Visa-free touring in Greece secured for UK artists
UK artists and their crews will no longer need visas to tour in Greece, it has been confirmed.
The announcement, which comes into effect on Monday (13 June), was made yesterday by the Greek deputy minister of foreign affairs Miltiadis Varvitsiotis.
It follows extensive efforts from the Greek government and figures from across the UK and Greek music industry, including LIVE members James Wright of UTA, Craig Stanley of Marshall Arts and Paul Fenn of The Entertainment Agents’ Association.
With artists travelling to Greece previously having to apply for and receive a Schengen visa, the move represents a considerable boost for the UK’s live music sector post-Brexit.
“This is a huge victory for both artists and fans”
“This is a huge victory for both artists and fans, representing a further step towards the frictionless touring ecosystem needed by the live music sector,” says LIVE CEO Jon Collins. “The prohibitive costs and bureaucracy posed by visa regimes threaten the export and growth of budding talent from across the UK, and while issues such as cabotage and carnets remain, we will continue to work on behalf of the sector to resolve these alongside our international counterparts.”
Fenn adds: “We’re pleased to see that the diligent work of the LIVE Touring Group team coupled with the promoters in Greece quickly identified the problem that arose and managed to effectively target the lobbying in Athens to achieve a quick resolution.”
LIVE warns that despite the welcome move, which is subject to review at the end of the year, touring artists still face restrictions on touring: a three-stop limit to UK touring vehicles before they have to return to home, and an expensive goods passport (a “carnet”), including a bond for instruments and equipment.
Last year, LIVE and the Association for British Orchestras (ABO), alongside their Spanish counterparts Asociación Promotores Musicales and key industry players such as Live Nation Spain, also successfully worked to waive visas for UK artists touring in Spain.
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Greece’s music venues off-limits for unvaccinated
The Greek government has announced that live music venues, indoor and open-air sports stadiums, bars, clubs and indoor restaurants, will be off-limits for citizens who have not been vaccinated against Covid-19.
Under the regulations, projected to be in place from 13 September to 31 March, people who have recovered from coronavirus will also be permitted entry to leisure and entertainment establishments.
The measures were announced on Tuesday (24 August) when Greece recorded the highest number of coronavirus cases since the outbreak of the pandemic.
“These measures aren’t punitive,” said health minister, Vassilis Kikilias, on Tuesday. “They are our duty to all those who went through 18 months of the pandemic carefully, those who lost their shops, jobs and had to work from home to protect themselves.”
“These measures aren’t punitive”
Kikilias said that citizens would have to provide proof they had been vaccinated, or had recovered from the disease, through an app that scans Covid-19 certificates.
Other venues, including theatres, cinemas, museums and archaeological sites, will allow access to people who have not had the vaccine but only if they provide proof of a negative rapid test conducted within 48 hours prior.
Rapid tests, which are currently free of charge, would cost €10 for all those who had not been vaccinated, Kikilias said. Testing will continue to be free for those who have been vaccinated.
As of yesterday, just over half (52.5%) of the nation’s population have been fully vaccinated, according to the Reuters Covid-19 tracker.
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Greece’s 2021 festival season undergoes shake-up
Greek festivals are in fight-or-flight mode as the summer season draws closer and uncertainty about the Covid restrictions looms.
Ejekt Festival and AthensRocks have cut their losses and pulled the plug on 2021, while Rockwave and Release Athens regroup after cancellations from international acts and The Athens Technopolis Jazz Festival and Athens Music Week assume hybrid formats.
The organisers of Ejekt festival say they ‘did everything possible’ to avoid cancelling this year’s event, which would have taken place on 26 June at Markopoulo Park near Athens.
“Unfortunately we find ourselves in the very sad position to have to cancel Ejeckt Festival for the second year in a row,” reads a statement on the festival’s website.
“With our main priority being the safety of fans, artists and festival personnel, we worked for many months on various plans and we tried to come up with solutions. We did everything possible in order to make the festival take place this year. But, our efforts and hopes are again thrown in the garbage bin due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We are as devastated as you are. We miss live music and we miss you so much. Even though we don’t like it, at this point all we can do is move on.”
“Our efforts and hopes are again thrown in the garbage bin due to the Covid-19 pandemic”
The festival has taken place each year since 2004 and is said to attract around 55,000 visitors.
