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Germany’s live biz says Freedom Day ‘not in sight’

Germany’s Event Management Forum (EMF) has warned of the challenges still facing the live music sector despite parliament voting to scrap most Covid restrictions.

Last month, the country confirmed a gradual approach to reopening, amid falling infection numbers. Limits on major outdoor events were raised from 10,000 to 25,000 (or 75% capacity) on 4 March, and clubs were allowed to reopen, with full capacity shows permitted from this Sunday’s much-trumpeted “Freedom Day”.

Though cases have since surged to record levels, with 297,845 new coronavirus cases and 226 deaths reported over the last 24 hours according to the Robert Koch Institute, lawmakers backed an amendment to the Infection Protection Act, which removes the need to wear face masks in most public settings.

“We can’t continue to put the entire country under a shield in order to protect a small group of people who are unwilling to get vaccinated,” said health minister Karl Lauterbach. “The balance is being shifted.”

However, the EMF, which includes live music bodies BDKV and LiveKomm, has raised concerns that, due to high case numbers, several federal states have announced they plan to maintain Covid restrictions even after the transition period ends on 2 April, and have the power to impose “hot-spot regulations” to deal with future outbreaks.

“The patchwork of measures is thus growing,” it says. “In addition, the regulations are limited until 23 September 2022 and dealing with a further wave in autumn is completely open.”

“The uncertainty remains as to what will happen in autumn”

Marcus Pohl, chair of the ISDV, the trade body for the event industry’s independent service providers, says the plans lack long-term perspective.

“If no further changes are made to the version of the present draft law to amend the Infection Protection Act, a return to normality is not in sight,” he says.

“Even if events will be possible in many places in the coming months and, for example, the clubs can govern at short notice, the uncertainty remains as to what will happen in autumn,” says LiveKomm chair Axel Ballreich, who is calling on the government to name a specific point of contact to restart a dialogue with the sector.

The organisation is also proposing the implementation of a nationwide, tiered process to protect against infection going forward.

“In the first step, an FFP2 mask requirement may be sufficient,” it says. “In a second stage, it must be possible that only 2G or 2G plus visitors, for example, are allowed access to the event. In the next step, a restriction to 3G and a seat plus mask in the aisles can represent the next higher measure without capping capacity.

“Only when the infection has exceeded a hospitalisation rate to be defined should a distance requirement be imposed. In this case, however, an economic aid must be granted for all types of events. In addition, there needs to be a clear, nationwide regulation on the required vaccination status for participants and guests of events arriving from abroad.”

“Events with capacity restrictions have not been economical in the past two years and will not be able to be so in the future either,” reiterates BDKV president Prof Jens Michow reiterated . “You cannot generate 100% costs with an income possibility of 75%.”

 


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‘Many questions unanswered’ on Germany reopening

Promoters in Germany have warned “many questions remain unanswered” about the country’s reopening, despite the promise of a long-awaited “Freedom Day” next month.

A gradual restart is underway that will see capacity limits on major outdoor events raised to 25,000 (or 75% capacity) – and indoor events to 6,000 (or 60% capacity) – on 4 March, with clubs also allowed to reopen from that date. Most other Covid curbs will then be axed from 20 March, although “low-threshold basic protective measures”, such as mask-wearing, will still apply.

The Event Management Forum has expressed its relief at the “steps back towards normality” being taken by the government, but says the plans require “considerable clarity” and currently appear to fall short of the industry’s needs.

“Should it mean that capacity restrictions are perhaps only reduced but basically continue to exist, the event industry would still be a long way from a ‘Freedom Day’,” says Prof Jens Michow, president of live music association BDKV. “Cost-efficiency presupposes that we at least have the chance to generate 100% income with 100% costs. To do this, we must be able to use the hall capacities to the full. As long as we don’t have this chance, we will still not be able to speak of normality in our economic sector.”

“Many questions remain unanswered,” adds Linda Residovic, MD of VPLT (Association for Media and Event Technology). “What happens in the fall when the incidence rises again? What help will continue to be available for the fall should it be needed? The events industry still can’t rely on anything and that’s why the opening in March will not bring about a restart in all areas.”

