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Major Scandi festivals hail bumper comebacks

Last week saw some of Scandinavia’s best-known festivals welcome back record numbers of music fans.

Norway’s Øya Festival (Øyafestivalen) reported a total attendance of 88,000 over four days (or 22,000 per day) at this year’s sold-out edition, smashing its previous record of 80,000 in 2019.

The Superstruct-backed festival returned to Oslo’s Tøyen Park last week (9 and 13 August) with headliners Gorillaz, Florence + the Machine and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

“The festival was fantastic,” Jonas Prangerød, press manger for Øya, tells IQ. “Artists, staff, volunteers and, of course, the audience enjoyed Øya finally being back. People came very early to the festival area and there was a good crowd for every band and artist.

“Both new talent and the big, established favourites impressed. I think a lot of people have got a few new favourite acts now. The warm weather suited Øya’s comeback really well. The whole week was as good as we could hope for.”

Sweden’s Way Out West also broke its own attendance record, drawing 50,000 unique visitors over three days (11–13 August) to its 2022 edition.

The Luger-promoted festival once again took over Gothenburg’s Slottsskogen city park, offering performances from the likes of Tame Impala, Beabadoobee and Fontaines D.C.

“The whole week was as good as we could hope for”

“Way Out West 2022 could not have ended up better,” Filip Hiltmann, marketing and communications manager for Way out West, tells IQ.

“After two years of silence, it felt great to finally be back in Slottsskogen doing what we do best. The sun was out the whole weekend (a rare phenomenon in Gothenburg!) and we experienced first-class sets from the likes of Burna Boy, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, First Ait Kit, Fred again… and many more. We can’t wait to be back next year, mark down 10–12 August 2023 in your calendars.”

Elsewhere in Scandinavia, Finland’s Flow Festival celebrated an attendance record of 90,000 over two days (12–14 August) or 30,000 per day.

The Superstruct-backed festival took place in the Finnish capital of Helsinki this past weekend (12–14 August), with performances from more than 160 acts including Jamie xx, Princess Nokia, Bikini Kill, MØ and Fred Again.

Notably, Gorillaz’s performance at Flow was the band’s first-ever appearance in Finland.

Next year’s Flow dates have already been set for 11–13 August, 2023, and a limited number of Super Early Bird tickets went on sale yesterday (15 August).

Other festivals that took place over the weekend, elsewhere in Europe, include Superstruct’s Sziget (Hungary), Follow The Step’s Fest Festival (Poland) and Boomtown Fair (UK).

 


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Uncertainty grows over former Hartwall Arena

The future of the former Hartwall Arena in Helsinki, Finland is unclear, with shows relocated and its naming rights partner terminating its long-standing sponsorship due to the venue’s Russian ownership.

The country’s largest arena, the 15,500-cap venue has been owned by Arena Events Oy (AEO) since 2013 but has been shuttered since two of the company’s co-founders, Gennady Timchenko and Boris Rotenberg, were added to the UK’s sanctions list following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Finland’s National Enforcement Authority reportedly confiscated Timchenko’s 22.5% holdings in the venue in April.

Helsinki-based Beverage giant Hartwall ended its 25-year association with the building soon after the war began, leading the arena to be renamed Helsinki Halli.

“The arena will not bear Hartwall’s name, and the Hartwall logo has been removed from the arena’s walls”

“The war started by Russia is an absurd and reprehensible act,” said Hartwall CEO Kalle Järvinen at the time. “We will no longer engage in marketing collaboration with Helsinki Halli due to the war in Russia. In the future, the arena will not bear Hartwall’s name and the Hartwall logo has been removed from the arena’s walls.”

High-profile 2022 concerts to have been moved include Kiss and The Cure, which were both switched to the 8,200-cap Helsinki Ice Hall, while Queen + Adam Lambert’s 24-25 July gigs will now take place at the 15,000-cap Nokia Arena in Tampere. Eric Clapton’s performance was also relocated to the latter venue.

“Due to ongoing sanctions pertaining to the situation in Ukraine, all Live Nation events originally scheduled to take place at the Hartwall Arena (Helsinki Halli) are being moved to alternate venues,” Live Nation told ticket-holders.

