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Belgium’s Jazz Middelheim gets new operator

The City of Antwerp has selected a partnership between the Brosella and Paradise City festivals to relaunch the Jazz Middelheim festival.

First held in 1969, Jazz Middelheim hosted artists such as Van Morrison, Jamie Cullum, Patti Smith, Ludovico Einaudi, Jean “Toots” Thielemans, John Zorn, Wynton Marsalis, Wayne Shorter, Kenny Werner, Archie Shepp, Robin Verheyen and Cassandra Wilson.

It was most recently staged in 2022, but Jazz en Muziek – the non-profit organisation behind the festival – went bankrupt at the end of last year. Jazz en Muziek also staged Gent Jazz Festival, which was rescued by Greenhouse Talent.

The new version of Jazz Middelheim will take place this year on a small scale in Antwerp’s Den Brandt Park, before a full-scale edition in 2025.

Details for the 2024 edition are yet to be announced, although the organisers have stated their intention to extend the festival to two days in September.

The City of Antwerp was attracted by the “balance between tradition and innovation” proposed by Brosella and Paradise City

Meanwhile, the festival’s name is currently still being negotiated as the brand is owned by Flemish public broadcaster VRT.

A total of eight candidates came forward in response to the call for a new Jazz Middelheim promoter, launched in 2023 by the City of Antwerp.

The municipal authorities were attracted by the “balance between tradition and innovation” proposed by Brosella and Paradise City, as well as their “experience in organising events in a green park environment”.

“The Brosella festival is synonymous with a varied musical offering of urban ethno and jazz and many musical styles in between,” says the City. “It presents and produces musical projects by big names and young national and international talent. Every year, the Paradise City Festival marks the start of summer for fans of electronic music on the site of a castle and is recognised worldwide for its considerable efforts in terms of sustainable development.”

Antwerp’s councillor for culture, Nabilla Ait Daoud, adds: “We are looking forward to a festival that is both warm and intimate, that honours both the past and the future of jazz, and that puts Antwerp back on the international jazz map.”

Bert Schreurs, director of Brosella Festival, comments: “We want to combine classic, established jazz artists with DJs influenced by jazz. In this way, we hope to appeal to a younger audience. We are therefore joining forces with Paradise City.”

 


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Greenhouse sells 120k tickets for Clouseau shows

Greenhouse Talent has revealed it has sold 120,000 tickets in just one hour for a series of concerts marking the 40th anniversary of Belgian pop group Clouseau.

The band, who mainly perform in Dutch, have a large following across Belgium and the Netherlands, and have already sold out eight nights at Antwerp’s Sportpaleis (cap. 23,001) from 20 December 2024 to 4 January 2025.

The response has prompted them to add two extra shows for 9-10 January 2025, bringing their overall number of dates at the venue to 10. Tickets are priced €34-64.

Clouseau played their first ever show on 16 December, 1984 at the CC Sint-Genesius-Rode in Belgium.

“It is clear that no one wants to miss Clouseau’s fortieth birthday,” says a statement by Greenhouse. “No fewer than 120,000 tickets, good for eight Sports Palaces, flew out the door in barely an hour. Demand remains enormous, so Clouseau is adding two extra dates.”

Greenhouse Talent also has upcoming shows with the likes of Jason Derulo, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Rick Astley

The Ghent-based promoter and booking agency also has upcoming shows with the likes of Tony Hadley, Alexis Ffrench, Till Lindemann, Eagle-Eye Cherry, Paul Young, Air, Jason Derulo, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Rick Astley.

The company rescued Belgium’s Gent Jazz Festival from bankruptcy earlier this year after previous organiser went bankrupt. The 2023 event, held from 5-15 July, pulled in around 40,000 visitors across 74 concerts by acts including Ludovico Einaudi, Norah Jones and Herbie Hancock.

“I have a long history with the festival,” Greenhouse Talent owner Pascal Van De Velde told IQ. “We have supplied many headline acts in the past and one of the founders was my best friend, who passed away in 2011, so there was an emotional connection. There is also a geographical connection because it is in our hometown and there is, of course, a content connection because we promote so much jazz.

“We relaunched it and had a very successful edition – one of the most successful editions the festival has ever had.”

