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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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Thousands attend Eurovision Song Contest 2021

Organisers have hailed as a success the grand final of the Eurovision Song Contest, which, with 3,500 Covid-negative live music fans in attendance, was the biggest indoor pilot event held in the Netherlands to date.

The 2021 contest, the first since 2019, concluded at the 16,500-capacity Ahoy arena in Rotterdam on Saturday (22 May), with Italian band Måneskin crowned the winner for their song ‘Zitti e buoni’. In total, 26 countries made it to the final, with all but one (Iceland’s Daði og Gagnamagnið, one of whom tested positive for Covid-19) performing live from the arena on the night.

This year’s competition took the form of a pilot show, welcoming an in-person audience as part of the government-approved Back to Live series, coordinated by pan-industry body Fieldlab Events. To gain entry to the arena, everyone involved – including performers, fans, country delegations, press, staff and crew – had to register a negative Covid-19 test in the previous 48 hours, and then get tested again once on site at the dedicated Eurovision test pavilion (pictured).

Eurovision Test Pavilion

In addition, social distancing was enforced throughout the venue, while masks had to be worn whenever people moved around the arena (even performers on their way to the stage).

As a Fieldlab event, no persons deemed to be at risk, such as the elderly, were eligible to apply for tickets – which caused some controversy in the run-up to the show, with former Eurovision winner Getty Kaspers (of Teach-In) among those to criticise the ‘no over-70s’ rule.

“The Eurovision Song Contest is a turning point for me”

Among the fans who were successful in getting tickets, the atmosphere at the Ahoy was celebratory. “Everyone is decked out in flags and costumes with a lot of glitter,” one attendee, Deuss, tells public broadcaster NOS. “The atmosphere is cheerful and exuberant. People here feel that they are the lucky ones.”

Jolanda Jansen, director of Rotterdam Ahoy and a spokesperson for Fieldlab member Alliance of Event Builders, says seeing the arena full of staff and fans was her highlight of Eurovision week.

“The moment that moved me the most was seeing all our colleagues happy at work again,” she tells Tubantia. “We’ve come a long way; 2020 was a terrible year. We had to let 40% of the workforce go.

“The Eurovision Song Contest is a turning point for me. From now on it will only get better.”

According to Dutch economic minister, the provisional results from the second phase of Fieldlab/Back to Live events are positive. The full results, which follow the similarly positive findings from the first test events in February, will be announced in the near future.

 


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

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Eurovision Song Contest becomes Back to Live pilot

This year’s Eurovision Song Contest in the Netherlands will take place as a government-backed pilot event with a small in-person audience, a Dutch minister has announced.

Arie Slob, a minister for media under culture secretary Ingrid van Engelshoven, tells De Telegraaf that it will be possible to admit thousands of fans to Eurovision, which returns this spring after cancelling in 2020, by bringing the contest under Fieldlab Evenementen’s Back to Live, a series of pilot concerts, festivals and other live events which has been running since February. The most recent Back to Live events, two test festivals held at the Lowlands site in Biddinghuizen, took place on 20 and 21 March.

Currently, it is hoped a maximum of 3,500 people a day will be admitted to the 16,426-capacity Rotterdam Ahoy arena from 18 to 22 May, though plans are subject to change should the coronavirus situation deteriorate.

As with previous Back to Live trial events, fans will only be permitted to enter the Ahoy after testing negative for Covid-19.

“We welcome this decision by the Dutch government and the possibility that we can invite fans to join us”

In total, there will be nine shows, including rehearsals, for Eurovision 2021, the 65th edition of the pan-European song contest.

“We welcome this decision by the Dutch government and the possibility that we can invite fans to join us as we bring the Eurovision Song Contest back in May,” says Martin Österdahl, Eurovision’s executive supervisor.

“We will consider the options now available and announce more details in the coming weeks on how we can safely admit audiences to the Ahoy venue in Rotterdam should the situation allow. The health and safety of all those attending the event remains our top priority.”

“The fact that we now have the opportunity to plan for a Eurovision Song Contest with an audience again is something we could only dream of [previously],” the contest’s executive producer Sietse Bakker tells public broadcaster NOS. “We are grateful to the cabinet and to Fieldlab Evenementen for this perspective and the confidence they have placed in us.”

 


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Vrienden van Amstel becomes Netherlands’ biggest live stream

De Vrienden van Amstel (The Friends of Amstel), the long-running Dutch concert series, reached an estimated 1.7 million viewers from 120 countries for its first online-only edition, held on 16 January 2021.

Nicknamed ‘the largest pub in the Netherlands’, De Vrienden van Amstel is one of the country’s biggest concert events, usually attracting around 150,000 people to the Ahoy Rotterdam arena every year. The 2021 event – the first all-digital show in the series’ its 23-year history – became the biggest livestreamed show in Dutch history, with 750,000 people simultaneously streaming Armin van Buuren’s headline set, according to organisers.

The average simultaneous viewers throughout the entire show was 650,000, with fans watching over 1.3m hours of footage, reveals livestreaming partner Red Bee Media, who delivered the stream via www.vriendenstream.nl on behalf on Amstel, event agency Tribe Company and media production firm FabriQ Media Group.

