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Dutch promoters outline impact of staff shortages

Key promoters in the Netherlands have aired concerns about the industry’s acute staff shortages and its impact on the forthcoming festival summer.

Labour shortages have been a widespread issue in the international live music industry, with many markets reporting a “talent exodus”.

According to Dutch publication 3voor12, concerts in the Netherlands are already being cancelled because there is not enough staff available, festivals are being forced to start building earlier and headliners are toying with the idea of smaller productions.

John Mulder, CEO of Live Nation-owned concert and festival promoter Mojo, says he is “very concerned about this summer. There are huge logistical challenges, both in international touring and at a local level in terms of crews and people.”

The Mojo boss says it is difficult to get staff and crew, and that trucks are “a big problem” this summer.

“There are huge logistical challenges, both in international touring and at a local level”

“There are already acts that have to leave things at home because they can’t get the number of trucks. Instead of 16 trucks, headliners will probably come with less. All those rock ‘n roll trucking companies are running on only 30-40% of their staff and have sold a lot of trucks. There are no new trucks for sale due to the chip problem. But money rules, huh? At some point, of course, acts will make all kinds of crazy jumps to get stuff from A to B.”

Meanwhile, Mojo-promoted festival Pinkpop has been forced to start site construction a month ahead of schedule due to this issue.

“We mainly see problems with suppliers: the tent builders, for example, and the fencing suppliers,” said Pinkpop festival manager Niek Murray. “The pink tent has already been erected on the site because otherwise, it would not work out in the planning. We are already buffering fencing because there was no transporter to deliver it at the normal time.

“In short: three weeks ago we already started building, while we would normally only start next week. If we hadn’t had such a good relationship with the terrain, I don’t know if we would have made it all, but we didn’t have to drastically change things.”

In February, Mojo launched a new platform (www.festivalbanen.nl) featuring hundreds of festival jobs, in a bid to counteract the major staff shortage in the sector.

Many of the employers listed on the website operate at festivals including Lowlands, Pinkpop, NN North Sea Jazz, Down The Rabbit Hole and Woo Hah! x Rolling Loud.

 


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Mojo launches platform with hundreds of festival jobs

Dutch promoter Mojo has launched a new platform featuring hundreds of festival jobs, in a bid to counteract the major staff shortage in the sector.

Launched in conjunction with TSC Crowd Management, the site (www.festivalbanen.nl) collates jobs from a myriad of partner companies operating within the Dutch festival sector.

The platform comprises jobs in fields such as security, medical services, production, office, hospitality, cleaning and tech. Part-time jobs, flexible work, specialist vacancies and permanent positions are all on offer.

Many of the employers listed on the website operate at festivals including Lowlands, Pinkpop, NN North Sea Jazz, Down The Rabbit Hole and Woo Hah! x Rolling Loud.

The site comprises jobs in fields such as security, medical services, production, office, hospitality, cleaning and tech

“There are hundreds of vacancies,” says MOJO spokesperson Bente Bollmann, “including positions that you don’t immediately think of when you talk about the festival sector: a mechanic at water infrastructure company MTD Water, or an ambulance driver.

He continues: “The platform is also meant to indicate how much fun it is to work in this sector, and how many options there are. And what we see is that there are also a lot of people who have other jobs, like in a hospital, but might also like to work at a festival on weekends.

“This platform is now mainly focused on this year, because of the large shortages, but I can imagine that it will be a nice recruitment platform for the partners to continue using in the coming years.”

Labour shortages have been a widespread issue in the international live music industry, with many markets reporting a “talent exodus”.

 


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NL gains new rock festival Headbangers Parade

The Netherlands is set to gain a brand new one-day rock and metal festival, Headbangers Parade.

The inaugural edition is slated to take place at Klokgebouw (cap. 9,000) in Eindhoven, south Netherlands, on 21 May with ten blockbuster acts from the genres.

Architects, Ghøstkid, Tesseract and Stake have already been confirmed, with more names to be announced in the coming months.

According to the organisation, Headbangers Parade – a nod to the ‘Headbangers Ball‘ programme which aired on MTV in the 1990s – offers “a contemporary program, with room for new sounds, but also for established names”.

The festival’s name is a nod to the ‘Headbangers Ball‘ programme which aired on MTV in the 1990s

Dutch promoter Mojo, rock festival franchise Impericon and Ticketmaster are listed among the supporters on the festival’s website.

The festival is launching a membership – which is free for the first year – and will include discounts on Headbangers Parade events, tickets for other festivals, merchandise and more.

Membership tickets cost €59.00 each but are limited to two per customer. Regular tickets for Headbangers Parade cost €64.00 each and are limited to 10 per customer.

 


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Dutch event sector loses summary proceedings

The Dutch event sector has lost the summary proceedings that were brought against the state due to the latest Covid-19 restrictions.

Twenty organisations including Mojo, ID&T, Unmute Us and Apenkooi Events demanded in court that all events and club nights be allowed again without restrictions on capacity and time.

As of 25 September, indoor events are restricted to 75% capacity of the venue and are required to close between 00:00 and 06:00 CET.

