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Dozens die in Istanbul nightclub inferno

At least 29 people were killed, and several more injured by a fire at a nightclub in Istanbul on Wednesday (3 April).

The daytime inferno happened as workers were in the basement of the Masquerade club, which had been undergoing renovations.

Authorities stated that the victims of the blaze were all thought to have been involved in the renovation project, which was taking place during Ramadan ahead of the club’s scheduled reopening at the Eid holiday, next week.

Situated on the ground floor and basement levels of a high-rise building in the residential Gayrettepe district of Istanbul, the venue is apparently being treated as a crime scene, with Istanbul governor Davut Gül noting that the cause of the mid-day fire was yet to be determined.

However, police issued warrants for the arrest of eight people, including the nightclub manager and a person responsible for the renovations, as part of their investigations. At press time, six people had reportedly been arrested, while warrants are outstanding for others.

Turkish television showed flames and a columns of smoke billowing from upper floor windows as the fire spread up the 16-storey building

Emergency services were alerted to the inferno at 12:47 pm and firefighters faced the grim task of finding bodies and rescuing severely injured victims as they battled for several hours to bring the blaze under control. Throughout the afternoon, the governor’s office was forced to increase the death toll in ever more shocking updates as more victims succumbed to their injuries in hospital.

Images from Turkish television showed flames and columns of smoke billowing from upper floor windows as the fire spread up the 16-storey building, but it is believed all the deaths had been individuals who were in the club premises.

As investigations began, Mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem Imamoglu, revealed that the club’s operators had not applied for the correct construction permit. “There is no application [to the local municipality] for a renovation or a construction regarding the place and as it was two floors down from the ground level, it [the work] wasn’t visible,” he said.

On a later post on X, formerly Twitter, Imamoglu added, “May God have mercy on our citizens who lost their lives, and I wish a speedy recovery to our injured.”

The venue could apparently host up to 4,000 people for DJ performances and stage shows

The Masquerade website notes that the club would be closed from 10 March to 10 April for “our new design renovation”. The venue could apparently host up to 4,000 people for DJ performances and stage shows, according to local reports.

The tragedy evokes memories of similar venue tragedies in the likes of Brazil, Romania, and the United States over the past decade. In January 2013, 242 people – mostly university students – died, and more than 600 others were injured when acoustic foam in the ceiling of the Kiss nightclub in the southern Brazilian city of  Santa Maria.

In December 2016, 36 people died when fire broke out in the unlicensed Ghost Ship venue in Oakland, California, while in 2003, a fire at the Station nightclub in Rhode Island claimed 100 lives, and injured 230 others, with investigators again pointing to pyrotechnics setting light to the venue’s acoustic foam.

And in 2015, 64 revellers lost their lives when pyrotechnics caused a devastating blaze at the Colectiv nightclub in Bucharest.


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Berlin pilot project trials pre-entry PCR testing

Participants in a pilot event series held in Berlin over the weekend were asked to provide a negative Covid-19 PCR test, as opposed to the more common lateral-flow/rapid antigen tests becoming an increasingly common entry requirement as festivals and shows restart.

Clubculture Reboot, organised by Clubcommission, an association of Berlin nightclubs, as part of the city-backed Perspektive Kultur: Berliner Pilotprojekt Testing initiative, is the latest pilot scheme intended to demonstrate to German authorities that live events can be held safely “even under pandemic conditions”. Six clubs, the Kitkat-Club, SO36, Festsaal Kreuzberg, Crack Bellmer, Salon zur Wilden Renate and Metropol, and around 2,000 people participated in the pilotprojekt, which began on Friday 6 August.

All clubgoers, regardless of their vaccination status, had to go undergo a PCR test – the ‘swab test’ which is more accurate than a rapid test, but which takes at least 24 hours to return its results – at one of three designated test centres ahead of the weekend events. There were seven positive results out of the 2,200 tests administered, according to the city’s website.

