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Concert restrictions tightened over Omicron fears

More European countries have tightened restrictions on concerts in a bid to combat the spread of the Omicron variant.

Germany last week extended its so-called 2G rule to cover the whole country – meaning only those who have been vaccinated or recently recovered from Covid can attend live music venues and other cultural events.

Outdoor events are limited to 50% capacity with a maximum of 15,000 attendees, while indoor gatherings are limited to 50% capacity with a maximum crowd of 5,000. Masks are mandatory at all events.

Meanwhile, in Ireland, indoor events are now limited to 50% capacity, whereas evidence of a negative Covid test – from either a lateral flow test or PCR – has been added to Scotland’s vaccine passport scheme from today (6 December). Previously, attendees were required to show proof of full vaccination.

It is really good if the new restrictions can help curb the infection and keep the doors open for our members

However, in the Netherlands, the government has put plans to implement a 2G system on hold until the new year, saying there is not currently enough time to draw up the legislation. A temporary capacity limit of 1,250 was imposed on venues last month.

In Denmark, Covid passes are now required for indoor gatherings of at least 100 people (previously 200) and outdoor gatherings of 1,000 upwards (previously 2,000). The measures came into effect on 29 November.

Esben Marcher, secretary of national trade body Dansk Live, has welcomed the efforts to allow the sector to continue operating.

“It is really good if the new restrictions can help curb the infection and keep the doors open for our members,” he says. “Our members are experts in dealing with large crowds, and we have always believed that you can go to a concert safely, but we also welcome the fact that those who should need it can now feel completely safe when they go to concerts.”

Elsewhere, Austria is in the midst of a national lockdown Austria and is set to become the first European country to make Covid vaccinations compulsory from February 2022.

 


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CM.com launches UK & Ireland ticketing division

Netherlands-based CM.com has launched a new ticketing solution for the live events sector in the UK and Ireland.

CM.com’s London outpost will mark the ticketing division’s first expansion outside of the Benelux region, where clients include the Formula 1 Heineken Dutch Grand Prix, ALDA, Perron, Oh My Festival, Latin Village and Westergas Events.

The company’s new UKI music & live division will be led by former Eventbrite, Europe head of music Paul Everett. Based in the London office, Everett’s role will be to lead on acquisition and growth, while implementing the firm’s music strategy alongside the music & live team, which comprises former Eventbrite, Live Nation, AMG, Pollen, Apple executives.

Combining smart audience analytics and in-event mobile order capabilities, CM.com’s mobile-first platform promises to “streamline every aspect of event organisation, from the beginning through to the end of an event’s lifecycle”.

We are excited to move the needle within UK and Ireland live events with an industry first offering

Having already secured exclusive ticketing partnerships with The Weekender Festival Group and Newcastle club promoter Ape-X, CM.com is positioning itself to facilitate “the next generation of independent event promoters”.

‘‘Most ticketing platforms have been treading the same well-worn path for years, despite the fact that independent event creators’ needs are continually evolving,” says Everett. “CM.com ticketing has already been hugely successful in Benelux – we are excited to move the needle within UK and Ireland live events with an industry first offering.”

Everett, who previously served as an artist manager at Supervision Management, also co-founded music management, live events and ticketing consultancy Wonderland Management Group, and worked within promotions at Beggars Group. He is joined on the music & live team by Jonny Patrickson (senior partnerships manager), Josh Pow (lead account manager), Fiona Primavera (partnerships manager) and Sandra Crowley (technical consultant).

“We always say: selling tickets is just the start,” says CM.com CEO Jeroen van Glabbeek. “It represents how we see the music & live sector, and has become a unique proposition on which we can link all CM.com solutions. We are able to create the ultimate event journey for our customers and their visitors. With Paul and his team coming on board, and everything we’ve learned in the Benelux so far, we are looking forward to rolling out this proposition in the UK & Ireland.”

CM.com was founded in the Netherlands in 1999 by Van Glabbeek and Gilbert Gooijers.

 


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Top Euro promoters speak out on new Covid spike

A handful of top European promoters have spoken to IQ about the impact the latest Covid spike is having on the continent’s live music business.

