Superstruct expands in the Dutch festival market
Live powerhouse Superstruct Entertainment has acquired a stake in Amsterdam-based Festival Travel.
Specialising in festival holidays, Festival Travel has organised travel arrangements for international visitors to events such as Exit in Serbia and Hungary’s Sziget and Balaton Sound over the past decade.
Providence Equity-backed Superstruct produces a number of major European festivals including Sziget, Elrow, Parookaville, Wacken Open Air, Boardmasters, Sonar and the Dutch festival Zwarte Cross.
“It is very valuable to gain the trust of a company of this size”
“It is very valuable to gain the trust of a company of this size,” says Festival Travel co-owner Ruud Bongaerts. “The customer experience is always central to our way of acting and with that, we create unique festival summers for tens of thousands of young people every year.
“The past summers were of course very difficult for us, with everything that resulted from the corona pandemic, but this new chapter gives us a lot of confidence in the future.”
The parties released no further details on the deal, which was reported by Netherlands-based publication Entertainment Business and comes a week after Superstruct signed a partnership agreement with Dutch promoter ID&T.
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ID&T joins forces with Superstruct Entertainment
Dutch promoter ID&T has signed a partnership agreement with leading live organisation Superstruct Entertainment.
According to today’s announcement, the deal has helped steer ID&T into “a safe haven” after a tough year and a half that saw the company take out a number of loans, slash its workforce, and cancel its festivals.
“By creating this financially sound situation, we have secured the employment of our 100+ employees and are able to move forward with our suppliers who are also struggling at this time,” says Ritty van Straalen, CEO of the ID&T Group.
Financial terms of the partnership have not been disclosed but it has been revealed that the founders and senior management of the ID&T Group have become shareholders in Superstruct.
Providence Equity-backed Superstruct produces a number of major festivals across Europe including Sziget, Elrow, Parookaville, Wacken Open Air, Boardmasters, Sonar and the Dutch festival Zwarte Cross – the company’s first acquisition since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020.
ID&T’s portfolio includes Mysteryland, Defqon.1, Awakenings, and Milkshake – all of which have been cancelled two years in a row due to restrictions.
It is also the parent company of organisations such as Q-dance, ID&T Events, B2S, Monumental (Awakenings), Art of Dance, Platinum Agency, and Headliner Entertainment.
“ID&T is a significant milestone for Superstruct and reflects our deep conviction in the value of experience-focused festivals”
James Barton, chairman of Superstruct Entertainment: “We are very excited to join forces with ID&T, a business that I have long admired. Our partnership with ID&T is a very significant milestone for Superstruct and reflects our deep conviction in the value of experience-focused live music festivals and our excitement about the significant joint growth opportunities that lie ahead as live events return.”
The companies say the deal will provide great opportunities in sharing knowledge and creating synergies between the companies to further improve the fan experience at their festivals.
Ritty van Straalen, CEO of the ID&T Group adds: “ID&T will celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2022. This partnership is an important strategic step in the development of our company, which we already embarked upon in 2019, pre-covid, and was ultimately delayed by 1.5 years.
“The past 19 months have been very tough for us and the entire event industry, but we are excited to see that Superstruct has been able to look through the current environment, recognising the combined potential of these two world-class companies.
“The international live events industry is increasingly consolidating and Superstruct has developed itself into a high quality, market-leading powerhouse in our industry. We are happy to be part of such an experienced group and strongly believe we can reinforce each other in many ways.”
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350+ Dutch fests join protest: “We will not be silenced”
More than 350 organisations from the Dutch event industry are backing a protest march against the government’s ‘arbitrary’ restrictions which have effectively wiped out the festival season.
Last Friday (13 August), the cabinet announced that the current restrictions preventing multi-day festivals with overnight stays will remain in force until 19 September – despite the promise they could take place again when everyone has been offered the vaccine.
The protest, dubbed ‘Unmute Us‘, has drawn support from some of the Netherlands’ biggest and best-known festivals such as DGTL, A State of Trance Festival, Amsterdam Open Air, Awakenings, Best Kept Secret, Defqon, Dekmantel Festival, Down The Rabbit Hole, Lowlands, Mysteryland and Paaspop.
While many of the aforementioned festivals have been cancelled as a result of government restrictions, other large events outside of the live music industry have been permitted to take place with hundreds of thousands of attendees.
“Elsewhere in society there is room for full football stadiums and overcrowded fairgrounds, but safely organised events are not given any space. And that has been the case since the start of the pandemic, more than a year and a half ago,” reads a statement on the ‘Unmute Us’ website.
