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Electric Picnic cancelled: “We have run out of time”

Electric Picnic 2021 has been cancelled following the local council’s refusal to grant the organisers a licence.

The Irish festival was scheduled for 24–26 September at Stradbally Hall Estate, County Laois but, at the beginning of August, the council declined to issue a permit based on “the most up-to-date public health advice”.

Electric Picnic’s promoters, Festival Republic and MCD, had previously petitioned Laois County Council to reverse its decision.

The council has since said it cannot legally revisit its previous refusal of an event licence for Electric Picnic 2021 and that statutory timelines would not allow for the processing of a new application in time for the original date.

“We would not be able to do the festival justice this close to show day”

“We have now run out of time,” the promoters wrote in a statement.

“Regrettably, we have no other choice but to cancel this year’s edition. We would not be able to do the festival justice this close to show day, and it would be unfair to ask ticket holders who’ve stood by us throughout this pandemic to come to EP and not get the full experience they are used to and deserve.”

Snow Patrol, Foals, Chemical Brothers, Rage Against The Machine, Lewis Capaldi, Skepta, James Vincent McMorrow, Denzel Curry were due to perform.

Ticketholders now have the option of obtaining a full refund or holding onto them for next year’s event, scheduled to take place from 2–4 September 2022.

A day before the festival was cancelled, the Irish government announced a new phased reopening plan which Festival Republic and MCD among others have long been calling for.

 


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Ireland’s live sector reacts to new reopening plan

Live music will return to Ireland for the first time in 18 months under the government’s new phased reopening plan.

In an announcement yesterday (29 August) evening, Taoiseach (prime minister of Ireland) Micheál Martin announced the government’s plan for reopening society over the coming months – including the gradual easing of restrictions on live events.

From 6 September, indoor events and mass gatherings can take place at 60% of a venue’s capacity where all patrons are immune (fully vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19 within the previous six months). At live entertainment events, all attendees must be seated.

For patrons who have mixed immunity status, there will be no change to the current restrictions during September.

“Now, more than ever, we need our government to listen to our voices and support us well into 2022”

Outdoor events and mass gatherings can take place at 75% of a venue’s capacity where all patrons are immune. Where patrons have mixed immunity status, the capacity limit will be 50%, subject to measures including social distancing between groups and face masks.

The next phase of Ireland’s reopening will start on 22 October, when the government will effectively end all restrictions including:

This phase is contingent on Covid-19 cases remaining manageable and 90% of adults being fully vaccinated. Currently, more than 88% of the population over 18 are fully vaccinated, with almost 92% of adults (aged 18 and over) having received at least one dose.

“Imposing a limit of 60% of seated capacity will render most (standing or seated) shows inoperable”

In a statement issued yesterday evening, the Music and Entertainment Association of Ireland (MEAI) welcomed the announcement but called for support as live music returns at reduced capacity.

“Our industry will not be fully reopened until we achieve 100% capacity,” it said. “Our industry will still display the scars of the financial hardship and mental health struggles many of us have endured and now, more than ever, we need our government to listen to our voices and support us well into 2022.

“We need that support so we can build our businesses, build our and your confidence, but most importantly, so we can build, upon our rich and proud heritage and culture, an industry that is bigger, brighter, bolder than ever before.”

Shane Dunne, promoter at MCD Concerts; board member of Epic working group; MD of Irish festival Indiependence, echoed the call for support: “It’s important that government financial support like Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) remains in place for those in our industry who have been out of work for over 550 days and that a scaffolding fund is put in place for 2022 to hold the industry upright at least equal to the funding given yearly to the funded sector here.”

“Seventy-five per cent capacity outdoors is workable but we weren’t given the notice on this that we’ve been asking for”

In regards to the capacity limits, Dunne added: “The 60% seated capacity restriction doesn’t work for our business so really we are closed until 22 October when it is planned for restrictions to be lifted. Seventy-five per cent capacity outdoors is workable but it’s a pity we weren’t given the notice on this that we’ve been asking for, for over a year – we’re swiftly running out of summer.”

Fin O’Leary, veteran promoter and co-founder of Singular Artists (a joint venture between DEAG/Kilimanjaro), told IQ: “Any movement on the relaxation of restrictions is welcomed, but imposing a limit of 60% of seated capacity will render most (standing or seated) shows inoperable, so we’re forced to move all pre-October 22 shows into 2022.”

Ireland’s minister for culture, Catherine Martin, says she will continue to lobby the government for sector-specific support.

