Dutch gov to ease restrictions as 150,000 protest
Multi-day events and festivals in the Netherlands will likely be able to take place from 25 September under certain conditions.
According to nu.ul, the Dutch government is deciding on the conditions today, ahead of a press conference tomorrow (14 September) evening.
The conditions, which will be based on findings from Fieldlab Evenementen, will likely include a 75% capacity limit.
The cabinet is also considering how Covid certification and testing could aid the sector’s reopening.
“The culture sector is getting better news than has been leaked”
Culture minister Ingrid van Engelshoven provided a glimmer of hope during her appearance on the Good Morning Netherlands programme this morning, saying: “The culture sector is getting better news than has been leaked so far. I am hopeful that things will go in the right direction tomorrow, also for the events.”
The news comes after an estimated 150,000 people across ten cities took part in the second Unmute Us protest on Saturday (11 September) to demand the immediate restart of major events.
Saturday’s march was the largest-ever protest in the Netherlands, more than doubling the attendance of the first demonstration on 21 August which drew 70,000.
“This second flawlessly organised demonstration proves once again how strong our industry is in this area”
More than 4,000 organisations joined the movement, including festivals Lowlands, Mysteryland, DGTL, Down the Rabbit Hole, Awakenings and Paaspop – all of which have been cancelled this year due to restrictions.
Ruben Brouwer, director at Mojo, which promotes Down the Rabbit Hole, Lowlands and Paaspop among others, says: “Our industry consists of professionals who can organise large-scale public events well, neatly and safely.
“This second flawlessly organised demonstration proves once again how strong our industry is in this area. The event industry has proven time and again that it can organise events safely. So there can be no other cabinet decision than full opening on 14 September.”
The protest comes after the Dutch government extended the ban on large-scale events until at least 19 September amid fears over the spread of the highly infectious delta variant.
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IFF ’21: WME, CAA, Marshall, MVT complete schedule
The full schedule for the 2021 edition of the International Festival Forum (IFF) is now complete, with the final addition of WME, CAA, Marshall Live, and a final night in partnership with Music Venue Trust.
WME, CAA and Marshall Live join a line-up of partner agencies which already includes 13 Artists, ATC Live, Earth Agency, ICM Partners, ITB, Paradigm Agency, Primary Talent International, UTA and X-ray Touring, many of whom are showcasing new artists from their rosters.
IFF has also partnered with grassroots venue champions Music Venue Trust (MVT) to present the final night of their recent Revive Live tour, which is supported by the National Lottery. Taking place on Thursday 30 September (19:30 – late), MVT will present five unique artist showcases, with the full line up announced next week.
The completed schedule also includes a double keynote interview with Melvin Benn and Folkert Koopmans, as well as an array of sessions with high-profile speakers.
Replacing the usual closing party on the Thursday night of IFF, MVT will present five unique artist showcases
Joining IQ Magazine‘s Gordon Masson on The Therapy Session will be Earth agent and co-founder Claire Courtney, as well as Mercury Wheels @ Live Nation’s head promoter, Barnaby Harrod.
The Roaring 20s will see chair Clementine Bunel (Paradigm) take the stage with Jim King (AEG Presents), Lowlands Festival Director Eric van Eerdenburg; WME agent Andy Duggan; and Primary Talent International/Decked Out! agent Martje Kremers.
The Agency Business 2021 conversation, chaired by Anna Sjölund (Live Nation Sweden), will see One Fiinix Live’s Jon Ollier joined by ATC Live agent and founder Alex Bruford and Mad Cool festival booker Cindy Castillo.
Finally, virtual panel Counting the Cost of Brexit welcomes UTA senior agent James Wright to a lineup including Marshall Arts’ Craig Stanley, Anita Debaere from Pearle* and Annabella Coldrick of the MMF. Other online topics include sustainability and insurance.