Red Hot Chili Peppers would have made their second-ever appearance in Greece at this year’s Ejekt festival. It is not yet known whether the band will perform at the 2022 event – the date of which will be announced soon.
Those who have already purchased their tickets can roll them over for the 2022 event or from 7 June can exchange with a voucher of equal value, which will can be used at any concert of the same organiser.
AthensRocks, which would have taken place on 12 June at Athens Olympic Complex in the Greek capital, will also forego 2021.
The festival’s promoters High Priority Promotions have not commented on the cancellation apart from to say that the 2021 headliners – The National, Idles and Balthazar – are not able to return for the next edition, which will take place on 16 July 2022.
Athens Music Week and The Athens Technopolis Jazz Festival have decided to hedge their bets by adopting a hybrid format
Ticket holders will be refunded, rather than offered vouchers, ahead of the 2022 line-up announcement.
Elsewhere, Release Athens Festival, an annual concert series that takes place in Athens each summer, is forging ahead despite Pet Shop Boys and Judas Priest pulling out of this year’s edition.
At the time of writing, Massive Attack, Sabaton and Slipknot are due to play the series, which takes place throughout June and July.
Rockwave, an open-air rock festival that has taken place in Athens since 1996, is also “reviewing the festival programme” after Deep Purple dropped out of the June event.
Meanwhile, Athens Music Week (22–26 June) and The Athens Technopolis Jazz Festival (27–29 May) have decided to hedge their bets by adopting a hybrid format for 2021.
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Greek ticketer Viva expands marketplace into Europe
Viva Online Services, Greece’s largest ticketing retailer since 2010, is opening up its marketplace to organisers across Europe in a bid to capitalise on the platform’s success in the domestic market.
The company, which is owned by pan-European neobank Viva Wallet, was established in 2005 and has generated more than 11 million orders and €230 million in ticket revenue in the last 10 years.
Viva’s platform and services are now available to organisers in 23 countries, in all European languages and currencies.
In order to start selling tickets, organisers will be required to set up a Viva Wallet Business Account, which will enable them to receive money from pre-sales in real-time.
Viva’s platform and services are now available to organisers in 23 countries, in all European languages and currencies
Organisers will benefit from a low commission, based on IC+2,06%, which includes the credit card acquiring fees.
All event presale pages and streaming pages are customisable and can be embedded into the organiser’s website. Bonus features include customisation, loyalty cards, donation and merchandise add-ons and ad-pixel tracking.
The ticketing platform is compatible with Viva Streaming, which launched in November 2020 and has already hosted more than 300 livestream events by organisers in Greece and Cyprus.
According to Viva, more than 195, 000 tickets (unique streaming access codes) have been sold for livestreaming events.
Major markets set out plans for Covid-19 passports
Australia and Iceland have joined a number of other markets across the globe in announcing plans for digital health passports which will show citizens’ Covid-19 vaccination and test status.
Iceland recently became the first European country to issue and recognise Covid-19 vaccination certificates to enable international travel for those inoculated against Covid-19.
Since early in the pandemic, the country has required a minimum five-day quarantine for international arrivals and now those with documentation showing they have received a full course of Covid-19 vaccines will be able to skip quarantine.
“You Check’s identity first [digital health passport] has a lot of potential to help venues and promoters manage risk”
In Australia, ahead of the nationwide rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine, the government has announced that all vaccinations will be recorded on the Australian Immunisation Register, and certificates would then be available digitally via the Express Plus Medicare app or in hard copy through the vaccination provider or Services Australia.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison told ABC National Radio it is “highly likely” that such documentation will be needed for international travel into the country.
Meanwhile, UK music venues are set to trial a health passport pioneered by London-based start-up You Check to accelerate the nation’s return to live.
The trials – which have been set-up in conjunction with Music Venue Trust (MVT) – are scheduled to take place at London’s 100 Club (cap. 350) and Bristol’s Exchange (cap. 250) in March.
The digital health passport will allow venue door staff and ingress operations to verify an attendee’s name, age, ticket and test result in one place and “facilitate communication between promoters and their full audiences, beyond the primary ticket buyer”.
[This] digital health passport will allow venue door staff and ingress operations to verify an attendee’s name, age, ticket and test result
“You Check’s identity first solution has a lot of potential to help venues and promoters manage risk,” says MVT CEO, Mark Davyd.