“It is measured with two measures, with the message that Formula 1 in Zandvoort (operating at two-thirds of its normal capacity, with 105,000 visitors per day) can continue as an exception for the time being. It shows a total undermining and misjudgment of everyone who cares about culture and nightlife.”
“The studies and results are a painful reminder that at this point not corona, but politics is the cause of a festival-free summer”
The organisations involved point out that it was the government itself, along with Fieldlab, that conducted months of scientific research and pilot events to determine whether festivals could be organised safely.
It was ultimately revealed that, when following certain hygiene and testing protocols, the risk of Covid-19 infection at concerts and festivals is about the same as being at home.
“The studies and results are a painful reminder that at this point not corona, but politics is the cause of a festival-free summer and uncertain future,” the ‘Unmute Us’ manifesto continues.
As well as event organisers, it is hoped that the campaign will galvanise young festivalgoers who have ‘been delivered empty promises by the government and kept on mute’.
“With ‘Unmute Us’ we make a fist. We are sending out a clear signal to The Hague: it can no longer be done like this, we will not be silenced. The sector asks for a clear plan for the future, with measurable agreements, but also for recognition of the emotional state of the many visitors and makers who do not feel heard. We want to be able to meet again, laugh and dance again. Above all, we want to be able to look ahead again.”
The ‘Unmute Us’ protest march will take place on Saturday 21 August in various Dutch cities.
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ID&T drops lawsuit against Dutch government
ID&T says it sees no legal grounds to advance with the preliminary injunction proceedings against the Dutch government for its restrictions on live music events.
Earlier this week, the government announced that only small, one-day festivals will be permitted to take place in the Netherlands this summer due to the number of Covid-19 infections and hospital admissions.
In response, the lawyer representing ID&T and more than 40 co-claimants from the live industry contacted the state lawyer to request the Outbreak Management Team’s (OMT) advice and the substantiation of the decision.
After deliberation between all parties, ID&T says it has become clear that the current summary proceedings cannot be continued.
Rosanne Janmaat, COO of the ID&T group says: “We are extremely disappointed in the outcome of the decision. In our opinion, Fieldlab Events has shown that it is possible to organise events in a safe and responsible way, but the cabinet has decided otherwise. Despite this, our lawyers have indicated that, in view of the OMT advice on which the cabinet’s decisions are substantiated this time, there is little chance of overturning the decision by means of summary proceedings.”
“We assume that the cabinet will soon take a structural decision and that we will be able to fully open again in September”
On 13 August, the current decision on live music events will be reconsidered by the cabinet.
“We assume that the cabinet will soon take a fundamental and structural decision and that we will be able to fully open again in September,” continues Janmaat.
“After all, it has always been communicated that when everyone who wants to has been able to vaccinate, that is the way out. If the government lets us dangle again and does not offer a sustainable future perspective, we will prepare possible legal steps and perhaps even call on our entire supporters of fans, suppliers, artists, etc. to mobilise and make themselves heard.”
The Dutch promoter – known for events such as Mysteryland, Sensation, Milkshake and Decibel Outdoor – announced the summary proceedings in early July after the government reimposed Covid restrictions weeks after they were lifted.
ID&T was then joined by more than 40 event organisations including Event Warehouse/Paaspop, DGTL and F1 Dutch Grand Prix Zandvoort.
Dutch festival organisers dealt another big blow
Only small, one-day festivals will be permitted to take place in the Netherlands this summer, the Dutch government has announced.
From 14 August, events with a maximum of 750 attendees can take place provided they meet a series of restrictions.
Attendees must be fully vaccinated, recovered from infection within the past six months, or present a negative test from Testing for Access. Visitors are also asked to take a test five days after the event. The events are not allowed closed festival tents.
Multi-day festivals with overnight stays are not allowed until at least 1 September, after the government last week extended the ban.
Events that cannot meet the aforementioned restrictions will not be covered by the government’s guarantee fund.
In addition to the measures for the event sector, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte also announced that those who get the Janssen jab will not be considered fully vaccinated until four weeks after, rather than two.
“[The government’s decision is] a bitter pill for the industry that has been closed for so long”
The Alliance of Event Builders (Alliantie van Evenementenbouwers) has reacted to the news: “Unfortunately, we conclude that the government is once again imposing a major restriction on the events today. As a result, the event industry is again faced with serious disappointment.
“After the multi-day festivals with camping last week, many one-day festivals and multi-day festivals without camping are now also deleted from the summer calendar. A hard decision and of course another big blow, a very sad observation and bitter pill for the industry that has been closed for so long.
