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Nordic test shows: Too little, too late?

After effectively ruling out the 2021 festival season, the governments in Denmark and Norway are now in the process of organising large-scale test events to determine how big gatherings can take place during the pandemic.

According to Denmark’s live association, Dansk Live, such experiments were proposed in December 2020 and also in March 2021 by the government-backed ‘Restart Team’.

Both proposals were “kicked to the corner by the authorities,” according to Dansk Live’s Esben Marcher, but it seems that Denmark’s minister of culture has had a late change of heart.

This week, minister Joy Mogensen asked the government’s Restart Team to assess the possibilities of conducting experiments with large events this summer.

The minister’s request comes three weeks after the government’s roadmap was published, which stated that a maximum of 2,000 participants will be permitted at festivals between 21 May and 1 August 2021.

The announcement was followed by a raft of cancellations from 15+ festivals including Roskilde (26 June to 3 July), Smukfest (4–8 August), Northside (3–5 June) and Tinderbox (24–26 June) – rendering the country’s 2021 festival season over.

“The hope was that knowledge could be created that could ensure better opportunities for this summer’s events”

While Dansk Live’s Marcher has welcomed the news of potential test concerts, he also expresses disappointment that large-scale pilots weren’t approved earlier in the year.

“Already at the end of 2020, we proposed to the minister of culture that experiments be carried out in events that bring many people together,” he says.

“The hope was that knowledge could be created that could ensure better opportunities for this summer’s events. Although it is positive that there now seems to be support for making trial arrangements, it is, of course, a pity that there has been no political will to launch trials in the past.”

The Norwegian government has also shown little political will to organise test concerts up to this point – though, after some uncertainty, this morning the cabinet finally approved a pilot series proposed by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

The institute is planning five test concerts in Bergen and Oslo with up to 5,000 people attending each one. As previously reported in IQ, 15,000 participants will be recruited for a control group and will not actually attend the concerts.

The series is expected to kick off in June and concerts will take place in a number of venues including Oslo Spektrum and Grieg Hall in Bergen.

The Nowegian government this morning approved a pilot series proposed by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health

The research project will investigate whether the risk of the spread of infection is reduced to such an extent that rapid testing can replace the distance requirement during events.

Bergen Live, Øya festival, Palmesus and other Norwegian concert organisers will be involved in the test events – many of which were forced to cancel festivals due to the government’s preliminary guidelines, which restrict festivals to 2,000 attendees until June, 5,000 attendees until August and 10,000 thereafter.

Live Nation-owned festivals Bergenfest and Tons of Rock, Superstruct-backed Øya Festival, Over Oslo, Picnic in the Park, Stavernfetsivalen, Seljord Festival and Country Festival among events have been cancelled since.

Compared with other countries in the northern hemisphere, Norway and Denmark have been slow off the mark with arranging test shows.

Germany began conducting test shows as far back as August 2020, with Restart-19, prompting other nations including Spain, France, the Netherlands, the UK, Belgium and Luxembourg, to follow suit. See an extensive timeline of pilot projects here.

While the test shows haven’t necessarily guaranteed the security of the 2021 festival season – many of the aforementioned markets have already seen the summer season obliterated due to government restrictions – nations like the UK are surging towards a full reopening thanks to reassuring results from the government’s Events Research Programme.

 


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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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Live Nation Norway cancels Tons of Rock 2021

Norway’s biggest rock and metal festival, Tons of Rock, is the first major Norwegian festival to cancel its 2021 edition.

The Live Nation-owned festival had been scheduled to take place in Ekebergsletta, Oslo, across three days in June but the organisers say this year’s event is not possible.

“Since the summer of 2020, we have been working on all possible scenarios and options to make it possible to complete the festival,” reads a statement on the festival’s website.

“It has been and is a difficult and demanding time, and it is now clear that it is not possible to hold the Tons of Rock Festival in 2021. This is very sad and frustrating for all of us in Tons of Rock, for the artists, suppliers, collaborators and mostly for our amazing audience from all over Norway and more than 50 nations.”

The Norwegian government previously announced a NOK 350 million cancellation insurance fund for festivals, allowing organisers to plan for this summer without the financial risk posed by a potential Covid outbreak.

