German industry frustrated by government silence
The German Event Management Forum has expressed its frustration over the lack of dialogue from the government over the pandemic-related challenges facing the live industry.
It was revealed earlier this month that the business could face fresh Covid restrictions this autumn and winter as health chiefs bid to prevent another seasonal spike in infections.
A proposed amendment to the Infection Protection Act would make masks mandatory on public transport and care facilities from 1 October to 7 April, while giving individual states the power to introduce additional regulations – potentially impacting the live music business and raising concerns among promoters.
“The associations considered it irresponsible for organisers to sell tickets again without knowing whether their events could actually go ahead as planned,” says the Forum.
“While there is no safety net at all for the B2B sector in the event of a necessary cancellation of events, the cultural organisers run the risk of not being allowed to grant admission to some of the ticket buyers. This would be expected even if only a mask requirement was prescribed.
“If this did not already exist at the time the ticket was purchased, the obligation to wear a mask would already entitle you to withdraw from the purchase contract.”
“The Forum points out that another aid programme for the events industry is inevitable if the present draft is not optimised accordingly”
The coalition – which includes the BDKV (Federal Association of the Concert and Event Industry) and venue association LiveKomm (LiveMusikKommission) – has complained it has still not been given a contact within the government to discuss the ongoing issues with, despite repeated requests.
In a letter to the Parliamentary State Secretary and SME Commissioner of the Federal Government, the association says its current priority is to talk through its concerns over the draft of the Infection Protection Act.
“From the point of view of the associations, the implementation of infection protection measures must follow clear and binding criteria. These were missing in the draft,” it states. “The Forum points out that another aid programme for the events industry is inevitable if the present draft is not optimised accordingly.
“On the present basis, the draft law is already leading to considerable uncertainty in all areas of the economy. This will again result in event cancellations in the area of cultural events as well as in the area of B2B events.”
Earlier this summer, live event organisers issued a preemptive warning to the government against potential further restrictions.
The Forum said it was “imperative” any future containment measures did not include capacity limits or social distancing requirements for concerts.
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German industry warning over Covid winter plan
Live event organisers in Germany have issued a preemptive warning to the government over potential Covid restrictions in the autumn and winter.
Should containment measures be deemed necessary again due to a future surge in infections, the Event Management Forum says it is “imperative” they do not include capacity limits or social distancing requirements for concerts.
“Music clubs can only survive without capacity restrictions, distance rules and the obligation to wear masks,” says LiveKomm chair Axel Ballreich. “We can come to terms with the need for PCR tests at the highest risk level – if the hospital and KRITIS burden make it absolutely necessary. However, the cost of the tests must be borne by the state. The social and societal aspects of the pandemic must not be neglected.”
“Ticket sales are extremely poor for many events”
Marcus Pohl, chair of event industry trade body ISDV, underlines the need for “concrete talks” between the sector and the German authorities to formulate a plan for the autumn.
“The course must now be set so that the sixth-largest branch of the economy with 248,000 companies does not hit the wall for the hopefully last few metres and the previous aid thus misses the goal of preserving companies and jobs,” he adds.
Despite a number of successful music events going ahead this summer, BDKV president Jens Michow warns the overall economic situation remains precarious for the business.
“Ticket sales for cultural events are extremely poor for many events,” he says. “There are numerous reasons for this, such as the continuing uncertainty of the audience and now also growing fears due to rising inflation and the effects of the war in Ukraine.
“The industry is therefore still in a very desolate situation, in which it only takes a small gust of wind to finally tip it over.”
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German biz calls for clarity on Covid winter plan
Germany’s events business is calling for clarity on the government’s Covid containment plans for the autumn and winter period.
The Event Management Forum (EMF), which includes the BDKV (Federal Association of the Concert and Event Industry) and venue association LiveKomm (LiveMusikKommission), has welcomed recommendations drawn up in preparation for potential developments with the pandemic.
According to Die Welt, plans reportedly under discussion include considerations for masks to be made compulsory in all indoor public spaces during the winter months.
However, the EMF expresses frustration at the authorities’ continued reluctance to engage directly with the industry, and the lack of aid measures planned for the sector should a worse-case scenario emerge in the coming months, leading to the re-introduction of social distancing measures and capacity restrictions at concerts.
