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Live to play key role in Covid-19 vaccinations

Venues and festivals across Europe have offered their services as vaccination centres as the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine nears roll-out.

The vaccine is now approved in the UK, with the first vaccinations starting next week, and the EU and US are expected follow suit in the coming weeks. According to its makers, the vaccine is more than 90% effective against Covid-19.

In Germany, Dusseldorf venue company D.Live is establishing a vaccination centre in sports and entertainment venue Merkur Spiel-Arena, the 66,500-capacity stadium which serves as the ground of football team Fortuna Düsseldorf.

The centre, which will serve Dusseldorf, the state capital of North Rhine-Westphalia, will stretch over 8,000m² across two storeys and have the capacity for up to 2,400 immunisations a day, with the potential to expand if necessary.

Patients arriving at the stadium will first visit one of 12 check-in counters, before making their way through a one-way system to a waiting area, and then on to one of the ten boxes which are being converted into vaccination rooms.

Local guidelines dictate that the vaccine be made available gradually to the entire population on a voluntary basis, starting with vulnerable groups, including hospital staff and patients and carers in care homes.

Covid-19 vaccinations could start in the 27 EU nations before the end of December

Authorities in the UK are similarly requisitioning stadia and other event venues, with the 27,000-seat Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol, the Etihad Stadium campus in Manchester, Epsom Downs Racecourse in Surrey and among the sites identified for mass vaccinations in England.

The Bristol facility reportedly has the capacity to deliver up to 110,000 vaccinations a week to residents of the city and the surrounding areas, starting next week and continuing until April 2021.

In Belgium, meanwhile, newly formed Wallonian festival association FFMWB (Fédération des Festivals de Musique Wallonie-Bruxelles) is offering up its members’ sites and services to help the Belgian government achieve its goal of eight million vaccinations (around 70% of the country) when the vaccine is approved there.

“Our sector has been at a standstill for many months, and our many staff are eager to bring their creativity and dedication to the fight against coronavirus,” says Dour Festival’s Damien Dufrasne, president of the FFMWB.

FFMWB’s 11 members include Les Francofolies de Spa, Les Nuits Botanique and Brussels Summer Festival.

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said last week that said Covid-19 vaccinations could start in the 27 EU nations before the end of December. The EC has agreements with six suppliers that would allow it to purchase more than 1.2 billion doses of the vaccine.


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European festivals unite to create greener future

A collective of festivals and non-governmental organisations have launched Green Europe Experience (GEX), an initiative working to create a more eco-friendly future for music and arts festivals.

Portugal’s Boom Festival, Dour Festival in Belgium, Pohoda Festival in Slovakia and French event We Love Green have teamed up with sustainability groups A Greener Festival (AGF) in the UK and Germany’s Go Group in Germany as the co-initiators of GEX.

“In the middle of these demanding times, we feel an even stronger urge to use this special moment in history to take a deep breath and work towards healing our connection with this planet,” reads a statement from GEX initiators. “We understand that the big challenges ahead can only be addressed in a co-creation process.”

Using the two main focal points of scenography – festival decor, artwork, installations, design and signage – and food, GEX will work on developing ways to allow festivals to become fully circular through a process of implementation and review.

“We understand that the big challenges ahead can only be addressed in a co-creation process”

The project will take place over a period of three years, with the first year dedicated to minimising the ecological impact of scenography and the second focusing on food.

All findings will be shared with the teams of the festivals involved, local suppliers and stakeholders. A manual will be drawn up and distributed for the use of the wider festival and events industry.

“The GEX project brings together some of the most visionary organisations in this space to act as a catalyst to collectively accelerate the positive changes we need to make,” comments AGF co-founder and director Claire O’Neill.

“We look forward to exploring, learning and sharing ways for creative expression and precious social interaction that puts people and the planet at the forefront.”

GEX is co-funded by the European Union’s Creative Europe Programme.

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Werchter, Tomorrowland off as Belgium extends events ban

Rock Werchter, Pukkelpop, Dour Festival, Graspop Metal Meeting and Tomorrowland are among the casualties of the Belgian government’s decision to extend its ban on large-scale events until 31 August 2020, announced this afternoon (15 April).