“It has been and is a difficult and demanding time, and it is now clear that it’s not possible to hold the festival”

However, Norway’s minister of culture, Abid Raja, said in a press conference that the scheme is expected to cover July and August events – meaning Tons of Rock’s June edition would not be insured.

Though Tons of Rock would have been ineligible for that particular government support, the festival did benefit from the state’s compensation scheme for organisers and subcontractors in the cultural sector.

In February, the festival was granted NOK 36.1 m, the full amount applied for by the organisers, for the cancellation of the 2020 edition – caused by the government’s extended ban on major live events.

The festival will return next year between 23–25 June, with headliner Iron Maiden.

Other major Norwegian festivals including Live Nation-owned Bergenfest and Superstruct’s Øya Festival, are still going ahead at the time of writing.

 


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Norway gov to allow 600-capacity outdoor shows

The Norweigan government will increase the capacity of outdoor events from 200 to 600 people from 12 October when the national corona restrictions are relaxed.

Prime minister Erna Solberg announced at a press conference yesterday (30 September) that it will be permitted for up to 600 people to attend an outdoor event at the same time, provided they are divided into groups of up to 200 people.

For seated events, one seat between each person is required, however, people in the same household are allowed to sit together.

The capacity for indoor events remains at 200 people maximum but the government has committed to reviewing the possibility of increasing it to 600 when the infection rate allows.

“Now, we can better target the measures so that the burden on the individual and on society is as small as possible”

“We are now in a different situation than when we closed down in March. The municipalities have upgraded their preparedness, and we have more knowledge about the corona pandemic,” says prime minister Solberg.

“This means that we can better target the measures so that the burden on the individual and on society is as small as possible. We can therefore open up for some relief nationally.”

Minister of culture and gender equality Abid Q. Raja says: “I am glad that we can go from two to one available seat between us in places with fixed seats – it is important for many. We will also, as soon as the infection situation dictates, make a new assessment of the possibility of opening indoor events with up to 600 people present.”

In areas that have been affected by local outbreaks, such as the capital city Oslo, Arendal and Øygarden, the local rules will take precedence over national ones.

The ban on serving alcohol after midnight, which has been in place since 8 August, will be lifted when the restrictions ease.

 


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DHP Family unveils new London venue

UK-based promoter and venue operator DHP Family is launching the Grace, a new late night music venue in Islington, north London.

The 150-capacity venue is the latest addition to the DHP Family portfolio, which includes London venues the Garage (600-capacity) and Oslo (375-capacity), as well as award-winning boat venue Thekla (400-cap.) in Bristol.

Opening today (Friday 13 September) with music by DJs from Soho record store Sister Ray Records, upcoming shows at the venue include country singer Lauren Jenkins, Manchester bands Ist Ist Ist and the Covasettes and neo-soul singer Ben Brown.

Housed in what originally opened as Upstairs at the Garage, the space has already hosted acts including Jeff Buckley, the Killers, Sheryl Crow, Mogwai and Grimes.

“Here at the Grace, we had the perfect opportunity to combine our bar and live music space”

“London is well known for its live music pubs which are institutions in their own right,” comments DHP Family owner George Akins.

“Here at the Grace, we had the perfect opportunity to combine our bar and live music space to create an atmospheric space that can function equally well for after-work drinks or post-gig partying.”

The Grace will open from 5 p.m. each day, closing at 2 a.m. Monday to Thursday and at 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. The venue will not open on Sundays.

The venue is situated opposite Highbury and Islington tube station. More information can be found here.

In addition to its venue portfolio, Nottingham-based DHP Family runs the 25,000-capacity Splendour festival in Nottingham and multi-venue festival Dot to Dot in several cities. DHP also puts on 1,500 gigs per year, promoting tours by Ed Sheeran, the War on Drugs, Enter Shikari and more.

 


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Live Nation acquires another Nordic festival

Live Nation Entertainment has announced the acquisition of a majority stake in Tons of Rock (10,000-cap.), Norway’s biggest rock and metal festival.

The move comes following last week’s acquisition of Finnish urban music festival, Blockfest, as Live Nation continues to expand its foothold in the Nordic region.