“We are looking forward to delivering many events like this throughout 2021”

“When the largest pub in the Netherlands opens digitally for the first time, offering live entertainment from the biggest artists in country, you know that you can expect a lot of traffic on your platform”, says Tim Verhulsdonck, founder and managing partner of FabriQ Media Group. “With 650,000 tickets sold upfront, there is absolutely no room for mistakes, and after collaborating with Red Bee on SemiFest Live, we knew they were the right partner to deliver a flawless live stream to homes across the Netherlands and the world.

“Throughout the whole event they maintained a steady hand, delivering high-quality streams with no hiccups or interruptions.”

“I’m very happy that we were given the opportunity to showcase the full capacity of our OTT services through such a large-scale event as Vrienden van Amstel,” adds Steve Nylund, CEO of Red Bee Media. “The result truly shows the strength of our platform and our people, and we are looking forward to delivering many events like this throughout 2021 and beyond.”

 


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Rotterdam Ahoy’s RTM Stage completed

Rotterdam Ahoy has completed construction of its new 7,800-capacity music and entertainment venue, RTM Stage.

At maximum capacity, RTM Stage, which broke ground in late 2018, can be used a mid-sized arena, while in a theatre/auditorium format – 2,500 seats, or 4,000 in its ‘XL’ variant – the venue is the largest theatre-sized venue in the Netherlands.

The existing Ahoy Arena (formerly the Sportpaleis), which dates from 1971, has a seated capacity of 16,426.

RTM Stage forms part of a new development at the Ahoy (pictured) that also includes the Rotterdam Ahoy Convention Centre (RACC), which provides an additional 35 spaces to host conferences and gatherings, ranging from 50 to 100 capacity.

“We look forward to welcoming the visitors of the many conventions, events and concerts that will be held here”

The grand opening of the new building will be celebrated in 2021, commemorating 50 years since the Ahoy’s opening.

Jolanda Jansen, general director of Rotterdam Ahoy, says: “For us, as for everyone, this year turned out completely differently from what we had envisioned. Nevertheless, we are incredibly proud of the absolutely stunning new building that will welcome our visitors from now on. It is finally complete after years of preparation and construction and we are thrilled.

“We look forward to welcoming the visitors of the many conventions, events and concerts that will be held here. After all, that is what this building is for.”

“The expansion of Ahoy helps the city grow as a destination for business conventions and events,” comments Rotterdam city alderman (councillor) Bas Kurvers. “When the demand for such events starts to increase once more, Rotterdam will be ready.”

 


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Rotterdam Ahoy begins construction of new music venue

The Rotterdam Ahoy arena and convention centre has begun construction on a brand new building which will house a conference centre and music venue by 2020.

Extending the current space’s 15,000 capacity, the new building will house the 7,000-capacity (2,750-seated cap.) RTM Stage, providing a space for live music, theatre and events. Additionally, 35 rooms will be created across four floors, to function as a conference centre catering for what Rotterdam city councillor Adriaan Visser calls Rotterdam’s “[growth] as a business hotspot.”

Speaking at the ceremony that launched the work, Peter van der Veer, CEO of the Ahoy and newly elected president of the European Arenas Association (EAA), says: “I am extremely proud that today, after years’ of preparation, we were finally able to allow construction to commence.

“In January 2021 we will celebrate our 50th anniversary here at this wonderful new venue. I’m really looking forward to it!”

“In January 2021 we will celebrate our 50th anniversary here at this wonderful new venue. I’m really looking forward to it!”

The new stage area will also allow for the expansion of events held at the venue, like the North Sea Jazz Festival, which will take place at the Ahoy in 2019 despite the redevelopment works.

The Ahoy’s new building is part of a wider redevelopment project which seeks to transform the Hart va Zuid area, in the south of Rotterdam, and improve the quality of life of its residents. Under the plans, new areas for housing, shopping and leisure will be created.

A video giving the details of the new-look Rotterdam Ahoy can be found on YouTube.

 


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Allah-Las show cancelled after terror tip-off

A Rotterdam show by US garage-rock act Allah-Las was cancelled last night after police received information about a “possible terrorist threat” from Spanish authorities.

The four-piece’s planned performance at Maassilo (main hall cap. 2,000) was pulled by police, who later found a Spanish-registered van packed with “gas bottles” outside the venue.

The van’s driver was held after police noticed him behaving erratically, the mayor of Rotterdam, Ahmed Aboutaleb, announced in a press conference at around 10.30pm. Aboutaleb – a Muslim of Moroccan ancestry – warned against drawing “swift conclusions” about the suspected attacker’s motives, telling reporters: “It would be wrong at this moment to […] conclude there was a plan to attack with gas bottles, et cetera, because that was the case last week in Barcelona. I would be careful with that.”

“It would be wrong at this moment to conclude there was a plan to attack … because that was the case last week in Barcelona”

The van driver, identified by police as a mechanic, was later ruled out as a suspect, and a second man, a 22-year-old living in Brabant, was arrested this morning at 2am. His house will be subject to an “extensive search” tonight, say police.

Allah-Las, who say their “holy-sounding” moniker is inspired by The Jesus and Mary Chain, have previously had a show pulled in Muslim-majority Turkey by a promoter uneasy with the name.

Live Nation Spain’s Pino Sagliocco earlier this week paid tribute to the victims of the recent terror attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils, saying the former city is one of “radiant light and will continue to be so, even in the face of those who wish to darken it”.

 


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