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Artists protest against Amazon palm scanners

A slate of artists including Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine) and Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill) are protesting Amazon’s palm-recognition tech at music venues.

The technology, which connects a concertgoer’s palm to their ticketing account, was recently implemented at a number of US venues including the famous Red Rocks Amphitheater following a deal between Amazon and AEG Worldwide (owner of ticketing site AXS).

On a new website called Amazon Doesn’t Rock, a number of artists have signed an open letter calling on Red Rocks, AXS, and AEG Worldwide to “immediately cancel all contracts with Amazon for the invasive Amazon One palm scanning technology”.

Some 32 artists including DIIV, Deerhoof and Jeff Rosenstock have signed the letter, which says “biometric surveillance tools like palm scans and facial recognition now threatens to transform [music venues] into hotspots for ICE raids, false arrests, police harassment, and stolen identities”.

“It’s simply a matter of time before we hear of cases of palm scans misidentifying people in the ways that facial recognition has – often with violent and life-altering consequences – but most concerning of all is the fact that this new technology will make the data of thousands of people vulnerable to ongoing government tracking and abuse AND malicious hackers,” reads the letter.

“It’s a matter of time before we hear of cases of palm scans misidentifying people in the ways that facial recognition has”

The letter references an earlier campaign protesting facial recognition technology at festivals, which was responded to by over 40 of the largest US music festivals, including Burning Man, Coachella, South by Southwest and Lollapalooza.

It says that introducing the palm scanning devices is a “slap in the face to fans and artists that have fought so hard to promote safety for everyone at live events”.

Amazon previously said it keeps the palm images in a secure part of its cloud and doesn’t store the information on the Amazon One device. Users can also ask for their information to be deleted at any time, the company added.

A spokesperson from Amazon responded: “The claims made by this organisation are inaccurate. Amazon One is not a facial recognition technology – it is an optional technology designed to make daily activities faster and easier for customers, and users who choose to participate must make an intentional gesture with their palm to use the service.

“We understand that how we protect customer data is important to customers—this is very important to us too, and that’s why safeguarding customer privacy is a foundational design principle for Amazon One. Amazon One devices are protected by multiple security controls, and palm images are never stored on the Amazon One device. Rather, the images are encrypted and sent to a highly secure area we custom-built for Amazon One in the cloud where we create your palm signature.”

Read the full open letter here.

 


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Dutch gov to ease restrictions as 150,000 protest

Multi-day events and festivals in the Netherlands will likely be able to take place from 25 September under certain conditions.

According to nu.ul, the Dutch government is deciding on the conditions today, ahead of a press conference tomorrow (14 September) evening.

The conditions, which will be based on findings from Fieldlab Evenementen, will likely include a 75% capacity limit.

The cabinet is also considering how Covid certification and testing could aid the sector’s reopening.

“The culture sector is getting better news than has been leaked”

Culture minister Ingrid van Engelshoven provided a glimmer of hope during her appearance on the Good Morning Netherlands programme this morning, saying: “The culture sector is getting better news than has been leaked so far. I am hopeful that things will go in the right direction tomorrow, also for the events.”

The news comes after an estimated 150,000 people across ten cities took part in the second Unmute Us protest on Saturday (11 September) to demand the immediate restart of major events.

Saturday’s march was the largest-ever protest in the Netherlands, more than doubling the attendance of the first demonstration on 21 August which drew 70,000.

“This second flawlessly organised demonstration proves once again how strong our industry is in this area”

More than 4,000 organisations joined the movement, including festivals Lowlands, Mysteryland, DGTL, Down the Rabbit Hole, Awakenings and Paaspop – all of which have been cancelled this year due to restrictions.

Ruben Brouwer, director at Mojo, which promotes Down the Rabbit Hole, Lowlands and Paaspop among others, says: “Our industry consists of professionals who can organise large-scale public events well, neatly and safely.

“This second flawlessly organised demonstration proves once again how strong our industry is in this area. The event industry has proven time and again that it can organise events safely. So there can be no other cabinet decision than full opening on 14 September.”

The protest comes after the Dutch government extended the ban on large-scale events until at least 19 September amid fears over the spread of the highly infectious delta variant.

 


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4,000+ organisers register for second ‘Unmute Us’ march

Dutch campaign group Unmute Us has already enlisted the support of 4,000 organisers for its second protest against the government’s restrictions on live events.

