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Hots announces IQ Focus and artist showcase live stream

IQ and Hungarian Oncoming Tunes (Hots) will launch the next phase of the partnership by shining a spotlight on the best of the Hungarian market with a special IQ Focus session and a livestreamed gig showcasing the hottest domestic talent.

The hour-long panel, dubbed ‘Hungarian music: In the Hots seat’, will be broadcast live this Thursday (28 January) at 4 pm GMT featuring an all-star cast cherrypicked from all corners of the Hungarian music industry.

Saya Noé (artist), Szonja Ferenczi (manager), Zoltan Jakab (agent at Doomstar Bookings, The Devil’s Trade), Máté Horváth (promoter at New Beat, Dürer Kert, 3S Music Management) and Lucia Nagyova from Hots will make up this Thursday’s panel.

Set a reminder for Hungarian music: In the Hots seat on Facebook or Youtube.

In the meantime, a slate of Hungary’s most promising rising artists will take to the virtual stage for the showcase, Hots Presents, which will broadcast live this Tuesday (26th January) at 4 pm GMT.

Hots Presents will showcase performances from Saya Noé, Deva, The Devil’s Trade and OIEE

Hots Presents will showcase performances from Saya Noé, Deva, The Devil’s Trade and OIEE. Set a reminder for Hots Presents on Facebook.

The partnership with the Hungarian music export office launched last October with a Spotify playlist presenting some of the most promising domestic artists including Platon Karataev (pictured), The Devil’s Trade, Deva, Mongooz and the Magnet, Fran Palermo and more. Listen to the Hots x IQ playlist below:

The Hots playlist was complemented by a feature on the Hungarian market in IQ94, titled Magyar Choice: What’s hot in Hungary.

Since launching 2016, Hots has brought Hungarian acts to festivals including Eurosonic Noorderslag in the Netherlands, Primavera Sound in Spain, Liverpool Sound City in the UK, Tallinn Music Week in Estonia, Zandari Festa in Seoul, and Reeperbahn Festival in Germany.


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A call for help from Hungary

Hungary has one of the highest rates of VAT in Europe. Here, value-added tax is charged at – you’re going to want to sit down for this – 27%!

There are some exceptions, for sure, but this is the normal VAT. Books, for example, have had only 5% VAT for quite a long time, and recently some basic food earned the ‘privilege’ to be part of the 5% VAT ‘family’, but there are not that many. This is our starting point; factor in that this is the year of Covid-19 and you could say it’s pretty tough for Hungarian music right now.

I found myself in the Hungarian music scene in 2012 when I moved back from my second most-loved city, London. Over the past eight years I’ve seen quite a lot of changes.

A few days ago Viktor Orbán, our prime minister, made a stand for what he sees as Hungary’s interests, vetoing the next EU budget over concerns about migration – not only throwing away financial help, but denying it to all other EU countries. At the same time, in his own country he leaves those who are feeding our locked-down, under-pressure nation with intellectual nourishment – the artists and creative industries – without any support.

Let’s do the maths. Since March, the Hungarian cultural sector received €26.5 million in total, but the numbers are a bit fuzzy. Approximately €3m went to non-state-funded theatre, dance, circus and classical/folk/jazz music, and €23.5 million to popular music. Nothing really to film or fine arts. Additionally, there were three months (March–May) of relief from employer tax and KATA (is a fixed monthly tax for self-employed people and micro-enterprises, which is the most common way of paying tax in the music sector). Since the end of October, we have another lockdown, and since 11 November we have a 20.00 curfew too. For this, the government has decided to offer some relief for employers, but not for KATA payers.

It’s not just about money or numbers – in the long run, it’s about being a bit more crisis-resistant

But let’s go back to the €23.5m the music sector received. This includes the previously mentioned relief, some normal support handled by NKA, the National Cultural Fund (via applications, for example, for recorded or or livestreamed no-audience gigs); some extra support (for some extra gigs, with or without an audience) handled by PIÜ, the Petőfi Literary Agency; and the so-called “warehouse gigs”, for which €14.7m out of the total €23.5m, was allocated. These were handled by Antenna Hungária Zrt, a government-owned for-profit company, which is a broadcast company with nothing to do with live music.

The warehouse gigs were no-audience concerts at an unused warehouse (instead of any music venue) broadcast to a registration-only platform created by the same company. It was invitation-only for bands who would have played at at least 2–3 festivals this summer, and for ‘living legend’ musicians. Rumour says Antenna Hungária got the tender because the Hungarian Foundation Day fireworks had been cancelled this year, which was supposed to be their business, and cost approximately the same. It is also rumoured, if we do the maths with the bands who were accepted into this programme, that approximately 60–70% of this money stayed in the pocket of Antenna Hungária and its subcontractor, the close-to-government Visual Europe Group.