“I am pleased that the cabinet understands the challenge our performance sector faces. I personally will ensure that this engagement continues.

“Public health is our priority and this phased approach to alleviating restrictions will take time but by continuing to listen to, and work together with, partners from the sector, we will start to repair an industry that has suffered so severely over the last 18 months. While today’s announcement is a milestone in our recovery, the government knows that Ireland’s art and culture sector needs support to help it thrive once more.”

 


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Ireland’s MCD: “We are angry and disappointed”

MCD Productions boss Denis Desmond says the Republic of Ireland’s live sector is “frustrated, disappointed and angry,” by the prolonged shutdown of the industry.

Industry representatives held a two-hour meeting with ROI’s minister for arts yesterday (18 August) but still, no date was set for the return of live concerts and cultural events.

“There are 35,000 people who are employed in the sector who haven’t worked in 525 days and it’s terrible,” Desmond tells IQ. “It’s very hard on people who have families and mortgages to pay. The government support is a small amount of money. A lot of people are struggling – not only financially but mentally.”

In comparison, the UK’s live industry has been fully open for a month and Scotland lifted most restrictions on 9 August.

Festival Republic director Melvin Benn told RTÉ’s News at One that the failure to allow live music events to return, including Electric Picnic (co-promoted with MCD), is “unnecessary and wrong,” given Ireland’s high vaccination rate.

He went on to say that Ireland’s situation contrasted with “political leadership” in other countries, including the UK. “It isn’t a different virus [in Ireland].”

“What we really need is a full reopening and a government-backed insurance scheme, similar to the UK”

The promoters’ comments come after their event, Electric Picnic, was denied a licence by the local council on the grounds of the current restrictions.

“We’re still looking at the options and we have written to the government asking why they made the decision. We’ve been assured that we’ll get an answer by next Monday so we’ll wait until we get a reply to review what happens next,” says Desmond.

The government has also promised a roadmap for reopening by the end of next week but it won’t be a silver bullet for the industry, says the MCD boss.

“What we really need is a full reopening and a government-backed insurance scheme, similar to the UK,” he tells IQ. “The most important thing about the UK’s scheme is that the insurance package is valid for 12 months because Covid is not going away. We’ve got to learn to live with it but there needs to be support for businesses.”

Desmond believes the lack of support for Ireland’s live music industry – and other markets in Europe – is down to a lack of understanding. “The reality is, there is little understanding of the contribution this industry makes to the economy and to the wellbeing of people,” he says.

The Republic of Ireland’s perceived lack of understanding is likely exacerbated by a lack of representation in political spheres. It was recently revealed that minister for arts Catherine Martin – whose plan to reopen the sector was snubbed by government – is not yet on the cabinet committee on Covid-19.

The Music and Entertainment Association of Ireland (MEAI) says the lack of representation is “disastrous” for the industry.

 


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Ireland’s Electric Picnic presses gov for reopening plan

Electric Picnic is calling on the Irish government to interrupt its summer recess and “immediately issue reopening guidelines,” after the festival was refused a licence for this year’s event.

The event, which would usually take place with 70,000 attendees per day, was scheduled to go ahead from 24–26 September at Stradbally Hall Estate, County Laois.

However, despite the organisers’ proposal to ensure that everyone attending the event would be fully vaccinated and registered in advance for contact tracing, the local council has declined to issue a permit based on “the most up-to-date public health advice”.

The council cited current government guidance in relation to “events of this nature being restricted to an attendance of 500 people only”.

“This was a very difficult decision for the council to make and I’m sure it will be disappointing to thousands of music fans and the live music industry,” says Laois County Council’s chairman, councillor Conor Bergin. “However, in the current climate, it’s the lack of certainty over Covid. We’d all love to see it go ahead but with no certainty, it’s very hard.”

The promoters, Festival Republic and MCD, described the news as a “huge blow and set back to our entire sector, which was mandated to close on the 12th March 2020 (over 500 days ago).”

The statement said that the decision means “the further loss of employment for over 3,000 people, who had clung to the hope that Electric Picnic would bring an end to their period of hardship”.

“This is a huge blow and set back to our entire sector”

“To see Scotland, a country with a similar population and virtually identical vaccine rollout and uptake as our own, only announce yesterday that they were easing restrictions and allowing events such as Trnsmt in Glasgow go ahead in September makes this decision even more difficult to accept,” it said.