While some lockdown measures will likely be relaxed after 3 May, given that the peak of Belgium’s Covid-19 infections is believed to have passed, the National Security Council (CSN) has reiterated that no major cultural or sporting events will be permitted to take place until at least September.

It is not yet known whether smaller festivals will be allowed to go ahead before then, reports Het Laatste Nieuws.

The CSN’s announcement follows similar extensions in France, which will have no major events until at least mid-July, Austria, where large gatherings are banned until the end of June, and Denmark, which will be festival-free until 31 August.

Rock Werchter and Pukkelpop (owned and partnered with Live Nation Belgium, respectively) say in near-identical statements that they are “not surprised” by the ruling, which is the “right decision” in the face of the coronavirus’s spread through Europe.

“Still, we are devastated,” reads an announcement from Werchter, which was to have been headlined by Pearl Jam, Pixies, the Strokes, Kendrick Lamar, Twenty One Pilots, System of a Down and Volbeat. “We extended our sincere apologies to everyone who was looking forward to it as much as we were. However, there are more important things in life right now.”

“We are crushed, given how prepared we were”

Tickets for all affected festivals will remain valid for 2021.

“We are crushed, given how prepared we were,” adds Dour Festival (15–19 July), whose 2020 bookings included Asap Rocky, Stormzy and James Blake.”We understand and support the preventive measures taken by the public authorities to prevent the spread of the virus.

“While experts agree that the situation could be contained by this summer, it is not yet recommended to gather a large crowd, from Belgium and elsewhere, to Dour 2020. The health and safety of festivalgoers, artists, sponsors, suppliers, employees and volunteers remains our number-one priority at all times.”

“We will triumph together and will continue to unite,” say organisers of long-running EDM fixture Tomorrowland. “But first we have to ensure that the event industry overcomes this.

“Tomorrowland – just like all other major events – is only possible thanks to a network of hundreds of suppliers and thousands of collaborators, working for over a year toward our beloved festival. A lot of talented artists, creative companies, and hardworking and passionate people, including our own team, are now in the eye of the storm and are going through difficult times. We will need to be resilient, support each other, and be flexible to ensure there will still be an event industry at all.”


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Market report: Belgium

As it is with property, so it is With smallish European countries: it’s all about location, location, location.

Belgium is the 34th biggest (or 16th smallest) nation in Europe by area – it would fit into France 18 times. But it might just be the best-positioned country on the continental mainland, with French, German, Dutch and Luxembourgian borders, and just two hours by train from London.

“We are the best-situated country in Europe,” concurs Pascal Van De Velde of Ghent-based promoter/agency Greenhouse Talent. “If you come from the UK to Germany, you drive through Belgium, and vice versa. If you come down from Scandinavia to southern Europe, you go through Belgium. Logistically, there is always a date for Belgium. And the market is good.”

Well, that’s true. Belgium might be small, but it’s packed – the 13th most-populous European country, with 11m inhabitants, 97% of whom live in towns or cities. So you’re always near a venue; you’re wealthier per head than the UK and France, and not far behind Germany; and in addition to a fairly world-class calendar of tours, you’ve got some of Europe’s biggest festivals in Rock Werchter, Pukkelpop, Dour, Graspop and Tomorrowland.

Then again, few countries have escaped entirely without injury these last few years, whether economic or of a more sinister kind. In common with an ever-growing list of countries, Belgium was the focus of a devastating terrorist incident when three co-ordinated suicide bombings in Brussels on 22 March 2016 killed 32 civilians and three perpetrators. One of many results of the attacks was to put a dent in the live business for much of the remainder of the year.

In January, Belgium lowered its threat level from three to two, judging another attack to be ‘unlikely,’ but while the audiences have come back, the promoters don’t soon forget. “The terrorist attacks were rough, especially the times when they were happening,” says Van De Velde. “And then in the slipstream of it, just security-wise – I can’t say that acts cancelled but putting the shows together was really nasty and difficult because the acts were scared and the audiences were reluctant.”

“We are the best-situated country in Europe”

“But it’s picked up,” he reflects. “It picks up again. When first the Bataclan attacks happened, and then, of course the Brussels attacks, that was huge. The market is very vulnerable, but it recovers fast. People want to go out and see shows, and it moves on. People get sort of used to the situation, you know?”

