Belgian biz sounds the alarm over “wave of bankruptcies”
Belgium is facing widespread insolvencies this autumn unless the government intervenes to prop up the corona-hobbled events sector, the country’s live music industry has warned.
In addition to the extension of existing unemployment relief measures, a financial lifeline worth at least “several tens of million” euros, specifically for the live entertainment business, is needed to stave off disaster for Belgian festivals, promoters, agents and venues – the majority of which have accepted that live events won’t return in full until 2021, according to a new industry body, the Live Sector Consultation.
In an open letter, the Live Sector Overleg – which comprises “festivals, bookers, artist managers, music clubs and cultural centres” – warns that while opening venues safely is now possible, opening profitably is not, especially in light of the recent decision to slash capacity limits to 100 for indoor shows after a spike in Covid-19 infections.
“Both nationally and locally, policy is pushing our sector deeper into the swamp,” the letter reads.
“[L]et’s face the facts: the real recovery won’t be until 2021. The current regulations (including the measures regarding temporary unemployment, bridging aid, etc.) must be extended, but they will not be sufficient on their own. This sector needs an additional financial lifeline of at least several tens of millions, and for that we look directly at the various governments in our country.”
“How do we ensure that one of the healthiest and most successful sectors can survive?”
Asking what other industry “can say it has lost 95% of a billion-euro industry?”, the Overleg highlights the contribution live music makes to the Belgian economy, warning of a scenario where are “no more concerts in the Antwerp Sportpaleis” and “no more Stageco building stages for Rammstein and the Rolling Stones”. “It is starting to seem more and more that our government wants to throw our sector – which represents 5% of [Belgium’s] gross national product – into the bin,” it adds.
According to PwC, Belgium was Europe’s 12th-biggest live music market in 2019, worth US$273 million in ticket sales.
The letter concludes by demanding authorities “stop beating around the bush” and take decisive action to safeguard the wellbeing of Belgium’s formerly thriving live sector.
“How do we ensure that one of the healthiest and most successful sectors can survive, and that we ensure the retention where possible of more than 80,000 jobs? How do we ensure that our internationally recognised knowhow remains in the sector and we don’t see a massive brain drain? How do we ensure that we can continue to put top artistic talent on our stages? How can we keep our gross national happiness from going into decline for many years? Where is the economic contingency plan?
“We have already made many proposals. It is time to make that concrete.”
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