Launched in 2013, the three-day rock and metal festival takes place in Fredrikstemn Fortress, Halden in June each year. The festival received recognition from the Norwegian Concert Organisers (NKA) in 2017, winning the organisation’s best Norwegian festival award.

Tons of Rock organisers have worked with Live Nation Norway since the festival’s first year, securing acts including Slayer, Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, Alice Cooper, Ghost and Five Finger Death Punch, among others.

“We have worked with Tons of Rock from the very beginning and are excited about our future with the festival,” says Martin Nielsen, Live Nation Norway head promoter. “The Tons of Rock team have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to the festival and to audience experience.”

“We wanted a strong strategic partner who would help us continue to grow, and the answer was obvious – Live Nation Norway”

The announcement comes at a time of change for the Norwegian festival, which moves to its new home in Ekeburg, Oslo for its 2019 edition. Headliners for this year’s Tons of Rock include Kiss, Volbeat and Def Leppard.

“We are ready to take the next step in the festival’s journey and the line-up for the 2019 festival speaks for itself,” comments festival manager and co-founder, Jarle Kvåle. “After five successful years in Halden we saw potential for further growth.”

Kvåle adds: “We found the perfect venue and wanted a strong strategic partner who would help us continue to grow. The answer was obvious – and close at hand – [in] Live Nation Norway.”

Live Nation has acquired a string of festivals, promoters, venue operators and other industry businesses this year, including Tennessee-based event marketing company Neste, Canadian venue operator and promoter Embrace Presents and Spanish Latin music promoter Planet Events.

 


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Eminem at Oslo Sommertid is Norway’s biggest-ever show

Hip-hop superstar Eminem smashed Norway’s record books with the biggest concert the country has ever hosted, when Atomic Soul sold out all 55,000 tickets in just six minutes for his 30 June Oslo Sommertid festival show, alongside Pusha T, Royce da 5’9”, OnkiP and Klovner I Kamp.

The promoter used the opportunity to carry out a ‘consequence analysis’ of the event, the results of which should help them, and other event organisers, with licensing applications in the years ahead.

“As part of our daily chores, we have to navigate the political landscape for licensing, park rental and other council-based activities, so we wanted to get an independent analysis done on what a concert actually generates for the city in tourism income,” explains Atomic Soul founder, Peer Osmundsvaag.

“We are extremely proud to have put on the largest event in Norwegian history”

That report, carried out by renowned economist Samfundsøkonomisk analyse, reveals that Eminem’s visit to the capital city generated additional tourism income of 80million kr (€8.2m), through the likes of hotel-room bookings, restaurant business and local transportation, and supported the equivalent of 100 full-time annual jobs.

“We were really surprised by the results of the analysis, but hopefully we can use this report as a tool when it comes to convincing the local authorities about the benefits that live music events can have to the economy and local businesses,” continues Osmundsvaag.

“We are extremely proud to have put on the largest event in Norwegian history and we’re looking forward to doing an even better job in 2019.”

 


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Goldstar to become FKP Scorpio Norway

FKP Scorpio will ring in the new year with a new office in Norway.

The Oslo office, the German-headquartered promoter’s first in Norway, will be run by Goldstar founder Torgeir Gullaksen, who becomes executive director of the new FKP Scorpio Norge. All employees of Goldstar – a national promoter which has organised Norwegian shows by Radiohead, Biffy Clyro, Arctic Monkeys, The xx, Arcade Fire and Queens of the Stone Age – also join FKP.

Excluding sparsely populated Iceland, Norway is the last of the Nordic countries where FKP Scorpio does not have a market presence, with the new office joining local operations in Sweden, Denmark and Finland, as well as Austria, the Netherlands and its Hamburg HQ.

FKP Scorpio Norge officially launches on 1 January 2018.

“For many years Goldstar has been putting on quality shows around Norway, but of course we’ve noticed that it’s harder and harder to be small and independent,” comments Gullaksen.

“In FKP Scorpio we have found a partner who is a big player but has kept its indie mentality”

“In FKP Scorpio we have found a partner who is a big player but has kept its indie mentality over all those years. So, we’re very happy to be able to continue doing what we love and do best, but now as part of a large European company with similar values to our own.”