Over 500 music festivals and booking agents are expected to attend the invitation-only event, which returns to Camden, north London, for the sixth in-person edition. This year’s physical event follows an online-only edition in 2020, in light of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Some 500 delegates are expected to attend this year’s IFF
As the first major live music industry gathering in 18 months, IFF 2021 will kick off with the opening party on Tuesday 28 September and end late on Thursday 30 September. And with some international delegates still unable to travel to the UK, all of this year’s conference sessions will be available to watch back on-demand for up to 30 days after the event.
This year’s edition is supported by key partners that include Live Nation, Ticketmaster, Tysers and Megaforce. Association partners on the 2021 are Yourope, AIF and DeConcert!
More information about how to attend, along with the full event schedule is online at www.iff.rocks.
Spain rolls out €3 million subsidy for venue operators
The Catalan government yesterday (26 August) announced a new subsidy of €3 million for venue operators in the region.
The fund will help operators mitigate the financial impact of the Covid-19 restrictions implemented during the first half of 2021.
This is the second subsidy of its kind and is almost double the initial €1,800,000 aid for venue operators.
In the new round of funding, the maximum limit of aid that operators can receive is increased to €350,000.
In order to be eligible, venue operators must prove a minimum expenditure of €4,000, as well as programming that includes at least 24 paid concerts between 14 March 2019 and 14 March 2020.
This is the second subsidy of its kind and is almost double the initial €1,800,000 aid for venue operators
Grants will vary depending on the capacity of the venue:
- Rooms with a capacity of up to 400 people: 70% of the declared expense.
- Rooms with a capacity between 401 and 1,500 people: 75% of the declared expense.
- Rooms with a capacity of more than 1,500 people: 80% of the declared expense.
The Catalan government has also announced an €800,000 subsidy for the programming of live music events.
The funding, which applies to festivals, concert series and venue operators, can be used for all projects developed from 1 June 2020 that have ended between 1 October 2020 and 30 September 2021.
Festivals and concert series must have included a minimum of four concerts in Catalonia in order to be eligible. Venue operators must have hosted a minimum of 20 concerts with paid admission in order to apply. Applicants may receive up to €45,000.
Belgium enjoys first festival weekend back
Hundreds of thousands of music fans attended festivals across Belgium in the last few days, marking the country’s first big festival weekend since restrictions were relaxed.
Paradise City, Alcatraz, Leuven Air and Jazz Middelheim were among the events to take advantage of the Belgium federal government’s Covid Safe Ticket (CST) to do away with social distancing, masks, and the previous 5,000-capacity limit.
The CTS launched last Friday (13 August) for outdoor events of over 1,500 people to certify that all attendees are either fully vaccinated or have returned a negative Covid-19 test in the previous 48 hours. The certification will apply to indoor events from 1 September.
Dance festival Paradise City, which took place between 13–15 at Ribaucourt Castle in Perk, Steenokkerzeel, welcomed a total of 25,500 festivalgoers for its three-day extravaganza.
Those attending who weren’t fully vaccinated could take a rapid test at the festival’s test centre for the cost of €15. It was reported that, of the 3,300 tests taken at the festival, a total of six people tested positive – all of whom were sent home.
There were no infections among the campers which is “proof that government protocols work,” says Paradise City co-founder, Gilles De Decker. “This offers hope for the entire event sector.”
“”After a long period of uncertainty, we were finally back to doing what we are passionate about”
Alcatraz also took place over the weekend, welcoming 12,000 fans per day to Sports Campus Lange Munte in Kortrijk for performances from the likes of Epica, Kreator and Jinjer.
The hard rock and metal festival chose to offer PCR tests onsite rather than rapid tests, which were free of charge for those who hadn’t used up all of their government-funded PCR tests or €56 for those who had.
“After a long period of uncertainty, we were finally back to doing what we are passionate about: creating a gathering that encompasses all facets of the metal genre for our precious inmates to enjoy,” say the organisers.
