Estonia’s Station Narva welcomes international acts
The fourth edition of city festival Station Narva took place from Thursday 5 to Saturday 7 August, welcoming international acts including British DJs Roni Size and A Guy Called Gerald, Russian hip-hop duo Aigel and Finnish singer-songwriter New Ro to Estonia’s third-largest city.
Taking place at Narva’s 13th-century Hermann Castle (which also includes Narva Museum), Station Narva 2021 was the first music festival to utilise rapid testing and Estonia’s digital Covid-19 pass to ensure all 2,297 attendees were coronavirus-free. Of those who attended, 53% of visitors came with a digital Covid certificate and 47% with a negative rapid Covid-19 test taken on site. (No positive results were found.)
The festival, organised by Tallinn Music Week promoter Shiftworks, also featured 15 Estonian artists, as well as an urban art competition, talks and debates, a technology camp, creative incubator Objekt, and tours of Narva’s dacha district, Kudruküla.
“Everyone was smiling and giving off such a positive charge”
Aigel, whose Station Narva show was their first post-pandemic concert outside Russia, say: “Everyone was smiling and giving off such a positive charge. We really didn’t expect such a warm welcome, because we had no idea whether people knew our songs here or whether they would understand us. The reception was fantastic.”
The festival’s head of community affairs, Valeria Lavrova, adds: “It was great that this year we had to do a lot less explaining about what Station Narva is. Our people already know about the festival. Personally, I discovered that at its core there are two seemingly opposite concepts: experimentation and safety.
“This festival always experiments with something that hasn’t been tried before, from venues to programme parts and performers, but at the same time it is very safe. I’m not even talking so much about health and the now-important certificates and QR codes, but more about the festival atmosphere and the extent to which the organisation has been considered. For example, while the dacha owners were a bit cautious at first, on the day of the tour they were all in high spirits and they had a great time. It was a truly heartfelt experience.”
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Estonian gov confirms €42m aid package, €6m risk fund
The Estonian government has announced a €42 million aid package for the cultural sector, which includes a €6m ‘risk fund’ for large-scale events.
The government’s decision comes after 355 organisations from across the sector submitted a joint proposal to the government, emphasising the impact culture has on the economy and the population’s mental health, and underscoring its need for financial support.
The supplementary budget includes €21m to help cultural events organisers (such as promoters) cover the costs of labour hired with contracts under the law of obligations, as well as other unavoidable costs.
The organisers of international cultural and sports events will also benefit from the separate €6m risk fund, designed to support large-scale events with a ‘significant economic impact’ in the event that they are affected by cancellations, postponements or restrictions.
“The purpose of the risk fund is to encourage organisers to plan events in the second half of 2021 in order to restart the economy”
The supplementary budget also comprises €5.3m for cinemas, film production and film distributors, €6.7m to support freelance creative persons and €2.7m for sports.
“Today is a special day. The cultural sector proved that there is great strength in cooperation and the whole sector can continue work with more confidence. It is also significant that the members of government understand that culture supports both the economy as well as our citizens’ mental health,” says Helen Sildna of Tallinn Music Week festival.
“The purpose of the risk fund is to encourage organisers to plan events in the second half of the year in order to restart the economy, yet provide confidence that their expenses will be covered in changing circumstances. The sector’s next objective is to continue working together in order for culture to have a clear part in the EU relief packages as well.”
Ave Tölpt, from the country’s music export office, Music Estonia, says: “I am very glad that the cultural sector has been highlighted in the crisis packages as a sector with a much wider impact. I believe that thanks to the representatives of the sector coming together to formulate their message, the mechanisms of the cultural sector as a whole have become much more comprehensible in general as well. The necessary aid for survival in the crisis will help retain the diversity of the music sector and the related businesses in the future with a greater sense of hope.”