“Organisers don’t plan tours overnight and must therefore be able to anticipate the feasibility of their events in order to avoid damage,” says Axel Ballreich, chair of LiveKomm.
“Ticket sales for cultural events are already going extremely poorly because the audience first wants to wait and see whether events”
Having previously reported weak advance sales for shows planned for autumn 2022 and spring 2023 due to low consumer confidence, BDKV president Jens Michow reiterates the market is still plagued by uncertainty.
“Ticket sales for cultural events are already going extremely poorly because the audience first wants to wait and see whether events are taking place reliably,” says Michow. “Added to that, many fear the risk of infection or have changed their leisure behaviour due to the crisis.
“Also, the price increases that have taken place in all areas and the uncertainty as to what effects the war in Ukraine in the coming months will have is causing German people to limit their spending on leisure time.”
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German live industry blasts WHO’s monkeypox claim
Germany’s Event Management Forum has accused the World Health Organisation (WHO) of scaremongering over claims that summer festivals could be super-spreader events for Monkeypox.
The WHO warned earlier this week that Europe is at the epicentre of the “largest and most geographically widespread monkeypox outbreak ever reported” outside western and central Africa.
The virus spreads can be transmitted through close contact with an infected person, with Dr Hans Henri P Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, saying reports to date indicated the current outbreak is being spread “largely through sexual activity”.
“Over the coming months, many of the dozens of festivals and large parties planned provide further contexts where amplification may occur,” he added. “But they also provide powerful opportunities to engage with young, sexually active and globally mobile persons to raise awareness and strengthen individual and community protection.”
“Many people are still afraid of becoming infected with coronavirus at events. This fear is fuelled by the WHO statement without any solid basis”
But the statement has been met with an angry response from the EMF – the umbrella group bringing together the BDKV (Federal Association of the Concert and Event Industry), venue association LiveKomm, independent suppliers’ organisation ISDV, pro-AV group VPLT and the European Association of Event Centres (EVVC).
The organisation has blasted the WHO’s claim as “irresponsible fear-mongering”, amid concerns it could impact the organisation’s post-pandemic recovery.
“Under difficult conditions, the event industry is trying to be able to hold events again reasonably economically after a two-year forced break,” says the EMF. “They suffer considerably from the fact that many people are still afraid of becoming infected with the coronavirus at events. This fear is fuelled by the WHO statement without any solid basis.
“According to the RKI [public health institute] and Federal Minister of Health Lauterbach and many other experts, the disease is difficult to transmit from person to person,” it says. “The virus is therefore in no way comparable to the risk of infection from the coronavirus.”
“People don’t only come together closely at major events and festivals”
The EMF notes that just 33 cases of monkeypox have been detected so far in Germany.
“People don’t only come together closely at major events and festivals, but also in the outdoor pool, in the fitness centre, on public transport, on the plane and in many other places,” adds EVVC MD Timo Feuerbach. “To warn of an increased risk of infection at festivals from ‘sexually active people’ is completely inappropriate.”
Live music promoters in Germany have previously reported sluggish ticket sales despite the lifting of Covid restrictions. BDKV president Jens Michow said last month that advance sales for shows planned for autumn 2022 and spring 2023 were weak, exacerbated by staffing shortages and an oversupply of events.
Germany’s live biz says Freedom Day ‘not in sight’
Germany’s Event Management Forum (EMF) has warned of the challenges still facing the live music sector despite parliament voting to scrap most Covid restrictions.
Last month, the country confirmed a gradual approach to reopening, amid falling infection numbers. Limits on major outdoor events were raised from 10,000 to 25,000 (or 75% capacity) on 4 March, and clubs were allowed to reopen, with full capacity shows permitted from this Sunday’s much-trumpeted “Freedom Day”.
Though cases have since surged to record levels, with 297,845 new coronavirus cases and 226 deaths reported over the last 24 hours according to the Robert Koch Institute, lawmakers backed an amendment to the Infection Protection Act, which removes the need to wear face masks in most public settings.