“Because of the challenging nature of organising this year’s edition, we were even more compelled to make sure Alcatraz Festival 2021 would be absolutely impeccable! We confronted every hurdle head-on and succeeded in organising a safe, but thrilling festival thanks to you metalheads.”
Leuven Air and Jazz Middelheim, which also took place last weekend, did not build their own test villages as it was “too expensive,” according to the organisers. “We should have passed on the costs to our audience,” they added.
Dutch festival organisers dealt another big blow
Only small, one-day festivals will be permitted to take place in the Netherlands this summer, the Dutch government has announced.
From 14 August, events with a maximum of 750 attendees can take place provided they meet a series of restrictions.
Attendees must be fully vaccinated, recovered from infection within the past six months, or present a negative test from Testing for Access. Visitors are also asked to take a test five days after the event. The events are not allowed closed festival tents.
Multi-day festivals with overnight stays are not allowed until at least 1 September, after the government last week extended the ban.
Events that cannot meet the aforementioned restrictions will not be covered by the government’s guarantee fund.
In addition to the measures for the event sector, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte also announced that those who get the Janssen jab will not be considered fully vaccinated until four weeks after, rather than two.
“[The government’s decision is] a bitter pill for the industry that has been closed for so long”
The Alliance of Event Builders (Alliantie van Evenementenbouwers) has reacted to the news: “Unfortunately, we conclude that the government is once again imposing a major restriction on the events today. As a result, the event industry is again faced with serious disappointment.
“After the multi-day festivals with camping last week, many one-day festivals and multi-day festivals without camping are now also deleted from the summer calendar. A hard decision and of course another big blow, a very sad observation and bitter pill for the industry that has been closed for so long.
“We will soon resume talks [with the government] for the period after 1 September. With the further increase in vaccination coverage and the insights from the Fieldlab Events studies, the Alliance is committed to a responsible, full opening of the planned events.”
Initially, the government was due to give a decision on one-day events without overnight stays on 13 August but the date was brought forward at the request of the events sector.
It’s like that the summary proceedings that promoter ID&T filed against the government also played a role in bringing the decision forward.
The event organiser – which has been forced to cancel events including Mysteryland – and 44 industry peers have filed a lawsuit against the government because they believed a decision on 13 August would be too late. The preliminary relief proceedings have been temporarily adjourned pending today’s decision.
The lawyer representing ID&T and co-claimants has contacted the state lawyer to request the Outbreak Management Team’s advice and the substantiation of the decision. ID&T will consider these documents and decide within two days whether the summary proceedings will be continued.
Freedom Day ‘bittersweet’ for UK live sector
Today (19 July) sees Freedom Day in the UK, so-called due to the relaxation of all legal restrictions imposed on live events that had been imposed due to COVID-19. But within hours of rules being relaxed, vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi has said that full vaccinations will be required for entry into nightclubs and venues with large crowds from September.
As of today, in England, all live events, such as music concerts and sporting events can resume without any limits on attendance or social distancing requirements and attendees are no longer be legally required to wear a face mask.
But against a backdrop of rising levels of infection across the UK, most nightclub operators have chosen not to enforce any level of certification, or ask patrons to provide proof of a recent test or vaccination. In response today, officials have said that all attendees will have to be double-jabbed, and a negative test will be insufficient.
“There is still no commercial solution and it requires urgent intervention”
The new inbound restrictions come in addition to ongoing concerns about a lack of government-backed cancellation insurance, despite 56% of major summer festivals having already cancelled for a second year running.
“The lifting of restrictions today is bittersweet for the live music sector,” says a spokesperson from LIVE, the industry’s umbrella trade org. “The Government has repeatedly promised it would step in and the UK is now one of just a handful of countries across Europe not to act.”
“The sector has provided every shred of data and evidence Government has requested to support the case for insurance and the Secretary of State has repeatedly and publicly committed to act at Step 4 of the roadmap,” adds Paul Reed, CEO at the Association of Independent Festivals. “There is still no commercial solution and it requires urgent intervention”.
