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Japan eases 10k capacity limit on mass gatherings

The Japanese government has eased its 10,000-capacity limit on mass gatherings such as concerts following a steady decline in coronavirus cases.

Events across the country can now admit 5,000 people, or 50% of capacity – whichever is larger – while large-scale spaces are permitted to welcome more than 10,000 spectators in Tokyo and other regions previously under a state or quasi-state of emergency. However, events that will involve fans shouting and cheering will be capped at 50% of capacity.

Kyodo News reports the move has been backed by promoters, who have started putting additional tickets on sale for shows in anticipation of hosting larger crowds.

We will continue to work hard to prevent infections so our guests can feel at ease

“We will continue to work hard to prevent infections so our guests can feel at ease,” says a statement from music association the All Japan Concert and Live Entertainment Promoters Conference (ACPC).

The restrictions were in place in 27 of the country’s 47 prefecture and have been gradually eased by the government since 1 October.

Earlier this year, 10 leading Japanese concert promoters announced the formation of the International Promoters Alliance Japan to establish unified guidelines for the safe resumption of events involving international artists.

Led by Creativeman Productions head Naoki Shimizu, the alliance includes Live Nation Japan, Udo Artists, Smash Corporation, Hayashi International Promotions and Kyodo Tokyo – will work closely with the Japanese government, as well as international embassies and consulates.

The International Promoters Alliance Japan is completed by Avex Entertainment, Hanshin Contents Link/Billboard Japan, M&I Company and Promax. The organisation complements the work of ACPC, with which it shares members.


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Swedish trade bodies unite for live events study

Four Swedish trade bodies have formed an alliance in a bid to strengthen knowledge about the country’s live events’ industry and how it can be developed.

Swedish promoters’ association Svensk Live is collaborating with Swedish Performing Arts, the Swedish Sports Confederation and hospitality organisation Visita on the project, which is being overseen by the Visiting Industry Research and Development Fund (BFUF).

The groups plan to gather “relevant and reliable” statistics on an annual basis to measure the sector’s financial contribution to Sweden, including the contribution to the hospitality industry and the number of jobs, with the first set of findings to be presented at the start of next summer.

“We have collaborated with each other on a number of previous issues such as climate change, security and safety, as well as all cooperation during the pandemic,” says Joppe Pihlgren, operations manager for Svensk Live. “That our organisations now also collaborate on statistics feels very natural.”

For the first time, we will get reliable statistics

The work will be based on a feasibility study delivered at the beginning of the summer of 2021, and the coalition says the results will provide a better basis for development and political decisions regarding the industry.

“So far, similar surveys have been conducted in different ways in different parts of the country,” adds Mikael Brännvall, CEO of Swedish Performing Arts. “What we will now get is a common way of measuring and, for the first time, we will get reliable statistics.”

The work is financed by the participating organisations with the support of the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth, which is contributing SEK 1.5 million (€151,297) of the total budget of SEK 2.4m (€242,071).


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ID&T to receive coronavirus insurance payout

Netherlands-based electronic dance promoter ID&T will receive an advance insurance payout of €1.3 million to compensate for lost income due to the corona crisis.

The promoter claims that as a result of the cancellation of a number of events of its subsidiaries, it has suffered damage consisting of costs already incurred or owed and loss of profit.

ID&T was forced to cancel this year’s editions of festivals including Awakenings, and the promoter’s longest-running electronic dance music festival Mysteryland, due to the pandemic.

The promoter’s insurers, Nationale Nederlanden, Reaal and Amlin and Chubb, originally argued that the cover taken out by ID&T had a corona exclusion clause.

However, on 29 June, a judge ruled against the defendants, ordering a preliminary payout of €1.3m while valuation company Troostwijk and a loss adjuster arrives at a definitive compensation.

Troostwijk originally estimated that the promoter would have lost more than €11.5m by September due to the coronavirus measures. However, though the judge did not dispute that ID&T has a significant decline in income, the total amount was questioned.

