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French Covid expert: ‘Cultural places are lower risk’

The head of infectious diseases at France’s largest hospital says that the risks of Covid-19 contamination in cultural places are “much lower than in the family, professional or school environment”, provided restrictions are observed.

Appearing on French cable channel BFMTV, Eric Caumes from the Pitié Salpêtrière hospital in Paris said that even in cultural places where there are lots of people – such as theatres, stadiums and museums – the risks of Covid-19 contamination is low if social distancing measures are adhered to and masks are worn.

Caumes’ comments are in line with multiple clinical trials which have found little risk of an infected person transmitting Covid-19 in an indoor concert venue, including Spain’s Primacov and two German trials – Restart-19 and Konzerthaus Dortmund. France has announced test concerts of its own, scheduled for the spring.

The infectious diseases chief went on to say that the reopening of culture is essential to avoid a mental health crisis in France and stop citizens from “turning into zombies” – adding the government must consider the “global dimension of health”.

The infectious diseases chief said that the reopening of culture is essential to avoid a mental health crisis in France

“The limit [for hospitals] is not very far, we are so close to the level that we are afraid of…but I am not sure that confinement would improve the psychic parameters which are rather worrying,” he said.

French culture minister, Roselyne Bachelot, has said that museums and monuments will be the first to reopen when there is a drop in the number Covid-19 cases but cinemas, concert halls and theatres are to remain closed until further notice.

Bachelot recently met with the organisers of major French festivals as concern mounts over the impact of France’s ongoing health state of emergency, though the participants say it did not result in any concrete guarantees regarding the festival summer.

The culture minister will hold another meeting with the festival sector on 15 February, by which time she will need to have concrete answers and solutions for festival organisers, says live music association, Prodiss.

Meanwhile, France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, is under pressure from his scientific counsel to impose a third lockdown, warning the leader the country’s curfew and other restrictions are not enough to curb the virus.

 


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France and Germany announce second national lockdowns

Germany and France, two of Europe’s largest live music markets, have ordered sweeping restrictions in a bid to temper a second wave of coronavirus.

French president Emmanuel Macron has announced a second national lockdown, starting from tomorrow (30 October) until at least the end of November.

Under the new stringent measures, all non-essential business will close and residents will only be permitted to leave home for essential work or medical reasons.

Covid daily deaths in France are at the highest level since April with over 36,000 cases confirmed yesterday (28 October).

President Macron said the country risked being “overwhelmed by a second wave that no doubt will be harder than the first”.

Elsewhere, Germany is imposing a ‘soft’ national lockdown, with new measures coming into force from next Monday (2 November).

President Macron said the country risked being “overwhelmed by a second wave that no doubt will be harder than the first”

Restaurants, bars, leisure facilities and cultural institutes will be forced to close until the end of November, alongside the majority of businesses and workplaces, while public gatherings will be limited to two households or up to 10 people.

Schools, nurseries, hairdressers and shops, however, will stay open.

German chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday morning that the number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care had doubled in the last 10 days, and hospitals would be overwhelmed within weeks unless further steps were taken to curb the spread of the virus.

Merkel also said that contact tracing operations in many parts of the country had broken down, with authorities unable to locate the origin of 75% of infections.

German health officials said today that another 89 people had died in the past 24 hours, with a record 16,774 infections.

 


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France pledges €50m for music, launches ‘festival fund’

The French government has pledged a further €50 million to support the country’s music industry, as well as establishing a ‘festival fund’ to assist events forced to cancel by the coronavirus outbreak.

In a televised address, which followed a meeting with industry representatives on Wednesday 6 March, French minister of culture Franck Riester announced that the National Music Centre (CNM) would have its budget increased by €50m – “a contribution to the aid it has already provided” to the sector, as well as to enable it to “build support plans” for the industry in future, he said.

Riester (pictured) also announced the creation of a dedicated fund for festivals, to be established in concert with local authorities and the régions, according to MGB Mag. Major live events are off limits in France until at least September, although authorities have indicated that some “small festivals” may be allowed to take place.

The French economy has lost up €1.8bn as a result of the cancellation or postponement of summer festivals

Speaking before Riester, president Emmanuel Macron said he would help to protect independent businesses such as small festivals, announcing that, in partnership with the Public Investment Bank (BPI), the state would step in to help, “so that they are not weakened and at risk of being bought by major companies”.

