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Norway tests would involve 15k people…staying at home

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) is proposing a number of test events that would involve a total of 30,000 people – half of which would not get to attend the concerts.

The Institute is envisaging several indoor concerts – which will most likely take place in Oslo in June – with up to 5,000 unmasked participants.

Both those attending the concert and those who are not will be tested before and after the event in order to compare infection rates at home and in the venue.

“We want a definite answer as to whether infection-testing the audience before they are admitted to a concert makes it as safe to go to a concert as to be at home and watch TV,” says Atle Fretheim who heads the research group at the NIPH.

Various other tests have taken place around Europe, including in Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and the UK.

“We want a definite answer as to whether it’s as safe to go to a concert as to be at home and watch TV”

Whether Norway’s test events can go ahead depends on the approval from the health authorities and the regional committee for medical research ethics.

According to Fretheim, the minister for culture’s working group – which includes Bergen Live and Øya Festival – and Norwegian Concert Organisers (Konsertarrangor) have backed the test series.

However, Konsertarrangor’s Tone Østerdal doubts the results will come back quickly enough to have an impact on Norway’s festival summer.

The Stavern Festival and OsloOslo have already been cancelled after the minister for culture announced preliminary guidelines which would restrict festivals to 2,000 attendees until June, 5,000 attendees until August and 10,000 thereafter.

The Danish government this week announced similar restrictions which will restrict events to 2,000 attendees until August, rather than June.

 


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Norway’s live sector is stuck playing a waiting game

We’re rather used to being on the top of the world, up here in Norway. We have oil wealth and plenty of fish in the sea. We’re a country that always ranks high in the World Happiness Report and on the UN’s list of the best places to live.

The government’s strict actions in handling the Covid-19 pandemic have also made us one of the countries with high scores on the Covid Resilience Ranking. But the Norwegian live music business is still stuck in the rut. More than it needs to be.

Little did we know, when IQ Magazine published its Norway Market Report in October 2019, how rapidly our world would change. The Norwegian live music business hit “the corona wall” during the first week of March 2020 and has been in the dark ever since.

Up until then, the business had been thriving, growing on average 5% every year since 2012, reaching NOK5.3billion [€500m] in 2019. The concert business makes up 57% of that, being worth NOK3bn [€290m].

Without knowledge of how funding will be distributed, it’s almost impossible for organisers to take a financial risk

Our experience with the pandemic has been similar to most other countries. The cycle of lockdown, followed by periods of careful optimism, followed by new waves of the virus spreading rapidly, and new lockdowns. Being in an economically privileged situation, the Norwegian government already provided compensation from the scheme for organisers and subcontractors in the cultural sector in the early days of the pandemic.

Since then, the government has also launched a stimulation scheme, aiming to get organisers back in business, even with limited capacities and social distancing regulations. The last sum added to the pile was NOK350m [€33m] for a financial safety net to allow festival organisers to plan for July and August without the financial risk posed by a potential Covid outbreak. This makes us fortunate in so many ways, and we know it.

But it’s not all fun and games. The major problem now is that none of the announced emergency funding schemes for the cultural sector are up and running for 2021. Without knowledge of how funding will be distributed, it’s almost impossible for organisers to take a financial risk planning anything. No one really doubts the good intentions from our minister of culture, Abid Q. Raja, to keep the music business afloat, but the money can’t help anyone if it’s not being distributed.

The money can’t help anyone if it’s not being distributed

There’s also a growing frustration that emergency funding for 2020 has had some severe failures, especially regarding artists and subcontractors in the cultural sector. For the associations in the live music business, who have struggled with the government to get the funds to work according to their intentions, the last 11 months can best be described as an everlasting uphill race.

As we close in on the one-year mark, it’s also getting more and more obvious that we’re falling behind on the road to reopening. The ministry of cultural affairs has appointed a working group that has been tasked with the safe reopening of large outdoor events this summer. But the Norwegian government can be described as risk averse, at best.

Some will claim that the cultural sector is being systematically prioritised last when it comes to the government’s measures to tackle the pandemic; always the first to be shut down, always the last allowed to open. Venues are still under strict regulations. From Tuesday 23 February, you can put on concerts with a maximum capacity of 100 people indoors, regardless of how large your venue is.