It was decided that ID&T could claim an advance based on an estimated damage amount of €2m in total, on the condition that it provides a bank guarantee for that amount for the benefit of the insurers. The insurers are appealing.

Troostwijk originally estimated the promoter lost more than €11.5m until September due to the corona measures

The ID&T Group includes the companies b2s, ID&T Events, Q-dance, Monumental (Awakenings), Air Events, Art of Dance and VD Events. ID&T organises approximately 80 events a year, including festivals such as Mysteryland, Amsterdam Open Air, Vunzige Deuntjes, Thunderdome, Defqon.1 Weekend Festival, Awakenings, Decibel Outdoor and Masters of Hardcore.

Earlier this year, ID&T announced a management reshuffle which saw the company’s former COO Ritty van Straalen succeeds Wouter Tavecchio as CEO.

A number of campaigns have launched in the Netherlands in an attempt to draw government support for the country’s struggling live sector.

The Dutch live business announced it will participate in Belgium’s Sound of Silence campaign, which calls for supporters to change their profile pictures to an orange “Sound of Silence” cross and tweet with the hashtag #SoundOfSilence.

The country is also taking note from Germany’s initiative, Night of Live, which will see music-related buildings illuminated in red on 25 August.

The Netherlands relaxed its coronavirus regulations from 1 July, removing the capacity limit for seated indoor and outdoor events, provided fans have undergone health checks before entry.

The capacity limit for events that do not undertake health checks increased to 100 for indoor venues and 250 for outdoor shows from 1 July, while festivals in the Netherlands have to obtain licences from local authorities before being able to resume.

Nightclubs and discos remain closed until 1 September – which was the original deadline for the ban on large-scale events. The rules for clubs and similar venues will be reassessed at the end of August.


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High times in the Lowlands: Netherlands market report

The big birthday in the Netherlands this year is, of course, that of Live Nation’s Mojo Concerts: 50 years old and still thoroughly on top. But there’s another birthday, too, of a slightly more approximate kind, and that’s the tenth-ish anniversary of modest but concerted independent competition in the Netherlands.

Almost entirely lacking for many years, as Mojo pioneered the market single-handed through the 70s, 80s, 90s, and the opening years of the new millennium, the Netherlands’ indie contingent has gradually ascended over the past decade as outfits including Friendly Fire, Greenhouse Talent and Agents After All have staked their claim.

Michael Rapino probably isn’t waking up in a cold sweat about his Dutch business, but there is, at least, more than one game in town these days.

Economically strong, outward-looking and positioned dead in the centre of Western Europe, the Netherlands is a market to be reckoned with. Not only does it have 17.2m people of its own, it also draws crowds from everywhere within hopping distance.

“There are plenty of events here that have more foreign visitors than Dutch,” says Eventim Nederland managing director Henk Schuit. “There is a lot of traffic into Amsterdam and the Netherlands for partying.”

It doesn’t hurt that the Netherlands funds its live business well at state-level, creates plenty of its own talent – multiple- Ziggo-headliners Kensington, psych-rockers DeWolff, funk outfit My Baby; DJs such as Tiësto, Armin van Buuren, and Afrojack; solo performers such as Dotan and Alain Clark; urban names like Lil’ Kleine and Ali B – and is a more or less inevitable stop for most international tours.

“There is a lot of traffic into Amsterdam and the Netherlands for partying”

“It’s very vibrant,” says Mojo vice head promoter Kim Bloem, who notes that Mojo itself is on course for a record year under CEOs John Mulder and Ruben Brouwer. “There is so much happening, and so many things are going well. Even competition is getting stronger, and [Mojo’s rivals] are getting more shows. It’s not eating into our share, really – at least, not yet – because we are still doing very, very well. But we can’t sit back.”