Shows by acts including Elton John, Dua Lipa and Bjork, meanwhile, were unable to be rescheduled and have now been cancelled.

“It is not possible to do business with Russians on the sanctions list”

A number of Finnish promoters have confirmed to IQ that the venue remains out of use for events as a result of the sanctions. Helsinki Mayor Juhana Vartiainen, meanwhile, has expressed his hope for a change in ownership to end the deadlock.

“It is not possible to do business with Russians on the sanctions list,” he said, reports YLE. “At this stage, we can only make sure that the hall pays its taxes and fulfils its obligations… My understanding is that a forced sale could come up in the event that Helsinki Halli does not pay its debts.”

YLE notes that Rotenberg and Timchenko own a combined 44% of the arena’s holding company, Helsinki Halli Oy, but their combined voting power in the firm accounts for 93.9%.

According to Iltalehti, the rent for the arena is due quarterly and was paid on time on its previous due date in April. The publication notes that due to the sanctions, the owners cannot sell the hall without the consent of the Finnish authorities.

The venue’s management has not responded to IQ‘s requests for comment.

 


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Gry Mølleskog named Group CEO of All Things Live

Leading Nordic live entertainment company All Things Live has appointed Gry Mølleskog as group CEO, effective from 1 August.

In addition, she will also take on the role of country CEO for the All Things Live companies in Norway.

The Waterland Private Equity-backed company represents artists and promotes events in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Belgium.

“All Things Live is one of the most exciting companies in live entertainment in Europe,” says Mølleskog. “The group is well-positioned for further growth, and I look forward to building on this strong foundation together with the ambitious owners.”

Mølleskog boasts more than 30 years of experience, which includes management and board positions in Nordic and international companies.

“All Things Live is one of the most exciting companies in live entertainment in Europe”

She currently serves as Lord Chamberlain (CEO) of the Royal Court of Norway where she previously worked in chief of staff positions for a total of seven years.

Other former positions include senior client partner with recruiter Korn/Ferry International and various management roles at SAS where she was senior vice president and part of the executive management team from 1998 to 2003.

Current group CEO Kim Worsøe will continue as a member of the All Things Live Group board of directors and will focus on the company’s expansion in Europe including acquisitions and artist relations across the group.

“All Things Live has seen tremendous growth over the last three years and is today in a great position to continue this positive development,” says Worsøe. “I am confident that Gry Mølleskog will be a strong addition to the organisation and able to support our future growth journey and I look very much forward to working together with her.”

 


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20 years of Finland’s Fullsteam Agency

From humble beginnings come great things. That’s certainly how it has panned out for Finland’s Fullsteam, a group of music companies that now encompasses a record label, management services, a booking agency, event organising, and publishing.

Currently celebrating its 20th anniversary, it started out like many music industry endeavours – as a hobby for music lover Rauha Kyyrö. “I was still in high school, and I never thought it would become my profession,” she recalls. “My plan was to go and study law! But then music happened…”

Tobbe Lorentz of United Talent, one of the first agents she started to work with professionally, can certainly recall her passion. “My first memory is when Rauha turned up at my home, unannounced, and I opened the door to see this unknown kid with dreads and piercings asking to book my bands,” he says. “I believe my response was: ‘Of course you can. Now go away.’ But I booked Turbonegro with her the week after, and we’ve been working together ever since.”

Booking bands was something that, by then, Kyyrö was already adept at. She started out playing in a band but was, by her own admission, “never the best or most talented musician.” But she had smarts and determination – “I was great at getting things done,” she says.

Booking shows, promotion, logistics, and taking care of releases became her domain, and she came up with a novel way of getting her own band shows abroad.

“We did everything ourselves – book the shows, sell merch, release records, and do the PR”

“The easiest way to do that was to book shows in Finland for a Swedish or German band in exchange for getting to play with them in their home countries,” she recalls. “That’s how I first got into the business of booking shows internationally.” Her abilities earned her the nickname “Fixare” (The Fixer) – and she soon found herself dealing with agents who had got her contact details from their artists who had friends in bands she had promoted.