It was announced yesterday that Trnsmt was granted ‘gateway event’ status by the government, exempting it from the capacity limit for outdoor events.

The three-day event will take place this September with up to 50,000 non-socially distanced fans per day.

Electric Picnic is now calling on the Irish government to reopen the live music sector “on a phased basis” from 14 August, building to the lifting of restrictions from 1 September onwards.

The organisers say they’re now “reviewing their options” and will be in contact with ticket holders over the next week.

Should Electric Picnic 2021 be cancelled, it will mark two years in a row without the festival. The festival has been staged annually since 2004.

 


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Irish concert businesses receive €25m summer funding

The government of the Republic of Ireland has announced recipients of its €25 million in to assist commercial venues, producers and promoters to plan live performances across the country over the summer months, with a total of 237 organisations benefitting from the scheme.

The live performance support scheme (LPSS) is part of a €50m suite of measures to support the live entertainment sector, and follows exceptional demand for a €5m pilot scheme in in 2020. The scheme aims to support live performances, particularly where capacity for live attendance is restricted due to Covid-19 and where funding will make live performances viable or alternatively make them available online if audiences cannot attend due to restrictions.

Among the companies to benefit from LPSS funding include Festival Republic, which has been awarded €423,000 for live shows in Stradbally Hall (home to its festival Electric Picnic) and the Olympia Theatre in Dublin; Aiken Promotions, which received €500,000 for its live performances at Dublin’s Vicar Street; and Pod, which has also been awarded €500,000 for Meadows Festival, a socially distanced festival of music, comedy and spoken word.

“The scheme aims to support live performances, particularly where capacity for live attendance is restricted due to Covid-19 restrictions”

Over 400 companies and businesses applied for the scheme. A Word document of all successful applications is available here.

Irish culture minister Catherine Martin says: “I am very pleased to announce this funding, which will encompass and support a wide range of performances over the coming summer months. I know this funding will assist in the employment of performers, artists, technicians, creative and performance support staff across the sector, bringing much-needed employment to many who have not had work for many, many months.

“I look forward to the high quality artistic output, as demonstrated in the pilot, which has been so important and enjoyed by so many.”

“I have recently provided a further €5m under the local live performance programming scheme for local authorities to engage local performers and crew to stage live performances in their areas,” she adds, “creating further employment opportunities over the coming months.”

 


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Ireland approves for-profit ticket touting ban

The re-selling of tickets to large events such as festivals or concerts at above face value will finally be outlawed in the Republic of Ireland.

Under the act, a person found guilty of an offence will face a fine of up to €100,000 or up to two years’ imprisonment.

The anti-ticket touting legislation was approved yesterday (20 April) by the cabinet, years after the initial private members’ bill was proposed in 2017 by MPs Noel Rock and Stephen Donnelly.

The 2017 bill won the backing of the previous Irish government in 2018 and was then brought forward in October 2020 by the deputy prime minister, Leo Varadkar but only now will it be published.

The bill will be introduced to Dáil Éireann, the lower house, at the earliest opportunity, and enacted as early as possible thereafter.

Once the legislation is passed, operators of venues with a capacity of at least 1,000 will be able to apply to the department of enterprise, trade and employment for ‘designation’ which will prohibit the for-profit reselling of tickets for that venue.

Event organisers or venue operators may also apply for the designation of events that take place on an annual or periodic basis in the same venue, such as a festival.

“This bill will stop opportunists enriching themselves at the expense of fans, artists and promoters”

According to the legislation, when a ticket is sold for an event that has been designated or which is to take place in a designated venue, the original seller must be given clear information (with the ticket and when advertising) that tickets cannot be resold above face value for the event in question.

Resellers of these tickets must also provide information on the original sale price of the ticket and the location of the seat or standing area to which the ticket entitles the holder to gain admission, according to the legislation.

The new bill does not address airline-style ‘dynamic pricing’ or ticket bundles, the department of trade confirmed to Hot Press.

“This bill will stop opportunists with no interest or involvement in music or sport enriching themselves at the expense of sports and music fans, sporting bodies, artists and promoters,” says minister of state at the department of enterprise, trade and employment, Robert Troy.

“And importantly, fans will have all the information they need to ensure they are not being ripped off. I recognise that sometimes there are justified reasons for reselling tickets above face value, for example, when charities are fund-raising, so allowances have been made in such instances.”

Deputy prime minister, Leo Varadkar, says: “We’re all looking forward to the day we can go to gigs, festivals and matches again. This law gives me hope. We’re planning for a time when live events are possible again. Numbers will likely be restricted to begin with so it’s even more important that people aren’t ripped off and that tickets go to real fans.”