“The creation of a risk fund is forward-looking…this is a significant signal for those outside of Estonia as well”
Eva Saar, from Jazzkaar jazz festival, says: “Cultural organisations have an important role in restarting the economy after the virus situation improves and also as the providers of nourishment for the spirit. The decision that the government made today gives the sector a chance to survive and carry that weighty role in the future as well.
“The creation of a risk fund for large-scale events is forward-looking and encourages organisers to bring economically and imagologically important international events to Estonia – this is a significant signal for those outside of Estonia as well. Thank you to everyone who contributed and to the policymakers.”
Estonia is the latest market to announce an event cancellation fund for events, following closely behind Denmark which announced a DKK 500m safety net earlier this week.
In the northern hemisphere, other insurance pots include Germany’s €2.5bn pot, Austria’s €300m ‘protective umbrella’, the Netherlands’ €300m fund, Belgium’s €60m festival cancellation pot and Norway’s €34m festival safety net.
Promoting TMW 2020 was by far the most challenging experience that our team has had in our 12 years of festival history. It is fair to say that organising events with huge financial risk, at times like this, can be done only by putting your organisation under a pressure it has never been under before.
Going ahead with an event is a tough decision for any company leader to make. He or she will need to analyse and decide whether it’s reasonable or sustainable to do so, and ensure that the event not only lands on its feet but bounces back afterwards. If the experience gained can then help to promote workable measures for the music industry, it was a necessary investment.
- International travel – had we foreseen in March that there would be no joint travel measures in place even within the EU and the Schengen area by August, we would have made a decision to go regional (Baltic-Nordic) with our music and conference line-ups, instead of European. International work in the field of the performing arts, in circumstances where every country – on the basis of their individual virus rate, testing capacity and political pressure – sets their own travel restrictions system, cannot be done. As a matter of principle, we did not want to give up on the international collaboration aspect.
- Rapidly changing event restrictions – our governments have gone for the easiest, but probably not the most efficient means of restricting social gatherings, basing the entire logic on capacity numbers instead of zooming in closer to look at how the virus actually spreads. Six months later, we should be smarter than that now.
- Confusing public messages – even when events are officially allowed, our media space is flooded with ”expert” advice, discouraging people to attend events. “Allowed, but not recommended” is a damaging concept. The result is a drop in public attendance as well as a lack of trust in our sector.
During the summer season, not a single case of Covid was registered at professionally organised events
What we discovered
- The human desire to physically meet and share physical space is strong. This longing for human connection will most probably increase in the coming autumn months.
- When communicated well, in a clear and calm manner, audiences are ready and willing to maintain social distances and follow health guidance.
- During the summer season, when events in Estonia of up to 2,000-capacity were allowed outdoors, and 1,500 indoors, not a single case of Covid was registered at professionally organised events.
- There is a lack of general trust in the professional capacity of our sector. We need to consciously upgrade this by strategic
work and clear communication.
- There are competent private sector medical aid companies ready to offer tailor-made solutions. In collaboration with security companies, a new level of crowd-control expertise can emerge. These competences need to find a permanent role at the core of our event teams. Health and safety is a topic that needs our full attention both during industry conversations as well as at the top management levels of our companies.
Letting our governments base their decisions on venue capacity numbers alone will bankrupt the sector
The events and culture sector across Europe and the rest of the world should join forces to achieve the following:
- To find new solutions for the sector, we need direct collaboration links with scientists and health specialists – only then can we find new pathways. Letting our governments base their decisions on venue capacity numbers alone will bankrupt the sector and still not solve the health crisis.
- The psychological impact of reduced social interaction should be measured more seriously and the culture sector should play a bigger role in addressing this. The topic of health should not only consider physical but also mental health and wellbeing.
- There needs to be a much stronger lobby at EU level to balance travel restrictions. Freedom of movement is one of the core functional aspects of the EU and Schengen area. International collaboration can only temporarily progress with digital-only meet-ups.