“I’m totally blown away by how people are standing here with umbrellas in the Berlin rain and just want to get in here. It’s like being at a festival”

In addition to the weekend-long series of club nights, the Clubcommission, in partnership with the city of Berlin and the German Red Cross, is organising three ‘Long Nights of Vaccination’ (Lange Nächte des Impfens) at the vaccination centre in Arena Berlin (7,500-cap.) in Treptow. Taking place on 9, 11 and 13 August, the ‘long nights’ run from 8pm to 1am and combine live DJs with free BioNTech/Pfizer vaccinations for younger people.

Speaking to AFP, Sebastian Schwarz from Tiefschwarz, one of the seven acts who played on Monday 9 August, said: “It’s overwhelming, the empathy and the niceness with which people are working together here. I’m totally blown away by how people are standing here with umbrellas in the Berlin rain and just want to get in here. It’s like being at a festival.” According to Berlin’s ministry of health, 420 people were vaccinated on Monday alone.

Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, said earlier this week that the country’s vaccination rate has fallen behind its neighbours and urged state and local governments to promote vaccines and make them easy to obtain.


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Clubs come together for The Beat Goes Live

A 48-hour livestreaming event will unite many of the world’s leading electronic music venues in support of the industry later this month.

The Beat Goes Live, which takes place from 19 to 21 March, will raise money for Music Heroes, an initiative supporting venues, promoters, artists, music related charities and organisations. It will stream live on Paarti starting from 9pm GMT.

Participating venues include Ambassada Gavioli (Izola, Slovenia), Cava Paradiso (Mykonos, Greece), Club der Visionaere (Berlin, Germany), Egg (London, UK), D-Edge (Sao Paolo, Brazil), H0L0 (New York, USA), Noa Beach Club (Zrce, Croatia), Nordstern (Basel, Switzerland), Phonotheque (Montevideo, Uruguay), Super Dommune (Tokyo, Japan), Tenax (Firenze, Italy) and Versuz (Hasselt, Belgium).

A final secret venue, as well as the line-up, will be announced in the coming weeks.

“We are launching a new kind of platform kicking off with a historic event that brings together some of the biggest names in music”

Fans can support the cause by buying tickets and making donations in both their local currency and cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin.

Raluca Cherciu, CEO, Paarti says: “We are launching a new kind of platform kicking off with a historic event that brings together some of the biggest names in music, in support of music heroes.”

“What always drives us is the passion and love for music. For Noa, the beat never stops, it keeps playing just like our hearts that live for this industry,” says the club in a statement.

“That is why Noa Beach Club decided to join this initiative because it arose from a sincere desire to continue living, having fun and socialising from all over the world. Luckily, technology today allows us to do that, and this project is going to take it to another level.”


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Tax break for German nightclubs

Live performances by house and techno DJs have been officially recognised as ‘concerts’ by Germany’s Federal Fiscal Court, slashing the tax paid on live electronic music events to 7%.

Tickets for club nights were formerly levied at 19%, but are now eligible for the lower rate of sales tax after being redefined as “concert-like” events by the  Bundesfinanzhof (BFH).

In a judgment dated 23 July, but published in late October, the BFH affirms that “the performance of techno and house music by various DJs give[s] an event the character of a concert, or a concert-like, event even if the music performances take place regularly (weekly),” according to Berlin-based legal firm Härting.

The majority of dance music shows were formerly recognised as ‘party’, rather than cultural, events.

“Most clubs should be able to benefit from the application of the lower tax rate”

The reclassification for clubs throughout Germany follows a similar move specifically for Berlin’s Berghain in 2016, which was recognised as organising culture events and so eligible for the 7% rate of tax.

For nightclubs to benefit from the new tax rules, DJ performances must be the main purpose of the event (as opposed to dancing, partying and drinks sales), according to Härting.

“Even if these requirements have to be checked on a case-by-case basis, most clubs should be able to benefit from the application of the lower tax rate,” the firm says.

All venues and bars in Germany are currently closed under a nationwide lockdown set to run until the end of November.


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In France, nightclubs have been left for dead

Dear Minister of Culture,

It’s strange, but at the end of your speech on France 2 on 22 October, I had the unfortunate impression that I had not been concerned by your announcements.