“Renewed lockdowns and closures must be prevented”

LiveKomm chair Axel Ballreich warns: “It must now be ensured that outdoor events can take place in summer without any restrictions. This includes standing room, without a mask, dancing and partying. If we do not receive this security immediately, we will have to cancel events now out of fairness to our guests, but also in the interest of minimising damage.”

Last week, venues association LiveKomm made an urgent appeal to policy makers under the motto “Dance out and quiet. The end of club and festival culture as we know it.” It has warned that clubs and festivals are concerned there is still a lack of knowledge about the planning effort required to run them.

“Door checks are part of everyday club life, which is why measures such as 2G-plus are easier to implement there than a mask requirement, which does not go together with club life and drinking,” says executive director Steffen Kache. “There shouldn’t be any talk of distance. Below 50% [capacity], every opening is like a lockdown – unless clear help is provided – at 75-80% there is at least the hope of self-sufficient operation again.

“Furthermore, the club and festival industry is demanding a confrontation with further threatening corona waves for the coming autumn. Renewed lockdowns and closures must be prevented, after two years politicians can be asked to take preventive measures and plans that start before the wave to protect the cultural industry. Anything else would be a total failure.”

 


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Major European markets fear for festival season

Major European live music markets such as Germany and England have shared fears over the impending festival season.

German live music association LiveKomm has today warned of “the end of club and festival culture as we know it”.

The association has penned an urgent appeal to policymakers, calling for clarity around the reopening of the cultural sector.

“The political mode must be more transparent, otherwise the industry cannot prepare for opening scenarios,” reads the letter.

“Optimistic voices assume that the rules will be relaxed soon, this must not happen without the clubs being taken into account and must also be communicated as such. Everything is currently up in the air, staff, planning and operation, festivals and clubs are completely blank.”

LiveKomm is also urging that the federal government take preventive measures before the autumn in case of another wave of Covid-19.

“Renewed lockdowns and closures must be prevented. After two years politicians can be asked to take preventive measures and plans that start before the wave to protect the cultural industry,” it reads.

“Anything else would be a total failure. This includes, among other things, test capacities, and the lack of PCR test capacities cannot be justified for this winter. Any planning omissions in the coming period will destroy livelihoods in autumn.”

“We may be emerging from the shadow of the pandemic, but this year will not be a case of ‘back to business as usual’”

LiveKomm’s plea follows a similar appeal from Germany’s Event Management Forum (EMF) to the government to follow the lead of other European nations and drop all Covid restrictions.

England, Denmark, Finland and Sweden are among the markets that have fully reopened – though many have warned that the lifting of restrictions isn’t a silver bullet for the live industry.

In England, the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) is warning of a ‘perfect storm’ heading for the UK’s festival season.

A live entertainment supply chain crisis, workforce shortages, and the effects of Brexit are chief among AIF’s concerns.

“We may be emerging from the shadow of the pandemic in the UK, but this year will not be a case of ‘back to business as usual’ without critical support for festival organisers,” AIF CEO Paul Reed said today during his opening speech at the 2022 Festival Congress.

“That’s why we’re calling on the government to aid our recovery and maintain the current reduced 12.5% rate on tickets beyond the end of March, as well as looking at some form of government-backed loan scheme for suppliers to alleviate some of these pressures and encourage investment in the festival supply chain,” he continues.

“We also urge government to reconsider removing the tax relief for certain biofuels, which further increases cost and is completely counter-productive to promoting better environmental practice across the sector.”

 


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German associations criticise gov’s exit strategy

Event Management Forum, an alliance that comprises Germany’s five associations for the events industry, has slammed the federal government for a ‘lack of perspective’ for the sector in the newly announced reopening strategy.

Yesterday (3 March), the German government announced that the country’s lockdown would be extended by three weeks until 28 March but for the first time, Angela Merkel’s cabinet has revealed a reopening plan which will depend on the regional infection rate.

Live music venues, theatres and opera houses may only reopen in step four, when the seven-day incidence rate has stayed below 50 per 100,000 inhabitants for at least 14 days, no earlier than 22 March.

In the meantime, from 8 March, book shops, florists and garden centres will be allowed to reopen as long as strict hygiene measures are in place. Many primary students returned to school last week.