“We will soon resume talks [with the government] for the period after 1 September. With the further increase in vaccination coverage and the insights from the Fieldlab Events studies, the Alliance is committed to a responsible, full opening of the planned events.”
Initially, the government was due to give a decision on one-day events without overnight stays on 13 August but the date was brought forward at the request of the events sector.
It’s like that the summary proceedings that promoter ID&T filed against the government also played a role in bringing the decision forward.
The event organiser – which has been forced to cancel events including Mysteryland – and 44 industry peers have filed a lawsuit against the government because they believed a decision on 13 August would be too late. The preliminary relief proceedings have been temporarily adjourned pending today’s decision.
The lawyer representing ID&T and co-claimants has contacted the state lawyer to request the Outbreak Management Team’s advice and the substantiation of the decision. ID&T will consider these documents and decide within two days whether the summary proceedings will be continued.
ID&T joined by raft of co-plaintiffs for gov case
More than 30 other event organisations including Event Warehouse/Paaspop, DGTL and F1 Dutch Grand Prix Zandvoort are joining ID&T as co-plaintiffs in its legal proceedings against the Dutch government.
ID&T, known for events such as Mysteryland, Sensation, Milkshake and Decibel Outdoor, announced on Friday (9 July) that it will initiate summary proceedings against the Dutch government over new Covid restrictions, which have been reimposed just weeks after they were lifted.
The co-plaintiffs say that the Dutch government’s decision to categorically ban non-seated public events and multi-day festivals until 14 August is “carelessly prepared and incorrect”.
The organisers have asked the judge in preliminary relief proceedings for permission to allow public events that meet the Fieldlab conditions.
Fieldlab’s conditions for organising a safe event, without social distancing, are based on findings from three months’ worth of pilot events, and have been endorsed by the Dutch government.
Dutch prime minister Rutte said the government won’t give any more clarity until 14 August for events after that date, leaving organisers in the dark.
“It is inexplicable to not have clarity of the conditions under which we can organise the event three weeks prior to the event”
Ritty van Straalen, CEO of ID&T, says: “We are overwhelmed by the support we received from our visitors, artists and partners in the past days. The fact that so many parties in the market are joining us reflects perfectly what the impact is on the entire public events industry.”
Imre van Leeuwen, managing director at F1 Dutch Grand Prix Zandvoort, says: “As a large-scale sports event, we deal with a long lead time and large financial risks. For us it is also inexplicable internationally to not have clarity of the conditions under which we can organise the event three weeks prior to the event. It’s even more disappointing that, despite the good work of Fieldlab Events and the high vaccination rate the Netherlands has achieved, we may not be able to make the event a huge success with the whole world watching.”
Joop Soree, CEO of The Event Warehouse, organiser of one of the biggest festivals in the Netherlands, Paaspop, and WiSH Outdoor, among others: “We join ID&T and the imminent summary proceedings because of the enormous (financial) consequences caused by the lack of clarity. We need to know where we, and the events industry, stand.”
The other parties that have joined the summary proceedings are Don’t Let Daddy Know, 24-uurs Solexrace, 4PM Entertainment, A Venue Events, Absolutely Fresh, Apenkooi, Apex Event Productions, BeetjeDansen Events, BZB, Chasing the Hihat, De Wijze Uil and E&A.
Elevations Events, Feestfabriek, First Vision, HockeyLoverz, Intents Events, Life Over Future, Minority Events, Nomads, One of the Guys, Par-T, Rebirth Events, Rotterdam Dance Parade, Sensation Events, Sportvibes, Thuishaven Events, Toffler, Trees of Live, UDC, and ZeeZout have also joined.
ID&T to sue Dutch gov over “disproportionate” restrictions
ID&T, the promoter behind festivals including Mysteryland and Awakenings, has announced it is taking the Dutch government to court over new Covid restrictions, which have been reimposed just weeks after they were lifted.
Prime minister Mark Rutte held a press conference last Friday (9 July), in which he announced that restrictions would renew on 10 July and remain until 14 August, in an effort to halt a sudden surge in Covid-19 restrictions.
Under the new measures, multi-day events will be banned and only one-day festivals will be permitted until 14 August, provided visitors are given a seat and no more than a thousand people attend.
In the press conference, Rutte said the government won’t give any more clarity until 14 August for events after that date – leaving organisers in a stalemate situation.
ID&T called the measures “disproportionate” and announced that the company would be filing a draft subpoena with the court today (12 July).
“It is our expertise to organise events well and safely and we know that our audience has the discipline,” says said Ritty van Straalen, CEO of ID&T.