- We need to pay closer attention to how our basic freedoms are being compromised. We should confidently stand against any moral judgement upon our sector, constantly striving for better and smarter professional solutions. We need to turn the situation around and lead the conversation, with pride and with the knowledge that we now have.
TMW 2021 will take place 6–9 May. Passes via: www.tmw.ee
Helen Sildna is founder of Tallinn Music Week.
Sell-out shows for LN Finland’s post-Covid concert series
Live Nation Finland has expanded the programme of its Suvilahti Summer concert series “due to high demand and sold-out shows”.
The series, which began on 11 June and runs until the end of the month at Helsinki’s Suvilahti energy field, was announced as the Finnish government lifted restrictions on events of up to 500 people.
Following on from sold-out shows from Finnish acts Maustetutöt, Anssi Kela and Knip, Live Nation has added additional dates from Olavi Uusivirta Duo and Jesse Marki, as well as introducing new content from the likes of the Ida Paul & Kalle Lindroth duo, rock singer Tuomari Nurmio and YouTubers Elisa Malik, Joona Hellman and Nelli Orelli.
The series of events is being carried out in accordance with current official guidelines. Tables and chairs are set for groups of two to six people, with individual parties separated from each other at a safe distance.
The full schedule of shows, along with ticketing information, can be found here.
Finland is one of a number of countries, including Denmark and the Czech Republic, to reintroduce shows of up to 500 people, with nations including Austria and Estonia allowing 500-capacity shows to return next month.
Classical music festivals to go ahead this summer
A number of classical music festivals are taking place in Europe this summer, as organisers find ways to work with social distancing requirements.
Salzburg Festival, originally scheduled to start on 18 July, will now kick off on 1 August, when audiences of 1,250 will be permitted at outdoor events in Austria, and run to the end of the month. The programme, initially comprising 212 performances, will be scaled down to 90.
Capacity will be also be pared back at 50%, with the 1,500-seat Haus für Mozart capped at 800 and a maximum of around 700 tickets sold for the 1,400-seat Felsenreitschule. The festival had sold 180,000 of its total 230,000 tickets prior to lockdown restrictions, and is now limiting seats to around 70,000.
Only those who already bought tickets can still attend and there will be a limit of two tickets per person. Names of ticketholders will be printed on the tickets to enable contact tracing.
Near to Vienna, the Grafenegg Festival will start on 14 August in the grounds of the 32-acre Grafenegg castle.
A number of classical music festivals are taking place in Europe this summer, as organisers find ways to work with social distancing requirements
Organisers of the event released an updated programme on 3 June, consisting of predominantly domestic acts. Tickets are limited to two per person, per event and all attendees will be required to wear masks when not seated and keep “sufficient distance” from other guests.
In neighbouring Italy, where live shows are returning next week, large classical music event the Ravenna Festival is taking place from 21 June to 30 July in the towns of Cervia and Lugo, with the main stage at the open-air Brancaleone fortress in Ravenna itself.
Tickets, which go on sale on 11 June, will be limited to two per person. Capacity will be set at 300 for the events in the fortress and at a specially erected arena in Cervia, with the Pavaglione in Lugo holding up to 500 people. Much of the programme will also be streamed live online.
Those who purchased tickets before the suspension of sales and the announcement of the new program can obtain a refund by voucher, as per Italian legislation.
In Estonia, where open-air shows of up to 1,000 spectators and indoor concerts of 500 can take place next month, Pärnu Music Festival is taking place from 16 to 23 July for audiences of 300. More details on the programme and running of the event will become available later this week.
Refunds may lead to mass bankruptcies, warn EE promoters
The absence of a scheme to protect the concert industry from the financial impact of issuing refunds en masse could leave to a wave of insolvencies, leading Estonian promoters have warned.
In many countries in Europe, including Germany, Portugal and Italy, concert organisers are being allowed to offer ticket vouchers (ie credit) in lieu of cash refunds for cancelled events, while others, including Estonia’s Baltic neighbours, have extended the window in which refunds must be given (typically a year).