Olaf Zimmermann, MD of the German Cultural Council, says: “The development of the incidence value will decide in the next few weeks whether and under what conditions cultural institutions are allowed to open. This shows a first way out of the lockdown for bookshops, museums, galleries, memorials, cinemas, theatres as well as concert and opera houses.”

“Simply postponing the promised perspective for the event industry to the end of March is not acceptable for the industry”

Culture minister, Monika Grütters, says: “Art is indispensable, it is a source of inspiration and irritation, reflection and innovation. Culture finally brings people out of their domestic isolation. That is why culture must be taken into account in all opening debates from the start. Cultural institutions were the first to close, you mustn’t be the last to open again now.”

Event Management Forum – which recently presented a comprehensive roadmap for Germany’s return to live music – says: “It is incomprehensible that, contrary to the announced cross-sector opening strategy, only a few sub-segments are initially promised openings. Only by creating uniform framework conditions can the cultural and economic standstill be ended and trust rebuilt.

“Simply postponing the promised perspective for the event industry to the end of March is not acceptable for the industry. Politicians still fail to recognise that events often have lead times from a few months to a year or longer. An opening plan until Easter is therefore not a prospect.”

“The event industry has been in a lockdown for a year. Unlike in many areas of the economy, there was no real opening in the last year. Therefore, in addition to planning the restart, the extension and adaptation of the aid measures beyond summer 2021 must now also be discussed.”

The alliance groups BDKV (Federal Association of the Concert and Event Industry), venue association LiveKomm (LiveMusikKommission), EVVC (European Association of Event Centres), the ISDV (community of interests of independent service providers in the event management ) and VPLT (The Association for Media and Event Technology).

The alliance hopes to take its roadmap, titled Manifest Restart, to the federal government.

 


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German alliance unveils roadmap for return to live

German alliance Event Management Forum (EMF) has presented a proposal titled ‘Manifest Restart’ which details a uniform approach to the gradual and safe reopening of events in Germany.

The Alliance – which consists of five major organisations including live music associations BDKV and LiveKomm – has devised an ‘approval matrix’ to help organisers and authorities determine in which risk levels, under which general and special measures of infection protection and hygiene, and with which capacities events are permitted.

The comprehensive matrix takes into account a range of nuances in venues such as different construction methods, special features of event formats or existing ventilation systems.

The alliance presented Manifest Restart during a press conference yesterday (9 February) in which Jens Michow, president of the BDKV, emphasised that the goal of the matrix is to make events “the safest place in the pandemic”.

“The industry has shown in the past year that events can be implemented safely. With the following suggestions we show the way to a step-by-step achievement of this goal and finally create a perspective for the industry again,” the proposal reads.

“With the following suggestions we show the way to a step-by-step achievement of [implementing events safely]”

EMF’s proposal also calls for the government to: compensate losses caused by capacity restrictions, fund the costs of SARS-CoV-2 tests and the personnel and logistics required to carry them out, and reimburse the costs of rescheduling and cancelling events.

The alliance has also said that it is necessary that domestic and foreign artists, ensembles, orchestras, bands and their accompanying staff have basic freedom to travel and quarantine, and that “cultural work” is an acceptable reason for this.

The EMF – which is completed by EVVC (European Association of Event Centres), the ISDV (community of interests of independent service providers in the event management ) and VPLT (The Association for Media and Event Technology) – hopes to take the Manifest Restart proposal and matrix to the federal government.

The government is currently consulting with BDKV’s Jens Michow on how to implement Germany’s €2.5 billion event cancellation fund.

Michow recently spoke to IQ about the considerations, logistics and hurdles to overcome in setting up an insurance fund for one of Europe’s largest live music markets.

Interested in hearing more about government-backed insurance funds? Register for ILMC session Insurance: The Big Update.

 


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Music Industry Forum: German assocs present united front

Six industry associations, including live sector bodies BDKV and LiveKomm, have joined forces to create Germany’s first pan-music industry grouping.

Dubbed the Music Industry Forum (Forum Musikwirtschaft), the new alliance comprises the BDKV (Federal Association of the Concert and Event Industry), venue association LiveKomm (LiveMusikKommission), DMV (German Music Publishers’ Association), VUT (Association of Independent Music Companies), SOMM (Society of Music Merchants) and recording industry body BVMI (Federal Association of the Music Industry).