Not being a great expert in political language, either, after your speech I naively asked my wife if she thought that “the world of the night” could be included in what you called “the performing arts sector”. After all, when I’m on stage, behind turntables, like an actor, musician or dancer, I feel as if I, too, am delivering live performances. But the dubious grin I got as an answer hasn’t really alleviated my fears. So, in order to get to the bottom of it, I immediately called a friend (from the profession) to ask him this simple question: “Reassure me, V, when our minister talks about the performing arts sector, she is talking about us too, all the same…?”

At first my question made him laugh (which didn’t bode well), before giving me his answer: “Ah, no, Laurent, from now on we are part of the dead performing arts sector… As Roselyne has said many times, ‘the world of the night’ doesn’t depend on her, but on the Ministry of the Interior.”

At the beginning I thought it was a little joke, but I quickly understood that behind his cynically funny answer, V wasn’t telling me lies.

It’s strange because as an Officer of L’Ordre Arts et Lettres, Knight of the Legion of Honour (awarded by a former minister of culture [Jack Lang], who has long since occupied the eminent place of the night in the vast space of culture and creation) and globetrotting DJ (like other artists in our country, I’ve been indirectly promoting France abroad for more than 30 years), I stupidly thought that things had changed, and that with my little turntable comrades we had won our status and our ticket to the “world of culture” with dignity. But I have to admit that apparently this is still not the case.

During your speech you spoke of the great suffering of the cinema and the world of the performing arts. Indeed, these sectors have been suffering terribly (like many others) since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis. But fortunately for them, cinemas, theatres and some concert halls have nevertheless been able to reopen, despite a complicated health protocol.

When they were open, clubs were places bubbling with creation, imagination and sharing

Today we hear a lot of talk about the anger of restaurateurs and coffee shops due to the curfew. But here again, these businesses still, somehow or other, had some possibilities to reopen, even in an extremely constrained way.

On the other hand, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that, since the beginning of March, the “night and clubs” sector (of which I am an intrinsic part) has been completely at a standstill. For us the party is over, and has been for eight long months now.

As you know, like theatres, cinemas and concert halls, clubs (apart from the artists and DJs who perform there) employ the same diverse and varied staff as the rest of the cultural landscape, whether in the bar, the auditorium, the cashier, the cloakroom and the cleaning staff… Or the stage managers, security, intermittent workers, technical staff, sound engineers, lighting engineers, VJs, promoters, bookers, labels, graphic designers, printers, and not forgetting the indirect economic impact (suppliers, restaurants, hotels, transport, etc.). The list is long, but above all very similar to that of the performing arts.

On France 2, you announced figures relating to aid to the various sectors of film and performing arts – and once again, and for too many months now, the cultural space of the night has been totally ignored.

The flagrant lack of consideration, the ignorance emanating from your ministry towards the nightlife and club sector, is clearly interpreted by many of us as an incomprehensible form of contempt. For whether you like it or not, the clubs and places of this ‘night culture’ were (when they were open) places bubbling with creation, imagination and sharing.

I was, Madam Minister, sincerely attentive and benevolent when you took office, impatient but certain to see you represent us in the same way as other artists, and affirm the minimum consideration due to our sector. But I must admit that today, I am not sure if we can do so. But I confess that today – not knowing very well if I am a “dead performing artist”, an “Interior Ministry artist”, or “not an artist at all”, I am beginning to have serious doubts.

Kind regards,
Laurent Garnier


Laurent Garnier is a DJ, composer and producer, and founder of electronic music label F Communications. In 2016 he became a Knight (Chevalier) of the Légion d’honneur.

Clubs “on the verge” in key European markets

Some of Europe’s key markets have delivered damning new surveys revealing the impact of Covid-19 on their night-time industries.

Germany has revealed that 94% of the participating disco and club operators are “on the verge of giving up their business,” while the Netherlands – which this week has hosted the world’s biggest electronic music event, Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) – expects to lose almost half its expected turnover of €7.4bn this year.

In the UK this week, new campaign group #SaveNightclubs conducted a survey of 101 nightclub owners and managers which revealed that 58% of nightclubs across the nation will go out of business within a month.