Local venues and festivals association VNPF reported 15,426 events in 2017 among its member venues – which don’t include busy Live Nation arenas Ziggo Dome and AFAS Live (formerly the Heineken Music Hall) in Amsterdam. All the same, the VNPF sample took in nearly 5m punters for a collective turnover of €147.3million.

The VNPF’s 45 festival members, which does include major Mojo properties such as North Sea Jazz, Lowlands and Pinkpop, amassed 1.8m visitors. Across the entire market, IQ’s International Ticketing Yearbook estimates that 40m tickets were sold for live entertainment events in 2017.

Ticketing is certainly an area of fierce competition in the Netherlands, with numerous local players and plenty of international ones. In fact, since Vivendi’s acquisition of Paylogic in April, to add to Eventbrite’s purchase of Ticketscript in early 2017, the four major international ticketing platforms are all active in the market, with second- placed Eventim pushing hard at market leader Ticketmaster.

“There is growth in every segment, some a little bit more than others, but I think overall everyone is doing quite well,” says Schuit.

In some sectors of the market, such as festivals and large-scale dance events, Schuit reports that overall attendance is relatively static, in spite of a rising number of events, pointing to a degree of saturation. “Then again, if you look at rock and pop, it is still growing,” he says. “If you look at the amount of shows at the Ziggo Dome and AFAS Live, that is only growing.”

“Everyone is working crazy hours. Maybe it is a luxury problem, but it is a problem and it really needs our attention”

It’s hard to find anyone, in fact, who doesn’t believe the Dutch live business is broadly in the prime of its life, and consequently, most of the Dutch industry’s problems are typically of the type that tends to befall thriving markets.

Ticket prices are hard to keep down though, even as they rise, says Bloem, there is no real sign of weakening demand. In fact, the strain is more on the supply side, as the business bulges at the edges of its capacity, she notes.

“You can hardly get a stage next June or July,” she says. “Everyone is working crazy hours, and everything and everybody gets exhausted. Maybe it is a luxury problem, but it is a problem and it really needs our attention.”

Meanwhile, performers including Guus Meeuwis and Blaudzun, and rock acts De Staat and Kensington recently wrote to culture minister Ingrid van Engelshoven, backed by the opposition Socialist Party, to demand an end to high ticket prices on the secondary market.

Dutch competition authority ACM previously dropped an investigation into secondary ticketing fraud in 2016, having concluded that, while the market might be infuriating to fans, it was essentially a natural by-product of a booming market.

Just as they are doing elsewhere, Dutch performers are looking for alternatives. Dutch comedian Jochem Myjer, for instance, has sold 50,000 tickets for a 36-night run at Amsterdam’s Royal Theatre Carré next year via blockchain ticketing platform GUTS Tickets, in what is said to be the largest ticket sale on the blockchain to date.

And local talent keeps pushing outwards, says Ruud Berends, lynchpin of the local music export community and co-founder of IFF and Eurosonic Noorderslag.

“It’s not easy to conquer the world – you need a strong base,” he says. “It’s a tough one for small acts. It’s quite hard to break through if you don’t have a big machine behind you. But things are moving nicely and we have a lot of interesting talent coming out of the Netherlands.”


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Glasswerk adds Liverpool’s Grand Central Hall to portfolio

UK-based national concert promoter Glasswerk have added another independent venue to their portfolio, this time in the form of the newly restored Grand Central Hall in Liverpool.

Opening first in 1905 as a Methodist church, previous lives have seen the building play home to a cinema, an orchestra and a nightclub. In recent years, the Hall has undergone significant transformation. In its current incarnation, alongside the hall venue Glasswerk have picked up, known as “The Dome”, the building hosts two bars, a hotel, a wedding hall and a soon-to-be-completed street food market.

The Grand Central Hall itself is a 1,150-capacity Art Deco-styled space and refurbishment to the hall has been careful to respect this. As well as an impressive visual impact, the hall also boasts a legendary 100-year-old organ and supposedly the biggest projector screen outside of the SSE Arena, Wembley.