 


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Roqu CEO details health passport innovation

In summer 2020, Ireland-based Roqu Group launched Health Passport Worldwide (HPW), a secure platform that combines mobile technologies with official Covid-19 tests and vaccinations.

The technology has been engineered specifically to ‘help curtail the spread of Covid-19’ and is enabling the safe reopening of events, travel and sports in nine countries worldwide.

Now, Robert Quirke, president and CEO at Roqu, tells IQ how HPW is now working alongside leading international events producers, live music organisations and ticketing companies to create solutions that will reopen events this summer.

 


IQ: Who is able to use HPW?
RQ: The app is free to be used by the public and also by official healthcare providers. The system is multilingual. Depending on the model of the smartphone, font sizes can be increased and text-to-speech can be enabled. The overall technology platform is being used by event producers, the travel industry, pharmacies and many more. The dependents feature means that people with disabilities can make full use of the tech if they wish.

In which countries has HPW established a presence?
The technology is actively being used in the UK, Ireland, Portugal, South Africa, Canada, Bulgaria, Kenya, Nigeria and Ibiza.

Where has it been trialled so far?
Extensive system trials have already been performed in Ireland, the UK and South Africa at healthcare centres, pharmacies, nursing homes for staff vaccinations, schools (staff), offices and more. In December of last year, the system was successfully used at the trial live music event in Cape Town called Recharge2020, working alongside Ticketmaster, the city and local production companies.

“The system was successfully used at the trial live music event in Cape Town called Recharge2020, working alongside Ticketmaster”

Has HPW received the stamp of approval from any governments?
The organisation focuses on successful industry adoption across various sectors. Our approach is to not wait, but rather to immediately support industries that urgently need solutions. The technology is being closely observed by many governments with a view to supporting their vaccines deployment initiatives.

The digital passport market is becoming increasingly saturated. How does your product stand out?
This is not a concept, it is a living breathing solution, and has been since last summer. There is currently no other health passport solution that has achieved the level of support and adoption compared to HPW. Our solution is already being used by some of the world’s leading organisations. Every minute, someone somewhere in the world receives their Covid-19 test result safely via our technology.

How does the app keep users’ data secure and private?
The founders of the technology have put user privacy as a priority because unlike some other mobile technologies, the HPW app does not track people’s location, does not use Bluetooth, does not use GPS and does not monitor people’s usage of the system. Data is not shared with any third parties. This function does not even exist within the technology.

“The technology also integrates with public health systems, festivals, airports, test centres, event ticketing platforms”

Does the app work in harmony with existing healthcare and tech systems?
Yes, the system can integrate where necessary with labs, hospitals and existing public health platforms. A special function is included to support various doses of vaccinations. You can also book a test directly within the app, making everything as easy as possible for the user.

The technology also integrates with public health systems, festivals, airports, test centres, event ticketing platforms and more.

For what purposes do you see HPW being used?
Enabling efficiencies at testing and vaccination centres, international travel, major sporting and music events with very large crowds. This platform will absolutely not be used for everyday life, such as going out for dinner or to the pub!

How could HPW facilitate the return of live music?
The technology enables event producers to scan high volumes of people in a very short period of time, the same as scanning your event ticket at entry. The system gives guests and producers the reassurance that people entering the venue are at a very low or zero risk of transmitting Covid-19. The HPW team has extensive experience in testing and can support events not just with the technology, but also with the end-to-end efficient and safe process.

“The solution to safely test 65,000 people within eight hours is already being deployed into Europe”

Can HPW integrate with event ticketing platforms?
Yes, for example, an anonymous code could be shared. But the system will not share medical information or personal details.

Festivals admit tens of thousands of people over a relatively short amount of time. Is HPW capable of processing a high volume of testing onsite?
Yes, the solution to safely test 65,000 people within eight hours is already being deployed into Europe.

Will venues and festivals have to implement any kind of hardware in order to use HPW?
No

 


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Van Morrison to legally challenge NI’s live music ban

Acclaimed singer-songwriter Van Morrison is to legally challenge the Northern Irish (NI) government over its ‘blanket ban’ on live music in licensed venues, which was introduced in September under coronavirus restrictions.

In a summary of the legal requirements, for venues where alcohol is served, the Northern Irish tourist board, in a section on ‘entertainment and noise’, reveals that live music is “not permitted”, along with recorded music “for the purposes of dancing (ie DJs)”.

