Rockhal hosts its biggest pilot concerts yet
Luxembourg’s Rockhal (cap. 6,500) is scaling up its pilot concerts from 100 to 600 people per night as part of the Because Music Matters initiative.
The initiative initially launched in February with five nights of pilot concerts, limited to 100 people each night.
The second round of Because Music Matters launched on Friday 21 May when an audience of 600 tested people watched Luxembourgish artist Serge Tonnar perform in Rockhal’s main hall.
In addition to the sanitary measures in place – which included physical distancing (between groups of up to 4 people) and mandatory wearing of masks – each attendee was required to undergo a PCR or a free antigen test before the concert, as well as a second (PCR) test a few days later.
The venue is once again working with Luxembourg’s Health Inspection and the ministries of culture and health.
“I am hopeful that events like this will help to build towards a model that can be further scaled”
“After more than a year without higher capacity live events, pilot concerts like our Because Music Matters series and other pilot and test events that have been taking place across Europe, are an important and positive step forward in showcasing the safety measures we can employ to support our back to business strategies,” says Olivier Toth, CEO of the Rockhal.
“Building confidence amongst all our stakeholders that live events are a safe environment is so important. It felt great to have our main hall vibrate with the sound of live music and a cheerful crowd. We are grateful for the enthusiasm and participation of both artists and audience, which is a real show of support for our sector.
“As the name of the project suggests, music really does play an essential role in people’s well-being. I am hopeful that events like this, together with other pilot concerts that are taking place throughout Europe, will help to build towards a model that can be further scaled as our industry works towards a safe and sustainable return of live events.”
The second round of Because Music Matters will continue at Rockhal this Friday (4 June) with a performance from Luxembourg’s Remo Cavallini which will take place in the same way as the Serge Tonnar concert.
Pilot projects have taken place in markets including Germany, the UK, Spain, Belgium, France and the Netherlands. See an extensive list of live music experiments here.
Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.
Belgium holds ‘first-ever cultural test event’
The first-ever Belgian test event took place last night (26 April) at Brussels venue Koninklijke Vlaamse Schouwburg (KVS).
The owner of KVS had previously stated that the venue would open its doors on 26 April regardless of any Covid restrictions that might be in place but ultimately, the government decided to turn yesterday evening’s performance of Jonathan into a test event.
All 50 attendees, as well as the KVS employees, had to undergo a rapid test and wear a mask at all times inside the 500-capacity room. They will also be required to take a PCR test the following week.
Tonight, the venue will host an identical test event, before scaling up to 100 attendees from Wednesday onwards.
The following week, the number of attendees will increase again if the air quality monitoring yields good results. On Tuesday 4 May, the hall will be filled to 40%, on Thursday 6 and Saturday 8 May, it will be further scaled up to 50% with a maximum of 250 spectators.
The purpose of the test events is to measure how the air quality in the room is impacted by the presence of an audience
The purpose of the test events is to measure how the air quality in the room is impacted by the presence of an audience. To do this, the CO2 content and the relative humidity are measured every minute with specialised equipment.
If these CO2 values remain good (CO2 below 1200 ppm and relative humidity between 30 and 60 percent), this shows that the chance of transmission of infectious diseases via the air is very low.
At any point in the test series, if the air quality monitoring shows that the risk of airborne contamination is becoming unacceptably high, there will be no further upscaling. The decision will be made at 11 am the day before the performance.
Around 30 test events are planned for the next two months but Belgium’s minister of culture Jan Jambon says that the government will conduct as many as necessary: “As long as we can learn good things from them, that is important, but at a certain point the learning curve stops, and we will the cultural sector.”
Details of the test events are yet to be announced but Belgium’s Corona Commission says they will span culture and sports.
Germany’s Fusion ploughs ahead with testing plan
Germany’s Fusion Festival is determined to forge ahead with its 2021 edition by following an extensive testing plan, which is currently being examined by authorities.