To do things officially and pay taxes, she started her first company Sitruunamaailma (which translates as ‘the world of lemons’) with two friends, and then things really took off. “I started promoting the first ‘bigger’ shows – those with a 900 capacity – and also my first outdoor summer festival,” she says. Bear in mind, this was all before she even left high school – “prodigious” doesn’t even come close.

Yet the financial realities of promoting and booking were somewhat harsh – in the early years, it remained very much a hobby. “I was doing all this while working in a record shop in Helsinki,” she says. Even after starting Fullsteam proper in 2002 – it began life as a record label, Fullsteam Records, and was a subsidiary of her previous company, Sitruunamaailma – her ambitions were modest.

“The idea was just to release music for great bands that couldn’t get their music out on the existing labels. And I guess it felt great to have a record label.”

Releasing music was just the start. Kyyrö soon realised there were many things she could do to help her own and friends’ bands, and so the other aspects of Fullsteam began to grow organically. “We did everything ourselves – book the shows, sell merch, release records, and do the PR. We also had a rehearsal room centre with 50 rooms, so we basically just did whatever we wanted […] for our own and our friends’ bands. It was always some kind of a 360 ̊ model, but as the business grew and things got more professional, it was necessary to have different companies for different parts of the business.”

James Rubin of WME recalls [Kyyrö] being “exceptional in problem-solving and career-building”

Kyyrö admits that it wasn’t until 2004 that she actually got paid for booking shows, when she went to work for Welldone – now Live Nation Finland – for two years. The other Fullsteam
companies continued during that time, and on leaving Welldone in 2006, she founded Fullsteam Agency. “That was the first time I started to get paid from my own company,” she says.

Those early years were characterised by a can-do work ethic and DIY spirit, traits that continue to this day and endeared Kyyrö to all those who worked with her in the beginning. Kalle Lundgren Smith of international booking agent Pitch and Smith recalls booking tours with her back in 2000, when she was still running Sitruunamaailma, and being “so impressed with her professionalism. My hardcore band was used to dealing with promoters on a very DIY level, so this was very different. We were even offered accommodation on top of the fees, which seemed like an absolute luxury to us.”

Before they met in real life, Lundgren Smith assumed she was a seasoned pro. “I was picturing someone far older in my mind. Then, when we finally met in Helsinki, it was this very young punk rock kid with long dreadlocks. We’ve been working closely together ever since.”

Many others express similar sentiments, and it’s a testament to Kyyrö and the company she’s built that so many peers remain friends and colleagues 20 years later. James Rubin of WME, who began working with her 15 years ago through Bad Taste, a Swedish management company and promoter, recalls her being “exceptional in problem-solving and career-building. She always helped with any issues my clients had.”

Paulina Ahokas, managing director of Tampere Hall, remembers being so impressed by Kyyrö’s dogged determination that she badgered colleagues at Music Export Finland to bring her along on an export mission to Japan.

“All of the Fullsteam companies work together on some level, but we don’t work in the ‘traditional’ 360 ̊ way”

“Rauha was spot-on at every single panel discussion in Tokyo,” says Ahokas. “After the panels, I asked if she needed some help with meetings. She did not. She had a list of names and addresses, a map of Tokyo, and a bicycle – she cycled to the meetings she had sourced herself. I’d been to Japan at least three times, yet knew only half of the companies on her list. I told everyone at Music Export Finland that we would be hearing a lot more from this rasta-haired dynamo, and damn, I was right.”

And it’s not just in a professional capacity that Kyyrö won people overtaking the “work hard, play hard” mantra to heart, she’s had plenty of fun, too. “I first met Rauha at a showcase festival in Canada,” says Julia Gudzent, co-founder of Misc Berlin, an agency for cultural change. “We immediately got along really well, and together with Mikko Niemelä from Ruisrock and Nina Howden from Silver Circle Distillery, we founded a synchronised swimming group in the hotel pool. We had the time of our lives and all became best friends right away.”