Record daily infections have been reported in Germany and the Netherlands, while Austria and Belgium have introduced new measures. In the UK, Northern Ireland is following Scotland’s lead in introducing Covid passports to gain entry to venues.

In France, however, the government has just lifted capacity restrictions on standing at indoor concerts following a campaign by French live music association Prodiss.

“France is always different to everywhere else,” laughs Paris-based promoter Arnaud Meersseman, who says he senses “clouds on the horizon”.

“There is a general sense that whilst Germany and Austria have rather low vaccination rates, it is very worrisome that countries such as Belgium and Netherlands – that have a vaccination rate close to ours – are in the situation they are in. So there is some anxiety,” he tells IQ.

Meersseman suspects new rules could be introduced at a government meeting next week after president Emmanuel Macron fired a “warning shot” in a public address earlier this month.

You start losing territories like Holland and Germany and suddenly your tour isn’t viable economically anymore

“We were at 12,000 cases a day a week ago, and now we’re at 20,000,” says the AEG Presents France head. “So it’s getting to that point where it trickles and then suddenly, boom, it becomes exponential.

“I don’t think we’ll go back into full lockdown. But in terms of our business, well, there’s not much going on anyway – even for domestic acts – in November and December. I think there could be some impact there, we’ll see. But I’m not very positive about it and I’m not feeling super positive about January/February either.

“Domestic tours, maybe they go ahead in February/March. But for international tours, it feels highly unlikely that anything happens between January and March because you start losing territories like Holland and Germany and suddenly your tour isn’t viable economically anymore.”

He adds: “You can see that the weather definitely has an impact. If you look at Spain, Italy and Portugal; on top of having extremely high vaccination rates, they’re having very nice weather and their cases aren’t rising. It’s as soon as you get people back inside, basically, that the cases are rising again.”

Rock Werchter founder Herman Schueremans explains that, with Belgium entering a semi-lockdown this weekend, concert-goers for Saturday’s performance by Bazart at Antwerp’s Lotto Arena will be required to wear masks, whereas those attending the band’s first show tomorrow night will not.

“It’s a bit of a strange situation,” remarks the Live Nation Belgium boss. “But even though we know a percentage of the audience will not show up, we’re happy that our sold-out shows in November and December can all happen at full capacity. It’s key for the artists and their teams, and the venues, suppliers, security teams and crew, as well as our team.”

People don’t trust the shows in the near future will take place

Pascal Van De Velde of Greenhouse Talent reports that ticket sales for concerts in Belgium over the next two to three months have been “decimated” by the worsening situation.

“People don’t trust the shows in the near future will take place,” he says. “And people don’t feel like going anymore, as they think it’s no fun with the masks, etc.”

It is a similar state of play in Austria, where Goodlive Concerts MD Silvio Huber describes the current picture as a “mess”. Proof of a negative PCR test will be needed to attend concerts in Vienna from tomorrow, with a return to a full lockdown in the coming days looking increasingly likely.

“Restrictions are going to change every few days,” says Huber. “In the federal states of Salzburg und Upper Austria, the situation is out of control. Shows have been cancelled there already, and hospitals are getting their teams ready for triage as they are running out of intensive care beds slowly, but surely.

“Furthermore they have just announced there will be will a lockdown in Salzburg und Upper Austria from Monday onwards. We will see tomorrow if the rest of the country will join them. I’m pretty sure we will see a nationwide lockdown.”

Scores of shows in the Netherlands were postponed earlier this week after the Dutch government imposed a new partial lockdown. A capacity limit of 1,250 has been imposed on venues, with restrictions due to last until 4 December at the earliest.

We had to cancel or postpone all shows above 1,250-cap

“We had to cancel or postpone all shows above 1,250-cap, at least for three weeks and even beyond those dates,” says Jan Willem Luyken of Mojo Concerts. “Indoor, fixed seated shows can still happen with limited capacity, with proof of vaccine, negative test or [natural immunity from a previous positive test]. Bars and catering need to be closed from 8pm, so it’s a very complex situation indeed, and we’re still figuring it out.”

In light of the fresh measures, Luyken says the Dutch government has announced an extension of support programmes for the live event industry and cultural sector.