Macron added that his government would continue to support the “festival fabric” at the heart of French society.

The latest intervention by French authorities comes as a study reveals the economy has lost up €1.8bn as a result of the cancellation or postponement of nearly all summer festivals.

Much of France began to ease its eight-week lockdown today (11 May), with shops reopening outside Paris and people no longer required to carry permits in order to leave their homes.

 


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Macron dedicates €225m to French cultural sector

French president Emmanuel Macron has pledged to create a €225 million public fund to benefit creative companies in the country, as he warns against growing US and Chinese dominance in the sector.

Macron announced the fund to a crowd of 130 cultural industry executives at the Elysée Palace. The funding was one of the recommendations made in a report concerning the private financing of film and audiovisual production in France by film producer Dominique Boutonnat.

The fund will be operated by the Public Investment Bank (banque publique d’investissement).

The French president also warned the executives against the dominance of US companies such as Netflix, Disney and Apple, as well as emerging Chinese competitors.

“I truly believe that if we do not organise ourselves, the battle is lost,” stated Macron at the Elysée Palace meeting, highlighting the need for collective action to combat US and Chinese tech giants.

“I truly believe that if we do not organise ourselves, the battle is lost”

A collective action plan will be outlined by the French Ministry of Culture in cooperation with the cultural industry sector by the end of the year.

This is the second time this month that the French president has called upon the EU to pool resources in the name of culture. In the aftermath of the devastating fire at Notre Dame cathedral on 15 April, Macron called for collective action to safeguard historical sites and protect “European heritage”.

US cultural sector dominance has been criticised by French politicians in the past. In 2017, former French culture minister Jack Lang denounced Live Nation’s inaugural Lollapalooza Paris festival as an “invasion of the musical life of France by American multinationals”.

The Paris edition of Lollapalooza returns for its third year in July, featuring headline performances from Twenty One Pilots and the Strokes.

 


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Industry backlash against Macron assisted contract reforms

The government of Emmanuel Macron has been heavily criticised by several French music industry associations after announcing plans to axe hundreds of thousands of subsidised jobs, many of them in the music industry, as part of his wide-ranging reforms of France’s rigid labour laws.

Macron, who was elected president in May, is currently fast-tracking his reforms of the complex Code du Travail – which include making it easier for firms to hire and fire workers, and measures reducing the influence of trades unions – through parliament by a series of executive decrees, sparking several street protests against what far-left opposition leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon calls a “social coup d’état” for which Macron has no mandate.

The French live music industry was overwhelmingly supportive of Macron (pictured) in the run-up to May’s election, when he faced off against National Front (FN) candidate Marine Le Pen – although Miala promoter Arnaud Meersseman warned the former had “made it very clear there needs to be a reform of social structures and wages” if he were elected.

French biz unites against “antidemocratic” Le Pen

One particular aspect of those reforms has in recent weeks drawn the ire of industry bodies: the decision to drastically reduce the number of subsidised jobs (assisted contracts, or contrats aidés), which have been criticised by Macron’s prime minister, Edouard Philippe, as offering poor value for money. “In the private sector, only 25% of assisted contracts lead to a job, so [they have] a 75% failure rate,” Philippe claimed on Franceinfo’s Questions politiques earlier this month.

In a joint statement, classical music/opera union Les Forces Musicales, festival organisers’ union Profedim, theatres association Syndicat National des Scènes Publiques and music/performing arts union Syndeac have criticised plans to cut the number of assisted jobs (from 459,000 in 2016 to 293,000 in 2017 and 200,000 in 2018), asking the government to reconsider its planned cuts a programme it says has “positive effects on unemployment” in times of economic crisis.

Those eligible for assisted contracts include the long-term unemployed, the disabled, those on welfare and young people with few qualifications.

While not all employers of staff on assisted contracts are music/arts businesses, many venues, festivals and arts organisations have taken advantage of the scheme, as illustrated in an interactive map produced by trade union Asso:

While Philippe has insisted three groups of people – those supporting disabled children, residents of France’s overseas territories and emergency and social care workers – will remain a priority for contrats aidé, the four music/arts organisations maintain reducing the number of assisted jobs is the wrong decision.

“The paradoxical demand of asking culture-sector workers to take on more assignments […] with fewer subsidised jobs does not, in the context of increased financial fragility, seem like a good solution.”