Since 2006, Fullsteam has continued to grow organically, a slow and steady rise governed by one clear principle – serve the artist. Today, Fullsteam Agency – “by far the biggest company [in the group],” says Kyyrö – serves as a booking agency and event organiser, booking domestic performers into every venue in Finland and bringing international artists to the country (to date, Fullsteam has promoted over 2,000 international acts).

They also organise Seinäjoki’s Provinssi Festival and Helsinki’s own Sideways Festival. On top of this, they represent around 100 Finnish performers, both popular acts and rising talent, and Fullsteam group now includes management, publishing, and record label interests. But while the businesses are deeply integrated, Fullsteam is not your typical 360 ̊ company.

“All of the Fullsteam companies work together on some level, but we don’t work in the ‘traditional’ 360 ̊ way,” says Kyyrö. “We hope to work with all the music companies in Finland, so we do not push for 360 ̊ deals. They only make sense if it makes sense for the artist and everyone else involved, and to be honest, in most cases it actually doesn’t work that well to have ‘all your eggs in one basket’. But when it does work, it can be really fantastic – we have good examples of that.”

Fullsteam Agency is now co-owned by European promoter giant FKP Scorpio, following a merger in 2014

Fullsteam group’s smaller companies remain 100% owned by Kyyrö, and she’s involved in various other businesses, albeit in smaller roles. But Fullsteam Agency is now co-owned by European promoter giant FKP Scorpio, following a merger in 2014.

The deal, says Kyyrö, “Helped us to really enter the festival market and to become more professional in many different ways.” But it wasn’t driven by finances or a desire to wield more clout. “I just really liked the people at FKP Scorpio: simple as that,” she says. “I thought they would support our team in our ambitions to grow but also let us be who we are and work the way we do. They are good, kind people – I appreciate that a lot.”

That added professionalism has manifested itself in various ways. Fullsteam has, says Kyyrö, become a better employer and partner for artists and clients. Her colleagues agree. “The best part of working as a promoter at Fullsteam is probably the creative freedom that you have; we’re not tied to one or two or even three genres but work with everything that we believe has value – be it money or something else,” comments staffer Artemi Remes.

“I’m pretty sure that’s not the case with every big agency in the world. And for me, that’s really the greatest thing as it makes every workday and every concert special. Never a dull day!” Remes says it’s difficult to pick just one highlight from more than 1,000 shows he has promoted over the past 16 years. “But pressed, I’d probably choose the Ennio Morricone concert in Helsinki in 2016. That exceeded all levels of specialness and is one that I’ll probably remember for the rest of my life.”

Summing up the employee experience at Fullsteam, fellow promoter Aino-Maria Paasivirta says, “The great part of working at Fullsteam is that I get to work with so many different kinds of artists – I promote everything from small club shows to arenas and festivals and many different genres, which keeps the job interesting.” Asked to share her career highlights, to date, Paasivirta states, “Nick Cave’s sold-out shows on the Conversations tour was definitely an amazing experience.”

“We have a team that’s capable of anything”

She adds, “I’m very much looking forward to the business finally opening again and the festival summer 2022 and I’m, of course, especially looking forward to Provinssi. Our last editions have been great, and I’m very proud to be in the booking team. Everyone knows working with music is more than a job, it’s a lifestyle, and I can’t imagine a better community to do it with than Fullsteam.”

It hasn’t always been plain sailing, however, and Kyyrö admits to having struggled with “how competitive and mean this business can be sometimes.” Yet she has remained optimistic and never lost her passion. “I’ve always loved being part of this community and feel that I am actually really good at this thing they call the music business.”

Modestly, she feels the company has only recently properly “arrived” and achieved lasting success. “The first time I felt that wasn’t until the end of 2019, after we’d promoted three historic events in Finland within a year – Ed Sheeran in Helsinki in July 2019, Rammstein in Tampere in August 2019, and Cheek in Lahti in August 2018. We’d also succeeded in bringing Provinssi Festival back to the top. None of those things were on my bucket list, they just happened when the time was right – or when we were ready for it.”

