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Canada: $16m fund launched for live music workers

A multi-million-dollar fund has been launched to help freelance live music professionals in Canada bounce back after the pandemic.

The Live Music Workers Fund (LMWF) was announced last week by The Unison Fund, the charity providing counselling and emergency relief services to Canada’s music community.

Backed by an allocation of more than CA$16 million from the government of Canada through the Canada Performing Arts Workers Resilience Fund (CPAWRF), the LMWF will aim to help freelancers weather the continuing challenges and difficulties created by the pandemic.

Qualified independent and self-employed workers in the live music sector can apply for a one-time lump-sum payment of $2,500.

To be eligible, workers should work in one of the following music industry fields, including: artist, artist manager or management company, booking agent, composer, concert photographer, concert recording engineer, consultant, DJ, event production/festival, marketing/communications.

Merchandiser, musician, production company, promoter, publisher, publicist/public relations, retailer (instruments and supplies), songwriter, stagehand/roadie, talent Buyer, technician, tour management/operator, venue staff, and videographer are also eligible fields.

“This funding will help live music professionals jumpstart their careers during the third year of the pandemic”

Unison says eligible applicants must have earned a minimum of 55% of their income from music-related activity for at least two consecutive years (prior to the pandemic).

“We sincerely thank the government of Canada and the honorable Pablo Rodriguez, minister of Canadian heritage, for their support and recognition,” says Unison Fund executive director Amanda Power.

“Our organisation is grateful to be named as a recipient of this funding which will be used to help support Canadian live music professionals sustain their career amid the continuing challenges and difficulties created by the pandemic.

“Over the next year this investment will go towards the future of live music workers and the re-establishment and empowerment of the live music scene in Canada. We look forward to working in line with many other music industry organisations across the country, to disburse this crucial funding.”

Erin Benjamin, chair, board of directors, The Unison Fund, adds: “The Canadian live music industry has been decimated by Covid-19 and this funding will help live music professionals jumpstart their careers during the third year of the pandemic.

“It may take many years for the live music industry to rebound to pre-pandemic levels, but Unison will continue to be there to provide financial and mental health assistance with the challenges so many face.”

Applicants in need who do not qualify for funding under the CPAWRF guidelines of being a live music worker will continue to be supported through the existing Unison Industry Assistance Fund, aided by fundraising initiatives and direct donations to Unison.

 


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US venues file lawsuits over rejected Covid relief

More than 60 lawsuits have been filed over the Shuttered Venue Operators Grants (SVOG), the $16 billion aid launched by the US federal government to help live venues survive the pandemic.

A year after the US Small Business Administration (SBA) rolled out the Covid-19 relief programme, the agency is facing dozens of pending lawsuits from companies who say they were unfairly denied millions in relief, according to Billboard.

According to the aggrieved venues, SBA has refused their requests without good reason or a proper explanation, putting particular companies at a huge disadvantage over rivals who have received aid. Attorneys involved in the cases claim that rates of refusal under SVOG “significantly exceed typical government grant programmes.”

Concert Investor LLC, a Tennessee firm that has produced shows for the likes of Twenty One pilots, Little Big Town, O.A.R., is among the companies that have filed lawsuits.

Citing a 94% drop in revenue during the pandemic, the company sought nearly $5 million in aid under SVOG. However, the SBA decided the company didn’t meet the criteria to be a concert producer, saying the company “at best” merely “serves the needs” of artists by providing lighting and sound tech.

At least 33 lawsuits were still pending in federal court as of last week, according to a court filing by the SBA

In a motion filed in court Monday (2 May), Concert Investor’s attorneys asked a federal judge to grant the company a final judgment in its case, arguing the SBA had “ignored” ample evidence about its eligibility and had unfairly awarded grants to direct competitors who provide the exact same services.

“This disparate treatment has placed Concert Investor at a severe and worsening competitive disadvantage relative to other concert producers that can use their SVOG awards to restore and grow their businesses while Concert Investor is deprived of the federal assistance for which it too qualifies,” the company wrote. SBA will soon file its own brief, and the judge will rule on the case in the months ahead.

Some of the lawsuits, however, maybe in the process of getting resolved. Last week, the SBA said it would reconsider refusing $497,000 in aid to Superfan Live Inc., which offers VIP experiences at concerts from artists like Bon Jovi, Genesis, and Journey. The agency asked a federal judge for extra time so that it could “thoroughly examine the allegations in the complaint prior to issuing a new decision”.

At least 33 lawsuits were still pending in federal court as of last week, according to a court filing by the SBA.

Since it debuted in April 2021, the SVOG has handed out just over $11 billion to more than 13,000 businesses in a first wave; a second round of supplemental grants awarded an additional $3.4 billion to more than 9,000 businesses.