The first march took place on 21 August across six Dutch cities with around 2,000 event organisers and 70,000 people in what was the largest demonstration in the Netherlands since 2004.

Recently, the campaign group threatened the government with an even larger demonstration if its questions are left unanswered, since registering twice the amount of organisers than the original march as well as six new cities.

The group met with ministers yesterday evening (2 September) to discuss their eight key questions to the ‘arbitrary, incomprehensible and unjust’ event restrictions but did not come away with any resolutions.

“It is still inexplicable that in countries around us, measures from Fieldlab Events are being used but our sector is shut”

“The ministers have listened to the arguments and indicated that they will take them into account in their decision-making towards the next press conference on 14 September. That’s great, but no commitment and no reason to cancel Unmute Us,” says Jasper Goossen, co-initiator and spokesperson for Unmute Us.

“We detect an enormous willingness to take action, not only among the organisers but also among the public. And we want to reinforce our story and our arguments by taking to the streets en masse. Because it is still inexplicable that in countries around us, measures from Fieldlab Events are being used but that our sector is virtually shut down here.”

Unmute Us will hold the second march on 11 September at 2 pm CEST across eleven cities.

Leiden, Maastricht, Enschede, The Hague and Tilburg have joined the second protest march as new cities, while Groningen, Eindhoven, Nijmegen, Utrecht, Rotterdam and Amsterdam are once again taking part. More cities are expected to be announced in the coming period.

The campaign has already drawn support from leading organisers such as Ziggo Dome, Awakenings, Down The Rabbit Hole, DGTL, A State of Trance Festival, Amsterdam Open Air, Best Kept Secret, Defqon, Dekmantel Festival, Lowlands, Mysteryland and Paaspop. More information can be found on the Unmute Us website.

 


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‘Unmute Us’ threatens Dutch gov with larger protest

Unmute Us, the Dutch event industry campaign group behind Saturday’s mass protest march, has threatened the government with an even larger demonstration if its questions are left unanswered.

The march, which involved around 2,000 event organisers including Lowlands, Mysteryland and Paaspop, saw 70,000 people protest the ‘arbitrary, incomprehensible and unjust’ event restrictions in what was the largest demonstration in the Netherlands since 2004.

Now, the campaign group is threatening to announce “new and larger” demonstrations if the government doesn’t answer the eight questions presented in an open letter.

A number of the eight questions refer to findings from three months’ worth of pilot events in the Netherlands that show the risk of Covid-19 infection, when following certain hygiene and testing protocols, is about the same as being at home.

These pilots were organised by Fieldlab – an initiative of the Dutch government and several trade bodies.

The group asks why the government is ignoring the Fieldlab results while neighbouring country Belgium (which reportedly has the same percentage of vaccinated and infected) is using the report as a basis to organise large festivals.

“Do you realise that with these measures you are ruining the international leading position of the Dutch event industry?”

“What is suddenly wrong with the Fieldlab results while you, through [deputy prime minister] Hugo De Jonge, fully embraced them during the press conference on 28 May?” the group asks.

The letter also asks why are festivals potentially only allowed to open from 20 September, a week before the end of the festival season.

“What arguments do you have for choosing this specific date and not 1 September, the date on which we wish to open?” the group questions. “Do you realise that with these measures you are ruining the international leading position of the Dutch event industry?”

The letter also highlights issues around the government’s coronavirus support for the sector (which is due to end soon), the perceived betrayal of young people (most of whom got vaccinated in order to go to an event, according to the group) and the cabinet’s inconsistent response to communicable diseases.

The group has given the cabinet until next weekend to break recess and answer the eight questions before it takes further action.

“As you have noticed, we are able to mobilise large-scale protests, which, despite their size, remain positive and peaceful. But don’t confuse our peaceableness with complacency. Our patience has run out,” the letter concludes.

 


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70,000 take part in ‘Unmute Us’ protest march

Tens of thousands of people took part in the ‘Unmute Us’ protest march in cities across the Netherlands on Saturday (21 August).

The march, spearheaded by the Dutch event industry and attended by festivalgoers, called on the Dutch government to end the ‘arbitrary’ restrictions that have effectively written off the festival summer.

Around 70,000 people attended the marches in Eindhoven, Groningen, Nijmegen, Utrecht, Rotterdam and Amsterdam, including more than 2,000 parties from the Dutch event industry.