“It feels like a death knell for our industry”
“We are now the good who suffer from the bad and it seems that the government prefers holidays over festivals. You can’t go into recess at a crucial moment like this and leave the industry dangling. Young people are disproportionately affected by these measures. The social importance of our industry is enormous.”
Mojo-promoted event A Campingflight to Lowlands Paradise (aka Lowlands) is due to take place on 20–22 August but festival director Eric van Eerdenburg tells IQ that the Dutch government has created an “unworkable situation”.
“For our festivals, Lowlands (20–22 August) and Down The Rabbit Hole (27–29 Aug), as well as suppliers and artists, this has created a lot of uncertainty. We are already building the infrastructure as we speak, and will continue to do so as we believe it should be possible to let them happen,” says Eerdenburg.
“Our belief is based on a constructive relationship between Mojo and the ministries of health and economic affairs, as well as the Outbreak Management Team that advises the government, we will get more clarity on how we can move on after close consultation in the next few days,” he added.
The Association of Dutch Poppodia and Festivals (VNPF) and the Association of Event Makers (VVEM) are also hoping to sit down with ministers to get a perspective on the summer season and discuss extra support measures.
In January, the government announced a €385 million insurance fund which would compensate organisers 80% of the costs of their event if it is cancelled due to state-enforced coronavirus measures.
“You can’t go into recess at a crucial moment like this and leave the industry dangling”
However, VNPF and VVEM are calling for the compensation to be increased to 100% and extended to organisers who have to cancel within an “unreasonably short period of time” but can’t claim under the scheme.
Eerdenburg says that Mojo is also pushing for the scheme to cover fees for UK artists, as well as those of Dutch and EU artists.
In a joint statement, the VNPF and VVEM wrote: “It feels like a death knell for our industry. Of course, it is understandable that measures are taken when the infection rate increases. However, within those measures, the industry that has not contributed to that higher infection rate at all is being hit hard. It was precisely our industry – the only industry in the Netherlands – that has actively sought solutions in recent months in collaboration with science and ministries.”
Fieldlab Evenementen – an initiative of the Dutch government and several trade bodies – recently revealed findings from three months’ worth of pilot events in the Netherlands show that the risk of Covid-19 infection, when following certain hygiene and testing protocols, is about the same as being at home.
According to OurWorldinData, daily cases in the Netherlands have risen almost sevenfold, from a rolling seven-day average of 49.2 per million people on 4 July to 328.7 on Sunday (11 July).
The Dutch prime minister today (12 July) acknowledged that the cabinet made an error of judgment with the rapid relaxation at the end of June. “What we thought was possible, was not possible.”
Rosanne Janmaat: “People can’t wait to go to a party again”
Rosanne Janmaat, chief operating officer of ID&T, has said the Dutch festival giant aims to give electronic music fans as much of a show as possible this summer when its flagship event, Mysteryland, returns in the final weekend of August.
Unlike the majority of rock and pop events, dance music festivals should be able to welcome international artists this summer, given how much smaller DJs’ touring footprints are compared to even a small band. “It’s different compared to events with pop or rock bands who come with their own production and their own roadies,” explains Janmaat (pictured). “For us it’s acts who comprise one or two people who play with records or with a USB stick.”
“Another big difference,” she continues, “is that with pop acts, they schedule do a tour in a certain territory, if one show falls away it doesn’t make sense to do the rest of the tour – they’re not going to fly out to do just one show in the Netherlands, for example. But with DJs, that’s quite common.”
However, as the Netherlands’ oldest and most famous electronic music festival, sky-high fan expectations mean it’s not possible for Mysteryland (which typically has a capacity of 60,000 people a day) to go ahead in a reduced, limited-capacity format complying with some form of restrictions on mass gatherings.
“If we reduce the capacity, that’s not the experience fans are buying the ticket for”
“We’ve had a lot of conversations about this, but with Mysteryland, for instance, if people have paid for admission they expect the full monty,” says Janmaat, “and if we reduce the capacity, we would also need to lower the number of stages or change the line-up, and that’s then not the experience that they’re buying the ticket for. So it wouldn’t be fair to the customers to change the format.”
At press time, that line-up had yet to be released, though the festival has announced the hosts for the 21 stages over 3 days which will be dotted throughout the Haarlemmermeerse Bos, the 115-hectare (285ac) park north of Amsterdam which has been the festival’s home since 2003.
“We tend to call ourselves creators instead of promoters,” continues Janmaat, who was promoted to COO at the beginning of this year. “Of course, the line-ups need to be top of the bill, but we create a whole themed world with lots of creations in it to mesmerise our audience. Even if someone comes for a certain DJ, they might end up in a really small, different stage because it’s so nice, creative and inspiring, and that’s always the adventure we’re aiming for.”