Gent Jazz Festival was recently profiled as part of IQ‘s list of ten of the best independent festivals.

 


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Greenhouse Talent boss on the future of Gent Jazz

Greenhouse Talent owner Pascal Van De Velde has spoken to IQ about the future of Belgium’s Gent Jazz Festival after rescuing the event earlier this year.

The Ghent-based promoter and booking agency acquired the international jazz festival after previous organiser – the non-profit Jazz en Muziek – went backrupt at the end of 2022.

“Gent Jazz Festival had been going for 20-plus years, but the bad news came that it had gone bankrupt by the end of last year, so there wasn’t going to be an edition in ’23 and it was in the hands of an administrator,” explains Van De Velde. “So we said to ourselves, why not try to buy it? And we came to an agreement and bought what was left of it: we bought the name and took over their staff.”

The 5,500-cap festival has attracted acts such as BB King, Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga, Sting, Elvis Costello, Diana Krall, Van Morrison, Tom Jones, Gregory Porter, Grace Jones and Jamie Cullum through the years.

“I have a long history with the festival,” adds Van De Velde. “We have supplied many headline acts in the past and one of the founders was my best friend, who passed away in 2011, so there was an emotional connection. There is also a geographical connection because it is in our hometown and there is, of course, a content connection because we promote so much jazz.

“By February, the deal was done and we got the licence from the city of Ghent. We relaunched it and had a very successful edition – one of the most successful editions the festival has ever had.”

“We’re a very independent company. We don’t like to rely on bosses or structures that have goals not directly connected to promoting shows”

This year’s event, held from 5-15 July, pulled in around 40,000 visitors across 74 concerts. Artists included Ludovico Einaudi, Norah Jones and Herbie Hancock. While it was the first edition to be held under Greenhouse’s control, changes were kept to a minimum.

“I think we boosted the quality of the production, hospitality, marketing and promotion,” says Van De Velde. “We didn’t change the stage set-up, which is the main stage and a second stage. And we didn’t change the formula: it was still a 10-day festival between the first and the third weekend of July.

“The location is very beautiful. It’s in the historical city centre of Ghent, so you’ve got restaurants, hotels and the centre of the town all around the festival. We have four acts on the main stage and four acts on the garden stage, so it’s not hectic; it’s more relaxed and comfortable. Every act plays at least a one-hour set in the best acoustic conditions. We can also do seated shows, which is not possible at a lot of festivals.”

Dates for the 2024 event are still to be confirmed but Van De Velde says work is already underway behind the scenes.

Gent Jazz Festival is profiled as part of IQ‘s list of ten of the best independent festivals, in which Van De Velde discusses the benefits of remaining indie in 2023.

“Whenever festivals are taken over by bigger machines, they start to get streamlined and become a little bit samey. That is something we would like to avoid,” he concludes. “We’re a very independent company. We don’t like to rely on bosses or structures that have goals not directly connected to promoting shows. We are concerts and festival-driven, and to keep that purity is very important.”

 


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Gent Jazz Festival starts fresh chapter

Greenhouse Talent says Belgium’s Gent Jazz Festival enjoyed a “successful new start” in its first year under new ownership.

The Ghent-based promoter and booking agency stepped in to acquire the international jazz festival after previous organiser – the non-profit Jazz en Muziek – went backrupt at the end of 2022.

The latest edition, held in Bijloke, Ghent, from 5-15 July, pulled in around 40,000 visitors across 74 concerts, in line with last year’s record numbers.

Proximus reports that seven of the 10 festival days sold out, including two shows by composer Ludovico Einaudi, along with concerts by Norah Jones and Herbie Hancock.

Acts to have performed at Gent Jazz Festival down the years include Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga, Sting, Van Morrison, Tom Jones, Gregory Porter, Grace Jones and Jamie Cullum.

“Jazz is a genre in which many artists age with dignity. That also applies to Gent Jazz”

Speaking to Nieuwsblad, Greenhouse Talent owner Pascal Van De Velde says he does not intend to tinker with the festival format too much going forward.

“The formula is fine,” he says. “You don’t put your kitchen table in a different room every year, do you? No, we see it this way: jazz is a genre in which many artists age with dignity. That also applies to Gent Jazz.”