That’s a view shared by Fullsteam Agency managing director Tuomo Tähtinen, who believes that the platform the company has built means the best is yet to come. “Fullsteam has already come incredibly far, yet there’s still so much potential,” Tähtinen tells IQ. “We have a team that’s capable of anything. And we all know that success shouldn’t be pursued at any cost, but we need to build for the future sustainably and with respect to everyone around us.”

Recently, Fullsteam’s formal successes have been numerous. They are now Finland’s biggest, most important concert promoter and booking agency, for both alternative music and global superstars. Fullsteam Records has won Independent Label of the Year a total of six times and remains a champion and supporter of new, exciting, and unique Finnish music. And, perhaps most impressively of all, Fullsteam scooped a total of seven awards at 2019’s Music & Media Industry Awards Gala, including Booking Agency of the Year, Concert of the Year, and numerous accolades for individual staff.

“I’ve always loved being part of this community and feel that I am actually really good at music business.”

So, what’s the secret, then? What has made Fullsteam such a successful company and given them – and Kyyrö – two decades of growth, excellence, and a stellar reputation? The accolades are numerous. “They are music fans first and foremost,” says Geoff Meall of Paradigm Talent Agency. “The first correspondence is always about them wanting to work with the band or act because they like them. In a world of expanding corporatisation, I’ll always have time for companies like Fullsteam.”

Kalle Lundgren Smith agrees. “Fullsteam has a very loyal and strong team. It’s like a nice big family of true music lovers with an open and welcoming mindset. I think Rauha’s single-mindedness and creative mind – combined with her amazing staff – brought them this far.”

Tobbe Lorentz says that it’s “hard work, a great team, having their finger on the pulse, and good timing,” that’s made them so successful; Julia Gudzent agrees. “What makes Fullsteam and Rauha so special is that they do their work with complete passion, but unlike a lot of other people in the industry, they also take care of themselves and don’t forget to live and celebrate their wins. And that makes them so much better at their job.”

James Rubin says their “dedication to personal attention, being artist-friendly, and sheer excellence in everything they do has been nothing short of exceptional,” while Xenia Grigat of Danish promoter Smash!Bang!Pow! adds that there’s a “special DNA that defines Fullsteam, and it seems like a workplace that is inclusive and sees the full potential in the team. That’s inspiring, and attracts talented staff and artists.”

For Paulina Ahokas, one of the many who’ve worked with Kyyrö since the very beginning, there are three main reasons behind Fullsteam’s continued rise. “Every single person in the company has the same attitude, the need and desire to excel. Every person is willing to work harder than anyone else. And every single person in the company knows how to party! I have no idea if this is the recruitment strategy, but I know it has worked.”

“And every single person in the company knows how to party!”

And the view internally, from new partner FKP Scorpio, is just as effusive. CEO Stephan Thanscheidt credits their “friendship, loyalty, creativity, attitude, professionality, and a great taste in arts and music,” qualities he says you feel at every single Fullsteam show or event. “Their team, in combination with their family values, is hard to beat. They have an extraordinary spirit; creative and professional entrepreneurship; a great social and political attitude; and good relations with loads of talented artists.”

Certainly, their legacy seems assured. They’ve brought a lot of live music to Finland that the country might not have been able to enjoy otherwise, from the likes of Disco Ensemble, early emo bands, many Nordic artists, and numerous international superstars. They have blazed a trail for diversity and inclusivity and redefined what a group of music companies – both working together and in separate fields – can achieve on behalf of their artists.

Ultimately, that might be the single biggest factor behind Fullsteam’s success – it really is all about the music and the people who make it happen. One anecdote in particular, from Julia Gudzent, encapsulates this attitude perfectly. “I went to the Finnish music awards show once, and Fullsteam won all the prizes. Rauha took her whole team up on stage because she knew that it was not only her prize, but the whole team that won it. That impressed me so much because I’d never seen this kind of leadership before. I’ve not met a lot of people in the industry who do their job with so much modesty, kindness, and team spirit.”

What then of the future? What focus, hopes, and dreams does Kyyrö have for Fullsteam for the years ahead? “I really would like us to be the best place to work at and best partner for the people we work with,” she says. “If we succeed in that we will always be successful. We have truly amazing people working for Fullsteam and close to us, and I truly hope they will stick around, keep up with the shit in the business and shape the company and the music industry to become a better and more inclusive place for everyone.”