While the Music Industry Forum is not a formal umbrella body (in the vein of UK Music or Spain’s Esmúsica), the six partners say the challenges posed by the coronavirus crisis have made them realise the need for a collective voice of the German music industry.

“We live in a time of solidarity and alliances, and also in a time when we have all recognised that acting together brings more than working individually,” explains BDKV head Jens Michow (pictured), speaking to MusikWoche. “The music industry has never spoken with one voice before now, and it is a great achievement to be able to do on issues that affect us all.”

“The music industry has never spoken with one voice before”

VUT managing director Jörg Heidemann says working together will allow the music industry to present a united front to government. Usually, he says, “we are too business-focused for the BKM [ministry of culture and media] and too culture-oriented for the ministry of economic affairs, so we are sent back and fourth between them without ever really getting a foot in the door.”

Among the first priorities for the Music Industry Forum will be to organise a joint conference and prepare research on the German music industry.

Despite launching amid the Covid-19 pandemic, SOMM’s Daniel Knöll says he hopes the partnership will “continue to exist even after the corona era”.

“We have all identified numerous topics where we have the same objectives, even under more normal conditions,” he explains, “and we will be able to increase the political pressure if we permanently pool the strengths of these six business associations.”

 


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Experts warn GMVs need support as German gov steps up

Grassroots venues lobbyists came together in the latest IQ Focus panel to discuss the government aid the sector desperately needs and why social distancing can never work.

Available to watch back now on the IQ website, as well as on Facebook and YouTube, the session featured Ticktemaster’s Sarah Slater in conversation with the Music Venue Trust’s Mark Davyd, the National Independent Venue Association’s Rev. Moose, LiveKomm’s Karsten Schölermann, Dachstock’s Kathy Flück and Lluís Torrents of Catalonian venue association Asacc.

Schölermann proved the envy of the panel – and those watching – upon revealing that the German government has dedicated €50 million to help grassroots music venues (GMVs) – enough money to prop up the sector for a year, part of a wider €150m live music support package.

“From our point of view, the german government has done well,” said Schölermann. “Now we just need to figure out how to use that money to reopen after such an intense set back.”

Davyd, who has so far raised over £1.5m (€1.7m) with MVT’s Save Our Venues campaign says this kind of sector-specific support is what GMVs in the UK need. MVT has calculated that sector has received £35m (€39m) so far from general government support packages, but has so far lost £48m.

“Now we just need to figure out how to use that money to reopen after such an intense set back”

“We need to get to a point where the government can deal with sectors specifically,” said Davyd.

For Torrents, the government’s underappreciation of live music as a cultural force is the main obstacle, whereas Flück also appeared dissatisfied with the Swiss government’s support, saying the “responsibility is very much on [event] organisers” to figure out how to survive the crisis and reopen safely.

In the United States, the grassroots sector had no representative body until very recently. “In a time of crisis, it was obvious that there was no one fighting on indie venues behalf,” said Moose, who co-founded the US National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) in April.

Starting the conversation around small venues has been easy, but urgent action still needs to be taken in the US, said Moose.

“If we can’t get the assistance to get through this period, the market is going to shift in a significant way.”

Venues reopening under social distancing measures was ruled out by the panellists, with Davyd saying that, in the UK, only 2 to 3% of venues could open under the two metre distancing rules, “and they would be hemorrhaging money doing so”.

“If we can’t get the assistance to get through this period, the market is going to shift in a significant way”

Torrents, who is the co-director of Barcelona venue Razzmatazz agrees that any form of social distancing is a “temporary and exceptional situation”.

“In the long term, we will recover the true normal. [Going to venues] should be a social activity, we cannot apply social distancing measures to this,” said Torrents, pointing out the oxymoronic nature of the very phrase “social distancing”.

“We should resist until we can open with a minimum of 60 to 70% capacity, but never less.”

Schölermann discussed alternatives way for venues to reopen such as putting on matinee shows, with multiple, short concerts being played throughout a day and, potentially, venues being open for 24 hours to make up numbers.

Venues will have to use space better, he said, suggesting the reappropriation of outdoor spaces such as car parks for staging shows.

“We can and will find out how to survive.”

“We should resist until we can open with a minimum of 60 to 70% capacity, but never less”

For Davyd, a kind of on-the-door testing system would allow GMVs to open at full capacity, with the knowledge that no-one at the show had the virus.