“In other countries, such as Latvia and Lithuania, solutions have been found,” says Live Nation Estonia’s Mart Eensalu, “and longer periods for the repurchase [refund] of tickets have been granted. But it hasn’t been done here.”
Estonia – which, along with most Europe, put the brakes on live events in March – ended its state of emergency and began easing coronavirus lockdown restrictions on 17 May, with shows of up to 1,000 people permitted from 1 July.
That 1,000-capacity limit (or 500 for indoor shows), of course, precludes major live music events, such as Rammstein’s highly anticipated performance in Tallinn, originally scheduled for July – for which 62,000 people will now be asking Live Nation for refunds, writes the Baltic Times.
“We are effectively jobless, but we must keep our offices open”
Tanel Samm, of promoter Monster Music, says the Estonian government is not taking concert professionals’ concerns seriously. “The money entrusted to us by customers who have bought tickets does not belong to us if the event has not taken place,” he tells the paper. “We are effectively jobless, but we must keep our offices open to bring the rescheduled events to people next year.”
Samm says authorities must “finally enter into a dialogue with us” in order to ensure the survival of much of Estonia’s live music industry.
That long-overdue help may finally be coming in the form of culture minister Tonis Lukas, who recently met with promoters to discuss a way forward for the sector, Postimees reports.
Lukas urges both concertgoers and Estonia’s consumer watchdog, the Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority, to be patient with concert promoters. “My call […] is for us to be prepared to give concert organisers just over a year to return the money,” he says, “because when a concert is postponed by a year, organisers will be able to return to a normal cash flow then and then pay refunds.”
According to the Baltic Times, current Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority guidelines say customers should receive refunds for cancelled events within a month.
Estonia exits lockdown, events given go-ahead for July
Estonia ended its state of emergency on Sunday evening (17 May), signalling a gradual lifting of lockdown restrictions in the countries, with live events of up to 1,000 people set to return in July.
“The reasonable and responsible behaviour of our people makes it possible to end the emergency situation in Estonia this week. Our joint effort has allowed us to return to a more regular life,” says prime minister Jüri Ratas.
As part of the government’s lockdown easing plan, public drive-in events were allowed to resume from Friday (15 May), with sports events permitted to take place behind closed doors – a format now being tested by some in the live music world – from Monday.
Open-air events of up to 1,000 people will make a return in July, along with indoor shows of up to 500 attendees in venues operating at 50% of full capacity. No public events are permitted to take place in May and June.
The measures are similar to those recently revealed in Italy, where outdoor concerts of 1,000 people and covered shows of 200 will be permitted from mid-June.
“It’s essential to inject optimism to artists, the whole sector and our audience”
The regulations mean that showcase festival and industry conference Tallinn Music Week (TMW) can go ahead from 26 to 30 August. The event had previously been scheduled for the end of March but, like many other industry conferences worldwide, was forced to change its plans due to the coronavirus outbreak.
According to TMW director Helen Sildna, the festival programme can be “conveniently adjusted” to fit the regulations.
“This season will give the entire cultural and events sector an opportunity to be smart and responsible, and to prove that we are able to provide value and new quality even in challenging circumstances,” says Sildna. “It’s essential to inject optimism to artists, the whole sector and our audience.”
Tickets for TMW festival and conference are available here.
17k Finnish fans to travel to Estonia for Rammstein
Over 17,000 fans will travel from Finland to Estonia in July to see Rammstein performance at Tallinn’s Song Festival Grounds on 21 July 2020.
The sold-out concert, part of the second leg of the band’s European Stadium Tour, will see Rammstein play to more than 60,000 fans. Two thirds of concertgoers will travel from outside of Estonia to attend the show, with representatives from over 60 different countries.
The Live Nation-promoted concert will be the largest outdoor show in Tallinn since Madonna’s 2009 appearance in the Estonian capital.