So we’ll be back here in another 20 years, with Fullsteam continuing to go from strength to strength? “I am sure we’ll continue to have many victories, but there are also challenging times ahead of us. I think that at the end of the day, a business like ours is just a bunch of people working together, and I hope there is room for life to happen and for people to grow and pursue their dreams at Fullsteam.”


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IQ 110 out now: ILMC, Phil Bowdery, Fullsteam & more

IQ 110, the latest issue of the international live music industry’s favourite magazine, is available to read online and in print now.

The April issue sees IQ magazine return to physical print for the first time in two years. In what is possibly the biggest-ever issue, readers can view the full conference and events agenda for the in-person return of ILMC (International Live Music Conference).

Elsewhere, IQ celebrates Phil Bowdery’s half century career in live music, 20 years of Finland’s Fullsteam agency, and Hans Zimmer’s latest tour.

This issue also examines the world’s fastest-growing entertainment market, the Gulf States, and profiles ten new tech innovations.

For this edition’s columns and comments, Music Export Ukraine’s Alona Dmukhovska expresses her country’s passion for music and Semyon Galperin speaks of the Russian music sector’s support for their friends in Ukraine.

In addition, ASM Global’s Marie Lindqvist highlights the importance of supporting and bringing young people into the heat of the business as part of ILMC’s Bursary Scheme partnership.

As always, the majority of the magazine’s content will appear online in some form in the next six weeks.

However, if you can’t wait for your fix of essential live music industry features, opinion and analysis, click here to subscribe to IQ for just £7.99 a month – or check out what you’re missing out on with the limited preview below:

 


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Weekly round-up: Omicron live music restrictions

Welcome to IQ’s weekly round-up of the latest restrictions affecting major international touring markets.

Below you’ll find the latest information on certification schemes, social distancing requirements, mask mandates, capacity restrictions and lockdowns affecting key live music markets around the globe.

Australia
Australia has announced that it will reopen its borders to vaccinated tourists and other visa holders, from 21 February, for the first time in almost two years.

Australia has had some of the world’s strictest border controls throughout the pandemic – in March 2020, the government closed the borders and barred most foreigners from entering the country.

Belgium
Belgian ministers say the country is close to moving from red to orange on the barometer introduced a few weeks ago “but people still need to exercise caution”.

In orange, the Covid Safe Ticket (CST) is required for both indoor and outdoor events (with the option of requiring an extra rapid antigen test at the entrance for nightclubs).

There would be no enforced closing time for businesses, but the Consultative Committee can decide to limit the number of people allowed to 60-90% of a venue’s maximum capacity, depending on whether the air quality requirements can be guaranteed.

Additionally, crowd management is mandatory for events, and organisers have the option to compartmentalise the public. Air quality requirements will be made stricter than in code yellow.

The Finnish government has recommended that capacity restrictions be lifted as of 14 February

Canada
The Ontario government has limited concert venues to 50% capacity until at least 14 March – despite other entertainment spaces such as cinemas, casinos and restaurants expecting to be given the go-ahead to host full houses from 21 February.

Artists including Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa, The Weeknd and The Offspring have been forced to postpone tour dates due to provincial restrictions.

Canadian Live Music Association (CLMA) boss Erin Benjamin told The Canadian Press the policy was “really hard to understand”, and would likely deter other top international acts from visiting the country this year.

The CLMA is appealing for the government to extend relief for live music businesses via the Emergency Business Account (CEBA) and the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF).

Finland
The Finnish government has announced plans to roll back its Covid-19 restrictions from this month.

The government has recommended that capacity restrictions within the cultural, sports and event sectors be lifted as of 14 February.

From that day, any businesses that primarily serve alcohol will be allowed to serve until 22:00, and remain open until 23:00.

All restrictions on food and beverage service businesses could be lifted completely as of 1 March.

Following the recommendations of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) and the Ministry of Justice, Finland will no longer use Covid passes, at least for the time being. Event organisers and certain establishments were allowed to ignore Covid restrictions if they demanded customers present their Covid passes.