“Grand Central Hall is a beautiful building that had been left unkempt for far too long.”

Speaking of the efforts involved in restoring the Hall back to its current state, operations director for Grand Central, Ryan Edwards, says: “After a massive renovation to Grand Central Hall we are excited to invite Glasswerk into the business, and see the main hall being used for live music, cinema and wedding events.”

Similarly excited is Mat Ong, head promoter for Glasswerk. He says: “Grand Central Hall is a beautiful building that had been left unkempt for far too long.

The hall was purpose built for great acoustics and sight lines. Now the whole site offers great customer service with the accompanying food hall and different bars, and it’s a great venue for gig goers to come for a night out.”

Since its reopening in May 2018, the Hall has already played host to a number of events, including events for Liverpool’s student nightlife and boxing match screenings.


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Generation DIY: Birmingham

The latest instalment of Eventbrite’s Generation DIY travels to Birmingham to uncover the inner workings of some of the city’s most successful events. The video is the fourth in the series, following in depth looks into the nightlife of London, Bristol and Glasgow.

In it, we see a cross section of the work of seven young promoters are doing in the city – from comedy and poetry, to club nights. Those involved are working to promote the interests of people from all walks of life: Aliyah Hasinah’s events bring underrepresented artists to the forefront whilst Dan Brown’s club nights are a driving force behind the Birmingham LGBT scene.

The video premiered last night at the Hare and Hounds in Birmingham. Next week’s video will take a look at the work going on in Manchester and will be shown at The Deaf Institute.


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Spanish promoters welcome VAT reduction pledge

Acting Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy has agreed to a reduction in the hated 21% rate of cultural value-added tax (VAT) should his People’s Party (PP) form Spain’s next government.

PP, which won the most votes in June’s general election – Spain’s third in five years – but failed to secure a majority, last week put its name to a document entitled 150 Commitments to Improve Spain (150 Compromisos para Mejorar España), which included as commitment №89 a pledge to reduce VAT for live entertainment or “cultural shows” (espectáculos culturales).

150 Compromisos is co-signed by the Citizens (C’s) party, with which PP has a parliamentary alliance.

Cultural-sector VAT has stood at a record 21% since September 2012, when Rajoy (pictured) increased the tax, which previously stood at 8%, in an effort to plug a hole in Spain’s public finances. The tax hike has been catastrophic for the Spanish live industry: revenue from ticket sales fell 27.51% between 1 September 2012 and summer 2013 alone, and the country’s live music industry only recently recovered to its pre-2011 levels in February.

Left-wing parties Unidos Podemos and PSOE have previously announced their support for a VAT reduction.

“We welcome this willingness to reconsider VAT at the reduced rate [and] the explicit recognition of live entertainment, including live music”

The Association of Music Promoters (APM) welcomed the publication of the document. “After four years of ordeal – moving from a cultural VAT of 8% to 21%, which has so damaged us – we welcome this willingness to reconsider VAT at the reduced rate,” says APM president Pascual Egea.

“We welcome the explicit recognition of live entertainment, including live music, though we wish this commitment had been extended to our colleagues in cinema – a very important part of the cultural industries in our country. We believe that culture should be a matter of state, and as such must be treated as such by the future government, whatever colour it is.”

Rajoy on Friday again failed in his bid to form a new government, setting the stage for Spain’s second general election of 2016. Should the parties involved fail to end the deadlock in the next two months, King Philip VI will be forced to dissolve the Spanish legislature, the General Courts, and call another election.


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Turkish promoters hit as coup unsettles artists

Turkish promoters are feeling the strain after Friday’s attempted coup d’état, with a number of high-profile acts cancelling shows as the fallout hits the country’s touring and festival markets.

The botched coup – in which a group of army officers attempted to overthrow the government of autocratic president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – was followed by a ruthless purge of over 50,000 people from Turkish schools, press, police and the judiciary, and the cancellation or disruption of festivals, concerts and live events across Turkey.

