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Dutch sector warns of ‘bleak’ financial outlook

The Dutch live sector is still feeling the “disastrous” effects of the Covid pandemic, according to the Association of Dutch Music Venues and Festivals’ (VNPF).

Stark figures in the organisation’s newly published Pop Stages and Festivals in Figures 2021 report show that 883,000 visits were made to VNPF stages last year, down 16% on 2020 and 83% from 5.2 million recorded in the last pre-pandemic year of 2019.

And with Covid restrictions not fully lifted until March 2022, the market is a long way from recovering.

“The negative effects of the pandemic are still present in the autumn of 2022”

“The negative effects of the pandemic are still present in the autumn of 2022,” says the report. “There is a high workload due to staff shortages and higher absenteeism due to illness from Covid. There are many rescheduled concerts where part of the audience does not show up. This has negative consequences for, for example, the catering income.

“In addition, stages are now faced with high inflation, with costs for personnel, housing and energy, in particular, rising sharply.

“The public is buying fewer tickets due to inflation. In this situation, stages are more or less forced to cut back on staff and programme.”

The report notes that club evenings, night programming and festivals were completely banned by the government for all but a few weeks of 2021. While describing the closing of music venues as “disastrous” for the industry, the VNPF acknowledges that government support measures in 2020 and 2021 enabled venues to survive financially.

“This was very damaging to the entire infrastructure of the live music sector”

VNPF stages received €36.1m in Covid intervention in 2021, with most support coming from the national government (96%), but says continued assistance is “still very necessary”.

“The financial outlook is bleak,” it warns. “Many [businesses] indicate there is likely to be a need to cut back on talent development and personnel in the near future.”

The total income of the VNPF stages was €107m last year compared to €160m in 2019.

“Municipal subsidies and Covid support measures from the central government accounted for almost three quarters of the income in 2021,” it adds. “Income from ticket sales and catering is normally the most important source of income for pop venues and festivals, but in 2021 there was hardly any public income due to the restrictive measures.

“Revenues realised from ticket sales decreased by 81% compared to 2019 and that from catering sales decreased by 82%. Sponsorship and private rental income also decreased by approximately 50% compared to 2019.

“Programme and staff costs decreased in 2021. This was very damaging to the entire infrastructure of the live music sector and is one of the reasons for the current staff shortages and high workload in the industry.”


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