Germany will allow up to 10,000 spectators at major outdoor events

Germany
Germany will allow up to 10,000 spectators at major outdoor events, the 16 federal states agreed last Wednesday (2 February).

The decision, which also allows up to 4,000 participants in indoor spaces, aims to harmonise currently varying rules for stadium attendance at a state-by-state level. The new rules take effect as soon as the federal states update their regulation.

Masks must be worn, and proof of vaccination or recovery, as well as a booster shot or negative test status, depending on the state, will also be required.

Events that do not qualify as national major events with over 2,000 spectators still fall under state-specific rules.

Italy
Italy is about to enter a “new phase” of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to government ministers.

“In the coming weeks we will continue on this path of reopening,” says Prime Minister Mario Draghi. “Based on the scientific evidence, and continuing to follow the trend of the epidemiological curve, we will announce a calendar for overcoming the current restrictions”.

The next update on the country’s Covid restrictions is due by 10 February, when the outdoor mask mandate and the closure of nightclubs and dance venues are up for review again after both rules were recently extended.

The Italian green pass system itself is not expected to be scaled back anytime soon, with some experts including Walter Ricciardi, an advisor to the health minister, maintaining that it must stay in place over summer “at least”.

These rules can only remain in force however under the nationwide state of emergency, which creates the conditions for the government to pass new laws urgently by decree.

Italy’s state of emergency is currently set to expire on 31 March 2022. It is not yet known whether the government plans to extend it.

Sweden has become the latest European nation to announce it is lifting coronavirus restriction

Sweden
Sweden has become the latest European nation to announce it is lifting coronavirus restrictions.

On 9 February, capacity limits and vaccine certificates for live events will be discontinued, while the government also intends to lift entry restrictions for the Nordic countries.

Live events in the country have been subject to a capacity limit of 500 people (or 500 per section if the organiser divides the room so that people from different sections do not come into contact with each other).

The Swedish public health agency will also follow Denmark’s lead in submitting a request that Covid-19 should no longer be classified as a socially dangerous disease.

“It’s time to open up Sweden,” said prime minister Magdalena Andersson. “The pandemic isn’t over, but it is moving into a new phase.”

 


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Sweden to lift most Covid restrictions next week

Sweden has become the latest European nation to announce it is lifting coronavirus restrictions.

At a press conference yesterday (3 February), prime minister Magdalena Andersson, minister of social affairs Lena Hallengren and the director general of the Swedish Public Health Agency, Karin Tegmark Wisell, confirmed the government will remove most measures on 9 February.

Capacity limits and vaccine certificates for live events will be discontinued, while the government also intends to lift entry restrictions for the Nordic countries.

Live events in the country have been subject to a capacity limit of 500 people (or 500 per section if the organiser divides the room so that people from different sections do not come into contact with each other). The semi-finals of Sweden’s Melodifestivalen to determine the country’s entrant for the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest are proceeding with capacity restrictions at Stockholm’s Avicii Arena this weekend.

“The pandemic isn’t over, but it is moving into a new phase”

“It’s time to open up Sweden,” said Andersson. “The pandemic isn’t over, but it is moving into a new phase.”

The Swedish public health agency will also follow Denmark’s lead in submitting a request that Covid-19 should no longer be classified as a socially dangerous disease. On 1 February, Denmark became the first country in the EU to announce it was ending all coronavirus measures.

PM Mette Frederiksen assured Danish residents they will be able to look forward to “concerts and festivals again” this summer due to Denmark’s 81% vaccination rate and Omicron appearing to be milder than previous Covid variants.

Elsewhere in Scandinavia, Norway has lifted most restrictions but maintains 1m social distancing, hampering the live music sector’s efforts to return to normality.

Earlier this week, the Finnish government announced plans to relax its Covid-19 curbs from 14 February.

According to the cabinet, the number of Covid-19 infections nationwide remains high, but the number of cases requiring intensive care has “decreased considerably”.

Meanwhile, England’s Plan B measures, which included a mandate for facemasks and vaccine passports (or a negative LFT) at gigs, were dropped in January and other UK markets have been rolling back restrictions.

