows happen.

“Eventually, we got permission. The first to give us permission was Hannover, then Cologne and then, with about two weeks to go, Berlin. Getting it all together at two weeks’ notice was pretty hard with equipment, trucking, coaches for the crew, etc, but here we are and it’s going incredibly.”

“Germany is their biggest market, France second and Holland is probably third”

The tour, which has been met with glowing reviews, continues tonight (17 March) at the 40,000-cap Paris la Défense Arena in France before returning to Germany’s Lanxess Arena in Cologne, followed by two nights at Amsterdam’s Ziggo Dome in the Netherlands (21-22 March).

“The responses are phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal,” reports Giddings. “Audiences love this group, love their history and realise it’s the last time they’ll ever see them live. Phil sits down for the whole show, but his personality shines through. He’s singing better than ever, and the band are playing better than ever.

“Germany is their biggest market, France second and Holland is probably third, but some people were flying in from Ukraine to come and see some of these shows and obviously they can’t get here, which is horrible. Phil refers to it during the show and dedicates a song to them, Land of Confusion, which was originally written about a different subject, but is pertinent in today’s world.”

The trio – Collins, Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford, toured North America last November/December. The tour was the 54th best seller of 2021, according to Pollstar, shifting 134,323 tickets for a total gross of $23,743,403 (€21,461,200).

“We did 21 shows just ahead of the new wave of the variant,” notes Giddings. “America was interesting because you talk about different countries in Germany, the different states in America had different rules. The Democrats had certain rules, obviously in New York you had to show Covid passes and all that, and in the Trump states, nobody gave a fuck! You had to remember where you were.”

Isle of Wight Festival promoter Giddings is currently appearing in the four-part BBC Two series Rock Till We Drop, which offers the chance for a band of musicians aged over 64 a chance to appear at the festival. He gives a brief update on this year’s IoW, which will be headlined by Lewis Capaldi, Kasabian and Muse from 16-19 June.

“It’s shaping up really well,” he says. “We’re just under 40,000 tickets so far and it’s picking up like there’s no tomorrow, it’s going to be lovely.”

 


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