Four in five (81%) nightclubs will be shut by Christmas and just 10% said that they expect their business to survive longer than four months.

The vast majority of the live entertainment and nightlife businesses are shuttered due to the UK’s restrictions – which include a 10 pm curfew, capacity restrictions with social distancing and the most recently introduced Tier 2 and 3 measures – as well as being missed out of support schemes.

The survey follows the government’s announcement that selected nightclubs would receive financial assistance from the Culture Recovery Fund, though many operators have missed out and fear their clubs won’t last long without funding.

Printworks, Studio 338, Egg London and Pickle Factory/Oval Space are among the iconic London nightclubs that were denied grants from the Culture Recovery Fund.

“With only a handful of nightclubs receiving Culture Recovery Funding, the rest of the country is in dire need of a survival fund. The government must act now or permanently lose the country’s nightclub industry and the enormous economic contribution it makes,” says Asher Grant, co-owner of London club Reign and a member of #SaveNightclubs.

In the UK, 58% of nightclubs will go out of business within a month

“We’re facing mounting rent bills, ongoing running costs and the prospect of business rates in April. We’re pleading with the government to prevent a devastating tsunami of job losses, a wipeout of future economic contributions and further ruin to towns and cities across the UK which are already on their knees.”

The nightclub industry generates £3bn a year in income for the UK’s economy and is a vital source of jobs, particularly for the young, employing around 45,000 people – 72% of who are under 25 years old. Nightclubs are also an important part of domestic tourism, with 10% bar visits and 9% club visits forming part of a city break.

#SaveNightclubs launched this week, uniting over 100 late-night venues across the UK along with thousands of staff to call on the government to offer a survival plan including emergency financial aid, eviction protection and extended rate relief to April 2022.

Nightclub owners, workers and goers will be joining together to drum up noise outside Parliament Square on Wednesday 28 October at 12 pm to coincide with the prime minister’s Question Time.

In the Netherlands, Dutch organisations including Buma, Amsterdam Dance Event, and Music Ally have published a report, The electronic music industry during Covid-19, which outlines the value of its “world-famous nightlife culture” and its decline due to Covid-19.

In 2018, 73% of the €216.5m total value of Dutch music was attributed to electronic music

Buma, a copyright organisation which presents an annual report of the value of Dutch popular music, revealed that in 2018,  73% of the €216.5m total value of Dutch music was attributed to electronic music, based on recordings and performances.

Festival and party concepts developed in the Netherlands, including Sensation, DGTL, Dekmantel and Mysteryland, are rolled out all over the world with resounding success. While Dutch superstar DJs such as Tiësto, Armin van Buuren, Afrojack, Ferry Corsten, Hardwell, Martin Garrix, Joris Voorn and Chuckie perform sold-out shows around the world.

The Dutch government has released emergency funding to the cultural sector – a total of €728m through packages and €77m through the Performing Arts Fund – but the report says “very little” seems to have found its way to nightclubs or electronic music organisations so far.

Furthermore, while live music venues have been allowed to reopen, albeit with capacity restrictions, nightclubs have now been closed for over six months and will remain shuttered until a vaccine is on the market, says Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte.

In March, RTL reported that the Dutch event industry will lose almost half its expected turnover of €7.4bn this year.

In Germany, 94% of the participating disco and club operators are “on the verge of giving up their business”

Elsewhere, in Germany, according to a recent survey by the umbrella organization DEHOGA, 94% of the participating disco and club operators are “on the verge of giving up their business” as a result of the pandemic.

“The situation of clubs and discos in Germany is getting worse,” explained Knut Walsleben, the newly elected president of the Federal Association of German Discotheques and Dance Companies (BDT), part of DEHOGA, at the Club Convention industry meeting on 20 October.

“The current state aid is by far not sufficient for our existentially affected companies. The club operators and discotheque entrepreneurs are running out of breath, ”said Walsleben, and called for further political support for his branch.

This week the German government announced an extension of the bridging aid, which will allow medium-sized companies, self-employed professionals and freelancers from all industries to apply for non-repayable direct grants for operational fixed costs up to 90% for the months between September to December 2020.