 


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Finland to roll back restrictions from mid-Feb

The Finnish government has announced plans to roll back its Covid-19 restrictions from this month.

According to the cabinet, the number of Covid-19 infections nationwide remains high, but the number of cases requiring intensive care has “decreased considerably”.

Most importantly for the live music sector, the government has recommended that capacity restrictions within the cultural, sports and event sectors be lifted as of 14 February.

From that day, any businesses that primarily serve alcohol will be allowed to serve until 22:00, and remain open until 23:00.

All restrictions on food and beverage service businesses could be lifted completely as of 1 March.

“We believe that we do not currently have the legal prerequisites in place to introduce a Covid pass”

Following the recommendations of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) and the Ministry of Justice, Finland will no longer use Covid passes, at least for the time being. Event organisers and certain establishments were allowed to ignore Covid restrictions if they demanded customers present their Covid passes.

While the passes could be reintroduced in the future in case of changing circumstances such as new variants, it would require some amendments to the law.

“We believe that we do not currently have the legal prerequisites in place to introduce a Covid pass,” said Finland’s prime minister Sanna Marin. “The THL feels that there is no longer an epidemiological basis for it; that is, we cannot use the pass to bypass restrictions at this point. It would mean restricting the fundamental rights of a citizen. We cannot do that if it’s not absolutely necessary.”

Today’s news will come as a welcome relief for Finland’s live sector which, according to Pearle’s 2022 Map of Europe, is currently subject to the strictest restrictions in Europe.

 


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Court dismisses case against Blockfest founder

A money laundering charge against the founder of Finland’s Blockfest festival has been dismissed by the Helsinki District Court.

Kalle Kallonen was accused of transporting €10,000 in drug money from Finland to Spain in May 2021.

However, Iltalehti reports the charge was thrown out after the court ruled evidence pertaining to the case acquired by the FBI from encrypted messaging app Anom was inadmissible.

A similar charge against Kallonen’s co-accused – Finnish rap artist William, aka Ville Virtanen – was also dropped, with the court ordering the state to reimburse the pair’s legal costs of around €5,000 each.

Both Kallonen and Virtanen denied the allegations, which were part of a larger criminal case involving 10 people

The report adds that the case is likely to continue before the court of appeal.

Both Kallonen and Virtanen denied the allegations, which were part of a larger criminal case involving 10 people in total. Several other defendants have been jailed, mainly for aggravated drug offences.

Founded in 2008 in Tampere, Finland, Blockfest has grown to become one of the biggest hip-hop festivals in the Nordic countries. Taking place at the Tampere stadium, the two-day festival attracts some 75,000 festival-goers each year.

In 2019, Blockfest was acquired by Live Nation Finland following years of collaboration with the festival.

 


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Blockfest founder accused of money laundering

The founder and CEO of Finland’s Blockfest festival has gone on trial accused of money laundering.

Kalle Kallonen, who denies the charge, allegedly received cash earned from drug offences for €10,000 which he transported to Spain in May 2021.

The prosecutor is demanding a three-month suspended prison sentence for Kallonen, claiming – based on his assignment and the amount of money received – that he would likely have known or considered it came from criminal activity.

The allegation is part of a larger criminal case, first reported on by Seiska, that is being heard in the Helsinki District Court.

Kallonen has denied the charge and the description of the act in its entirety

A total of 10 people have been charged in relation to the case. According to the prosecutor, the main perpetrators were three men who formed an organised criminal group to commit drug offences from 2020 to June 2021.

Founded in 2008 in Tampere, Finland, Blockfest has grown to become one of the biggest hip-hop festivals in the Nordic countries. Taking place at the Tampere stadium, the two-day festival attracts some 75,000 festival-goers each year.

In 2019, Blockfest was acquired by Live Nation Finland following years of collaboration with the festival.

Rap artist William, aka Ville Virta, is accused of a similar crime to Kallonen. He is also alleged to have taken €10,000 to Spain, but “possibly” failed to hand over the money because the recipient had been apprehended by the police on suspicion of drug offences. He denies the charge.

The trial continues.

 


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