And insurance is not the only obstacle that remains. Earlier this afternoon. Andrew Lloyd Weber’s new production, Cinderella, was postponed indefinitely after cast members were told to self-isolate by the NHS Test and Trace app, having come into contact with a positive case. The show’s cancellation will be worrying news for many festival and event organisers.
“The impossible conditions created by the blunt instrument that is the Government’s isolation guidance, mean that we cannot continue”
“Freedom Day has turned into closure day,” says Lloyd Weber. “The impossible conditions created by the blunt instrument that is the Government’s isolation guidance, mean that we cannot continue. We have been forced into a devastating decision which will affect the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of people and disappoint the thousands who have booked to see the show… My sadness for our cast and crew, our loyal audience and the industry I have been fighting for is impossible to put into words.
Campaign groups from across the sector are calling for a cultural exemption to the isolation requirements through frequent testing, arguing that the 16 August rule change to allow double vaccinated not self-isolated when ‘pinged’ comes too late.
In addition to a Government-backed insurance scheme, associations and companies from across the sector also continue to call for a quarantine exemption, which would allow the arts the same exemption that professional elite sport has obtained. The exemption from sport has enabled football teams from around Europe to travel to the UK to play in the European Championship without quarantining.
Michael Rapino: ‘Live Nation’s US biz is fully reopen’
Live Nation Entertainment’s US concert business is now “fully open,” according to CEO Michael Rapino.
“We’re very excited about the American market. Seventy per cent of our business is going to be in the US and the UK. Those two markets seem on track,” he told CNBC on Thursday (8 July).
In the States, Live Nation has already hit a major post-restrictions milestone with its full-capacity show at New York’s iconic Madison Square Garden (cap. 20,000), performed by the Foo Fighters, which was the venue’s first concert since March 2020.
Continuing on an upward trajectory, Live Nation will host 30 US-wide amphitheatre tours at full capacity beginning this week, according to the CEO.
Later in July, the live entertainment giant will host the Rolling Loud festival in Miami – expected to bring in around 200,000 people – and a further 10–15 more festivals this summer.
“We’re going to make sure that we don’t [put on] four shows in one week and you’ve got to pick one”
In the company’s Q1 2021 earnings call in May, it reported that US festivals including Bonnaroo, Electric Daisy and Rolling Loud festivals all sold out in record times at full capacity.
The company also reported an increasingly busy 2022, after the number of major tours for next year increased by double-digits from pre-pandemic levels in 2019.
Addressing concerns about whether the backlog of concerts caused by the pandemic will result in an oversaturated market, Rapino told CNBC that artists will not perform “unless they have the weekends, and the right cities and the right markets”.
“We’re going to make sure that we don’t [put on] four shows in one week and you’ve got to pick one,” the CEO said. “We’ll spread those over a couple of years and a couple of markets. So we look at the pent-up demand as lots of availability, but we’re also going to make sure the consumer has time to buy it.”
While the US surges ahead, Rapino expects Live Nation’s European market to reopen by the autumn, and the Asian market to return in 2022 due to a delay in Covid vaccinations. “It’ll be a record 2022 and 2023,” he said.
Live music to reopen in England on 19 July
The British live music industry is expected to fully reopen without any restrictions from 19 July, prime minister Boris Johnson announced in a press conference today (5 July).
The PM set out details for the delayed fourth and final stage of the UK government’s roadmap, to be confirmed on 12 July, in which the majority of England’s remaining Covid restrictions will be lifted.
The rollback of legal Covid-19 restrictions will see Britain move to a system of individual responsibility and instead give businesses and organisations discretion to keep measures in place.
From 19 July onwards, face masks will be voluntary, the requirement to scan a QR code when entering a venue will be abolished, and regulations that require businesses to collect customers’ contact tracing details will be no longer be enforced.
Social distancing rules will be dropped, Covid status certification will not be required in law as a condition of entry for visitors to any setting, and table service at bars will no longer be mandatory.