NI is currently partway through a six-week lockdown in which hospitality and entertainment venues must remain shuttered but the Northern Irish singer-songwriter is eager to challenge the rules for when they reopen.

Solicitor Joe Rice said Morrison, who has released several protest songs against Covid-19 rules in recent months, will ask the high court in Belfast to review the policy.

Morrison is taking the action “on behalf of the thousands of musicians, artists, venues and those involved in the live music industry”, Rice says.

“We’re not aware of any credible scientific or medical evidence to justify this particular blanket ban”

“We will be seeking leave for judicial review to challenge the blanket ban on live music in licensed premises in Northern Ireland. We’re not aware of any credible scientific or medical evidence to justify this particular blanket ban … and we’re going to challenge this in the high court.”

Rice says he expects the case to be heard at the high court within “weeks”.

Van Morrison isn’t the only Irish artist who has called out government recently – Dublin-born artist Ronan Keating last week invited British prime minister Boris Johnson to meet him in a park to discuss “how [the UK] government is effecting UK musicians and the arts”.

“Ok @BorisJohnson, I think it’s time we had a chat. I can’t come to yours nor can you come to mine. But can we meet in a park socially distant and discuss how this government is effecting UK musicians and the arts,” Keating wrote in a tweet.

The tweet followed reports alleging that the British government had rejected an offer to allow UK musicians to tour Europe without needing a visa post-Brexit.

 


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‘Live Aid’ post-Covid concerts proposed for EU

EU culture ministers have reportedly welcomed proposals for a series of simultaneous Live Aid-style concerts which would be held across the European Union to mark victory over Covid-19.

The idea received a “warm reception” from other EU culture and media secretaries when it was proposed by Catherine Martin, the Republic of Ireland’s minister for tourism, culture, arts, Gaeltacht, sport and media, at a pre-Christmas meeting, according to RTÉ.

Following positive feedback from her counterparts in the 26 other member states, further discussions will take place both in Ireland and at an EU level when the current restrictions begin to ease, the Irish state broadcaster reports.

According to the Irish Mirror, Martin’s plan would see a series of concerts featuring “top rock and pop stars” held simultaneously in a number of EU capitals this summer.

Martin’s plan would see a series of concerts held simultaneously in EU capitals this summer

Like the 1985 Live Aid benefit concert, the shows would also be televised, and could include a charitable element in aid of music professionals whose work has dried up amid ongoing coronavirus restrictions.

Luke O’Neill, professor of biochemistry at Trinity College Dublin, says he believes it is possible to have around 50% of the Republic of Ireland’s population immunised against Covid-19 by June. Neighbouring Britain, meanwhile, aims to have offered the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to every UK adult (more than 50m people) by September.

The summer, therefore, could be a realistic target to host some kind of major event to celebrate the end of the pandemic, Prof. O’Neill tells RTÉ.

The EC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

 


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Aiken unveils new Vision for Dublin’s Vicar St

Ireland’s Aiken Promotions has unveiled Vision, a six-part online video series filmed at its 1,500-capacity Vicar Street venue in Dublin.

Partially funded with a grant from the government of the Republic of Ireland, Vision – hosted by comedian and TV presenter Tommy Tiernan – aims to celebrate Vicar St, says Aiken Promotions founder Peter Aiken. The venue, like nearly all others in Europe, has been largely closed since the dawn of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020.

“Opening the doors at Vicar St for those two weeks of filming and working together was great, even with only the performers, crew and venue staff present,” explains Aiken. “Ultimately, though, it was a bittersweet experience as it reminded us how much we all miss working at live shows – it’s impossible to recreate the buzz of an audience actually being the venue to witness another memorable performance.

“Aiken Promotions looks forward to a time when we can welcome everyone back to Vicar St”

“It was palpable how difficult things remain for everyone in the sector, so to have to turn the lights off again and walk away was heart-breaking.

“Obviously, there is no way to replicate the true essence of being at a live gig but with this special series, we hope we have created something that reminds us all of the magic we are missing.”

So far, two episodes of Vision have been released, the first featuring Christy Moore, Lankum and Lisa O’Neill and the second (embedded above) with Villagers, Cmat and comedian David O’Doherty.

“While the vision of future live entertainment might be still hazy, Aiken Promotions look forward to a time when we can welcome everyone back to Vicar St, along with all the other venues across Ireland,” adds Aiken.

 


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