The Dutch event sector has continuously argued that the government restrictions do not reflect the three months’ worth of findings from the Fieldlab Evenementen studies.

However, the judge said that the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) has, in fact, factored in the results when giving advice to the outgoing cabinet: “That has led to a decision to gradually relax with the abolition of the one and a half meter measure, but with additional measures for indoor events.

“The reason we are still not allowed to open completely is not substantiated”

“This does not lead to an unjustified distinction with other branches. The necessity of the measures taken for indoor events has been explained by the State and that explanation is not incomprehensible.”

The organisations that went to court say they are deeply disappointed.

MOJO director Ruben Brouwer says: “Over a year and a half ago we were the first to close and now we are at the back of the queue to be able to open fully again despite all our efforts. The cabinet continues to focus on keeping our sector closed even longer and has even asked us not to organise dance parties because they could not legally prohibit this. We are considering steps to be taken, but we must and will continue towards the autumn and we will do everything we can to organise the events for visitors and artists in the best possible and safe way.”

Ritty van Straalen, CEO of the ID&T Group, adds: “We are extremely disappointed. We have been standing still for over 18 months and in that time have demonstrated through various Fieldlabs, together with the government, that we can safely organise events. The reason we are still not allowed to open completely is not substantiated.

“The Fieldlab advice explicitly states that organising events at 100% capacity, both indoor and outdoor, is safe if the guidelines from the research are followed. Our Fieldlab results are successfully used in Belgium to organise events safely, at 100% capacity. It is incomprehensible that we in the Netherlands still have to remain partly closed while the very last step would be that the 1.5 meters would go off. Now we are the very last step.

“We must show solidarity with society, but where is the solidarity towards us?”

Jasper Goossen, on behalf of newly formed campaign group Unmute Us, says: “We are despondent by the wall we keep running into. It is frustrating that the judge apparently cannot allow our investigation results to outweigh arbitrary advice and decisions from the OMT and the cabinet, but we will continue to fight for the preservation of our sector. We recently took to the streets with more than 150,000 people to demonstrate how essential our sector is. Besides the fact that our sector guarantees more than 100,000 jobs, it also provides an essential social outlet for young and old. We must show solidarity with society, but where is the solidarity towards us?”

The Dutch government has attempted to soften the blow of the restrictions by announcing a €15 million fund to compensate promoters and venues for lost revenue from indoor standing shows – on top of its €385m guarantee fund.

Lowlands festival director Eric van Eerdenburg last week told the International Festival Forum (IFF) that the guarantee fund helped to “keep the festival infrastructure alive” and that the industry was looking at implementing a long-term contingency plan for unforeseen circumstances like Covid.

“As an industry, we’re looking at an alliance right now and adding a levy of €1 per ticket to go towards an insurance fund for unforeseen circumstances like Covid,” says van Eerdenburg.

Eerdenburg went on to say that the fans also played a crucial part in keeping the business alive during the Covid-19 pandemic due to a vast majority holding onto tickets.

“The audiences have been our bank,” the Lowlands director said. “A ticket is like a crowdfunding exercise. Even after the second round of cancellations we said we’d pay everyone back, and the audience didn’t want it. We should be grateful to our audiences because without them everyone would have gone bust.”

 


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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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Dutch gov delivers death knell for summer festivals

Dutch festivals such as Lowlands, Down the Rabbit Hole and Mysteryland, will not be permitted to take place this summer after the government extended its ban on multi-day events until September.

The ban on non-seated public events and multi-day festivals with more than 1,000 attendees came into effect on 10 July and was set to remain until 14 August, when the government would decide whether festivals after that date could go ahead.

However, the cabinet has sealed the fate of the summer season sooner than expected, ruling out multi-day festivals until at least 1 September due to uncertainties surrounding the Delta variant of Covid.

Following the news, Mojo-promoted event A Campingflight to Lowlands Paradise (aka Lowlands), which would have taken place between 20–22 August, has been called off for a second consecutive year.

“This is a very bitter pill because the developments surrounding corona have clearly gone in the right direction in recent months,” says Mojo. “Based on that, we started the preparations for Lowlands full of enthusiasm and all artists, suppliers and especially you were ready for a fantastic weekend in the polder. While this is a major setback, we understand and respect [the government’s] decision.”

“This is a very bitter pill because the developments surrounding corona have clearly gone in the right direction”

All Lowlands ticket buyers will automatically receive a refund for tickets purchased in 2020 and 2021. The next edition of the festival is set for 19–21 August 2022.

The organisers thanked the government for setting up the €385 million insurance fund, which they say would guarantee the survival of the sector, as well as Lowlands itself.

Mojo has also been forced to cancel Down the Rabbit Hole, which had already moved from July to the weekend of 27–29 August for a one-off visit to the Biddinghuizen (home of Lowlands).

“No matter how big that setback is, we respect that decision and are happy with the life preservation buoy in the form of a guarantee fund that allows us to support artists, suppliers, caterers, and all the other thousands of hands that make Down The Rabbit Hole,” says Mojo.