“Lots of international acts have cancelled, and all the major promoters are hurting,” says Nick Hobbs, the owner of Istanbul-based promoter and booking agency Charmenko, which has in the past few days lost major concerts by Muse and Skunk Anansie.

Other casualties of the coup include Istanbul Jazz Festival, which has lost Laura Mvula, Vintage Trouble and Austrian act Treeoo, and Pozitif’s One Love festival, which was called off altogether.

Hobbs explains that while an insurance company may pay out for OneLove, as the airports were closed and performers physically unable to get to the event, promoters are unable to claim force majeure for any cancellations this week or next – Muse included – although he notes that artists “cancelling a show out of anxiety while normal life carries on in Istanbul”  are “liable to cover promoter costs, as well, of course, as returning the fee”.

The attempted coup is one of the most visible acts of violence to have rocked Turkey in recent years, but Hobbs says it comes after a “particularly difficult” start to the year for the industry and the country as a whole. “We’ve had four terrorist attacks – one by [Kurdish nationalist group] PKK and three by IS [Islamic State] – in Istanbul this year alone,” he explains. “An awful lot to happen in the space of seven months.”

“You’d have to be a very brave promoter to book an international act in Istanbul at the moment”

He adds that “you’d have to be a very brave promoter to book an international act in Istanbul” at the moment because it’s likely “you’d lose a lot of money”.

Riza Okcu, general director of another Istanbul-based promoter/agency, StageArt, describes 2016 as “the most difficult year in my career so far” and says he’s been forced to postpone two shows by French singers Zaz and Imany, due to take place in Antalya next week, as a consequence of the recent unrest.

Okcu says, however, that StageArt will, “in spite of all this, continue to do what we do. Don’t lose the faith in music.”

Unlike Charmenko and StageArt, Selen Tamer Lakay, vice-president of Istanbul Entertainment Group (IEG), says IEG’s business is so far unaffected, and that its next round of concerts in September (which haven’t yet been announced) will go ahead as planned.

But while Hobbs says he’s relatively unfazed by violence on the streets (“you develop a streetwiseness,” he explains, “although I did feel a bit afraid when the rebels smashed the windows in my house”), Tamer Lakay says she’s staying indoors where possible. “My home is close to the US embassy,” she explains, “and yesterday protesters went over there with guns. People are just crazy over here.”

Although PPK (the Kurdistan Workers’ Party) has been waging an armed campaign against the Turkish state since 1978, Okcu says the rise of the Islamic State (IS or ISIS) has forced promoters to step up security, noting that despite the current conflict “security precautions have tripled compared to the good old days”. He explains: “We generate security documents for each event and get in contact and go over security measures with the consulates or embassies of celebrated artists.”

Hobbs adds that for Muse, Charmenko jumped through “a lot of hoops to make security as good as it could be” after the Istanbul airport attack in January. “They sent over security experts from the [United] States, who spent three days in Istanbul before giving us the green light,” he says.

One Love promoter Pozitif Live’s CEO and president, Cem Yegül, provided IQ with a statement detailing its “point of view regarding the greater entertainment, arts and culture sector in Turkey in light of recent developments”.

“We believe in this country’s resilient, adaptive DNA, and we think and see that many people regard us as an important element of resistance against instability in troubled times”

Since its founding in 1989, says Yegül, Pozitif has “witnessed and survived many political and economic crises and events in Turkey and the region. Obviously, maintaining and growing a culture business in such a market has not been easy, but [is] certainly achievable, as with many other businesses operating and growing in this context.

“We believe in this country’s resilient, adaptive DNA and in our citizens, and we think and see that many people regard us – not only Pozitif, but all of the culture, art and entertainment organisations – as an important element of resistance against instability in troubled times. People do not want the music and the art and, most importantly, the sense of community they provide to come to a stop.