“We can’t continue to put the entire country under a shield in order to protect a small group of people who are unwilling to get vaccinated,” said health minister Karl Lauterbach. “The balance is being shifted.”
However, the EMF, which includes live music bodies BDKV and LiveKomm, has raised concerns that, due to high case numbers, several federal states have announced they plan to maintain Covid restrictions even after the transition period ends on 2 April, and have the power to impose “hot-spot regulations” to deal with future outbreaks.
“The patchwork of measures is thus growing,” it says. “In addition, the regulations are limited until 23 September 2022 and dealing with a further wave in autumn is completely open.”
“The uncertainty remains as to what will happen in autumn”
Marcus Pohl, chair of the ISDV, the trade body for the event industry’s independent service providers, says the plans lack long-term perspective.
“If no further changes are made to the version of the present draft law to amend the Infection Protection Act, a return to normality is not in sight,” he says.
“Even if events will be possible in many places in the coming months and, for example, the clubs can govern at short notice, the uncertainty remains as to what will happen in autumn,” says LiveKomm chair Axel Ballreich, who is calling on the government to name a specific point of contact to restart a dialogue with the sector.
The organisation is also proposing the implementation of a nationwide, tiered process to protect against infection going forward.
“In the first step, an FFP2 mask requirement may be sufficient,” it says. “In a second stage, it must be possible that only 2G or 2G plus visitors, for example, are allowed access to the event. In the next step, a restriction to 3G and a seat plus mask in the aisles can represent the next higher measure without capping capacity.
“Only when the infection has exceeded a hospitalisation rate to be defined should a distance requirement be imposed. In this case, however, an economic aid must be granted for all types of events. In addition, there needs to be a clear, nationwide regulation on the required vaccination status for participants and guests of events arriving from abroad.”
“Events with capacity restrictions have not been economical in the past two years and will not be able to be so in the future either,” reiterates BDKV president Prof Jens Michow reiterated . “You cannot generate 100% costs with an income possibility of 75%.”
German events biz warns of staffing exodus
The German events business has warned the industry faces a fresh round of layoffs without an extension to the short-term work allowance.
The allowance has provided partial compensation for loss of earnings due to the pandemic, but has only been extended to 31 March by the federal government, with employers able to claim just 50% reimbursement of social security contributions.
Trade bodies including the Event Management Forum (EMF), which comprises five major organisations including live music associations BDKV and LiveKomm, say the move would lead to a further exodus of skilled workers, making it “impossible” to restart the business.
“Companies are no longer able to finance salaries on their own”
“Our industry is economically hardest hit by the containment measures,” says Marcus Pohl, first chairman of independent events trade body ISDV. “Due to the now agreed term until the end of March, the last employees who have remained loyal to the industry will have to be terminated.
“Due to the lack of any possibility of generating income and the resulting decline in sales of more than 80%, companies are no longer able to finance salaries on their own.”
With no sign of a reopening date, the industry remains dependent on government aid measures. The EMF presented a series of demands to government last month, amid concerns no major tours will be able to take place in the first half of 2022.
“The further extension of the short-time allowance and the assumption of 100% of the social costs incurred during short-time work is currently the most urgently requested measure by all companies,” adds BDKV president Jens Michow.
Germany’s €2.5 billion event cancellation fund has ‘hardly been used’ so far, according to a report published last week. The government-backed insurance pot, announced in December 2020, was introduced to enable event organisers to plan for Q3 and Q4 2021 without the financial risk posed by a potential Covid outbreak.
However, the report notes it is expected “that the number and volume of applications will increase significantly in the coming weeks and months because events are being avoided or increasingly cancelled in the current pandemic situation”.
German live biz calls for five-year recovery plan
Germany’s Event Management Forum (EMF) has presented a series of demands to government, amid concerns no major tours will be able to take place in the first half of next year.
The EMF alliance, which consists of five major organisations including live music associations BDKV and LiveKomm, is calling for a tailored support scheme for the sector to run until the end of 2022, as well as a five-year recovery plan for 2023 to 2028, and a special representative for the industry in politics.
It is 12 months since the German federal government set a precedent for the European live music industry with the announcement of a £2.5 billion insurance pot. Speaking at a digital press conference, BDKV president Jens Michow acknowledged the “considerable” funding provided up to this point, but said the current assistance does not go far enough.