The organisers hope to host 35,000 visitors between 24–27 June and 1–4 July at the Mecklenburg Lake District in Lärz, using their ‘innovative strategy of PCR mass testing’.
The strategy would require all ticket holders to take two PCR tests – one on the day before arrival and one during the festival.
In order to do this, the organisers plan to set up preliminary testing stations and laboratories in Berlin, Hamburg and Leipzig for attendees on the way to the festival.
There, a sample batch will be evaluated in the laboratory within 70–90 minutes and the results are transmitted to the Fusion Festival’s ticket system before attendees’ arrival.
Alternatively, festivalgoers can be tested at the festival’s Lärz centre, in the southeastern area of the airfield, which could test up to 15,000 visitors within twelve hours.
The Lärz test centre will also have parking spaces, as well as waiting areas for those arriving on the shuttle bus, where attendees can wait for up to 90 minutes for the results of their test.
The festival has since raised the ticket price from €130 to €220 due to the cost of mass testing
Only those who test negative will be permitted to enter the festival and those who are attending both days will be required to take another PCR test on the Sunday morning. If the result is negative, the access wristbands will be reactivated. Festival employees will have to follow a similar protocol.
Social distancing and mask wearing will not be mandatory, according to the testing plan, and the organisers have also said that they may consider proof of vaccination upon entry to relieve the PCR testing facilities.
Last year, the organisers made the decision to split the festival over two weekends and have half as many visitors at a time. The festival has since raised the ticket price from €130 to €220 due to the cost of mass testing.
In a statement on the festival’s website, the organisers explain the hike in price: “This concept was not included in the calculation [of the festival]. In contrast to profit-oriented organisers, we don’t want to spare any costs or efforts to make the merger possible and to fight for freedoms. We don’t yet know whether or how it will refinance in the end, but we firmly believe that this will not fail because of the money.
“We ask politicians to actively promote and financially support progressive test concepts like the one we have developed. Culture in pandemic times needs state funding. The federal and state governments have slept through innovative test strategies so far. Massive PCR tests are more sustainable for festivals than the often promised compensation for downtime costs.”
Read Fusion Festival’s full testing plan and FAQs here.
Canada to host ‘first major event using rapid screening’
The Ontario Festival Industry Taskforce (OFIT) is spearheading the organisation of a concert that is said to be the first major event in Canada to use rapid screening.
The event, dubbed The Long Road Back, is due to take place this month at the Casino Lac-Leamy Plaza at Lansdowne Park, Ottawa, with a performance from local Motown tribute band, The Commotions.
Attendance will be limited to 100 participants, and all spectators as well as staff, musicians and crew must prove they’ve tested negative for Covid-19 within 48 hours before the band performs.
Once at the event, attendees will be seated at tables and will be required to wear masks and adhere to social distancing throughout the event.
According to the organisers, tickets – which were priced at CA$25 and could only be purchased in groups of four – sold out in under an hour.
“As we look ahead to the summer of 2021 and beyond, establishing best practices for live music events now is critical”
“As we look ahead to the summer of 2021 and beyond, establishing best practices for live music events now is critical,” says OFIT chair Mark Monahan. “In order to produce summer and fall events, rapid Covid-19 antigen screening is needed to demonstrate live concerts can happen safely.”
The concert was originally slated for 27 March but has now been postponed after the city’s chief medical officer of health said the city will likely limit outdoor public gatherings to 25 people next week.
The organisers say the event will be rescheduled “for the earliest possible date” should restrictions be tightened.
The concert is produced in conjunction with local promoter Live DNA, the team behind Ottawa Bluesfest, the Canadian Live Music Association, Ottawa Festivals Network, and the National Arts Centre. The organisers are producing the event under the guidance of Rapid Test & Trace Canada.
Barcelona’s Cruïlla pushes ahead with ‘bubble’ plan
Cruïlla, one of Barcelona’s three major international music festivals, is continuing to plan for a summer 2021 edition.