Germany’s Event Management Forum (EMF), which consists of five major organisations including live music associations BDKV and LiveKomm, has urged the German government to meet with music industry representatives before imposing new restrictions on the business. Outgoing chancellor Angela Merkel has called the country’s current Covid situation “dramatic” and said a fourth wave of the virus was hitting Germany with “full force”.

BDKV chief Jens Michow earlier laid bare the stark financial impact of the pandemic on the business.

“In the 20 months of actual lockdown, the loss of sales for concert, tour and festival organisers alone was around €3.5 billion by the end of last year,” he said. “By the end of 2021, the loss in sales will add up to at least €8.5bn.”

 


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Netherlands concerts postponed amid new lockdown

Scores of concerts in the Netherlands have been postponed after the Dutch government imposed a new partial lockdown in the wake of rising Covid-19 infections.

A capacity limit of 1,250 has been imposed on venues, while sports events will be played behind closed doors.

Restrictions will last at least three weeks until 4 December, with the situation to be reassessed by the government on 3 December. Covid entry passes are already required to attend concerts in the country.

“If we succeed in reversing the current trend in the weeks ahead and the number of positive cases falls, the government believes it will be possible to reopen society as fully and as safely as possible,” it says in a statement. “We will then be able to roll out the coronavirus entry pass system more widely.”

High-profile postponements include shows by Burna Boy, Simply Red and Nightwish at Amsterdam’s 17,000-cap Ziggo Dome, while Burna Boy’s performance at the 16,426-cap Rotterdam Ahoy on 20 November and Nicky Jam on 21 November will also be moved.

Amsterdam’s 1,500-cap Paradiso, meanwhile, has postponed events by acts including Mykki Blanco, Oh Wonder and Spector.

The government says financial support will be available for businesses “directly affected” by the new restrictions. However, the Netherlands’ Alliance of Event Builders and the EventPlatform have declared themselves “deeply disappointed” at the measures, which they claim are not backed up by the scientific data.

Once again, many event builders… suddenly find themselves in a new reality, with mountains of uncertainty

“Professional events with corona ticket control have not or hardly turned out to be a source of contamination, according to the Source and Contact Survey,” says a statement. “They have hardly appeared in the figures of the RIVM since the restart in August, and no significant contamination clusters have arisen at events, while they have been visited by millions of people.”

The statement continues: “Once again, many event builders who were busy with their work today and tomorrow, events that the public longs for, suddenly find themselves in a new reality, with mountains of uncertainty.

“The cabinet still seems to have no answers to the essential questions and continues to make ad hoc and arbitrary adjustments. They mainly react in the short term instead of anticipating.

“The Alliance of Event Builders and the EventPlatform are not only concerned about the short term, but also very concerned about the period after the announced lockdown. There is again no road map, no plan, no end goal. The Alliance and the EventPlatform therefore call on politicians to opt for an approach that is based on facts, figures and clear insights and that provides a dot on the horizon.”

Prior to the announcement, the Association of Dutch Music Venues and Festivals (VNPF) also said that cancelling concerts was “not a solution to the problem of increased infections”.

“The cancellation of these programmes again is symbolic politics,” it said. “Lockdowns and other restrictive measures are creating new programming uncertainty and the already very shaky finances in the pop sector.”

 


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Dutch trade body hits out at lockdown plans

The Association of Dutch Music Venues and Festivals (VNPF) has hit out at plans to impose a partial lockdown in the Netherlands.

With Covid restrictions on the cusp of being tightened in several European countries, Dutch media have reported that strict new measures will be introduced from Saturday (13 November) in a bid to combat record numbers of new Covid-19 infections in the country.

The restrictions, due to be announced this evening by prime minister Mark Rutte, are expected to last at least three weeks, sources have told public broadcaster NOS.

However, the VNPF claims that cancelling live events would merely be “symbolic politics”, pointing to figures showing infections are occurring mainly in family circles and schools, rather than at concerts.

“It is clear that the increase in infections is not caused by organisations affiliated with VNPF,” says the organisation. “The concerts and events are professionally organised and the corona [pass]/QR code is strictly checked everywhere.

“Cancelling concerts and other events is therefore not a solution to the problem of increased infections. The cancellation of these programmes again is symbolic politics. Lockdowns and other restrictive measures are creating new programming uncertainty and the already very shaky finances in the pop sector.