“If, however, an economic sector is so badly affected by an economic crisis, a comprehensive special programme tailored to specific needs is required in order to save its economic survival,” he said. “Such a programme must then run until the end of 2022.”
A time like the one we experienced live in 2018 and 2019 has moved very, very far away
Estimating that sales were down by 80 to 100%, LiveKomm chair Axel Ballreich said the existing live music business model was increasingly being called into question. He also shared his fears that no major tours will be able to take place in the first half of 2022.
“A time like the one we experienced live in 2018 and 2019 has moved very, very far away,” he said. “It will take a few years of development work.”
Michow put the loss of income for the industry during the coronavirus crisis at €10 billion, and noted that while aid programmes had been useful, some were not geared towards the needs of the business and, more pertinently, were not designed to last for such a long time.
Warning the live business was fighting for its very existence and had “run out of time”, Michow said the situation had become one of “desperation and hopelessness”.
“There is still no opening strategy,” he lamented. “In the current situation, we cannot plan tours. The countries have to agree on uniform regulations.
“Since the coronavirus will not simply vanish into thin air in the coming year, we finally need comprehensible, standardised criteria for a nationwide opening perspective. ”
The one-hour press conference on 16 December began with a lecture by Klaus Wohlrabe, the deputy head of the Ifo Institute for Economic Research, who stated the event industry was the sector hardest hit by Covid-19 infection protection measures.
Wohlrabe asserted that the industry’s business climate index fell from minus 2.2 points in October, to minus 26 points in November.
“Until October there was still hope for improvement,” he said. “This disappeared in November.”
German alliance demands December 1 ‘Freedom Day’
German event companies have called for all remaining Covid restrictions to be lifted by 1 December at the latest.
The Event Management Forum (EMF) alliance, which consists of five major organisations including live music associations BDKV and LiveKomm, said that while large-scale events can now take place again in numerous federal states, the various regulations in others meant tours “can only still be planned with considerable obstacles”.
The federal minister of health, Jens Spahn, has said he does not expect the pandemic to end in Germany until spring 2022, therefore it was currently considered “too early to return to normal”. However, citing the country’s high vaccination rate and “moderate” hospital occupancy, the EMF has claimed it is now time for the country to learn to live with the virus.
“Many European countries have long since come to terms with this and lifted all restrictions,” it said. “In Germany, the occupancy of the hospital wards is moderate, the incidence figures are largely constant, the vaccination rate is increasing daily. The persistence of restrictions therefore appears increasingly inappropriate.
The industry is demanding that all restrictions on holding public events be lifted by 1 December
The industry is demanding that all restrictions on holding public events be lifted by 1 December.
“The event industry has always supported meaningful measures by the federal and state governments, insofar as these were proportionate. Maintaining the restrictions on event operations is not.”
Warning that further inaction would lead event specialists to continue to defect to other industries, the EMF said the sector was the “last branch of the economy that is still in a corona coma”.
“The industry is… demanding that all restrictions on holding public events be lifted by 1 December, thus making it possible for cultural and other events to take place again as early as the Christmas season,” it concluded.
Back in January, the EMF presented a proposal titled ‘Manifest Restart’, which detailed a uniform approach to the gradual and safe reopening of events in Germany.
“This would have ensured the highest possible level of security for all event visitors as early as the spring,” it said.
German associations react to gov’s vaccine promise
The German event industry is calling for an autumn restart following chancellor Angela Merkel’s promise of a Covid-19 vaccine for all residents by 21 September 2021.
“If events after 21 September are made dependent on attendees showing a vaccination certificate, it is not clear to the Forum what should stop a 100% opening of German venues from 21 September,” the letter reads.
“It is not clear to the Forum what should stop a 100% opening of German venues from 21 September”
“Most organisers have relocated their events for the third time since March 2020, which are already on sale for the autumn of this year. If these events could again only be carried out with social distancing rules and thus only uneconomically, the companies will not survive even with the various generous offers of help.”
The Forum reminds the chancellor that she was presented with its Manifest Restart proposal at the beginning of February, ‘under which a gradual and safe reopening of events should be possible before 21 September’.