Large events, such as music concerts and sporting events can resume without any limits on attendance or social distancing
The reopening will mark the first time since the start of the pandemic that the £4.6 billion live industry will be able to resume full-capacity events, including festivals.
Large events, such as music concerts and sporting events can resume without any limits on attendance or social distancing requirements and attendees will no longer be legally required to wear a face mask.
Elsewhere in the UK, Scotland is reducing restrictions to the lowest level on 19 July and plans to remove all restrictions on 9 August. The Welsh government will review the country’s restrictions on 15 July when they will announce further details.
And Northern Ireland executives will be meeting this week to discuss their data before making further decisions on easing restrictions.
While the British live industry has welcomed the news of a full reopening, associations, festivals and promoters have once again reinforced the need for a government-backed insurance scheme to support the sector’s recovery and boost organisers’ confidence.
“We need a government backed scheme to provide the security needed to start investing in events over the coming months”
Phil Bowdery, chairman of Concert Promoters Association, says: “I am delighted that the government has made the right choice today, letting the much-loved live music sector get back to doing what it does best.
“While we absolutely cannot wait to safely welcome back our fans, we are missing one piece of the puzzle – insurance. We need a government backed scheme to provide the security needed to start investing in events over the coming months, shoring up our industry and stimulating the wider economy as we build back following the pandemic.”
Paul Reed, CEO for the Association for Independent Festivals, added: “We welcome the prime minister’s statement and that large events including festivals are expected to be able take place from 19 July. It is positive for organisers, fans and artists alike that there will be some activity this year, though clearly it is too late for the estimated 56% of UK festivals that have already been forced to cancel and are still awaiting details of emergency funding and the next round of the Culture Recovery Fund.
“We now urge government to finally act on insurance and announce a government-backed scheme immediately. Insurance remains the key obstacle to planning with confidence and there is no rationale for not implementing such a scheme if the government’s roadmap is truly irreversible.
“We also need to ensure there is clear guidance for organisers and local authorities no later than 12 July, so that events don’t unravel at a local level. We ask that government also explore solutions for staff that will be affected by test and trace and isolation policies working at events this summer.”
“Insurance remains the key obstacle to planning with confidence and there is no rationale for not implementing such a scheme”
Greg Parmley, CEO of LIVE, says: “The live music industry is very pleased with the prime minister’s statement, and it seems we will finally see a return to full capacity performances on 19 July. We have watched the rest of the economy reopen while our doors have been forced to remain closed since the start of the pandemic, but today’s announcements will generate considerable excitement amongst music fans across the country.
“To save the rest of the summer and autumn schedule we now desperately need a government-backed insurance scheme to provide the security required to invest in events. Government ministers have repeatedly said that a scheme would be announced once the legal barriers to full performances were removed. Well, we are now almost at that point and there must be no further delay if we are to reap the benefits of the superb vaccine roll-out.”
Mark Davyd, CEO of MVT, responded: “This is obviously extremely welcome news for millions of live music fans, for artists, crew, venues and local communities who have been deprived of music for so long. Since March 2020, Music Venue Trust’s aim has been to Reopen Every Venue Safely. We have been working alongside the grassroots music venue sector throughout to identify methods by which we can do that, regardless of any current government guidelines and resulting limitations and restrictions. The keyword for us and the sector throughout these long difficult months has been ‘safely.
“This announcement is hugely important and provides the opportunity to revive live music. It does not, however, change the central mission or the importance of the word ‘safely’. We are re-energising our efforts to work with our fantastic network of grassroots music venues to ensure that what each of them delivers to the public meets the highest standards of covid security and safety within the new guidelines.”
David Keighley, chair of the Production Services Association, added: “It’s really good to hear from our prime minister that we can hopefully and finally get back to normal after the 19 July. The concert touring, festivals and events sector of our economy have been the hardest hit by Covid. We were the first to stop and we are only now being allowed to reopen. We must all be truly thankful for the vaccines as this is the reason we can almost get back to normal.”