For ID&T, much of its end-of-summer planning will hinge on developments over the next few weeks. The next step in the Netherlands’ reopening plan, originally set for 11 May, has been postponed until tomorrow (20 May), and a controversial clause in the €300m cancellation fund for festivals that could require promoters/organisers to assume sole responsibility for the loan portion (20%) of the fund, despite it benefitting the entire industry, is proving a sticking point. “This is something we’ve flagged with the government,” explains Janmaat.
“We tend to call ourselves creators instead of promoters”
Despite the uncertainty, Janmaat is hopeful that her remaining summer events (at the time of writing, Mysteryland and Decibel Outdoor are still on, with the likes of Defqon.1 and Sensation having cancelled earlier this summer), all of which take place from the end of August onwards, can still happen in the kind of format fans expect from an ID&T format.
Whether that will be possible remains to be seen, though the promoter can take comfort either way in the fact that a year away has done little to dampen fan demand for its shows.
“Across the board for the company, 92% of fans have held onto their tickets,” Janmaat says. “We are very thankful that we have such a loyal fan base. Even now we are receiving emails on a daily basis from people saying, ‘Hey, listen, if you get a ticket back would you please sell it, because I missed out?’ And that’s for the ’22 edition of Defqon.1…
“For Mysteryland, we only have Sunday tickets left – Saturday and weekend passes are completely sold out. So our takeaway is that people can’t wait to go to a party again.”
Mysteryland 2021 takes place from Friday 27 to Sunday 29 August. Limited Sunday day tickets are still available, priced at €69.90 (GA) and €160 (premium).
ID&T, Mojo announce post-pandemic party (date TBA)
Dutch promoters Mojo and ID&T, along with Heineken, are organising the Netherlands’ first large-scale event without restrictions which will go ahead as soon as it is permitted.
The event, dubbed ‘Celebrate Life’, will take place in Amsterdam venues Ziggo Dome (cap. 17,000) and AFAS Live (6,000) on an unspecified date in the post-pandemic future.
“We haven’t danced together for over a year. Not partied for a whole year. As soon as the corona measures give us free rein, we will see you at the front of AFAS Live and Ziggo Dome! The moment the government gives the starting shot, we are shoulder to shoulder again. This can be during the weekend, but also take into account a weekday. We will of course inform you immediately,” reads a statement on the Celebrate Life website.
“The moment the government gives the starting shot, we are shoulder to shoulder again”
De Jeugd van Today, Maan, Ronnie Flex & the Fam and Vunzige Deuntjes Soundsystem have been announced for the four-and-a-half hour AFAS Live event, which is open to all ages.
Benny Rodrigues, Freddy Moreira, Kris Kross Amsterdam, Lucas & Steve and Sunnery James & Ryan Marciano have been announced for the 18+ Ziggo Dome event, which will run from 21:30 pm and 06:00 am.
Dutch residents are able to pre-register for tickets now which cost €50.40 and €61.60 respectively, or €89.60 for a combi ticket.
An event similar to Celebrate Life was announced at the beginning of the year by Live Nation Belgium, Studio Brussel and the Subs.
Billed as Belgium’s biggest “post-Covid party”, ‘I Want to Dance Again‘ will also take place in Antwerp as soon as restrictions on major events are lifted.
Dutch test festivals postponed due to weather
This weekend’s Back to Live test festivals, organised by Mojo, ID&T and Fieldlab, have been postponed by a week due to forecasted adverse weather conditions.
The two music festivals – a dance music event and a rock/pop festival – were scheduled to take place on Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 March, respectively, on the Lowlands and Defqon 1 site in Biddinghuizen, in the central Netherlands, admitting 1,500 participants each.
Due to the organisers’ concerns that the weather would lead to atypical results, the events have been rescheduled to 20 March and 21 March.
“The [bad weather] means that Fieldlab Events expects attendance to be lower and the stay shorter”
“The combination of heavy gusts of wind, rainfall and low temperature and the concerns expressed by our visitors, mean that Fieldlab Events expects attendance to be lower and the stay shorter,” Fieldlab told Nu.nl. “This means that the results of the survey will not be representative and the visitors’ experience is far from pleasant.”
Participants were tested for Covid-19 on Thursday (11 March) and will be required to retest before next weekend’s event.
Earlier this week, the Dutch government announced that a new Covid-19 app, called CoronaCheck, will be trialled at the Back to Live pilot festivals.
The pilot festivals are the last events in the Back to Live series, which includes the recent dance event and a concert at Amsterdam’s Ziggo Dome last weekend.