 


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French biz unites against “antidemocratic” Le Pen

A coalition of 70 French industry associations, including promoters’ group Prodiss, performing arts body Syndeac, Music Managers Forum France, the Union of Contemporary Music (SMA) and the National Venues Association (Association de Scènes Nationales), has urged voters to reject presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen, warning her National Front (FN) party represents an “inward-looking attitude” and a threat to the “republican values” of liberté, égalité and fraternité.

The new campaign, dubbed ‘Culture Against the FN’ (hasthtag: #stopFN7mai, or “#stopFN7may”), was inaugurated with an event at the Philharmonie de Paris on Tuesday (2 May), with over 25 artists, conductors, film directors and other influential figures from the arts world calling for the country to “vote to block the FN” from office at this Sunday’s presidential election.

“Arts and culture, through their values of diversity, sharing and freedom, are inseparable from a democratic society of equality and fraternity,” reads a statement from organisers. “We cannot accept the banalisation of the National Front and its anti-democratic ideas of rejecting ‘the other’ and an inward-looking attitude, […] that run contrary to republican values.”

Aline Renet, Prodiss’s strategic counsel, says there were around 1,000 people at the #stopFN7mai event. For Prodiss, she says, the message is to “go and vote, and vote usefully” to stop Le Pen – which in effect means a vote for her opponent, Emmanuel Macron of En Marche! (‘Forward!’).

Renet tells IQ the association, which represents roughly 75% of France’s live sector, met with representatives of every candidate before the first round of voting – bar the Le Pen team. “We decided that was not an option,” she explains.

“Ticket sales have taken a real dip in the last few weeks … everyone’s minds are fixed on the election”

Le Pen’s opinions, says Renet, are “so far away” from those held by most people working in the entertainment industry, “in a very French sense – not just in business terms, but also on culture, freedom, fraternity…”

The latest polls show Le Pen, who is running on a populist, eurosceptic, anti-immigrant, economically protectionist platform, trailing Macron – who is socially liberal but broadly pro-business – by 40.2% to 59.8%.

Despite Macron’s seemingly unassailable lead, ex-Nous promoter Arnaud Meersseman, now at Fimalac’s Miala, says he’s “a little bit worried” about 7 May’s vote – chiefly because Macron, in contrast to Le Pen, is widely perceived as being “more of a reason candidate than a passion candidate”. (And we all know how ‘reason’ vs ‘passion’ turned out in America…)

The attitude of many towards Macron, Meersseman tells IQ, is that “‘he seems reasonable, he’s not going to fuck up the country, let’s vote for him’. But lots of people, especially those who voted for the far-left candidate [Jean-Luc Mélenchon] are also saying they’re going to abstain, which will increase Le Pen’s vote.”

In addition to making the markets jittery, Meersseman says the spectre of a surprise FN victory is hurting ticket sales. “Ticket sales have taken a real dip in the last few weeks,” he explains. “May is traditionally really slow, but I do think the uncertainty is having an effect – everyone’s minds are fixed on the election.”

Meersseman says that while he “obviously” supports Macron – Le Pen, he says, is a “demagogue” whose vague proposal to limit the number of ‘foreign workers’ in France to 10,000 per year could be catastrophic for touring – it likely won’t be business as usual for the French industry under the 39-year-old centrist either.

“We cannot accept the banalisation of the National Front”

For example, Macron has “made it very clear there needs to be a reform of social structures and wages”, he explains, which could affect the unique employment benefits enjoyed by French artists and technicians, who are entitled to a special dole payment to protect them in the downtime between jobs.

That fund, says Meersseman says, is costly – and so could, with France’s national debt running at close to 100% of GDP, “be something he [Macron] could look at”.

However, when councils controlled by one party (FN) are reportedly depriving festivals of funding if they fail promote ‘national culture’, and the other (En Marche!) has appointed a well-known advocate for the music industry, Marc Schwartz (the architect of the loi Schwartz on music streaming), as its culture spokesman, the choice for most working in the live industry is clear.

“We can’t be political, but there is one thing we [Prodiss] all agree on:  the need to vote, and to stop Marine Le Pen,” says Renet.

With the arts world, most of the media, prominent business leaders and, seemingly, the majority of the general public behind him, the smart money is on Macron to be France’s 25th president. Still, it’s worth remembering that the same was true (with the notable exception of Harvey Goldsmith) of the pro-remain side in the Brexit referendum…

 


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