“To save the rest of the summer and autumn schedule we now desperately need a government-backed insurance scheme”
Sacha Lord, co-creator of Parklife festival, which is due to take place in Manchester in September, tweeted: “If the PM [prime minister] does give the green light for the 19th [July], the chancellor must immediately announce festival insurance, in line with other countries. Freelancers and the supply chain are dependent on this.”
Adam Gregory, festival director at Bloodstock Open Air, which is due to take place in Derbyshire in August, echoes the call for insurance.
“There’s still no indemnity to allow us to plan safely…the uncertainty still remains,” Gregory tells IQ. “That’s something that needs immediately addressing so that we can again start planning for 2021 and 2022. Also international travel for artists coming to work should be given the opportunity to do s0 without having to quarantine.”
Gregory says that even though some Covid precautions are no longer mandatory, Bloodstock Open Air will still insist upon certain measures.
“I think there’s a moral responsibility to make sure that, as an event, we do the right thing for everybody attending the festival. I’m sure there will be events out there that just to go back to pre-Covid times and just remove absolutely all the measures but I don’t necessarily think at this moment in time that’s the right thing to do. We can’t go back to business as usual, as much as we all want to, I don’t think that’s necessarily the right thing to do.”
John Giddings, promoter of Isle of Wight festival, also due to take place in September, has welcomed the “collective responsibility” the government is placing on the nation and says it’s “about time” test and trace requirements are dropped.
Fuji Rock wants attendees to ‘refrain from speaking’
Japanese festival Fuji Rock has published a series of measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 at this summer’s edition – one of which discourages festivalgoers from speaking to each other.
The Smash Corporation festival is set to take place at its usual home of Naeba Ski Resort in Tokyo, between 20–22 August 2021, but not as we know it.
This year, the festival’s typical international bill has been replaced with a completely domestic line-up which includes Radwimps, Man With a Mission, King Gnu, Cornelius, The Birthday, ROVO and Denki Groove, while stage capacities may be restricted depending on circumstances.
Festivalgoers must adhere to a number of stringent restrictions which range from wearing a mask and socially distancing to the more bizarre requirements.
The festival has published an extensive list of prohibitions for attendees which includes raising your voice, cheering, shouting, high-fiving and having ‘unnecessary conversations during the performances’.
Naoki Shimizu, president of Japanese promoter Creativeman, told the Japan Times that requirements like these are necessary if the live music industry is ever going to stage a comeback, especially in a country where cases have recently been spiking and the vaccine rollout still hasn’t hit its stride.
Raising your voice, cheering, shouting, high-fiving and having ‘unnecessary conversations’ are discouraged at Fuji Rock
Shimizu revealed that Creativeman festival Supersonic, which welcomed 300,000 people across three days in 2019, will also set out a number of requirements for attendees: “We will have to check everyone’s temperature, first. Capacity will be limited. And alcohol … we probably can’t have alcohol at the festival.”
This year’s Supersonic will be a post-Olympics version of its trademark Summer Sonic event held simultaneously in Chiba and Osaka prefectures and will feature 10 acts across three days – though the line-up is yet to be announced.
With Japan’s borders largely closed to international travel and the Tokyo Olympic Committee moving to ban international spectators from the Summer Games (23 July to 8 August), it’s likely that Supersonic will also opt for a domestic line-up.
Both Creativeman and Smash have spent much of 2021 lobbying for the resumption of international touring in Japan via a new consortium of Japan-based international promoters.
Earlier this year, the consortium succeeded in getting the Japanese government to amend its compensation scheme to include domestic shows by foreign artists.
The alliance’s next goal is to ease the business visa restrictions for foreign artists to enter Japan with no quarantines.
We can’t afford to go back to pale, male and stale
Health passports, fast testing, social distancing, rapid screenings: the industry has been grappling with more medical concepts in the last year than it ever had to before.