“If I was in government, that’s what I’d be focused on – testing.”

In times of crisis, there are some positives to draw. Moose noted that those who “are typically somewhat adversarial are now working towards the same goals”, with the result that the whole industry is now more prepared to address its problems.

Davyd added that the importance of the sector has really come to light for all in recent months.

“Maybe this is an opportunity to shake things up and reimagine how we respect the value of GMVs in society and also within government.”

The next IQ Focus session, The Agency Business 3.0, is taking place on Thursday 11 June at 4 p.m. BST/5 p.m. CET, with panellists Angus Baskerville (13 Artists), Jules de Lattre (UTA), Maria May (CAA) and Tom Schroeder (Paradigm).

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Neustart Kultur: Germany pledges €150m for live music

The German federal government has pledged €150 million for the live music industry as part of a €1 billion package to revive Germany’s coronavirus-crippled creative sector.

The 12-month Neustart Kultur (‘Restart Culture’) programme will make available €150m for live music – ie “music venues, festivals, [concert] organisers and agents”, according to a government press release – alongside new funding for theatre and dance (also €150m), cinemas and the film sector (€120m), radio broadcasters (€20m), and galleries, book publishers and other “socio-cultural centres” (€30m), among others.

A total of €450m is also available to make “cultural institutions fit for reopening”. Intended for organisations which don’t already receive public funding, the grant will finance “new hygiene concepts”, such as paper-free ticketing or improved ventilation systems in venues.

Karsten Schoelermann, head of German venue association LiveKomm, who appeared on yesterday’s IQ Focus panel, Grassroots Music Venues in Crisis, says he hopes a significant portion of the scheme will be directed to grassroots music venues. “We must now find out how we can keep our [small] music stages alive, and get them ready for a new start,” he explains.

“We will support cinemas and music clubs … to reopen their doors as soon as possible”

Monika Grütters, Germany’s federal commissioner for culture and the media, says the aid should be matched by “concrete steps for reopening” on the part of those receiving it. “Culture is not a luxury that you can only afford in good times,” she adds.

Neustart Kultur is the latest package of support measures for the German creative industries during the Covid-19 pandemic, following a €50bn “rescue umbrella” of grants and loans in late March and the introduction of a ticket voucher scheme to protect promoters’ cash flow early the following month.

“With an additional one billion euros, we support the restarting of cultural life in Germany and set the course for the future,” comments Grütters. “I am proud to say that this is almost exactly half of our annual budget, which has grown significantly over the past few years.

“We will support cinemas and music clubs, memorials and museums, theatres and festivals, and many other cultural institutions to reopen their doors as soon as possible. For us, maintaining and securing Germany’s cultural infrastructure is the key to creating job opportunities for artists across the country once more.”

 


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Hard-hit grassroots sector focus of next IQ panel

Following on from The Innovation Session last week, the next panel in the IQ Focus series looks at the unique challenges that the Covid-19 crisis poses for grassroots music venues.

Featuring those working on the frontline to protect the world’s smaller venues, the Grassroots Music Venues in Crisis panel will look at what is needed to ensure these vital parts of the live music ecosystem remain in business.

Joining chair Sarah Slater, Ticketmaster UK’s vice president of music and festivals, are Mark Davyd, founder and CEO of grassroots venues charity the Music Venue Trust; Rev. Moose, co-founder of the newly formed National Independent Venue Association; Karsten Schölermann, chairman of German venue association LiveKomm; Lluís Torrents, president of Catalonian venue association Asacc (Associació de sales de concerts de catalunya) and co-director of Barcelona venue Razzmatazz; and Kathy Flück from Swiss venue the Dachstock.

Following a previous IQ Focus discussion on arenas, stadia and other large venues, the conversation now turns to grassroots venues which, although among the hardest hit by the shutdown, are likely to reopen earlier than many other parts of the business, bringing a distinct set of opportunities, challenges and questions.

Just what this reopening will look like, and what potential long-term changes can be expected, will be at the centre of the panellists’ conversation.

Grassroots Music Venues in Crisis will be streamed live on Thursday 4 June at 4 p.m. BST/5 p.m. CET.