It seems utopian to even think about doing test shows in Norway in the foreseeable future

We have urged the government to differentiate more, to trust organisers’ professionalism and serious experience in crowd management. If the max capacity in shops and department stores can vary in accordance with the space available, why not apply the same to venues? But the health authorities say it’s “too hard,” and by applying this to politics, the government continues to ignore the fact that the only thing that can save the music business as a whole is to bring us back to live, in numbers.

The health authorities are also showing little or no sign of wanting to talk about a reopening strategy, and it seems utopian to even think about doing test shows in Norway in the foreseeable future. It’s quite ironic, considering the resources we possess as a nation.

So, with no available funding and very limited possibilities for planning and doing live shows, the Norwegian live music business is stuck playing a waiting game. It’s excruciating, and we see people giving up on the music business every week. Still, we have to look for the rays of hope. We will return to live.

 


Tone Østerdal is CEO of the Norwegian Live Music Association (Konsertarrangor)

Int’l associations pay respects to bomb victims

Live industry associations across Europe have paid their respects to the victims of Monday’s suicide bombing at Manchester Arena, which left 22 people – many of them children – dead.

Amid news Ariana Grande is expected to call off the rest of her Dangerous Woman tour in the wake of the attack, associations of promoters, venues and festivals across the continent have issued statements expressing solidarity with all those affected by the tragedy.

Dutch promoters’ association VNPF says it “deplores this attack” and offers its thoughts to both “relatives and friends of the victims” and the organisers of the Grande concert.

“We stand in solidarity with the United Kingdom,” reads a VNPF statement. “It was an attack on freedom. Terror can not destroy freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.”

“An attack like this is always an act of cruelty, but even more so when it affects children”

Prodiss in France – itself no stranger to attacks on live music – says the industry is “deeply touched by the Manchester bombing, which once again struck at our youth and our freedom”.

Animadas Productions director Albert Salmerón, recently appointed president of Spain’s Association of Music Promoters (APM), says APM stands in “utter solidarity with the victims and their respective families”.

“An attack like this is always an act of cruelty, but even more so when it affects children,” comments Salmerón.

APM – which calls the bombing an “attack on on the freedom that allows us to enjoy music and decide what to do at all times” – adds that “there is nothing that should make our societies succumb to the fear terrorists seek to instil”.

“The industry is deeply touched by the Manchester bombing, which once again struck at our youth and our freedom”

In Denmark, meanwhile, Dansk Live boss Jakob Brixvold calls the bombing a “terrible tragedy” and a “cowardly attack on live music, the community and our values”.

He warns, however, that it can “be extremely difficult to curb” incidents where, as in Manchester, the perpetrator attacks from just outside the venue, echoing comments made yesterday by Reg Walker – but reassures Danish promoters that the “level of security at Danish events in generally high”.

Along with several other associations, including Norske Konsertarrangører in Norway, Livemusik Sverige in Sweden, Petzi in Switzerland and Music Venue Trust in the UK, Dansk Live is participating in a memorial for the victims this Friday (26 May).

Live DMA’s One Minute of Noise encourages venues across Europe to mark the attack by holding a minute’s silence at 9.59pm – followed by a minute of the exact opposite at 10 to show that live music “will not be silenced”.

 


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Accessibility goes global as AiE inspires Nordics

The government of Norway has granted 1.1 million kr (US$127,500) to the Norwegian Live Music Association (NKA) to boost accessibility to cultural events for disabled people, modelled on the work of Attitude is Everything in the UK.

The funding, delivered via Budfir to NKA’s Accessibility of Culture Norway (Tilgjengelighet Kultur-Norge) project, aims to raise awareness of the needs of disabled people at live events, make venues more accessible and improve disabled participation and experience. It will be put towards recruiting new members for the project, training and mentoring venue staff and supporting promoters in their efforts to offer better accessibility for events.

“Since the start of the project, in 2015, we have learned that many Norwegian promoters are good on accessibility – but the potential for improvement in this area is also huge,” comments NKA managing director Torbjørn Heitmann Valum. “Much can be done with small means, but the necessary expertise is essential, [and] we have experienced that even minor improvements often come at the expense of other things in the fast-paced, pressured everyday life of concert promoters.