BDT has welcomed the extension of the bridging aid but is calling for 100% of fixed costs to be covered; the maximum monthly limit of 50,000 euros to be increased; an appropriate entrepreneur wage for the club and discotheque operators; and a VAT reduction which includes drinks and the entrance fee.

Germany is currently operating with an 11pm curfew and a hotspot strategy to tackle Covid cases, which yesterday soared past the 10,000 mark for the first time.


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Plea to Clubs Across Japan: Close your doors

Mindgames, promoter of venerable Japanese dance music festival Labyrinth, has written an open letter to Japan’s venues and nightclubs urging them to close to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Unlike in neighbouring China, as well as must of the western world, Japanese authorities have imposed no lockdown or mass closures of public places amid the pandemic, with workplaces, bars and restaurants, public transport and many schools remaining open.

The government says it has been proactive in identifying and containing clusters of coronavirus, while critics speculate it is intentionally underreporting infections ahead of the 2020 Olympic games.

The letter from Mindgames, entitled ‘Plea to Clubs Across Japan’, comes as bars and clubs, particularly in Tokyo, come under fire for allegedly turning a blind eye to their role in the spread of the virus.

An outbreak among venues in Osaka now appears to be over, according to Kyodo News, but Mindgames argues that clubs elsewhere remain a major source of infection.

According to the promoter, Tokyo nightclubs “are among the highest risk spaces in all of Japan”, with owners failing “in their civic duty” to protect patrons and the wider public. “[I]f this clueless government fails in its duty to shut them down, it is our civic responsibility to take action and demand that these clubs close now to protect the health of us all,” the letter reads.

“Tricked into complacency, almost all the major Tokyo clubs are still running like normal, causing a huge public risk”

Read Mindgames’ open letter, dated 16 March, in full below:

The world has entered a state of war with an enemy who is fast and ruthless. The numbers around the world are increasing with incredible speed, yet Japan still does not enough. […] This is just the beginning.

Unlike every other Asian country that is successfully attacking the disease – Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore and China – Japan is not operating an aggressive testing and quarantine program.

Japan has also not been blocking flights or requiring self-quarantine for visitors from Europe or America, the two greatest spreading vectors in the world now. Because of a suicidal delusion that the Olympics can still happen, [prime minister Shinzo] Abe’s administration doesn’t want to report large numbers.

Tricked into complacency, almost all the major Tokyo clubs are still running like normal, causing a huge public risk for every person in this city. Clubs are extremely dangerous because they are small enclosed spaces with poor ventilation, lots of people close to each other and shared toilets. Plus lots of drunk people not acting carefully with regards to hygiene.

The epicentre of the outbreak is now Europe and America, and clubs are a popular and obvious gathering spot for tourists from abroad. Since the government is not blocking flights or asking visitors to self quarantine yet, there are more virus carriers arriving every day. And local transmission has obviously already begun.

Since spreading can happen asymptotically, young people who don’t even know they are sick can spread the disease to others, causing tragic outbreaks all across the city.

All these factors combine to make Tokyo clubs and bars among the HIGHEST risk spaces in all of Japan. They must all SHUT DOWN. And clubs all across Japan should also follow.

If these club managers and owners fail so horribly in their civic duty to close temporarily, and if this clueless government fails in its duty to shut them down, it is our civic responsibility to take action and demand that these clubs close now to protect the health of us all. Write to them and tell them how you feel.

I beg you large clubs and bars across Japan, please close for a few weeks like most gyms, museums, and other public spaces have done. The economics are brutal, I know, but we are all in this together. And this is not the time to focus on short-term, local economic issues.

We must focus our efforts on preserving the society, economy, and public health of Japan as a whole.


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“Sleeping giant” Oates to lead Candypants expansion

Candypants, a UK-born “global lifestyle party brand” which organised more than 400 shows in 2019, has appointed Gatecrasher co-founder Simon Oates as director of group strategy.