Getting back to business; finding ways to reopen venues and stage festivals; getting technicians back to their sound desks and musicians back on stage, is all we’ve thought and talked about during the past 12 months.
But is that everything? All of it? Perhaps the question shouldn’t simply be when is the industry resuming but how and with whom?
Perhaps the question shouldn’t simply be when is the industry resuming but how and with whom?
Because we can’t afford to go back to pale, male and stale music festivals, to companies overwhelmingly ruled by men, to soundchecks where as far as the eyes can see it’s Johns and Jacks and Martins – not that we want them to disappear, we just want them to share their space with us Janes, Jackies and Martas.
It’s been two years since Primavera Sound sent a message to the world: a gender-balanced lineup can be achieved. When we released that line-up, we said that equality and dismantling gender barriers should be normal, and yet, in spite of the fact that we claimed that that edition would be the one in which everything changed… it didn’t.
Two years after becoming the first major festival with a 50/50 gender split, we haven’t seen much of a change. In fact, the situation has only got worse for women thanks to the pandemic. The biggest problem now is not only the ongoing systemic inactivity but the depressing thought that the pandemic can, and will, be used as an excuse to avoid taking the much-needed next steps.
It’s not about the lack of female artists or headliners: it’s the lack of willingness to book them or give them the rank they deserve
At Primavera, we know how challenging this process can be, maybe even more than the promoters and festivals that still refuse to be more diverse. In the end, we set our own standard: we have to live up to that past achievement, and keep honouring it.
2019 was an amazing year for music made by women: Rosalía, Janelle Monáe, Robyn, Erykah Badu, Chris from Christine & the Queens and many more, made it really easy for us. But was that programme just a once in a lifetime? Not really.
The next year proved us right, thanks to Lana del Rey, Bikini Kill, Kacey Musgraves and Brittany Howard. So it’s not about the lack of female artists, or even female headliners: it’s about the lack of willingness to book them or give them the rank they deserve. In the end, if they are the ones who chart the highest and win all the awards, shouldn’t they be also topping our line-ups?
In 2019, Primavera Sound’s [gender-balanced line-up] sold more day tickets than ever, up to 65,000
So, let’s talk business. Does a gender-balanced line-up translate into revenue? In 2019, Primavera Sound sold more day tickets than ever, up to 65,000. That Saturday, 1 June, Rosalía, Solange and Lizzo shared a line-up with James Blake, Jarvis Cocker and Stereolab, as well as the biggest Colombian reggaeton artist, J Balvin.
Isn’t this how real diversity should look (and be heard)? Even our partners at the UN SDG Action Campaign thought so.
Whilst I don’t pretend to be an expert on this matter, by any means, let’s ask Google how a more diverse and inclusive environment can and will improve any company.
I remember moderating a panel last year at Primavera Pro. We were already asking ‘What’s Next?’ because we suspected that 2020 could be the perfect time to pause and reflect on our work. In that panel, we were inspired by Fruzsina Szép (director of Lollapalooza Berlin and Superbloom Munich) and her approach to the pandemic: her whole team was taking much-needed time to take a deeper look at their festivals and to think how they wanted them to be, not how they had to be.
It’s not about being perfect, the real challenge is to do better
Why shouldn’t we use this crisis as an opportunity to fix systemic issues – that are more deep-rooted and insidious than a virus – instead of as an excuse?
We understand that competition can be fierce, but saying that line-ups prior to the pandemic have to be honoured feels cheap. Crazy thought: what if they had already been diverse in 2020? To all the festivals who pledged to achieve gender equality in 2022 and to all of those who were already trying to do better, please don’t take a rain-check due to the pandemic; you are doing a great job. It’s not about being perfect, the real challenge is to do better, no matter how small each step may seem.
We have this chance to start planting in empty fields, as nothing is written in stone anymore. If we don’t have a clue what it’s going to be like when we programme festivals again, if we lose all the benefits of a stable landscape, why should we inherit its problems?