FKP founder and CEO Folkert Koopmans adds: “Norway is a fantastic country with a very vivid live music scene. Since Torgeir and his team have been reliable partners for us over many years, it feels like the natural next step to establish FKP Scorpio Norge together.

“We share the belief that professionalism and trustworthiness build strong relationships – with artists, fans, managers, venues and everyone we work with.”

FKP has since last June been majority owned by CTS Eventim.

 


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DHP hires programmer for London venues

DHP Family has appointed Matthew Cook venue programmer for its venues in London: Oslo (350-cap.) in Hackney, the Garage (600-cap.) and Thousand Island (100-cap.) in Islington and Borderline (300-cap.) in Soho.

Cook, who has previously worked with The Great Escape festival, Brighton Dome/Festival, Warwick Arts Centre, promoter Soundcrash and London venues Barbican, Southbank Centre, Roundhouse, Hackney Empire and House of Vans, will lead music programming at the four venues, as well as building on relationships with sponsors and non-music events.

“I’m very excited to join the team at DHP and programming four of London’s best live music venues, he comments. “I first came into contact with the DHP team a few years ago when we presented Bonnie Prince Billie at Hackney Empire. They were a pleasure to work with and it was a phenomenal show.

“I am especially grateful for the opportunity to contribute to London’s live music scene at such a crucial time”

“I’m looking forward to steering the programme of such iconic and diverse venues as Oslo, the Garage, Thousand Island and Borderline, and am especially grateful for the opportunity to contribute to London’s live music scene at such a crucial time. Music is London’s lifeblood and these venues play a key role in sustaining a healthy live music scene in the capital.”

Oslo, Nottingham-based DHP’s first London venue, opened in 2014, with the company acquiring the Garage and Borderline, both of which have since been significantly refurbished, from Live Nation last May. Thousand Island, meanwhile, was announced in December as a new space adjacent to the main room of the redesigned Garage.

Borderline reopened in March, with DHP owner George Akins hailing the “phenomenal feedback” from artists and agents to its new layout.

 


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Market report: Norway

If money doesn’t make us happy, then how do we explain Norway, which is both the world’s happiest country and, thanks to its oil wealth, Europe’s second richest?

Maybe money isn’t such a curse after all. Or maybe Norway’s diverting live scene keeps those rich kid blues at bay. The smallest Scandinavian nation by population, with the fiddliest coastline, it houses a disproportionately deluxe live market, with all the international shows and domestic touring talent a nation of 5.2m people could reasonably expect, and a festival scene that is thoroughly embedded in its culture.

“Festivals have taken over Norwegian social life now,” says Torbjørn Heitmann Valum, CEO of Norske Konsertarrangører, the country’s live business trade body. “That’s all people do in the summer: they go to a festival, meet up with friends and see bands.” Events such as Norwegian Wood, Øya, Findings, Picnic in the Park and OverOslo, which all take place in the capital, are among the prominent evidence of this, but in the summer, Norway is swarming with festivals from top to bottom – not just national ones, but regional and local ones, too, in virtually every town.

“That’s all people do in the summer: they go to a festival, meet up with friends and see bands”

Likewise, Oslo is the prime destination for most international artists, but second and third cities Bergen and Trondheim have their moments too, and Norwegian music is strong and varied enough that the country’s live business could, if pushed, run on little else. Once famous solely for A-ha, Norway’s talent machine these days produces a far broader range of artists than before.

“Yes, it’s a really good time,” says Atomic Soul’s Peer Osmundsvaag. “I remember growing up thinking Norway was probably the most rubbish country in the world, with only A-ha…”

These days, artists are breaking out of Norway all over the place. Notable names include hit-making DJ Kygo, pop twins Marcus & Martinus and X Factor offshoot Astrid S; diverse singer-songwriters such as Susanne Sundfør, Maria Mena, Anna of the North and Aurora; and indie-rockers Kakkmaddafakka – part of the so-called New Bergen Wave, which follows the original wave in the 1990s that produced Röyksopp, Kings of Convenience and Annie. Norwegian artists even occasionally manage to get noticed in Sweden, which would once have been unheard of.

 


Read the rest of this feature in the digital edition of IQ 73:

 


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