“It has a fast and thorough authentication process which enables health information to be stored against portable digital identity and MVT is pleased to be working with You Check to explore how this technology might form part of a comprehensive process which enables us to reopen every venue safely and revive live.”
Other nations that have revealed plans to launch a digital coronavirus passport include Sweden (by the summer) and Denmark (in three to four months), while Poland has already started issuing the digital pass to its citizens.
Elsewhere in Europe, Spain’s foreign minister Arancha Gonzalez has said “vaccine certification is something we are going towards inevitably”; Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, has called upon the European Commission to introduce a standardized coronavirus vaccination certificate to facilitate travel within the European Union bloc, and Portugal’s interior minister Eduardo Cabrita has said that a vaccine certification would be easier to manage than the current Covid-19 requirements.
Greek ticketer Viva celebrates streaming success
Greek ticketing platform Viva.gr is celebrating a successful first month of its new streaming service, having sold more than 150,000 tickets for concerts, theatre plays, stand-ups, films and seminars.
Viva Streaming launched in early December with services to help event organisers sell tickets, verify entry and stream videos in one place.
The platform’s most successful concert to date was with Cypriot-Greek singer-songwriter Anna Vissi (pictured) on New Year’s Day which was livestreamed from the Pallas Theater Venue in Athens.
Vissi, accompanied by a 13-member orchestra, was joined by special guests including Nikos Moutsinas and Matina Nikolaou as ‘Vania’.
“It goes to show that people are eager to watch events, and streaming is the next best thing until in-person shows recover”
The Theatrikes Skines-produced concert sold 8,500 tickets priced at €15 for access to the live concert, and €18 for access to the live pre-show, a Q&A with Vissi, backstage access and a number of exclusive live songs, as well as access to the main livestream concert.
Fans from more than 40 countries tuned into the show, from nations including Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Egypt and Israel, and the show rocketed to number one in the Greek twitter trends.
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Due to high demand, Vissi’s live stream will be available to rebroadcast on-demand for 24 hours on 9 January via Viva Streaming.
Outside of the live music world, Viva Streaming’s most successful livestream event to date is the theatrical play To Trito Stefani, which sold 15,594 tickets priced at €12.99.
“We always try to offer innovative solutions to our clients, and we are happy to have done so with the introduction of Viva Streaming, which helps organisers tackle the impact of the pandemic,” says Vangelis Mitsis, Viva.gr director. “The success of our service goes to show that people are eager to watch events, and streaming is the next best thing until in-person shows recover. Our goal is to create a one-stop source for organisers to not only monetise their content but also get added revenue from merchandising and ad revenue share.”
Mediterranean signals hope for 2020 festival summer
Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, festivalgoers will get their chance to dance in the Mediterranean sunshine this year, with a number of festivals taking place in Greece, Malta, Croatia and on the southern coast of France
The first festival to return, Xlalala Presents-promoted Long Beach Festival 2.0 welcomed 2,000 festivalgoers over two days of performances in the northern city of Pydna from 24 to 25 July.
Although mostly seated, audience members were able to stand and still remain distant from each other at the Terra Republic festival site, which usually welcomes up to 50,000 concertgoers.
Hygiene regulations and temperature checks were in place at the festival, which featured performances from Greek acts including Stelios Dionisiou, Pyx Lax, Villagers of Ioannina City and Planet of Zeus.
Long Beach Festival will return next year with an extended, four-day programme from 4 to 8 August.
Xlalala Presents’ Athens event, Urban Athens, is set to go ahead from 7 to 8 August at Terra Vibe Park with the same line-up.
Also taking place from 7 August is GEM Festival, a four-stage, three-day event on the Greek island of Zakynthos, or Zante, with acts including Andrea Ferlin, Anushka, Paul van Dyk and Romeo Blanco.
The festival has reduced capacity at its 110,000 square-metre site and will not allow camping. Guests will be temperature tested on entry, with those showing signs of a high temperature being tested for Covid-19. Everyone entering the festival’s VIP area will also be tested.
Tickets for the festival are priced at €30 for a one-day pass and €170 for a full ticket, with VIP passes costing €1,250.