Details of next year’s edition will be announced in the coming months.

Founded in 2004, Greenhouse Talent is the largest independent concert organiser in the Benelux and organises 500 concerts in the region each year, having previously worked with artists including Elvis Costello, Justin Bieber, Elton John, Massive Attack, Clouseau and the Rolling Stones.

 


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Greenhouse Talent recovers Gent Jazz Fest from bankruptcy

Ghent-based concert promoter and booking agency Greenhouse Talent has acquired Gent Jazz Festival, recovering it from bankruptcy.

The international jazz festival takes place annually in Bijloke, Ghent, across two weeks in July with some of the world’s best jazz performers. Last year’s edition attracted a record 42,000 visitors.

Jazz en Muziek, the non-profit organisation behind the Ghent Jazz Festival and Jazz Middelheim in Antwerp, went bankrupt at the end of last year.

The Belgian press says the insolvency was partly due to a ‘high mountain’ of debt and a conflict between organiser Bertrand Flamang and the board of directors.

Greenhouse director and founder Pascal Van De Velde says the three permanent employees of Jazz en Muziek will remain employed.

“The intention is that we will soon get together with the city of Ghent and the Bijloke to see if we can organise an edition in 2023,” he told VRT.

“The intention is that we will soon get together with the city of Ghent and the Bijloke to see if we can organise an edition in 2023”

“We will have to switch very quickly, but I am convinced that we will succeed. We once organised two Prince concerts on Sint-Pietersplein in one month, so we are a bit used to it.”

Founded in 2004, Greenhouse Talent is now the largest independent concert organiser in the Benelux with 40 permanent employees and offices in Ghent and Breda.

The promoter organises 500 concerts in the Benelux each year, with previous clients including Elvis Costello, Justin Bieber, Elton John, Massive Attack, Clouseau and The Rolling Stones.

“Greenhouse Talent was chosen as a suitable partner on the basis of a thoroughly prepared qualitative offer, its rock-solid reputation, but in particular its commitment to keep all employees on board, the correct acquisition price, its commitment to organise the festival in close collaboration with the City of Ghent, the Bijloke Abbey and the cultural partners involved, and to guarantee the continued existence of the Young Jazz Talent competition in order to give young talent in Ghent a stage,” says liquidator Matthias Gesquière.

Jazz Middelheim in Antwerp was not part of the deal, leaving a question mark over the continued existence of the festival.

 


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Top Euro promoters speak out on new Covid spike

A handful of top European promoters have spoken to IQ about the impact the latest Covid spike is having on the continent’s live music business.

Record daily infections have been reported in Germany and the Netherlands, while Austria and Belgium have introduced new measures. In the UK, Northern Ireland is following Scotland’s lead in introducing Covid passports to gain entry to venues.

In France, however, the government has just lifted capacity restrictions on standing at indoor concerts following a campaign by French live music association Prodiss.

“France is always different to everywhere else,” laughs Paris-based promoter Arnaud Meersseman, who says he senses “clouds on the horizon”.

“There is a general sense that whilst Germany and Austria have rather low vaccination rates, it is very worrisome that countries such as Belgium and Netherlands – that have a vaccination rate close to ours – are in the situation they are in. So there is some anxiety,” he tells IQ.

Meersseman suspects new rules could be introduced at a government meeting next week after president Emmanuel Macron fired a “warning shot” in a public address earlier this month.

You start losing territories like Holland and Germany and suddenly your tour isn’t viable economically anymore

“We were at 12,000 cases a day a week ago, and now we’re at 20,000,” says the AEG Presents France head. “So it’s getting to that point where it trickles and then suddenly, boom, it becomes exponential.

“I don’t think we’ll go back into full lockdown. But in terms of our business, well, there’s not much going on anyway – even for domestic acts – in November and December. I think there could be some impact there, we’ll see. But I’m not very positive about it and I’m not feeling super positive about January/February either.

“Domestic tours, maybe they go ahead in February/March. But for international tours, it feels highly unlikely that anything happens between January and March because you start losing territories like Holland and Germany and suddenly your tour isn’t viable economically anymore.”