All ticket buyers will automatically receive a refund for tickets purchased in 2020 and 2021. Down the Rabbit Hole will return to its usual home of Groene Huvels in Beuningen between 1–3 July 2022.

“No matter how big that setback is, we respect that decision and are happy with the guarantee fund – a life preservation buoy”

Mysteryland (cap. 60,000), the Netherlands’ oldest and most famous electronic music festival, will also forego 2021 due to the extension of the ban.

This year’s sold-out edition was due to take place between 27–29 August in Haarlemmermeerse Bos in north Amsterdam.

The festival’s promoter ID&T, along with a raft of Dutch event organisers, recently initiated summary proceedings against the government over the initial ban on multi-day festivals.

“We understand that this isn’t the news you were hoping for, and it breaks our heart to share it with you,” ID&T wrote.

“During the last months, our whole team has been pushing the limit, working day and night to create what would’ve been the most magical weekend of the year, while also complying with the changing regulations set by the Dutch government. With only a month to go till a sold-out Mysteryland would’ve taken place, all stages and shows were ready for our festival adventure, but unfortunately, it seems it wasn’t meant to be this year.”

“Unfortunately, the Alliance jointly with the government had to conclude that [multi-day festivals] are an unfeasible scenario”

Elsewhere, the Alliance of Event Builders says that it understands the cabinet decision: “Over the past few weeks, we have had intensive consultations with the government about the conditions under which multi-day camping festivals such as Lowlands and Mysteryland can continue.

“Unfortunately, the Alliance jointly with the government had to conclude that we have now been overtaken by reality and that this has become an unfeasible scenario. The quality and responsible festival experience for visitors, employees and artists cannot be sufficiently guaranteed.”

Organisers of one-day festivals will have to wait until August before the government decides whether or not they can continue with their event. The same applies to other one-day events without overnight stays.

The government’s tightening of restrictions comes in spite of Fieldlab’s 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.

Fieldlab is an initiative of the Dutch government and several trade bodies, including the Alliance of Event Builders.

 


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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.”

 


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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.

 


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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.

 


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Thousands take part in “historic” Dutch test events

Thousands of Dutch residents took part in the latest Back to Live test events, which took place in the Ziggo Dome (cap. 17,000) at the weekend.

Saturday’s dance event saw 1,300 people visit the Amsterdam venue to enjoy sets from domestic DJs including Sam Feldt, Lady Bee and Sunnery James and Ryan Marciano.

The next day André Hazes delivered a concert in the venue, with the same amount of participants.

The events, organised by Mojo and ID&T, ran from 3 pm till 7 pm in order to comply with the nationwide curfew from 9 pm to 4:30 am, which has been in place for the past six weeks.

Around 100,000 people applied for the Ziggo Dome events, which were priced at €15 (£13), and tickets for both sold out in 20 minutes.

“One group was given a fluorescent drink and encouraged to sing in order to examine how much saliva was released”

Those who successfully secured a ticket had to have received a negative Covid-19 test 48 hours prior to the event. Twelve applicants had received a positive test result and were turned away. Those who did attend were asked to take another test five days afterwards.

Those participating were traced in all their movements and contacts through a tag.

Participants were divided into five ‘bubbles’ of 250 people, plus one of 50, each of which had to comply with different rules.

In bubble 1, participants were told to wear a mask throughout the event. They could decide for themselves where to stand but had to ensure that there were no more than three people in a square metre of space.

In bubble 2, participants wore a mask at all times but were told to keep a distance of 1.5 metres. In bubble 3, participants wore a mouth mask only when in motion and had to stand on designated spots.

In bubble 4, people wore masks all the time and were permitted to sit down. In bubble 5, people wore masks only when on the move. There were standing and seating areas. The participants were put in their dancing spot by the organisers with two chairs spacing people apart.

In bubble 6, participants did not wear masks and were allowed to stand or sit where and when they pleased.

One group was given a fluorescent drink and encouraged to sing and scream to the music in order to examine how much saliva was released at moments of peak revelry, according to The Guardian.

Tim Boersma, of Fieldlab, the organisation carrying out the research for the government, told the newspaper: “We hope this can lead to a tailor-made reopening of venues. Measures are now generic, allowing for instance a maximum of 100 guests at any event if coronavirus infections drop to a certain level. We hope for more specific measures, such as allowing the Ziggo Dome to open at half its capacity.”

“We hope this can lead to a tailor-made reopening of venues”

Rosanne Janmaat, COO of ID&T, said the events were “a historical moment”, adding: “Hopefully this is the key to being able to reopen”.

The Back to Live series has so far included Back to Live Business, which simulated a conference environment, took place at Utrecht’s Beatrix Theatre on Monday (15 February) with 500 people, as well as two football matches with 1,200 supporters at each.

Two music festivals – a dance music event and a rock/pop festival – will take place on Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 March, respectively, on the Lowlands site in Biddinghuizen, in the central Netherlands.

Government advisers will use the behavioural data collected to inform decisions on whether or not to ease restrictions on nightlife in the near future. It is more than a year since gatherings of more than 100 people were banned in the Netherlands. All bars and restaurants in the country have been closed since mid-October.

 


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