“Moreover, such a measure erodes support for the policy of the corona admission ticket and its compliance, which is now working very well.”

Buying a ticket for a concert or event almost becomes a false promise

The body recently published its new Pop Stages and Festivals in Figures 2020 report, based on data from 101 Dutch music venues and festivals, which reported that revenue from ticket sales and catering at domestic shows plummeted from €121.7 million in 2019 to €29.7m last year as a result of the pandemic.

Events in the country have been restricted to 75% capacity and are required to close between 00:00 and 06:00 CET. Insisting the new measures “must be effective and appropriate”, the VNPF warns repeated postponements could have lasting consequences.

“Buying a ticket for a concert or event almost becomes a false promise,” it says. “So much programme has been shifted, so often, so the pop sector is confronted with a relatively large audience that does not show up. In a sector where the ticket proceeds go to the artist and the other public income, including catering, is for the organiser, this is very threatening.

“New restrictions are not necessary within the pop sector and, once again, cause programming and financial hopelessness for pop artists, pop venues, event organisers, producers and pop festivals.”

In its latest weekly report, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) revealed the number of new cases among EU/EEA countries increased 19% week-on-week.

Elsewhere in Europe, Germany’s disease control centre the Robert Koch Institute has called for large events to be cancelled after the country’s infection rate hit a new high, while Austria is mulling introducing a lockdown for unvaccinated people.

 


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VNPF demands further support for Dutch live sector

The Association of Dutch Music Venues and Festivals (VNPF) has warned the sector will remain in need of financial support as long as Covid-19 restrictions remain in place.

The warning follows the recent publication of its new Pop Stages and Festivals in Figures 2020 report, based on data from 101 Dutch music venues and festivals.

According to the study, revenue from ticket sales and catering at domestic shows plummeted from €121.7 million in 2019 to €29.7m last year as a result of the pandemic.

“In 2020, almost 23,000 fewer performances were given by artists than in 2019,” says the report. “For pop venues affiliated with the VNPF, this led to €92m less income. As a result, many employees lost their jobs. The impact of the pandemic on the entire live music industry is still profound today.”

The damage was mitigated by generic and sector-specific support, with 83% of music venues receiving additional financial resources from support measures. However, events in the country are currently restricted to 75% capacity and are required to close between 00:00 and 06:00 CET.

Financial support remains necessary as long as restrictive measures are still in place

“The VNPF expects similar or worse results in 2021,” it concludes. “Financial support, such as guarantee schemes… are still very much needed. With the end of the generic support measures as of 1 October, pop venues and festivals, artists and suppliers could run into further problems, now that programming and receiving audiences at full capacity and at night is still not possible.

“There is understanding for restrictive measures that combat the coronavirus, because the stages and festivals want nothing more than for society to be able to open fully again, but the measures must be effective and proportional. In addition, financial support remains necessary as long as restrictive measures are still in place.”

In September, the Dutch event sector lost summary proceedings brought against the state due to the latest 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.

The 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) factored in the results when giving advice to the outgoing cabinet.

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

 


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ESNS shares Steve Strange’s last interview

Steve Strange’s last interview before his tragic passing has been released today, courtesy of Chugg Entertainment, X-ray and Eurosonic Noorderslag (ESNS).

The renowned booking agent and X-ray co-founder took part in a 45-minute keynote interview – pre-recorded remotely due to the pandemic – interviewed by veteran Australian promoter Michael Chugg in January this year.

According to the Chugg Entertainment founder who went on to co-manage Australian act Sheppard, he and Strange met in the 80s and became “best mates”.

During the interview, Chugg quizzes Strange on weathering the pandemic, reimagining businesses models, and how he came to represent Eminem, Coldplay and Queens of the Stone Age from the beginning of their careers.

Read more about Steve Strange’s remarkable life and career in this IQ feature, which marked his 50th birthday.

ESNS will return to Groningen between 19–22 January 2022. For more information, visit esns.nl.


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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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Superstruct expands in the Dutch festival market

Live powerhouse Superstruct Entertainment has acquired a stake in Amsterdam-based Festival Travel.

Specialising in festival holidays, Festival Travel has organised travel arrangements for international visitors to events such as Exit in Serbia and Hungary’s Sziget and Balaton Sound over the past decade.