Festivals are also making an appearance this summer in France, with the Panda Events- and Allover-promoted Les Croisières Électroniques (Electronic Cruises) taking place in Cannes Bay from 2 to 9 and 23 to 30 August.
Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, festivalgoers will get their chance to dance in the Mediterranean sunshine this year
The cataraman-based event will see up to 100 music fans a time board from Cannes Bay and Lerins Island for a day of music, dancing and water sports.
Tickets start from €70, with VIP options also available.
Family Piknik festival, postponed from July, is another event entertaining French music fans, bringing two days of live music to the grounds of Montpellier Airport, with sets from Charlotte de Witte, La Fleur, Rodriguez Jr, Tom Pooks and Mind Against.
With a limited capacity of 5,000, the event is taking place on 12 September. Tickets, €40 regular and €100 for a backstage pass, are available here.
Across the Mediterranean, the island state of Malta is also preparing to welcome back festivalgoers, with BPM Festival Malta (Fatboy Slim, Amelie Lens, Maceo Plex), Escape 2 the Island festival (AJ Tracey, Fredo, Aitch), Rhythm and Waves festival (Chase and Status, Shy FX, Wilkinson) and Mi Casa festival (Gorgon City, Hannah Wants, Sonny Fodera) all open to international revellers at the end of August and throughout September.
A fifth Maltese festival, Back.In the Future, has been called off due to “lower than expected ticket sales”. The event, due to take place at open-air venues Gianpula Village and Uno Malta from 29 to 30 August, was to feature acts including Chase and Status, DJ EZ and Wiley.
Ticketholders will receive an automatic refund and will also be offered complimentary guestlist entry to Escape 2 the Island and/or Rhythm and Waves festivals, as well as a €50 drinks credit.
Croatia, normally a hotspot of summer festival activity, is far quieter this year as authorities introduce stringent social distancing restrictions. Mainstays including Dimensions, Ultra Europe, Outlook, Sonus and Hideout are among those forced to cancel this year’s edition.
Some are still forging ahead, however. BSH Island festival, set to take place at the Noa Beach Club from 7 to 12 July, was forced to scrap its original format just a week prior to the event, downsizing from 5,000 capacity to 900 for an alternative, socially distanced festival.
Trance and progressive festival Awake is also going ahead in a socially distanced manner. With a reduced capacity of 1,000, Awake will host acts including Cosmic Gate, Paul Thomas and Paul van Dyk from 20 to 23 August on Zcre beach.
Tickets for Awake, including hotel, villa and apartment packages, are available here. Day tickets start from €40 and four-day passes priced at €152.
This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.
Festivals to take place in Greece this summer
Long Beach Festival 2.0 and Urban Athens Festival 2.0, organised by promoter Xlalala, will ensure the festival season lives on in Greece this summer.
The two open-air festivals will see a selection of Greek acts including Visitors of Ioannina City, Pyx Lax and Vasilis Papakonstantinou perform on 24 to 25 July in Thessaloniki and 7 to 8 August in Athens.
“The original design for this summer may have changed unexpectedly, but the current conditions give us the opportunity to support our favourite artists and bands of the domestic music scene,” state organisers.
According to organisers, the 2.0 versions of the festivals represent “something brand new, something different, revolutionary, [and] totally revamped” from the originally planned events.
Xlalala had previously announced that the 2020 editions of Long Beach and Urban Athens, set to feature Uriah Heap and the Waterboys, would not be able to take place due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The current conditions give us the opportunity to support our favourite artists and bands of the domestic music scene”
The yearly Athens and Epidaurus Festival, which includes music, theatre and opera, is also going ahead in a modified form from 5 to 15 August. The programme has been cut down from 70 events to 17, with all taking place in open spaces.
Greek singers Giannis Angelakas and Monika will perform as part of the festival.
Having imposed a blanket ban on events early on in the pandemic, the government in Greece started to ease restrictions in May, and is allowing open-air live shows to restart from 15 July.
Restrictions include ensuring there is a distance of three metres between the stage and the first row of spectators; limiting capacity to 40% of a venue’s total; and keeping 1.5 metres between individual members of the audience.
Phase seven of the country’s reopening plan, which began this week, saw the restarting of much of the entertainment and leisure economy, including the reopening of open-air nightclubs and bars.
Modern culture matters, too
Greece is a country famous for its antiquities and history. And modern culture is by no means a priority for our government.