The SVOG, also known as the Save Our Stages Act, is part of a $1.9 billion American Rescue Package which was signed into law by President Joe Biden in March 2021.

 


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Western Australia expands live events support

The government of Western Australia (WA) has expanded its live events support programme to include rescheduled shows.

The Getting the Show Back on the Road+ (GTSBOTR+) programme was originally set up to reduce the financial risks of running a ticketed event during the pandemic.

The expansion of the programme will allow promoters to recoup the unrecoverable costs of up to 30% of pre-approved box office value – which is capped at A$150,000 – when events are rescheduled.

This will enable live events that are not viable under current Level 2 public health measures to be moved to more suitable dates later in the year.

The changes follow discussions between the state government and the live events industry on how the programme could be adjusted to better support the sector.

Culture and the arts minister, David Templeman, says: “Live event organisers now have more certainty around putting on shows in Western Australia during this difficult time, knowing they are supported with the unrecoverable costs of rescheduling.

“These changes will mean a number of terrific upcoming shows can now be rescheduled rather than cancelled”

“We have listened to feedback from the live events industry and expanded the programme accordingly.

“I am very pleased these changes will mean a number of terrific upcoming shows can now be rescheduled rather than cancelled. It is a great result for our local live events industry and all WA music fans.”

The announcement has been welcomed by Live Entertainment Western Australia, which can now confirm rescheduled shows for Midnight Oil, Crowded House, Hoodoo Gurus, Hunters and Collectors with James Reyne, Jimmy Barnes, Mondo Rock, Ian Moss, and Missy Higgins, Birds of Tokyo, and the Waifs.

Live Entertainment WA president, Brad Mellen, comments: “The rescheduled shows would have been cancelled without the assistance now being offered to enable rescheduling.

“The system’s not perfect – there’s still the problem of shortfalls in sales when sold-out shows are rescheduled – but it reflects great credit on the government that it listened to representations and has acted to provide assistance for rescheduling.

“Hopefully, things will get back to something like normal in the next few months and Western Australia will again see international acts absent now for more than two years.”

 


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Scotland unveils £65m aid for culture and events

The Scottish government has earmarked £65 million (€77.8m) in financial aid for culture and events, amid Covid-19 restrictions.

The events sector is set to receive £19.8m (€23.6m) while venues, along with cultural businesses, organisations and independent cinemas, will receive £31.5m (€37.6).

National performing companies that suffered losses over the Christmas period will obtain £2m (€2.3m) while museums, galleries and heritage trusts will secure £1.7m (€2m) in funding. Freelancers in impacted creative sectors will also be bolstered by a £10m (€11.9m).

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon originally announced that £20m would be offered in support for culture and events on 14 December, with the extra £27m in funding for culture and £17m for events being announced last week.

The additional £1m underspend from the existing events budget boosts the total funding package to £65m.

“The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is once again causing disruption and uncertainty in the culture and events sector”

The financial aid comes after the Scottish government implemented further restrictions on large-scale events and public spaces from 26 December.

Indoor events where attendees are standing are limited to 100 people, seated events are limited to 200 and outdoor events will be limited to 500 people. The new rules will be reviewed on 11 January.

“The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is once again causing disruption and uncertainty in the culture and events sector, who have already been hit so hard by its impact,” says culture secretary, Angus Robertson.

“We have been engaging with the sector about the impact of the Omicron variant and we are fully committed to supporting culture and events while they recover from the impact of the Covid – and we are aware of just how important they are to Scotland, and indeed the wider recovery from this pandemic.

“These additional funds will help protect the livelihoods of the people working in the sector – and allow us to give further support to freelancers, culture organisations, venues and our national performing companies.”

Since the start of the pandemic, the Scottish government has provided £175m to the culture, heritage and events sector.

 


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Covid event support extended in Sweden and Denmark

Support schemes have been extended for the live event sectors in Sweden and Denmark in response to the latest coronavirus restrictions.

Swedish prime minister Magdalena Andersson announced at a press conference that financial help will be extended to 31 March 2022, with a pledge to introduce further crisis support in the future if necessary.

Event support amounts to 70% of costs that are “directly necessary” for the event, up to a maximum of SEK17.5 million (€1.7m).

The support applies to events that would have taken place between 1 June, 2021 and 31 March, 2022.

The situation also emphasises the need for a recovery pool, which we have been asking for for a very long time

In Denmark, meanwhile, compensation schemes have reopened for forced closures, while a new fund will be established to cover venue cancellations, postponements or significantly changed minor indoor events for between 51 and 349 standing spectators.

Esben Marcher, head of secretariat at trade body Dansk Live, welcomes the move, but says more comprehensive assistance is required.

Marcher is calling for a return of the Danish government’s activity fund, which offered compensation of up to 65% of an event’s cost for organisers of audience-oriented cultural activities such as concerts.