It takes a little while, though. In the summer of 2016, even a super-festival like Rock Werchter had a tricky year, its attendance 4,500 down on the previous year, compounded by heavy rain in the run-up. “Some people stopped going to shows in 2016 due to terrorism,” says Werchter founder and Live Nation Belgium CEO Herman Schueremans, “but they seem to have realised in 2017 that it doesn’t make sense to sit at home, and they decided to live again and enjoy shows and festivals in 2017.”

Last year, says Schueremans, things were resoundingly back to normal. “It appears that they made up in 2017 what they missed in 2016. Of course, the bills of the festivals and the multiple, top-quality tours helped to achieve that. And it looks as if that trend is confirming itself in 2018, both festival- and indoor-wise. Religion and politics divide; music unites.”

Sometimes, it unites in unusual ways. In May, Night of the Proms promoter PSE joined with Werchter, Pukkelpop and GraciaLive to protest local performance rights organisation Sabam’s January move to raise tariffs across the board. Among the increases is a 30% spike in festival rates to 3.25% of box-office receipts, and a 16% hike for larger shows to 3.5%.

PSE’s Jan Vereecke accused Sabam of “simply abusing its monopoly – it is offering no additional services in exchange for the price increase.” Since then, talks have been ongoing, with no resolution yet reached. PwC estimates the value of the Belgian live business at $322m (€261m), and the fact that IQ is reporting at a time of ongoing prosperity and restored calm needn’t mask the fact that Belgium is a more unusual country than many.


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Festivals on ETEP: “It’s not just about the bands”

The European Talent Exchange Programme (ETEP), founded in 2003 by Eurosonic Noorderslag to increase the cross-border circulation of music in Europe, celebrated its best-ever year in 2016, with 402 confirmed shows at participating events by 148 artists from 27 European countries.

ETEP counts among its membership 100 of Europe’s leading music festivals – and in light of the initiative’s record-breaking 2016, IQ caught up with just a few, asking their opinion of the programme and how it affects their booking decisions…

Etep keeps UK agents on their toes. … Now they’re afraid they might miss something important

Eric van Eerdenburg, festival director, Lowlands
ETEP has raised awareness that there is good-quality music from other countries, rather than just music of Anglo-American origin.

It raised pride within the European music scene that different cultural influences, different crossovers, are a good thing, and that we have to tour and promote these acts as festival and tour promoters. We shouldn’t just watch the UK, America and the exceptional world music talent from Africa and far-away exotic countries: It also happens here, right under our noses!

ETEP has also played a role in raising the level of professionalism of European managers and agents – and has kept the UK agency world on its toes. British agents come and watch the talent being presented with different eyes than they did ten years ago: 10–15 years ago they did not watch at all – now they are afraid they might miss something important. They actually want acts for their rosters – if they can get them, that is…

The music business is too often focused on the US and UK, but we have plenty of great artists, too

Alex Stevens, head of programme, Dour Festival
We book 250–300 acts per year and have been focused on European artists for a long time, so naturally we have a lot of ETEP acts playing Dour every year.

Of course, by booking ETEP acts it reduces our costs, but my booking decisions are only taken on an artistic basis!

I think it’s important to promote European music and European culture, which is rich and exciting. The music business is too often focused on the US and UK, but we have plenty of great artists, too.

The musical quality is usually brilliant

Stephan Thanscheidt, managing director, FKP Scorpio
We are part of Etep with a lot of festivals in different countries from our roster, and book many Etep acts every year.

The musical quality is usually brilliant, and the inter-European circulation of this talent gets stronger every year.

Etep is not just about the bands: it’s also a great network to exchange information with bookers from all over Europe

Dany Hassenstein, booker, Paléo Festival Nyon
ETEP is great for up-and-coming bands. It fits perfectly with our booking process: we announce our line-up in March, and January is perfect timing to look at completing the line-up with new bands.

There’s no obligation for us to book ETEP bands – but, since the programme exists, Paléo has always booked bands from it, as ETEP acts are very well pre-selected and of high quality.

But ETEP is not only about the bands: it’s also a great network to exchange information with bookers from all over Europe. And this is as important as finding the new future headliners!


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