Refunds may lead to mass bankruptcies, warn EE promoters
The absence of a scheme to protect the concert industry from the financial impact of issuing refunds en masse could leave to a wave of insolvencies, leading Estonian promoters have warned.
In many countries in Europe, including Germany, Portugal and Italy, concert organisers are being allowed to offer ticket vouchers (ie credit) in lieu of cash refunds for cancelled events, while others, including Estonia’s Baltic neighbours, have extended the window in which refunds must be given (typically a year).
“In other countries, such as Latvia and Lithuania, solutions have been found,” says Live Nation Estonia’s Mart Eensalu, “and longer periods for the repurchase [refund] of tickets have been granted. But it hasn’t been done here.”
Estonia – which, along with most Europe, put the brakes on live events in March – ended its state of emergency and began easing coronavirus lockdown restrictions on 17 May, with shows of up to 1,000 people permitted from 1 July.
That 1,000-capacity limit (or 500 for indoor shows), of course, precludes major live music events, such as Rammstein’s highly anticipated performance in Tallinn, originally scheduled for July – for which 62,000 people will now be asking Live Nation for refunds, writes the Baltic Times.
“We are effectively jobless, but we must keep our offices open”
Tanel Samm, of promoter Monster Music, says the Estonian government is not taking concert professionals’ concerns seriously. “The money entrusted to us by customers who have bought tickets does not belong to us if the event has not taken place,” he tells the paper. “We are effectively jobless, but we must keep our offices open to bring the rescheduled events to people next year.”
Samm says authorities must “finally enter into a dialogue with us” in order to ensure the survival of much of Estonia’s live music industry.
That long-overdue help may finally be coming in the form of culture minister Tonis Lukas, who recently met with promoters to discuss a way forward for the sector, Postimees reports.
Lukas urges both concertgoers and Estonia’s consumer watchdog, the Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority, to be patient with concert promoters. “My call […] is for us to be prepared to give concert organisers just over a year to return the money,” he says, “because when a concert is postponed by a year, organisers will be able to return to a normal cash flow then and then pay refunds.”
According to the Baltic Times, current Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority guidelines say customers should receive refunds for cancelled events within a month.