“Therefore, it is very gratifying that we can now continue the project and help our members financially in addition to our educational and professional development. I hope many of our members sign up in 2017. This is a great opportunity.”

While TKA says Tilgjengelighet Kultur-Norge was “established after Attitude is Everything in the UK”, the charity’s CEO, Suzanne Bull MBE, is equally full of praise for her Nordic counterparts, saying the project wouldn’t have been possible if the Norwegians weren’t willing to listen to what she had to say.

“We want to say to venues and festivals, ‘This is what you can do, this is how you do it and these are the advantages…'”

IQ visited Attitude is Everything’s King’s Cross office late last month, shortly after Bull had been announced as Britain’s first ‘sector champion’ for the music industry, in which she will advise the government on how to make the music more friendly to the disabled, alongside ten other champions from the worlds of leisure, tourism, advertising, retail and more.

Both her new position, which she will undertake on a voluntary basis as part of her role at Attitude is Everything, and the licensing of the charity’s Charter of Best Practice to Norway and further afield – talks are also underway with Denmark’s Dansk Live – come amid a growing “international movement towards accessibility”, she told IQ, wherein live music stakeholders are increasingly “expecting disabled people to be in the audience”.

“Disabled people expect to have their access requirements met, they expect to be there [at a show] with friends,” she explains. “There’s a sense of, ‘What’s wrong with my money? How is it any different to other people’s?'”.

According to Attitude is Everything’s s latest figures, the number of deaf and disabled fans attending concerts and festivals increased 26% year on year in 2015, and the so-called ‘purple pound’ – or disabled people’s collective spending power – is now worth an estimated £250 billion to the UK economy, meaning the moral case for providing for disabled concertgoers is fast becoming a financial one, too. (Music-industry folk are “absolutely astonished when you present the figures!” Bull says.)

The economic argument for accessibility is further amplified by the fact that, explains Bull, word travels fast in the disabled community, with deaf and disabled concertgoers not afraid to be vocal about venues or festivals that fail to meet their basic requirements.

“I like the fact that we’ve created a little bit of competition between promoters. Some of them even boast about how much better they are at access than their peers!”

“It’s a consumers’ market,” she says, “and word of mouth is very important. If a disabled friend says to me, ‘This festival has everything you need access-wise’, my feeling is that I’ll choose that festival.”

Bull emphasises that Attitude is Everything is built upon disabled people and the music business working together in partnership to improve access to gigs. “Our ethos is to be supportive and encouraging to the music industry – to support them to make changes,” she explains. “The industry has really embraced our charter, and there is a growing number of disabled concertgoers, which proves that the music industry really does want to get it right. We want to say to venues and festivals, ‘This is what you can do, this is how you do it and these are the advantages…'”

“I don’t see the point of naming and shaming venues and festivals who don’t get access right, because how does that help disabled people to feel motivated or excited about going to gigs, or managers or promoters being motivated to do anything at all?” concludes Bull. “I like the fact that we’ve created a little bit of competition between different promoters – some of them even boast about how much better they are at access than their peers!

“I don’t think anyone sets out to make things difficult for disabled people on purpose… It’s all about changing perceptions.”

 


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New fund for Nordic promoters announced

The Nordic Culture Fund, a Nordic Council-backed organisation that provides funding for cultural projects in Scandinavia and the Nordic countries, has announced the launch of a new initiative designed to make it easier for Nordic venues and festivals to book domestic acts.

As reported by the Norwegian Live Music Association (Norske Konsertarrangører), which represented the country’s concert promoters in preliminary talks, the as-yet untitled funding programme will “underpin efforts for the development of Nordic live music across borders”.

A statement from the Konsertarrangører says it’s “very pleased” that the fund is aimed at promoters, as opposed to similar programmes for “artist mobility”, which generally target the artists themselves. It expects more details to emerge before the new year.

Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Finland are full members of the Nordic Council, and Aland (a Swedish-speaking self-governing region of Finland) and the Faroe Islands and Greenland (both self-governing regions of Denmark) associate members.

 


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