Cruïlla 2021, headlined by Two Door Cinema Club, Editors, Morcheeba, Of Monsters and Men and local acts Kase O and Natos y Waor, is scheduled for 8–10 July at the Parc del Fòrum (also usually home to Primavera Sound). Taking inspiration from 27 March’s Love of Lesbian concert at the Palau Sant Jordi arena, which will utilise rapid Covid-19 testing to enable 5,000 people to attend, organisers hope to create a “sanitary bubble” of healthy festivalgoers so Cruïlla can go ahead as planned, according to promoter Barcelona Events Musicals.
The idea, which has also been floated by festivals in neighbouring Portugal, is to require all festivalgoers to test negative for Covid-19 using rapid antigen tests – which, in the case of the Love of Lesbian show, means the Sant Jordi “will be safer to be in the audience than walking down the street, because everyone in the audience will have had a negative result”.
“We will prove we have the right health protocols in place to get back to dancing, singing and hugging in complete safety”
For Cruïlla, the plan for 2021 is to “create a sanitary bubble in the Parc del Fòrum that will allow us to offer a music festival in the same conditions, or very similar, to those we enjoyed before Covid-19,” says the festival.
Barcelona’s other major festival, Advanced Music’s Sónar (80,000-cap.), has yet to elaborate on its plans for 2021, although it is still scheduled for 17–19 June.
Cruïlla held a socially distanced concert series, Cruïlla XXS, in place of its flagship event last summer. While this “was a great example of civility, in which we showed that there are ways of doing culture safely”, the event is committed to returning without restrictions in July.
“This summer, we will go one step further and prove that we have the right health protocols in place to get back to dancing, singing and hugging in complete safety,” say organisers.
Danish live industry to hold series of test events
Denmark’s live music association, Dansk Live, has been granted permission to hold a series of test events utilising rapid testing to find out whether large-scale events can safely take place without social distancing.
Organised in conjunction with the Divisional [Football] Association, the three-part series will trial the efficacy of rapid testing at a football match, a concert/conference, and a festival.
The football model is the first to be trialled and will take place during a series of non-socially distanced 3F Superliga matches this year, testing 30,000 participants.
Attendees will be tested with both an antigen test (rapid test) and a PCR test (laboratory test). Entry will depend on a negative result. A PCR test is followed up six days after the match day to determine the efficacy of rapid testing and the minimised distance.
Organisers say the concert/conference model will take place indoors but will otherwise be identical to the football model while the festival model will focus on ‘simulating situations with participants who are moving among each other’. Steps two and three will await the results of step one and more details on each will be revealed at a later date.
Esben Marcher, Dansk Live, hopes these test events may pave the way for increased capacity at festivals and venues this year: “We have worked hard for a long time to create a solid basis for the implementation of the Danish festivals and concerts in 2021. We are completely convinced that we, together with the Divisional Association, have found a viable model. Therefore, we are very happy to have received scientific support so that we can continue our plans and complete the project. It should very much lead to a much-needed festival summer and many good concert experiences throughout the country in 2021.”
“This should very much lead to a much-needed festival summer and many good concert experiences throughout the country in 2021”
Lars Ramme Nielsen, head of tourism and experience economics at the Danish Chamber of Commerce, says: “If our study shows the intended effect, it will benefit across many cultural and experience industries, including major sporting events, concert, theatre and festival activities as well as conferences and seminars. At the same time, it will help to spread the testing in Denmark to people who might not otherwise have been tested – especially people without symptoms.”
Professor and chief physician at the Department of Infectious Diseases at Aarhus University Hospital, Lars Østergaard, who is a contributor to the project, says: “If the events we are setting up in a number of stadiums turn out to be justifiable, then you have a basis to work from.”
A similar government-backed test series, dubbed ‘Back to Live’, is due to take place in the Netherlands this month, following on from last year’s pilot events in Germany and Spain.