He adds: “You can see that the weather definitely has an impact. If you look at Spain, Italy and Portugal; on top of having extremely high vaccination rates, they’re having very nice weather and their cases aren’t rising. It’s as soon as you get people back inside, basically, that the cases are rising again.”

Rock Werchter founder Herman Schueremans explains that, with Belgium entering a semi-lockdown this weekend, concert-goers for Saturday’s performance by Bazart at Antwerp’s Lotto Arena will be required to wear masks, whereas those attending the band’s first show tomorrow night will not.

“It’s a bit of a strange situation,” remarks the Live Nation Belgium boss. “But even though we know a percentage of the audience will not show up, we’re happy that our sold-out shows in November and December can all happen at full capacity. It’s key for the artists and their teams, and the venues, suppliers, security teams and crew, as well as our team.”

People don’t trust the shows in the near future will take place

Pascal Van De Velde of Greenhouse Talent reports that ticket sales for concerts in Belgium over the next two to three months have been “decimated” by the worsening situation.

“People don’t trust the shows in the near future will take place,” he says. “And people don’t feel like going anymore, as they think it’s no fun with the masks, etc.”

It is a similar state of play in Austria, where Goodlive Concerts MD Silvio Huber describes the current picture as a “mess”. Proof of a negative PCR test will be needed to attend concerts in Vienna from tomorrow, with a return to a full lockdown in the coming days looking increasingly likely.

“Restrictions are going to change every few days,” says Huber. “In the federal states of Salzburg und Upper Austria, the situation is out of control. Shows have been cancelled there already, and hospitals are getting their teams ready for triage as they are running out of intensive care beds slowly, but surely.

“Furthermore they have just announced there will be will a lockdown in Salzburg und Upper Austria from Monday onwards. We will see tomorrow if the rest of the country will join them. I’m pretty sure we will see a nationwide lockdown.”

Scores of shows in the Netherlands were postponed earlier this week after the Dutch government imposed a new partial lockdown. A capacity limit of 1,250 has been imposed on venues, with restrictions due to last until 4 December at the earliest.

We had to cancel or postpone all shows above 1,250-cap

“We had to cancel or postpone all shows above 1,250-cap, at least for three weeks and even beyond those dates,” says Jan Willem Luyken of Mojo Concerts. “Indoor, fixed seated shows can still happen with limited capacity, with proof of vaccine, negative test or [natural immunity from a previous positive test]. Bars and catering need to be closed from 8pm, so it’s a very complex situation indeed, and we’re still figuring it out.”

In light of the fresh measures, Luyken says the Dutch government has announced an extension of support programmes for the live event industry and cultural sector.

Germany’s Event Management Forum (EMF), which consists of five major organisations including live music associations BDKV and LiveKomm, has urged the German government to meet with music industry representatives before imposing new restrictions on the business. Outgoing chancellor Angela Merkel has called the country’s current Covid situation “dramatic” and said a fourth wave of the virus was hitting Germany with “full force”.

BDKV chief Jens Michow earlier laid bare the stark financial impact of the pandemic on the business.

“In the 20 months of actual lockdown, the loss of sales for concert, tour and festival organisers alone was around €3.5 billion by the end of last year,” he said. “By the end of 2021, the loss in sales will add up to at least €8.5bn.”

 


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Belgium’s inaugural Arena 5 concert series draws 50,000

The inaugural edition of Belgium’s Arena 5 concert series drew around 50,000 people over the course of seven weeks.

The series was the initiative of Brussels Expo, Ghent-based promoter/agency Greenhouse Talent and Festival Les Ardentes who built a brand new stage for the festival at the Place de Belgique, among the exhibition halls of Brussels Expo.

Having launched Arena 5 in July, the promoters were frequently forced to adapt the festival in line with ever-changing Covid-19 restrictions.

“Flexibility of capacity and configuration has proven to be a major asset in the face of rapidly changing health measures,” says Greenhouse Talent.

“”Flexibility of capacity and configuration has proven to be a major asset in the face of rapidly changing health measures”

“The first concerts in July began in front of a seated audience and with respect for social distancing. In August, the green light was given for the organisation of a test event where more than 5,000 fans of techno were able to unleash for the first time without masks or social distancing thanks to the Covid Safe Ticket. It was a successful event, which marked the start of a series of other parties with even more people – up to 7,500 people.”