Ziggo Dome, Awakenings, Down The Rabbit Hole, Soenda, Apenkooi Events, Vunzige Deuntjes, and Kultlab were among the event companies that hosted floats in their home cities.

The event also drew support from the likes of DGTL, A State of Trance Festival, Amsterdam Open Air, Best Kept Secret, Defqon, Dekmantel Festival, Lowlands, Mysteryland and Paaspop.

The protest marches were reinforced by performances from DJs and artists such as Ryan Marciano, Joris Voorn, Goldband, Bizzey, Sandrien and Joost van Bellen and speeches by Kluun, Tim van Delft (De Staat), Lusanne Bouwmans (D66) and Michiel Veenstra (3FM).

“The fact that an ambitious idea can grow into a real movement in such a short time is typical of our field”

“I had so many goosebumps all day. This is our scene, this is what we live for. Happy people, music and positivity. I only now realise how terribly I missed this,” says Bram Merkx, initiator of Unmute Us.

Jasper Goossen, co-owner of Apenkooi Events (DGTL, Amsterdam Open Air, Elrow Amsterdam), says: “Today we issued the best possible business card. The fact that an ambitious idea can grow into a real movement in such a short time is typical of our field. I am very proud of our entire industry. We now expect a quick response from The Hague.”

The protest comes after the Dutch government banned large-scale events such as festivals until at least 19 September amid fears over the spread of the highly infectious delta variant.

One-day events with a maximum of 750 visitors are allowed for people with a Covid-19 app showing they have been vaccinated, have recently tested negative or have recovered from a case in the past six months.

The organisers of Unmute Us want the ban lifted by 1 September, which would still come too late for festivals such as Down the Rabbit Hole (27–29 August), A Campingflight to Lowlands Paradise (20–22 August) and Mysteryland (27–29 August).

 


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350+ Dutch fests join protest: “We will not be silenced”

More than 350 organisations from the Dutch event industry are backing a protest march against the government’s ‘arbitrary’ restrictions which have effectively wiped out the festival season.

Last Friday (13 August), the cabinet announced that the current restrictions preventing multi-day festivals with overnight stays will remain in force until 19 September – despite the promise they could take place again when everyone has been offered the vaccine.

The protest, dubbed ‘Unmute Us‘, has drawn support from some of the Netherlands’ biggest and best-known festivals such as DGTL, A State of Trance Festival, Amsterdam Open Air, Awakenings, Best Kept Secret, Defqon, Dekmantel Festival, Down The Rabbit Hole, Lowlands, Mysteryland and Paaspop.

While many of the aforementioned festivals have been cancelled as a result of government restrictions, other large events outside of the live music industry have been permitted to take place with hundreds of thousands of attendees.

“Elsewhere in society there is room for full football stadiums and overcrowded fairgrounds, but safely organised events are not given any space. And that has been the case since the start of the pandemic, more than a year and a half ago,” reads a statement on the ‘Unmute Us’ website.

“It is measured with two measures, with the message that Formula 1 in Zandvoort (operating at two-thirds of its normal capacity, with 105,000 visitors per day) can continue as an exception for the time being. It shows a total undermining and misjudgment of everyone who cares about culture and nightlife.”

“The studies and results are a painful reminder that at this point not corona, but politics is the cause of a festival-free summer”

The organisations involved point out that it was the government itself, along with Fieldlab, that conducted months of scientific research and pilot events to determine whether festivals could be organised safely.

It was ultimately revealed that, when following certain hygiene and testing protocols, the risk of Covid-19 infection at concerts and festivals is about the same as being at home.

“The studies and results are a painful reminder that at this point not corona, but politics is the cause of a festival-free summer and uncertain future,” the ‘Unmute Us’ manifesto continues.

As well as event organisers, it is hoped that the campaign will galvanise young festivalgoers who have ‘been delivered empty promises by the government and kept on mute’.

“With ‘Unmute Us’ we make a fist. We are sending out a clear signal to The Hague: it can no longer be done like this, we will not be silenced. The sector asks for a clear plan for the future, with measurable agreements, but also for recognition of the emotional state of the many visitors and makers who do not feel heard. We want to be able to meet again, laugh and dance again. Above all, we want to be able to look ahead again.”

The ‘Unmute Us’ protest march will take place on Saturday 21 August in various Dutch cities.