Candypants organises club nights and day parties in UK, Europe, North America and the Middle East. Alongside CEO Ray Chan, Oates is tasked with growing the Leeds-based company’s business over the next five years, following its best-ever 12 months in 2019.

Gatecrasher – the biggest clubbing brand in the world during its ’90s heyday – had nine superclubs across the UK and organised shows for tens of thousands of ravers, including huge new year’s eve events and major festivals in the UK and Australia.

Oates left Gatecrasher in 2006 and has since run bars and VIP areas for festivals including Download, Electric Picnic, Isle of Wight Festival, Reading Festival and Radio 1’s Big Weekend.

“He brings a great mix of leadership, inspiration, operational experience and very technical breadth”

“Simon is a sleeping giant in the industry with a widely regarded worldwide background and a track record of working with high-growth late night-sector companies,” comments Chan. “He also co-founded global phenomenon Gatecrasher in 1995, with 400 shows a year across 30 countries, including the US, Asia, Europe, South America, Russia, Japan and New Zealand…”

“He brings a great mix of leadership, inspiration, operational experience and very technical breadth, with a creative eye on brand development. He’s done it all.”

At Candypants, Oates will work to “develop Candypants as a multi-faceted event and entertainment brand, while maintaining it as the leading experiential daytime and late-night events company in the Middle East and across Europe, and continue to grow their global footprint and group,” according to a company statement.

He will also seek to drive business to other areas of the Candypants group, including fashion, music, marketing and video production, venue management, festivals, concierge and corporate hospitality.

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Trailblazers: Godwin Pereira, Kyo

Welcome to the latest edition of Trailblazers – IQ’s regular series of Q&As with the inspirational figures forging their own paths in the global live entertainment business.

From people working in challenging conditions or markets to those simply bringing a fresh perspective to the music world, Trailblazers aims to spotlight unique individuals from all walks of life who are making a mark in one of the world’s most competitive industries. (Read the previous Trailblazers interview, with Aventus’s Annika Monari and Alan Vey, here.)

Following October’s interview with O Beach Ibiza’s Tony Truman, Trailblazers begins 2019 in conversation with another club boss: this time, Godwin Pereira, founder and CEO of south-east Asian club brand Kyō.

The Kyō brand debuted in Singapore in 2013, quickly becoming one of the city-state’s most popular clubs and pulling in international heavyweights such as François K, Osunlade and Nic Fanciulli for its house and techno nights. In December 2016, it expanded to Kuala Lumpur, opening a 6,000sqft, 770-capacity club (divided into two spaces, main room Kyō and smaller space Ren) at the city’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

Since opening, Kyō KL has welcomed DJs including Seth Troxler, Dubfire, Talib Kweli, Pan Pot and Jeremy Olander, and recently agreed a partnership with London’s the Egg that saw it take over the club in October.

“Kuala Lumpur has the right elements for a club concept like Kyō to thrive,” said Pereira last year. “It has a cosmopolitan dynamism and a music scene teeming with numerous subgenres and collectives, although there is yet to be one specific venue that caters to all of these genres. Kyō KL was created to fulfil this purpose: housing a spectrum of genres, both up-and-coming and forgotten, to bring together a community of music lovers who can enjoy these in one venue.”


How did you get your start in the industry?
I started young, in the back end, as a roadie and rigging boy. My interest grew from there – to learning the business, booking DJs, doing everything. It was a natural life path to somehow end up owning a club. It drives me nuts but it’s very rewarding and I love it still.

Who, or what, have been the biggest influences on your career so far?
DJs and music, first and foremost. Clubs like Paradise Garage and Studio 54 are influences, for sure – about how humans going into clubs and relate these emotions. [DJs like] François K and all that are huge inspirations for me.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?
I say, when people ask, that I am in the business of selling memories. If people meet and hook up in my club, that’s a good enough job for me.

What achievements are you most proud of?
In terms of growth for such a small brand – we started in a back street in the business district. We started as a joke. And within five years we’re in a five-star hotel… I think coming from an underground club to a five-star hotel in a basement is a great achievement and shows how strong our brand is.