It is fair to say that they have, at best, a vague idea about the important issues in our field. To add to this, over the last few decades, the – many – Greek ministers of culture have been people unrelated to culture.
So, it is hard for these people to now, all of sudden, realise that something that they have been ignoring for so long is actually worth supporting.
In our case, EJEKT Festival has been a leading music festival in Greece and the eastern European region for 16 years. Every year we bring thousands of tourists to Greece; in 2020, our main headliner was the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and we were expecting around 10,000 visitors from other countries across the two days.
It’s clear, then, that we are generating a lot of income for the country and for Athens, and that we provide work for many people. But in our 16 years, we have never had any sort of support from any government or municipal office.
Our company’s turnover will go from a few million euros in 2019 to zero in 2020
Even though the government first banned all shows on 10 March, only on 7 May did they announce that no shows are to happen until 15 July. After that date, shows can happen only in open-air venues but with 40% attendance and with people standing 1.5 metres apart. In reality, it is clear that concerts and festivals cannot happen.
In light of the above, this year EJEKT Festival cannot take place. The same goes for all our other concerts. This means that our company’s turnover will go from a few million euros in 2019 to zero in 2020, and we have no idea what will happen in 2021.
But we have to pay our employees, our taxes, our rent and our other expenses. As far as we understand, many companies in our field cannot sustain this, and will go bust.
On 7 May, after two months of lockdown, the Ministry of Culture finally informed us of their plans for the summer. Clearly, we – the concert and festival producers – are not included. The only positive thing we heard was that they are planning to create a voucher scheme for cancelled events, but they gave no details about it, so we have to wait for that, too.
So, for now, we will keep asking for financial support to pay our employees, tax breaks for the live entertainment sector, and more wide-ranging support for the numerous people who work in our field. They deserve it.
Greek industry asks for aid as end of lockdown looms
As Greece begins to lift its strict Covid-19 lockdown measures, a coalition of the country’s arts and culture workers – most of whom will be excluded by the limited resumption of live entertainment this summer – are demanding immediate financial aid to see them through the “forced unemployment” of the coming months.
Under the banner Support Art Workers, some 17,000 musicians, artists, technical staff and other creative professionals have hit out at what they call the “absence of any government plan for the thousands of people who work” in the cultural sector, warning of an “irreparable blow” to the industry should government not take action to safeguard its future.
In contrast to many of its European neighbours, there has not been any sector-specific aid offered to the estimated 100,000 people who work in the music and creative industries in Greece, according to Support Art Workers.
The intervention comes as Greece begins to ease the emergency measures implemented to stop the spread of the coronavirus, with “low-congestion” shops and services, such as book shops, electronics retailers and hairdressers, allowed to open as of yesterday (Monday 4 May). Schools and churches will reopen on 11 May, while the country’s famous archaeological sites will follow on 18 May.
Greek cafés, restaurants and hotels, meanwhile, are permitted to resume business from 1 June – albeit with continued social distancing – with some entertainment and sports venues, such as smaller theatres and cinemas, also able to open next month, according to Greece’s ministry of culture.
“Most European countries have found a way to support businesses and workers”
However, Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has indicated large-scale entertainment events such as music festivals will be unlikely to go ahead.
The plans have been criticised by Support Art Workers, with dancer, lawyer and campaign spokesperson telling Monopoli.gr: “The entertainment industry is in a state of forced unemployment – [for the majority of people] there is no work. Therefore, the announcement that some events will take place and some theatres will be opened is misplaced, since on the one hand it does not cover a huge percentage of employees, and on the other hand it leaves open a series of issues for the health of employees and spectators.”
Among Support Art Workers’ demands are a one-off ‘art workers’ allowance’ of €800 for 45 days, as well as tax relief for self-employed freelancers, a 40% reduction in rent and the establishment of a pan-industry committee to consult on safely reopening venues and productions.
Katerina Stamataki, president of the Panhellenic Association of Cultural Events Organisers and owner of the production company PROSPERO, comments: “We are being told in May we may open our businesses, without having any work – only expenses and no income to support the costs of our businesses and to pay employees’ salaries. We need help in suspending our tax and insurance obligations, in subsidising the rent of our companies and employees, and in interest-free finance from the state…
“Most European countries have found a way to support businesses and workers. I hope we can find one too.”