Germany’s Restart-19 found that live shows could take place safely under “specific conditions during a pandemic” and Spain’s PRIMACOV trial found that a live music concert performed under a series of safety measures is ‘not associated with an increase in Covid-19 infections’.
Primavera Sound hails successful PRIMACOV trial
Organisers have hailed as a successful the PRIMACOV clinical trial, which took place at Barcelona’s Sala Apolo on Saturday (12 December) after a two-month delay.
Originally organised for October, PRIMACOV – organised by Primavera Sound in association with Hospital Germans Trias in Barcelona and the Fight AIDS and Infectious Diseases Foundation – welcomed 1,042 people to the 1,608-capacity venue for a clinical study designed to show whether rapid testing could hold the key to staging concerts without social distancing.
Everyone who was allowed into the show, which featured performances by local artists including Marta Salicrú, Unai Muguruza, Mujeres and Renaldo and Clara, had had to first test negative for Covid-19 using rapid antigen tests – the results of which were available in 15 minutes – as well as traditional PCR tests.
“The objective of this study is to validate these kind of tests … to be able to carry out events without social distancing”
“That was, precisely, the objective of this study: to validate these kind of tests as an extremely useful tool to be able to carry out any type of event, whether musical or not, without social distancing,” explain the PRIMACOV team.
The show followed a similar trial in Germany, dubbed Restart-19, which found that live shows could take place safely under “specific conditions during a pandemic”. Several ‘Back to Live’ pilot events will also take place in the Netherlands, with the government’s backing, in January.
The results of the PRIMACOV trial will be released in mid-January, according to Primavera Sound, although the festival warns that the results will only be completely accurate if all 1,042 attendees have a second PCR test, on Sunday 20 December.
PRIMACOV is part of Primavera’s Back on Track initiative, which is supported by Live Nation, Universal Music Group, Ticketmaster, Sony Music, promoter Last Tour and collection society SGAE, among others.
Albanian gov approves rapid testing for Unum 2021
Unum Festival has secured permission from the Albanian government to use rapid Covid testing for next year’s edition, which organisers say will eliminate the need for social distancing.
The festival is scheduled to return to the beaches and forests of Shengjin on the Albanian Riviera between 3–7 June 2021 and is expecting between 8-10,000 people from local and international markets to attend.
According to Grego O’Halloran, director of Unum Festival, 100% of people attending the 2021 edition will be tested including attendees, artists, staff and volunteers on-site at the festival – a procedure which will extend to the partner hotels where guests are hosted, drivers and in-resort representatives.
The festival has partnered with UK company Swallow Events which offers the 15-minute Roche lateral flow test with 99.68% specificity for the rapid tests but is still developing “a fully robust” testing procedure with government-approved protocols and health and safety risk assessments.
“The advancing technology and accuracy of rapid tests will ensure you can enjoy the festival in the way it should be enjoyed”
The festival’s duration, plus the on-site/off-site factor, presents logistical challenges with consistent testing but organisers say the procedure will include multiple tests and verification/identification software prior to gaining access to the festival and again at the site’s entry points.
“The advancing technology and accuracy of rapid tests currently allows for results within 10-15 minutes, which is all that would be required to ensure you can enjoy the festival in the way it should be enjoyed,” says O’Halloran. “On top of that, vaccines will likely have arrived early next year so that plans for this small, perfectly formed festival are now well underway, all with the support and backing of the Albanian government.”
Blendi Klosi, Albania’s minister for tourism, says: “We are looking forward to the return of Unum Festival and events in general to Albania in 2021, which will operate in a safe and secure manner thanks to the coming vaccine and rapid testing solution.”
The festival has already announced a number of domestic and international artists for its second edition including Cap, Cesar Merveille, Digby, DJ Rease, Dyed Soudorom, Franco Cinelli, Hajdar Berisha and Seth Troxler.