SCH, Peggy Gou, Feu Chatterton, Hooverphonic, Amelie Lens, Charlotte De Witte, Peggy Gou, 2ManyDjs and Tale of Us were among the international and domestic acts that performed at Arena 5 between 22 July and concluded on 12 September.

The organisers have confirmed that Arena 5 will return in summer 2022 for a second edition.

 


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Market report: Belgium

As it is with property, so it is With smallish European countries: it’s all about location, location, location.

Belgium is the 34th biggest (or 16th smallest) nation in Europe by area – it would fit into France 18 times. But it might just be the best-positioned country on the continental mainland, with French, German, Dutch and Luxembourgian borders, and just two hours by train from London.

“We are the best-situated country in Europe,” concurs Pascal Van De Velde of Ghent-based promoter/agency Greenhouse Talent. “If you come from the UK to Germany, you drive through Belgium, and vice versa. If you come down from Scandinavia to southern Europe, you go through Belgium. Logistically, there is always a date for Belgium. And the market is good.”

Well, that’s true. Belgium might be small, but it’s packed – the 13th most-populous European country, with 11m inhabitants, 97% of whom live in towns or cities. So you’re always near a venue; you’re wealthier per head than the UK and France, and not far behind Germany; and in addition to a fairly world-class calendar of tours, you’ve got some of Europe’s biggest festivals in Rock Werchter, Pukkelpop, Dour, Graspop and Tomorrowland.

Then again, few countries have escaped entirely without injury these last few years, whether economic or of a more sinister kind. In common with an ever-growing list of countries, Belgium was the focus of a devastating terrorist incident when three co-ordinated suicide bombings in Brussels on 22 March 2016 killed 32 civilians and three perpetrators. One of many results of the attacks was to put a dent in the live business for much of the remainder of the year.

In January, Belgium lowered its threat level from three to two, judging another attack to be ‘unlikely,’ but while the audiences have come back, the promoters don’t soon forget. “The terrorist attacks were rough, especially the times when they were happening,” says Van De Velde. “And then in the slipstream of it, just security-wise – I can’t say that acts cancelled but putting the shows together was really nasty and difficult because the acts were scared and the audiences were reluctant.”

“We are the best-situated country in Europe”

“But it’s picked up,” he reflects. “It picks up again. When first the Bataclan attacks happened, and then, of course the Brussels attacks, that was huge. The market is very vulnerable, but it recovers fast. People want to go out and see shows, and it moves on. People get sort of used to the situation, you know?”

It takes a little while, though. In the summer of 2016, even a super-festival like Rock Werchter had a tricky year, its attendance 4,500 down on the previous year, compounded by heavy rain in the run-up. “Some people stopped going to shows in 2016 due to terrorism,” says Werchter founder and Live Nation Belgium CEO Herman Schueremans, “but they seem to have realised in 2017 that it doesn’t make sense to sit at home, and they decided to live again and enjoy shows and festivals in 2017.”

Last year, says Schueremans, things were resoundingly back to normal. “It appears that they made up in 2017 what they missed in 2016. Of course, the bills of the festivals and the multiple, top-quality tours helped to achieve that. And it looks as if that trend is confirming itself in 2018, both festival- and indoor-wise. Religion and politics divide; music unites.”

Sometimes, it unites in unusual ways. In May, Night of the Proms promoter PSE joined with Werchter, Pukkelpop and GraciaLive to protest local performance rights organisation Sabam’s January move to raise tariffs across the board. Among the increases is a 30% spike in festival rates to 3.25% of box-office receipts, and a 16% hike for larger shows to 3.5%.

PSE’s Jan Vereecke accused Sabam of “simply abusing its monopoly – it is offering no additional services in exchange for the price increase.” Since then, talks have been ongoing, with no resolution yet reached. PwC estimates the value of the Belgian live business at $322m (€261m), and the fact that IQ is reporting at a time of ongoing prosperity and restored calm needn’t mask the fact that Belgium is a more unusual country than many.

 


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