Kicking off in May 2020 at the Wörthersee Stadion in Klagenfurt, Austria, the second leg of Rammstein’s European tour will visit Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Great Britain, the Netherlands, France, Italy, Poland, Norway and Sweden, before wrapping up at Ceres Park in Aarhus, Denmark, on 4 August.
The first leg of the tour saw the band play 30 concerts in 24 cities across countries including Spain, Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Russia and Latvia, as well as multiple nations that will be revisited in 2020.
Tickets for the stadium tour – the band’s first ever – broke records for ticketing partner CTS Eventim, selling more than 800,000 tickets in a single on sale.
The tour has been commended for its “fireworks, massive pyrotechnics and overwhelming smoke effects”, with German newspaper Nordkurier writing the band were “shaking European stadiums” with their live shows.
15,000 Finns to descend on Tallinn for Bon Jovi
More than 15,000 Finnish fans are set to cross the Gulf of Finland into Estonia for Bon Jovi’s 2 June show at the open-air Tallinnan Laululavalla – the “biggest travelling rock audience” of all time, according to promoter Live Nation.
Some 40,000 people are expected to attend the concert, part of the American rockers’ three-year This House is Not for Sale tour, which kicked off in Greenville, South Carolina, in February 2017 and is scheduled to close in South America in October this year.
Tickets for ferries across the gulf are expected to be in high demand, with the tour a critical and financial success; according to Pollstar, This House is Not for Sale grossed US$31.6 million in 2018 alone.
According to the European Arena Yearbook 2018, the live entertainment market is buoyant in central and eastern Europe, though rising production costs present a challenge: Tarmo Hõbe of the Saku Suurhall in Tallinn told the EAY: “We can accomodate all the best international shows, but for the promoter finding the audience to attend all these shows and to meet all those costs is still a challenge.”
EAY 2017: CEE arenas shrug off post-crash gloom
A majority of central and eastern European (CEE) arenas reported strong growth in 2016, boosted by growing demand and increased consumer confidence, IQ’s European Arena Yearbook 2017 reveals.
Almost all the arenas surveyed in eight CEE countries – Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Serbia – recorded positive results last year, with some even recording their most successful year to date, as they shrugged off the last remnants of the global financial crisis, which hit central and eastern Europe particularly hard.
While GDP is still not as high as in western Europe, demand is strong, consumer confidence has returned to the market and average audience figures are higher than some of the more affluent nations: the arenas surveyed sold 4,368,253 tickets to 882 events, generating €130.5 million.
Sport dominates the calendars at arenas across the region, accounting for 56% of programmes. Music makes up 26%, while family shows and miscellaneous events make-up 9% and 6%, respectively. Only 11 comedy shows took place in these arenas last year, an average of one per arena.
The largest attraction for people is clearly music events, which draw the highest average attendance: 7,761 (survey average attendance: 4,953).
“They used to regard it as very important to be seen as having significant and cool cultural festivals, but that’s changing”
‘Miscellaneous events’ are the next biggest draw, pulling an average crowd of 6,946 to corporate events and exhibitions.
Family and sports events attract average audiences of 4,300 (survey average: 5,157) and 3,610 (4,662) each.
Promoter Nick Hobbs, who books acts at all levels across central and eastern Europe, the Balkans and Turkey, says there’s starting to be a trend of people moving away from festivals and towards arena shows. “The festival market doesn’t seem to be doing as well as it was, but arenas are doing better,” he says. “That’s because sponsorship – which is essential for festivals, but not usually part of the P&L [profit and loss] of an arena show – is struggling, as companies shift their focus away from music.
“In some countries, such as Poland, municipalities are shifting their marketing spend away from cultural events due to the political climate. They used to regard it as very important to be seen as having significant and cool cultural festivals, but that’s changing due to a much more culturally conservative government.”
With the economic situation in many countries improving, arenas are seeing steady growth.