Providence Equity-backed Superstruct produces a number of major European festivals including Sziget, Elrow, Parookaville, Wacken Open Air, Boardmasters, Sonar and the Dutch festival Zwarte Cross.

“It is very valuable to gain the trust of a company of this size”

“It is very valuable to gain the trust of a company of this size,” says Festival Travel co-owner Ruud Bongaerts. “The customer experience is always central to our way of acting and with that, we create unique festival summers for tens of thousands of young people every year.

“The past summers were of course very difficult for us, with everything that resulted from the corona pandemic, but this new chapter gives us a lot of confidence in the future.”

The parties released no further details on the deal, which was reported by Netherlands-based publication Entertainment Business and comes a week after Superstruct signed a partnership agreement with Dutch promoter ID&T.

 


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The New Bosses 2021: Age Versluis, Friendly Fire

The New Bosses 2021 – the latest edition of IQ’s annual celebration of the brightest young talent in the live business today, as voted for by their peers – was published in IQ 103 this month, revealing the 12 promising promoters, bookers, agents, entrepreneurs that make up this year’s list.

To get to know this year’s cohort a little better, IQ conducted interviews with each one of 2021’s New Bosses, discovering their greatest inspirations and pinpointing the reasons for their success.

Catch up on the previous 2021 New Bosses interview with Jenna Dooling, agent at WME in the UK here.

As one of the worst drummers in his hometown, Utrecht, Age Versluis realised that organising shows was a better option. During his music management studies, he interned for a festival, a venue, a record label and a promoter to help him decide what his next step would be.

Having interned at the first edition of Best Kept Secret festival in 2013, Versluis remained at Friendly Fire, where he became a promoter five years ago. He has since developed a roster that includes Khruangbin, Fontaines D.C., Black Pumas, Cigarettes After Sex, Phoebe Bridgers and many others.

Friendly Fire also runs an open-air venue in Amsterdam throughout the summer, which Versluis operates.


Do you have a mentor or anyone you turn to for advice?
Roel Coppen [agent, promoter, co-owner, Friendly Fire] has taught me everything about spotting talent and working out a long-term approach for an artist. For the last couple of years, I have been learning more about bigger shows and collaborations from Rense van Kessel and Lauri van Ommen in our office.

What has been the highlight of your career, so far?
The biggest highlight is convincing an artist to trust and play multiple shows in the Netherlands early on in their career and then to see that confidence pay off. For example, with two amazing sold-out nights for Khruangbin in Paradiso, December 2020.

“Go to shows, lots of them, talk with the people at the door, at the stand, at the FOH, production staff, everyone”

What advice would you give to anyone trying to find a job in live music?
Go to shows, lots of them, talk with the people at the door, at the stand, at the FOH, production staff, everyone. Volunteer for as many things as you can sustain. Go to conferences, panels, and try to get a quick meeting in for some advice/feedback with someone that inspires you.

The pandemic has been hard on us all – are there any positive aspects that you and Friendly Fire are taking out of it?
Yes, it’s been hard but we’ve also seen relationships improve with the people we work with. We’ve tried out new things, dipped our toes into livestreaming, have unwillingly learned everything on socially distanced shows and have kept on a few of those new things.

As a new boss, what one thing would you change to make the live music industry a better place?
Several things. We should work to diversify the people we work with and in all aspects of what we do, in regards to underrepresentation.

“We have all been busy juggling shows and limitations, now it’s important that we plan for shows that are actually happening”

Also, accommodating and setting boundaries for work and personal life – although that’s been getting a lot better the past years. As a young new promoter with no network, I loved gaining managers’ and agents’ trust at that earliest stage. I believe in spreading out who you work with, so you can learn from all sorts of people.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I’d love to work on new outdoor concepts and specialise in that part of live music, as I really like the novelty of it. So far the majority of my shows were in the Netherlands, but we are doing more outside our territory now, and that’s something that I hope is going to stick.

What’s the biggest challenge for you and the Friendly Fire team now that the business is emerging from lockdown restrictions?
We have all been very busy juggling shows and limitations, now it’s important that we focus and plan a workflow for shows that are actually happening. The biggest challenge will be building up customer trust to buy tickets again.


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