“It is gratifying that the many organisers, who are now once again affected by restrictions, are getting help. It is paramount in this critical time,” he says. “However, I must not hide the fact that we would also have liked to have seen a re-introduction of the activity fund.”

He adds: “The situation also emphasises the need for a recovery pool, which we have been asking for for a very long time.”

Denmark’s music industry lost over 3 billion krone (€403m) in revenue in 2020.

 


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CTS Eventim bolstered by €102m government aid

CTS Eventim will receive “extraordinary” Covid-19 financial aid from the German federal government for the months of November and December 2020.

The Munich-based, pan-European live entertainment confirmed that it would be receiving €102 million in government funding “to strengthen the result for the current financial year and the company’s liquidity”.

The federal government set up financial aid in order to compensate companies, institutions and self-employed people for lost sales during the months in which Germany went into lockdown.

Grants of up to 75% of sales from November and December 2019 were granted proportionally for the number of days of closure during the same months in 2020.

The funding for CTS comes after the company reported that group revenue in 2020 fell by 82.2% year-on-year to €256.8m (2019: €1,443bn). Ticketing and live entertainment were the hardest hit.

“CTS is superbly positioned when live shows return to concert halls and our business revives”

Revenue in the company’s ticketing division for the whole of 2020 was 73.7% lower year-on-year, at €126.6m (2019: €481.6m).

In the live entertainment division, revenue in the whole of 2020 was 86.1% lower year-on-year, at €136.8m (2019: €985.8m).

Despite the sharp drop in sales during 2020, Klaus-Peter Schulenberg, CEO of CTS Eventim said the company is “superbly positioned when live shows return to concert halls and our business revives”.

“In view of the increasing availability of vaccines and rapid tests, and the progress of vaccination campaigns, there are good prospects that our industry can start getting back to normal over the next few months,” he added.

Throughout 2020, the company continued the international expansion of its Eventim Live promoter network, establishing the Gadget abc Entertainment Group in Switzerland, partnering with legendary US promoter Michael Cohl, and acquiring a majority stake in the Barracuda Group in Austria.

In 2021, CTS acquired Berlin-based promoter DreamHaus, led by Matt Schwarz, taking the network up to 36 promoters in 15 countries.

 


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US venues able to apply for relief after ‘harrowing’ wait

More than two weeks after its failure to launch, the US Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Shuttered Venue Relief Grant (SVOG) was finally reopened on Monday (26 April).

The operators of shuttered US venues have endured a ‘harrowing’ 18-day wait to apply for a share of the $16 billion in federal relief aid, after the SBA opened and closed the portal on 8 April due to technical difficulties.

After several more stops and starts, the SBA reopened the portal on Monday and in its first 24 hours, received more than 17,000 applications and submitted nearly half of them, according to Variety.

A rep told Variety on Tuesday (27 April), “As of noon ET today [24 hours open], the SVOG portal had received 17,356 applications and, of those, 9,472 had been started and 7,884 had been submitted.” Further information is expected in the coming days.

“From 8 April to 26 April, we were all swinging from a rope”

“Well, that was harrowing,” says Frank Riley, High Road Touring/National Independent Touring Organisation (NITO) executive board.

“From 8 April to 26 April, we were all swinging from a rope. Daily, a thread would break and finally, down to the very end… we made it. We got through. We saw the endpoint of all we have worked toward this past year. Once again, the camaraderie and support we have offered each other was manifest throughout the day, either on emails or by text, or just shouting out the window.

“Now, we all have to wait for the process to make its way through the SBA system and continue to hope for the best. I want to thank each and every one of you for your support, your work, your diligence – and for all of the memes that made us giggle throughout the day.”

“We still need the approval process to be a swift one, as people are neck deep, water rising, hands in the air”

Nadia Prescher, Madison House/NITO executive board, says: “Most of our committee knew that the site was going to crash so sadly, I was not surprised on April 8. What I didn’t expect was 18 more days before the portal would reopen. Each day created more intensity for our members and other stakeholders. However, the pressure on the SBA employees assigned with this task is filled with intensity.

“As dire as our position has been, I personally do not envy the work taken on by the SBA staff. The SBA not only had to take a crash course on the independent music business during a global pandemic (with all of its nuances and intricacies), but they were also simultaneously badgered by hundreds of congressional leaders. Yes they made some missteps, but in the end, the SBA and its SVOG committee took the time to fix the issues and the process Monday accomplished the job at hand.. but it’s not over. We still need the approval process to be a swift one, as people are neck deep, water rising, hands in the air, reaching for SBA life preservers.”

The SVOG, also known as the Save Our Stages Act, is part of a $1.9 billion American Rescue Package which was signed into law by President Joe Biden on 11 March.

 


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