September is also when Germany’s delayed €2.5 billion event cancellation scheme is due to start, though IQ understands that the industry is pessimistic about the commencement in the midst of September elections.
Health experts draw up Germany reopening plan
Twenty scientists, health experts and doctors in Germany have created a set of guidelines to enable the gradual return of audiences to cultural and sporting events.
In a paper released on Monday, titled Schrittweise Rückkehr von Zuschauern und Gästen: Ein integrierter Ansatz für Kultur und Sport (Gradual return of spectators and guests: An integrated return to culture and sport), specialists in infectious diseases, virology, ventilation, health economics, sports medicine, culture and law present various models for both and indoor and outdoor events to allow them to reopen safely. Each is based on a basic concept but can be expanded to gradually increase the number of guests per event.
This basic concept, described as stage one in a ‘three-stage plan’ (Drei-Stufen-Plan), is based on an indoor capacity of 25–30% (up to 40% if outdoors), with mandatory face masks and and no food or beverage sales indoors (outside, there should be no F&B sales above 1,000 visitors). There should also be social distancing, achieved by leaving many seats empty.
These rules are the same for attendees, regardless of whether or not they are vaccinated against Covid-19.
Beyond the basic model, there are a number of ‘special individual concepts’ depending on the venue or event, with varying hygiene, ventilation and occupancy requirements.
At 100% capacity – the so-called ‘maximum model’ – the guidelines require, among other provisions, digital contact tracing for all attendees, along with mandatory coronavirus tests before entry.
“We need a perspective that gives us hope and incentive”
The concept is supported by a score of major German venues, including Mercedes-Benz Arena/Verti Music Hall in Berlin, Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg, Olympiapark Munich and Quarterback Immobilien Arena in Leipzig, as well as a number of other music and sports organisations, including the the governing bodies of German football, basketball, handball and volleyball.
“This initiative cannot be rated highly enough,” said Klaus Lederer, Berlin’s senator for culture, speaking after the launch of the paper. “We need a perspective that gives us hope and incentive so that we can get away from the appeals to persevere without any prospect of improvement.”
“As soon as it is possible to reopen” venues, “culture, sport and events must be included” in that, he added. (Some experts warn Germany is currently in the midst of a “third wave” of the coronavirus as new mutations spread.)
The head of the German Cultural Council (Deutscher Kulturrat), Olaf Zimmermann, says the authors of the plan have provided “a comprehensive concept which could enable spectators and guests to participate in cultural and sporting events under strict hygiene and infection-protection measures”.
“With their concept, the scientists, experts and cultural and sports institutions are, for the first time, presenting a cross-industry, data-based approach […] to the discussion about appropriate ways out of lockdown,” Zimmerman comments. “We want to reopen, and we want to protect the people who visit or work in our facilities from the virus. Both can work – as the concept presented today shows.”
“The scientists, experts and cultural and sports institutions are, for the first time, presenting a cross-industry, data-based approach”
The Event Management Forum, the umbrella organisation founded last year by live music group BDKV and four other events associations, also welcomes the plan – which is similar to the Manifest Restart (Restart Manifesto) it presented earlier this month – but points out that recent studies in Leipzig and Dortmund show that venues can go up to 100% capacity safely, far beyond the 25–30% on which the basic concept is based.
“From the point of view of the Event Management Forum, the concept is not yet suitable for actually enabling a ‘restart’ of event operations,” the forum says in a statement. “[I]t contains a basic model that should enable venues of all sizes to operate with 25 to 30% capacity, while outdoors with up to 40% capacity, while observing basic requirements such as social distancing, hygiene rules and personalised ticketing.”
Whereas, “in the Dortmund aerosol study,” it adds, “a capacity of 100% was considered harmless, provided that the audience in the hall wear masks.”
As for the ‘maximum model’ proposed in the plan, the Event Management Forum points out that venues could safely go to 100% capacity if attendees are tested for the virus before entry, making the other restrictions redundant. “The implementation of suitable tests can enable the utilisation of 100% [of a venue] without further measures if this ensures that only negative, non-infectious visitors are admitted to the respective venue,” the organisation adds.
This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.