 


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More than 130 Belgian venues reopen illegally

Some 130 cultural venues in Wallonia and Brussels have reopened illegally after six months of closure, in protest of government restrictions.

Since 30 April, the venues have been welcoming the general public for a number of cultural activities including concerts, screenings, shows, debates, performances and public rehearsals.

The nine-day protest, which is being held by the campaign group ‘Still Standing for Culture’, culminates on 8 May when 50-capacity outdoor events are permitted.

According to the group, all activities will be carried in accordance with the health protocol, which includes social distancing, mask-wearing and the separation of household bubbles.

“We will do this without underestimating the dangerousness of the virus, but we recall that experiments and studies show that the opening of cultural places has only a minimal impact on the contamination curves in the face of the effects attributed to the activities. businesses, shops and services,” reads a statement on the Still Standing for Culture website.

“We will do this to defend the diversity of places and practices”

“We will do so to refuse that certain sectors of activity and certain categories of the population are the only ones to carry the weight of measures on their shoulders. And to defend the diversity of places and practices.”

Brussels venue Koninklijke Vlaamse Schouwburg (KVS) was the first Belgian venue that pledged to open its doors regardless of any restrictions in place but ultimately, the government agreed to turn its scheduled performances into test events.

According to Flemish business newspaper Tidj, the Flemish region is not participating in the demonstration as the regional government has provided a range of support measures for affected culture workers, artists and cultural entrepreneurs – including a €60 million safety net for festival organisers.

However, the Flemish events sector may be inclined to join the demonstrations if the regional government does not provide a reopening plan after the next meeting of the Consultation Committee on 11 May.

The full programme of activities for the Still Standing for Culture protest can be found here.

 


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#WeMakeEvents: Global Action Day kicks off

The #WeMakeEvents Global Action Day kicked off in the southern hemisphere earlier today as venues in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa were illuminated in red to highlight the urgent support needed for the events sector.

Thousands of venues and places of work across the globe will #LightInRed from 8pm local time in a bid to draw media attention and government support for the industry, which is struggling to survive the Covid-19 crisis.

The #WeMakeEvents/Red Alert protest first launched in the UK in August and has since been adopted internationally, inspiring similar protests in France, the US, the NetherlandsGermanyBelgium and Spain.

Global Action Day will bring together around 20 countries, each campaigning for different resolutions from their respective governments.

While international lighting company Bandit Lites is lobbying for the Restart Act to be part of the next relief bill, Norway’s National Theatre has called for an extension in the compensation scheme, however, all nations will be united today under the red banner with the hope to progress the sector’s crisis.

“We mark the danger the industry is in after the government’s decision to end the compensation scheme for self-employed,” Norway’s National Theatre said in an Instagram post.

“The scheme introduced in April has so far hit well and ensured that independent art and cultural workers have survived the corona crisis until now. If the government does not turn in the decision, large parts of the industry will be eradicated.”

“The Restart Act as part of the next relief bill is the only thing that will save all of the live events industry. No other act will save us all,” Bandit Lites said in an Instagram post.

“We need [the government] to offer financial support to the crews that actually make it all possible”

Emily Eavis, co-organiser of the UK’s Glastonbury festival says: “We need the government to recognise what the performing arts bring to the fabric of this country, and how much it adds to the well-being of so many.”

“We need them to offer financial support not just to the venues and organisations that put together these performances, but also to the crews that actually make it all possible.”

Coldplay are among the many international artists who have backed the campaign, adding: “Emily Eavis said it perfectly. The live music and events industry has been devastated. We urge the UK government to support all crew and staff who have lost their livelihoods.”

While Radiohead said: “What we do on stage is only part of the equation of putting on a good show. Our crew are at the heart of making it happen for all of us, band and audience alike. They’re incredible and that’s why we’re supporting #WeMakeEvents and invite you to do so as well, if possible.”

Yesterday, the UK held a second, silent and socially distanced, protest under the banner Stand As One, in Parliament Square.

It was also announced yesterday that a number of UK industry professionals are planning to cycle over 1,500 km as part of a charity event dubbed The Survival Tour, organised in support of the #WeMakeEvents campaign.

Five professionals from Loud Sound and Proper Productions will cycle from Newcastle to London via over 50 UK venues and festival sites to symbolise what would have been the start of touring season.

All donations from The Survival Tour will go to #WeMakeEvents charity of choice, Backup, which supports people who have worked in the entertainment technology industry for at least five years.