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Indie venues fight back against coronavirus

The grassroots music sector has been hit hard by the spread of Covid-19, with iconic venues around the world shutting for the foreseeable future.

However, in the face of adversity, many venues are showing they have the creativity, following and sector support it takes to weather even the most turbulent of storms.

 

Venues get creative

Venues around the UK that have temporarily closed, including Glasgow’s Hug and Pint (100-cap.), the Leadmill in Sheffield (1,150-cap.) and the Boileroom in Guildford (275-cap.), are implementing crowdfunding or other fundraising methods to generate additional income.

The team at Hug and Pint, which is owned by 432 Presents, say they have been “overwhelmed” by the support of the community, and have raised almost a third of their £30,000 crowdfunding target in just three days. Donations can be made here.

The Glaswegian venue has also launched the Hug at Home, a food and drink delivery service serving up “freshly prepared classics from the Hug and Pint menu”.

The Leadmill in Sheffield is auctioning off memorabilia including a custom guitar signed by Arctic Monkeys, a signed Biffy Clyro setlist and signed posters for the likes of Miles Kane, Feeder, Blossoms, Belle & Sebastian, Circa Waves, Goldfrapp and many more.

The team at Hug and Pint say they have been “overwhelmed” by the support of the community

The venue is also encouraging fans to buy merchandise – and toilet rolls – from its online shop.

A number of music venues across the United States have also set up Go Fund Me pages and are selling merch in a bid to raise funds following the shuttering of venues in states including New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and South Carolina. A list of fundraising efforts is available on the Independent Venue Week website.

Many venues are also live streaming shows for fans to watch at home. US punk band Code Orange recently performed at a near-empty Roxian Theatre in Pittsburgh, but streamed the show live on the video game-focused platform Twitch, attracting over 13,000 concurrent viewers during the performance.

In the Germany, home to Europe’s clubbing capital Berlin, venues are taking part in the United We Stream initiative, broadcasting live DJ sets and performances from empty clubs each night. Fans are encouraged to donate €10, €20 or €30 a month in exchange for a ‘virtual club ticket’ to support venues and event organisers during the closure.

Many venues are also live streaming shows for fans to watch at home

Associations rally

Italian association KeepOn Live has launched a similar initiative, #StayON, forming a programme of live streams from clubs across a number of different channels “to gather the world of music around a single large virtual stage”.

The association is also encouraging members to fill in a questionnaire to allow them to quantify the damage done by Covid-19.

The results of similar survey initiated by the Music Venue Trust (MVT) in the UK has estimated it would cost around £3.7 million to sustain the weekly costs of all 661 venues in its Music Venues Alliance.

The charity has surveyed members weekly since the start of March to gauge how venues have been affected by the outbreak. From 10 to 16 March, almost 92% of the 247 respondents, and 95% of those in London, said they had been “negatively impacted by public response to Covid-19″, jumping from just 40% the week before.

Although a large proportion – 86% and a staggering 98% in London – reported a decrease in gross income over the past week, a slightly lower number of venues (58% and 62% respectively), cancelled events last week due to the virus, although that figure jumped from just 19% the week before.

MVT is commencing a third survey on 23 March. “Following the government’s 16 March advice, we will add a first question of whether the venue is still trading,” states the MVT report.

“We expect this question to indicate that close to 100% of venues have now ceased all live music activity”

“We expect this question to indicate that close to 100% of venues have now ceased all live music activity, and will ask for details of staff layoffs and financial situations for respondents where this is the case.”

The MVT is using its data to lobby the government, asking for a legal enforcement of venue closures to allow venues to seek insurance payouts and for the creation of a £120 million relief fund.

Other European venue associations are taking a similar path. German venue association LiveKomm is lobbying the government to get measures such as the creation of an emergency fund for live events, the deferral of tax payments, grants to help cover rent and postponement of royalty payments for venues.

Petzi, which represents 113 small music venues in Switzerland, has put forward similar proposals, asking for temporary unemployed insurance for all self-employed workers in the cultural sector, easy access to short-time work for all small- and medium-sized enterprises, compensation for cancelled events , an emergency fund for cultural workers and businesses under threat and a continuation of public funding for culture.

What is your venue or association doing to fight back against Covid-19? Email [email protected] to keep us updated on your efforts.

 


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