“We started as a joke. And within five years we’re in a five-star hotel”

How has the business changed since you started out?
I think when we started it was more underground. Our first three months was really an experimental lab. We were seeing what people were and were not responding to.

With this new club we have two rooms, so we have more intimate stuff upstairs and then went more mainstream in the main room. We can do the stuff we want to in the week, but more edgy in the small room at the weekend.

What could the industry do more of?
I think it’s just making artists more accessible. The biggest struggle for mid-sized clubs like us is that it’s hard to afford the big guys. That’s the hardest bit.

Some guys realise that – Seth Troxler and those guys were looking for an intimate vibe instead of the 60,000-people festivals, so we hope artists can see what we are trying to do for them: to offer more intimate shows.

What advice would you give to someone making their start in the industry?
Keep your head clear and have a great legal advisor. Just be hungry for information. That’s what keeps driving things forward.

Go and immerse yourself in something and experience it.


If you’d like to take part in a future Trailblazers interview, or nominate someone else for inclusion, email IQ’s news editor, Jon Chapple, on [email protected].

Italian biz “speechless” after Lanterna Azzurra tragedy

Italy’s live music business is in mourning after six people, five of them teenagers, lost their lives in a stampede at packed nightclub in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Up to 120 people were injured after one concertgoer – reportedly a 17-year-old male, since apprehended and now in police custody – released a pepper spray-like “stinging” substance in the Lanterna Azzurra (Blue Lantern) venue in Corinaldo, in the province of Ancona, at around midnight GMT (1am local time) on 8 December, according to local media.

The incident occurred before a planned concert by Sfera Ebbasta, an Italian rapper popular with teenages, and coincided with the start of Roman Catholic holiday the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Five of the dead – three boys and two girls – were aged between 14 and 16, while the fifth was a 39-year-old woman who had taken her daughter to the show, according to police.

“We were dancing when we were struck by a pungent odour that burned our eyes,” one teenage attendee told Sky Italy.

“We were dancing when we were struck by a pungent odour that burned our eyes”

Writing on social media, Ebbasta said he “[doesn’t] want to pass judgment on those responsible”, but added: “I’d like everybody to pause and think about how dangerous and stupid it can be to use pepper spray in a discotheque.” He also offered his “love and support” to victims’ families.

Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini has suggested there could have been “more people inside [the club] than was permissible”, and Ancona chief prosecutor Monica Garulli told reporters at the scene that about 1,400 tickets had been sold for the show, against a capacity of 870. Ancona’s prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, who visited the scene of the tragedy, later said that while Lanterna Azzurra had three rooms, it chose to only use one, which has a capacity of 469.

However, Marco Cecchini, one of the three managers of the venue, disputes the authorities’ version of events. Speaking to QN, he says: “There were not 1,400 people, as everyone is saying. Absolutely. In my opinion, there were no more than a thousand – even taking into account those who were outside smoking, inside there were little more than 800. It is a club that has contained a lot more people.”

In a statement, Italian concert promoters’ association Assomusica says the deaths have left the country “speechless”.

“[How can it be] possible for a moment of joy and socialising to turn into sadness and the loss of young lives?” asked the association. “Assomusica and all its members share the pain […] of the families involved in this tragedy.”

“How is it possible that a moment of joy and socialising could turn into sadness and the loss of young lives?”

It adds that it invites “all our members and artists, from today, to pause for a moment of reflection at the beginning of each show” to remember the victims.

Federico Rasetti, director of venues association KeepOn Live, says it is important what happened in Corinaldo, at an allegedly overcrowded show, is not conflated with the country’s live music scene as a whole, which is professional and organised.

“This entire sector, again, is likely to be misunderstood,” says Rasetti. “Live club shows and festivals are generally well organised, and specialised in producing events […], and just as often these tragedies occur in places where there is no live music.”

He further notes that Lanterna Azzurra is not a dedicated music venue, adding: “We need clarity, to ensure that public opinion and politics do not confuse a live music venue with a pub or a disco.”

Investigations into the tragedy are still ongoing. At press time, two more men had been arrested in connection with the stampede, and police are considering the possibility that the substance was sprayed as cover for robbing club-goers.


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