“Of course, in the face of immediate unrest and chaos we have cancelled or postponed several events within the last couple of years, but always with the intention of welcoming our community at the next soonest opportunity and running clubs and venues that we feel are secure, as we do now. We are hoping to act on this positive intention as soon as possible, but need some time for clarity.”

While, as in France, Belgium and elsewhere, touring will eventually return to normal levels (although, as Hobbs notes, “Turkey and normality exist in uneasy relationship!”), the Charmenko chief says it’s difficult currently to feel upbeat about the future. “In a direct sense [the coup] doesn’t mean much for concerts, but in an indirect sense it affects the economy, sponsors don’t like the instability and that affects artist decisions.”

However, he advises artists that “it is just as safe to play now as before – arguably even more so, as I don’t think anyone will try anything for some time to come” and notes that “for regular folk and foreigners, being caught up in terrorism in Istanbul remains rather less likely than dying in a plane crash.”

“Of course there is a degree of risk,” he concludes, “but a degree of risk which is probably no more than playing in say France or Belgium. I don’t think that the risk is such that it should deter artists from coming.”


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Skiddle introduces 72hr cooling-off period

British ticket seller Skiddle has announced the launch of Cool:Off, a flexible ticketing option designed to take the fight to ticket touts by giving buyers 72 hours to change their minds.

Providing the event is over a week away and the buyer is still within the 72-hour window, Skiddle will issue a full refund, “giving you enough time to round the troops and properly plan happy in the knowledge there’s a safety net covering you if you can’t commit”, says a statement from the Preston-based company.

Skiddle suggests having a safety net encourages impulse buys, with a boost to ticket sales of as much as 27%

Promoters will need to opt in to the cooling-off period, although Skiddle will handle the refund process. Its initial tests suggest the idea of having a safety net encourages impulse buys, with a boost to ticket sales of as much as 27% for some events.

Concurrently with Cool:Off, colon-happy Skiddle has also introduced Re:Sell, a Twickets-style ticket exchange allowing those who’ve missed the 72-hour to resell their tickets at face value. “With Re:Sell, you can now apply to sell tickets for sold-out events through us to another thankful fan at face value,” says the company, “helping in our stand against touts.”


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“We cannot go on”: ATP shutters live operation

All Tomorrow’s Parties (ATP) has announced it is to wind down its ailing live business with immediate effect.

The news comes amid doubts over whether the British record label and concert/festival promoter’s latest event, ATP Iceland, would go ahead following cancellations by three acts, two of which accused ATP chief Barry Hogan of failing to honour the terms of their contracts.

ATP Iceland is “no longer happening”, says a statement on the ATP website, “but all our other UK shows will have new promoters appointed and tickets transferred”.

The statement continues: “We are very sorry we could not make this work and have tried to survive throughout all our recent losses, but we are no longer able to trade and have to accept we cannot go on.

“Thank you to all our loyal customers who have supported us and incredible artists who have performed or curated for us over the years and made ATP so special while it lasted.”

“We are very sorry we could not make this work and have tried to survive throughout all our recent losses, but we are no longer able to trade and have to accept we cannot go on”

IQ has contacted Hogan for further comment.

ATP’s last two events – one programmed by comedian Stewart Lee and one by US post-hardcore band Drive Like Jehu – were beset by controversy, with the once-prestigious brand tarnished by reports of venues not being paid, ATP taking out a payday loan and Drive Like Jehu’s festival being uprooted and moved halfway across the country. While Lee’s event eventually went ahead (albeit after a “nightmare start” that saw John Cale pull out, Roky Erickson not get paid and guests being left without chalets), Drive Like Jehu’s was called off at the last minute.

ATP has had cashflow problems since at least August 2014, when its Jabberwocky festival, scheduled for the ExCeL conference centre in London, was called off with three days to go. It said in a statement at the time: “Despite healthy ticket sales, all our efforts could not take [them] to the point that we needed. If we had gone ahead; it would have 100% been the end of [us].”


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