Just as a comparison, a couple of weeks ago, on 9–10 November, we held the eighth annual Music Hungary Conference. I had a panel with Neus López (Initiative Musik) and Helge Hinteregger (Music Information Centre Austria). We had been talking about state aid across Europe, and the numbers they used as examples caused the whole audience to fall into astonished silence. I didn’t even dare to ask their opinion on the difference in attitude: Angela Merkel, a couple of weeks ago, said culture and music is an important part of our society, so we must appreciate the artists and cultural workers; whereas in July, Gergely Gulyás, head of the prime minister’s office in Hungary, was asked why a concert is limited to a maximum of 500 people while a football game can happen with no capacity limit. He replied that there’s a big difference between a concert and a football match, and that is the consumption of alcohol.

If I can stop here for another example of comparison in attitudes, in most EU countries musicians and artists received aid with no strings attached, while here in Hungary there was no aid, only support which you had to apply for, based on tasks to do (eg no-audience gigs).

Come and enjoy the best we can offer, and in doing so, help us save our live music sector

At the conference, Dávid Szilágyi, lead analyst at PricewaterhouseCoopers Hungary, introduced the results of a new study about reducing VAT on live music ticketing from 27% to 5%. This study had been ordered and co-financed by Music Hungary Association.

To give an overview of our live music history in a nutshell: strong and brave Hungarian promoters were fighting for almost two decades to put Hungary on the international touring map, to mark us as a “trusted country” where artists can play in good venues and amazing festivals, get decent fees and experience warm hospitality. I strongly believe Sziget festival and A38 Ship were the flag-bearers in this fight, and they won. A strong industry lobby fought for 18% VAT on festival tickets and we got it in 2013, but the strict terms excluded many in the first couple of years. Then the good years came. Last year was probably one of the best. In 2019, the Hungarian live industry was worth an estimated €125m by net ticket sales.

If we take the €125m in net ticket sales as starting point, reducing VAT from 27% (or 18% for festivals) to 5% would leave an extra €18.5m in the music industry is annually. Of course, on the other hand, this VAT reduction means a €18.5m loss to the central budget – however, if the Hungarian live music sector becomes stronger and more competitive on the European market, it would increase the revenues too, with the organisation of additional concerts providing the central budget with an additional €3.3m and local governments with an approximate €228,000 annually.

But it’s not just about money or numbers – in the long run, it’s about being a bit more crisis-resistant. It’s about having a better chance to keep the music professionals on their own playground, and having a better chance to keep jobs. It’s about keeping alive the social experience, and the culture itself, and providing the feeling of being together. We have an amazing music scene, an amazing nightlife, and not to mention our music and cultural festivals.

This article is a call for help to our government, and towards people all around Europe. Even if we have a competitive disadvantage due to the high VAT, please come here and play on our stages. Please come here, check out our festivals, and have fun. Enjoy the best we can offer – in Budapest and outside of the capital, too – and by doing so, help us save our live music sector.


Eszter Décsy is founder and artist manager at NOW Books & Music and PR and communication manager for Music Hungary Association. She is writing in a personal capacity.

VAT cut ‘could save Hungarian live sector’

The Hungarian live music business is calling on the government to support the industry by slashing the sky-high VAT levied on concert and festival tickets.

Currently, value-added tax is charged at 27% on concert and 18% on festival tickets in Hungary. According to a new report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the Hungarian government could give the industry – whose revenues are 10% what they were in 2019 – a shot in the arm, and make it more “crisis resistant” in future, by cutting VAT to a uniform 5%.

The report – funded by Music Hungary, Sziget festival, promoter InConcert, the Hungarian Festival Association (Magyar Fesztivál Szövetség) and the Association of Music Managers (Zenei Managerek Szövetsége), among others – was presented at Music Hungary’s annual conference, held on 9 and 10 November, days before Hungary went into a second lockdown.

In 2019, the Hungarian live industry was worth an estimated 45 billion Ft (€125 million) by net ticket sales. PwC’s analysis shows that a reduction in VAT to to 5% would provide the Hungarian music industry with an additional 6.7bn Ft annually, the tax cut more than paying for itself by stimulating increased ticket sales.

“A reduction in the VAT rate would have a positive impact on all players in the sector”

According to Dávid Szilágyi, chief analyst of PwC Hungary, the current rate of VAT also makes it difficult for promoters to afford foreign performers.

According to Music Hungary, the Hungarian music industry has received next to no aid throughout the coronavirus crisis, with just €23.5 million finding its way to the sector since March. Of that, €14m went to poorly received government-sponsored ‘warehouse concerts’ (raktár koncertek) held behind closed doors since August.

“Our research highlights the economic and cultural significance of concerts and festivals, and also emphasises that a reduction in the VAT rate would have a positive impact on all players in the sector,” concludes the PwC report.

In October, IQ partnered with Hungarian Oncoming Tunes (Hots), the Hungarian music export office, to showcase the best of Hungary’s resilient live music scene.


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