Elsewhere, following Spain’s #WeMakeEvents/Red Alert (Alerta Roja) protest last week, the campaigning group has met with the minister for culture and sports to ask for a package of measures to support the country’s struggling production sector.

The meeting, which took place on Monday (28 September), saw minister José Luis Rodríguez Uribes commit to working in coordination with the relevant ministries, public institutions and the sector to find solutions to the crisis.

More highlights from the Global Action Day to follow.

 


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UK industry pros plan #WeMakeEvents charity cycle

A number of UK industry professionals are planning to cycle over 1,500 km as part of a charity event dubbed The Survival Tour, organised in support of the #WeMakeEvents campaign.

Five professionals from Loud Sound and Proper Productions will cycle from Newcastle to London via over 50 UK venues and festival sites to symbolise what would have been the start of touring season.

All donations from The Survival Tour will go to #WeMakeEvents charity of choice, Backup, which supports people who have worked in the entertainment technology industry for at least five years.

The ride will commence in Newcastle on 3 October and take place over two weeks, concluding on 18 October in London.

The route is split up into daily stages ranging from 60km to 100km and cyclists will stop off at each venue to encourage media attention.

The cyclists will be followed by a tour bus, sponsored by Crossland, which the team will sleep in each night.

All donations from The Survival Tour will go to #WeMakeEvents charity of choice, Backup

The general public has been invited to ride with the professionals or join them at a venue or the finishing line.

Donations can be made here. Over £4,000 has been raised so far.

The #WeMakeEvents/Red Alert protests launched in the UK in August in a bid to draw attention to the struggling freelancers who work across the live events and entertainment sector.

Similar demonstrations have taken place in France, the US, the NetherlandsGermanyBelgium and Spain.

Today the UK is gearing up for round two of its campaign, Stand As One; a silent socially distanced protest which will take place in Parliament Square at 12:30 pm.

Tomorrow (30 September), around 20 countries will light buildings red and, where possible, hold socially-distanced demonstrations under the #WeMakeEvents banner for a global day of action.

 


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Israeli event pros hit back at Covid-19 restrictions

Members of the live event, music and arts community in Israel are expressing their frustration at the government’s coronavirus restrictions, as music venues remain closed and self-employed workers demand compensation for losses.

Many took to the streets in Jerusalem on Monday (15 June) to protest against the government’s handling of the cultural sector during the coronavirus crisis, following a postponement to the reopening date for venues and other cultural institutions.

According to Israli newspaper Haaretz, the protest followed several smaller demonstrations over the past few weeks by artists and others workers in the cultural industry.

Venues in Israel had originally been given the go-ahead to reopen on 14 June for events of up to 500 people and at 75% of full capacity.

However, the government pushed back the date over the weekend, with events halls still only able to reopen for religious ceremonies, such as weddings and bar mitzvahs, for up to 250 people, leading some to question why venues cannot open for events of a similar size.

“The government avoids easing of restrictions in the cultural world, and completely prevents the existence of cultural events”

Shaul Mizrachi, owner of Tel Aviv’s Barby nightclub (600-cap.), has filed a petition with the Israli Supreme Court, demanding that the government be ordered to ease restrictions for the cultural sector as it has for others.

“While authorising, among other things, the operation of bars and pubs and, in particular, the holding of large-scale events, including mass dances, in event halls, the government and its offices avoid similar easing of restrictions in the cultural world, and completely prevent the existence of cultural events,” argues Mizrachi.

The Barby owner has been staging a hunger strike in front of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence to protest against restrictions and lack of clarity from the government regarding the reopening of the live business.

Others are protesting against the lack of financial aid for unemployed event industry workers, many of whom work on a freelance basis. IQ understands that members of the Israeli live business are currently raising the funds to initiate court action over the issue.

In May, over 3,000 people attended a rally-cum-music festival in Tel Aviv in support of the Israeli music industry. The event also marked the launch of a US$1 million fund for out-of-work industry professionals.

“Currently there are over 150,000 unemployed people in the [Israeli] live music and production industry,” Hillel Wachs of Israeli promoter 2b Vibes Music, tells IQ. “People are really hurting. The hope is that everything will get back on track by 2021.”

Wachs adds that he is negotiating several new shows for 2021 and 2022 and is optimistic the situation would slowly get return to normal. “People need live music. It’s a no-brainer.”

 


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